Last Summits Up North 2021

After the 6 summit marathon out of Benbleby Ranges Hugh and I did a day trip to Yunta for 3 summits.

Because there was road works on The Barrier Highway, Hugh found a way via mostly dirt roads to Peterborough from his home to try to save hold ups at the work sites. Once out of Peterborough we headed for Dawson then a back way into Nackara Hill which turned into some back tracking to find a way. When we got to the western end of the old road we normally take from the Eastern side we found a brand new fence across the roadway and no gate near by. We had to drive North towards Yunta then take another station track to get to the Summit. Being about 40 minutes late we were lucky enough to have a small group on 80m waiting for us after their normal morning Sked. Hugh and I went tag team on 80m SSB then got off the summit and headed to Yunta still another 90km away. On the way to Teetulpa Station we usually go to Waroonee Hill first it saves time getting there and we need to drive about 12 km of station tracks to the parking spot. Un eventful hike up probably the greenest we have seen it for a few years, we got on 80m SSB to find some chasers waiting then Hugh topped up his score on 40m SSB and I worked a few more on 40m CW.

SOTA flag full of wind VK5CZ on the Morse Paddle.
View out East from the Summit.

The poor old land scape is still not recovered from years of drought but it’s better than we have seen it for a while. Hugh and I got off the hill and then had to travel about 35 km to the next summit north of the homestead. Karkala Ridge is a 1.2 km hike up from the parking spot which is not a hard slog but quite rocky under foot.

Hugh on Air on Karkala Ridge.

The wind was very strong on this afternoon summit so we only put the Squid pole up 6 metres and leaned it into the wind to keep it up. The bush we used to tie to is broken down by hungry goats so is no longer a viable support therefor we bungeed the pole around the rock shelf and packed extra rocks for support. No shortage of rocks up here.

Nice afternoon activation with plenty of chasers then the long drive back to Clare through lots of road works to make the journey even slower. Just an easy 600 odd kilometre day out on SOTA.

Hawker Summits.

Some time later I have been researching access to more Summits around Hawker probably inspired by our visit to Mt Arden where you can see all the summits near Hawker, I made it my business to find out land owners contact details in that area. Of course its never easy but Mr Google did shed some light for me, I did a search on the Pastoral lease name and sure enough they had won some prizes in a Ram show with their prize Merino Rams a few years ago. Another search for the family name in the White Pages gave me a phone number. I ring this number some what nervous to the reaction at the other end of course, a total stranger calling on the phone to ask access to his hill so I can talk on the radio. It takes a bit of work explaining what this is all about assuming he has not hung up the phone by now. I would say in my case this is the hardest part of SOTA, asking and working with land owners for access to their properties, the hikes up are tough in some cases but this is harder than that I think. Up shot was the Summit I was talking about turns out not to be on his land but another fella owns it. OK well what about this other hill over here, that one was on his property and another hill over the other side of the road is too. It’s getting better all the time up until the let down of course, He wants more information about what I want to do and do I have public risk insurance and so on . He was a bit astounded why anyone would want to hike up his hill and talk on a radio and I was slowly giving up altogether when he said to call around one day and show him my gear and how I plan to go about it. So an appointment booked in advance sometime next year in winter should be good enough fingers crossed to grant access then. We ended up friends I think, time will tell. The good part about getting access to more summits around Hawker makes it more worth while to go and stay there for a couple days to do them all, at the moment I have only two summits on my list and a possible 6 others if permission could be sorted. That means money spent in Hawker for Food, Fuel and Accommodation and the land owner gets free premium wine from the beautiful Clare Valley. Sorry I diverge.

Evening view of Mt Elm the summit I would like to visit.

Turns out west of Hawker town is a summit that permission is already granted to bush walkers so I made an evening visit just to find the activation zone ready for the next day.

Yourambulla Range Summit was my first time to activate there so exciting day for me first new summit in many years.

A great well marked hike not that hard just a couple rock scrambles and I saw 1 Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby pretty rare around these parts no picture he scampered off well before I had a camera ready.

