Following an aborted activation on Monday the 8th. due to bad radio conditions and as part of an investigation to see if we get better conditions on the HF bands after a Solar Storm passes the Earth (we already know we get better propagation, the two days before – or at least so it seems), Mike 2E0YYY and I decided head out on Wednesday the 10th. hoping this would be the day after the Solar Storm passed.
In my case this activation would be the first one using the Xiegu X108G since I repaired it, replacing its soldered in rechargeable CMOS memory lithium button cell. So this would be a check that everything was working correctly. I also wanted to test three loaded whip HF Vertical antennas that I have in preparation, perhaps of another attempt to activate DL/AM-031 Breanderschrofen as this summit does not have room for a dipole antenna and lightweight compact equipment is needed as the ascent is a little difficult in places.
The equipment had already been packed for the aborted Monday activation, so a quick check was all that was needed.
Ernie VK3DET promised to try to hear Mike and myself and Jonathan VK7JON was also going to head out to a Tasmanian summit.
Weichberg is one of my “local” summits, the drive taking 40-45 minutes and the track up through the forest from the parking spot another 5 minutes. Weichberg has a small chapel on top of it along with a regional TV and radio transmitting tower so normally it’s relatively easy to find. There is a table and bench seats and enough room for the antennas next to the chapel. There is no longer the small tree in the middle of the grassed area which used to act as the support for my mast, so nowadays I take my screw-in umbrella base along to provide that support.
The alarm was set for 6am local (0400 UTC) and I was already on the road by 6:45 am as the morning, like the last two was foggy, so I wanted to allow myself more time to get to the summit. I did not set the Navi (GPS) for this summit as I have been there several times before but as I nearly missed one turn-off in the fog I wondered if it would have been a better idea! In any case, I arrived at the parking spot without any issues picked up the various bags and headed up the track to the summit. On trying to screw the base into the ground I had forgotten that there’s a level of stones not far underneath the grassed area with the result that the support was at somewhat of an angle – it held up though, which was the main point. Once the linked dipole was up on the 6m travel mast, I connected up the X108G and turned it on and …. nothing! Oh NO! now what’s wrong? I checked the fuses in the power cable, they looked fine and then opened the battery box to make sure nothing was shorting there, I lifted out the voltage regulator and put it on top of the batteries but did not see anything wrong. I tried turning the rig on again – this time it burst to life. OK, I made a note to investigate the battery box when I got home. The battery box and regulator worked fine during the activation but when packing up I spotted the problem – the output lead had come out of the terminal block. As I had positioned it on top of the batteries it made contact again but could have stopped at any time!
This was now 05:45 UTC and I spotted myself and put out a call on a free frequency – no takers. OK possibly a bit early. Then I saw that Peter VK3PF was out in Australia on 40m – I took a listen – nothing. So another couple of CQ calls and tuning around. Apart from some italian and Russian nets there was not a lot on, so I took the opportunity to put up my second antenna, A Komunica Bazoka Pro on my converted camera tripod with an SO239 socket and 4 radial wires. I then saw a spot for Herbert OE9HRV who was out on a summit not too far away. I gave him a call and we had a bit of a chat and asked him to listen for me on the loaded vertical. He could not hear anything from me and he was probably 3-4 S-points weaker on the vertical than the dipole. I let Herbert get off and try for more DX contacts and in fact later he achieved the best DX contact of any of us who were out with a contact into ZL on 20m.
During this activation, I switched often between 40m and 20m as at the moment both are possible candidates for a contact into VK/ZL if one was going to be possible at all.
I now tried my other two vertical antenna (a Diamond RHM-8B and a no-name antenna with a banana plug lead to short out parts of the loading coil) on the tripod to see at least how they were receiving and what the SWR on transmit looked like. None of the three loaded vertical antennas seemed to be working very well. The one with the banana lead appeared to receive the best of the three but its SWR was very bad. It was only after testing the last of the three antennas and was removing the coax from the rig to go back to the dipole that I heard the receive signals get stronger as I was removing the PL259 plug. At this point I thought there may be a problem in the plug and made a note to test it when I got home.
Later in the day when I tested the coax, I found the problem at the tripod end not the rig end. The braid on the coax is only crimped into the socket (a commercially built one) and was intermittent at best, most of the time open-circuit. This would mean that the radial wires were never connected to the antennas and as two of the three are designed to have a metal car roof underneath them a set of radials when there is no car roof, is very important. No wonder they didn’t work well ! The joint is now repaired and all three antennas will need to be tested again.
After the loaded vertical antenna testing, I tuned around 40m and found what appeared to be a free frequency, but to make sure called “is the frequency in use” and got a polite reply back that it was and I said OK I’ll QSY. Then I stopped, I recognised that voice and in fact the next thing I heard was Mike 2E0YYY (or from the summit