I got to the summit just before UTC roll over and was able to hand out two lots of chaser points for this summit as it is only a 1 point summit helps double the chasers score. I did not make any QSO on 40m SSB which surprised me but I had a large pile up on 40m CW so that was good.

View to the North
Antenna is up now for rest of my Kit.

I finished up in good time on Yourumbulla Range and headed for Hawker to refuel then out East to Worumba Station to visit Mt Plantagenet one of the 8 point summits I visit but its a drive up. After a nice chat with Mary I headed for the summit being by myself I had to open and shut several gate to get there. This summit has a well made track to the top it is possible to drive up in high range 4×4 as the road is in very good order these days.

Stone Cairn on Mt Plantagenet.

I had a good amount of QSO’s once set up and the weather was really nice not much wind and very sunny.

A large group on 80m although the band was not so good this time during middle of the day but I worked everyone who heard me. Several callers on 40m SSB and even more on 40m CW turns out to be a great activation the only thing now in to get off the hill deal with the gates and head for home.

Black Rock Peak and Stokes Hill

Another day trip to a couple summits around Orroroo this time a bit closer in but still a 460 km trip.

We left Hugh’s place right on 6am and hit the usual dirt roads north taking a new way from Peterborough this time to reach Black Rock peak probably an hour before Alert time. That’s OK good to be in front for a change. This summit is a 4×4 up to near the top, we went about half a kilometre further on the track this time to a new closer park spot from the Activation Zone.

Because we were early a quick TxT msg to VK5IS who got on 2m to a few local stations we were away getting a score tag team on 80m SSB then Hugh did the 40m SSB chasers and I handed out some 40m CW before roll over then again after roll over as well and a few ZL ops on 20m CW.

Hugh at work on Black Rock Peak

Hugh had a good score on 40m SSB even making it to ZL.

VK5CZ on the Old Corse Mode.

I made several CW contacts on 40m after Tag team on 80m SSB with Hugh several regulars were not on 80m but still found 4 QSO’s on 80m.

After UTC roll over I got several more stations giving me a total of 15 contacts for the Activation.

On the way to Stoke Hill which is about 65 km away we dropped some wine off to our farmers then hit the dirt tracks again to make Stokes Hill in good time. We had a lunch break there and I let some air out of my tyres to tackle the steep rocky accent of Stoke’s Hill. It takes about 40 minutes in low range 1st and 2nd gear on this track, Hugh had to clean a few fallen logs and some diff banger rocks out of the way but all went well on the climb.

Hugh on 40m SSB. WOT a chair and table ??

The Chair and table were still in the back of my Ute from a recent VKFF parks visit so we set up in style this time.

Only 3 stations on 80m but we did work some local VK5’s on 40m SSB and CW with really strong signals good to have some short skip for a change.

Love Morse Code.

Nice group of chasers on 40m CW a S2S with VK3ARR on VK3/VS-048 and a new chaser on 40m CW VK2LI first time caller for me. Got 2 extra ZL stations on 20m CW as well.

Great weather again hardly any wind and Spring in well on the way up there, another good rain soon would be good.

Slowly ever so Slowly back off the Mountain on the down track taking about 30 minutes to get back to the roads and head for home.

Views North form Black Rock Peak
View South from Stokes Hill some of the up track below.

Managed a QSO with VK5AMC/ tractor mobile via VK5RLH 2m repeater at Lochiel 167 km away from my Ute rig on 50 watts.

Thanks to the Chasers and Land Owners for another lot of SOTA fun.

Thanks for reading my Blog.

Regards Ian vk5cz ..

Winter SOTA Summits 2021

Well Hugh and I have been quite busy working through the list of Summits over the past couple of months.

Checking the photo’s on my phone reminded me to maybe write another Blog about this lot of Summits that we got done during Winter.

It was much more pleasant and less stressful up north this year as its been quite wet with some good rain events to green things up much more than the last 5 years of drought death dust and mayhem.

The environment is slowly recovering and we even heard some birds singing on Dutchman’s Stern I don’t think I have ever heard that bird call before. Such small birds in the bushes you can never get to see them for very long as they dart about. Dutchmans was a single summit for the day we arrived at lunch time to start the walk which was a first time to do it this way. Hugh had not been to this summit before and the walk time was about 1 hour 20 minutes this time. We managed to make a few contacts as it was later in the day and the 80m crowd saved us this time to make a score, there were not many SSB chasers for Hugh on 40m and I made a few contacts on 40m CW as the rain clouds gathered we packed up and headed for the car park 6 km away.

Next day was a 3 summit day with a plan to be on Mt Benjamin early and just pick up the 80m gang at 7.30 for the morning sked time then go onto the other two summits for the rest of the day. A quick activation on the first summit and we were off the hill and ready to start the hike to Richman Hill after morning coffee break at the parking spot. Richman Hill is a tough climb with more than its prominence from the car park side to make the top. After the ankle burning climb and thick bush to get through we made the top around 0215 UTC or close to lunch time local time.

On the Way to Richman Hill

Good amount of contacts for Hugh on 80 and 40m SSB and I made some good contacts on 40m CW and also got into ZL and VK2 on 20m CW this time. I did not hear my usual ZL chasers on 40m probably because they could not hear me well enough so I called a couple times on 20m and like magic 3 ZL regulars in the log.

After we got off the Summit it is only a short drive to Devils Peak where we had a lunch break in the car park before tackling the next Ankle burner with a rock climb to make this summit.

Hugh on the Rock Face on the way up.

This was a bit hard for us old fellas and lots of erosion has gone on here this year on the so called walking track. Its a bit tricky and slippery on these rock slopes and probably more dangerous on the way down than up but we made the summit in good time to meet our Alert time.

VK5CZ on the Morse paddle FT817 is the radio.

That reminds me the fT817 has been my tool of trade for quite a few summits on these trips. The microphone on the KX3 has been playing up and good friend Gordon VK5GY volunteered to fix it for me which turned out to be a mic cord issue of course. At the time of writing I now have a fixed KX3 mic but the FT 817 did maybe 10 summits with us lately and it reminds me of what a great radio they are and I enjoy using it every time, amazing where you can get with 5 watts of power.

We both had a good round up of chasers on 80m again in the middle of the afternoon in spite of the antenna for 80m not really fitting very well on our rocky perch on the Peak. The extensions are run out as far as possible off the ground then the ends thrown over the edge on both ends. I had some good contacts on 40m CW this time and no need to go to 20m my ZL chasers were all worked easily on 40m this time. After a very careful accent of Devils Peak we made it back to the Colorado and and headed to the caravan park for a good nights rest up for day 3 of SOTA.

Day 3 rolled around and we set of to The Argadells homestead quite early as we had an Alert time on SW3 for UTC roll over so Hugh could hand out scores to the chasers before UTC roll over and I went on air after UTC roll over that way the chasers get a double score as we are worked on differing calendar days.

We had an un eventful drive up to Mt Arden I recon its the best I have ever seen the track to the top, it can be a bit daunting to drive this track as on the way up in places all you can see out front is the bonnet of the vehicle and blue sky. No problems for my trusty Colorado in low range second gear all the way pulling nice and low down, made it look easy.

View out to the North East from Mt Arden.

Checking my log for this summit I see we only found 3 QSO on 80m SSB so Hugh would have made the rest of his score on 40m SSB. I had a good number of chasers on 40m CW and some others on 20m CW.

View to the South from Mt Arden.
Hugh is hard at work Luxury he had a chair.

Done away with the clip board for my log.

That was a great time away the weather was nice, not too hot and it did not rain on us even though it came close on Dutchman’s Stern. Back to the caravan park so Hugh could hook up his caravan and I headed to Laura to drop off my KX3 Microphone to Gordon.

Next big SOTA was what we call The Bendleby Ranges trip where we stay as accomms and travel out from there to do 6 summits. This trip takes in about 700 km of driving and 30 odd km of hiking to get around them all.

Hugh on air on Peaked Hill.

Peaked Hill was the first summit in the morning on the way to Bendleby Ranges, some contacts on 80m first then Hugh made a couple 40m SSB QSO and I made 2 CW QSO to have the KX2 die mid activation. Turns out the battery was flat, ok I will put my battery on whoops the Anderson pole connector pulls off Hugh’s power lead. Bugger can’t fix it here so we gave up and moved on. Eke Hill is the southern summit on Bendleby property so we booked in to the accomms first them went out to the summit after lunch. A great summit with a nice walk up along the creek then up a long rock shelf to make the summit in about 30 minutes for 1.2 km.

Stone Cairn on Eke Hill looking out to the East.
Operating Position On Eke Hill.

We had a good group of 80m Chasers this time and Hugh made some 40m SSB QSO and I had 3 40m CW QSO.

Off the hill in good time and a good training walk around the camp ground getting ready for a gut buster the next morning on Black Hill.

Hugh on the hike to Black Hill.

The next morning we were up and on the road by 7am for a long dirt road trip of 100km on station tracks to make Black Hill summit for a morning activation. This is one of the harder hikes we do in our program and Hugh had only been there once before so he was keen to try my proven track to the summit.

We worked hard in hard terrain to make the Alert time and tried to make the before roll over time again but missed out. Its such a hard climb I like to try to walk about 16 minutes per KM but on this hike it took 30 minutes to do one of the KM’s in the middle so more than an hour to go 3.2 km. But we did our best and got 5 QSO on 80m SSB and no QSO on 40m SSB I worked VK1DA on 40m CW that was it this time. Probably only spent 20 minutes on the summit, just seems crazy sometimes, to do all that driving and slog to have around 5 minutes each of on air time.

That’s what you call a Slab.

This photo is taken on the way off the summit we came down a different way, on the way up we climbed that slab to make the top. It’s pretty tough going, the SOTA transporter is parked in the bare area out east by the creek line.

Back to the SOTA transporter to back track for 40km to the next park up spot for unnamed summit VK5/NE-031 on Worumba Station.

Being late afternoon by the time we arrived on Hill 031 as we call it there were only 3 chasers on 80m SSB and Hugh made some 40m QSO on SSB and I gave out some points to 8 CW chasers on 40m so a good round up in the end. We had an uneventful hike back to the Mitsi and a 60km drive back to Bendleby accomms and another rest up for the next day.

Day 3 of this Adventure had the most hiking of the 3 days away.

Morning summit was Marchant Hill a 6 point summit with a 3.5 km hike around several hills and gullies as the easiest way we have worked out to get there. It been several attempts to get this path worked out over the years.

This time the weather was quite pleasant other times we have been there the wind has been really strong.

Hugh and I had 6 Chasers on 80m SSB this time handing out a score before and after roll over again this time, then I made 4 quick QSO on 40m cw as Hugh rolled up the kit so we could get off to Price Hill.

Price Hill is a great summit right in the middle of Hawker, Carrieton and Bendleby Ranges with nothing in its way. This is a park and hike in from the East of 3.5 km following a water way for some of the way then just hard slog to the top.

Once again we took a different path around the side of a smaller hill trying to make a more direct line to the saddle that takes you to the top. Seems sometimes it ends up being not much easier anyhow but It pays to experiment on this hobby.

Hugh on Price Hill.

The views from up here are an amazing vista full circle but the wind was very strong so we only had the pole up 6 metres but the antenna still worked ok. We only made 4 80m QSO this time but had a good score on 40m this time, Hugh had a lot of SSB contacts and I scored 10 CW contacts with a couple new chasers this time. Always nice to work a new chaser.

Old Dry Bore on Pamatta Station.

We got off the hill late afternoon and a quick Coffee break Hugh headed home via Orroroo and I took some dirt tracks ending up in Laura to pick up my KX3 Microphone from Gordon. It was a very good time out on the summits with a few tough climbs now behind us until next year.

Thanks to all the Chasers and the Land owners who have been a great support to Hugh and I and the SOTA program granting access to their properties and Summits.

Thanks for reading my Blog.

Regards Ian vk5cz..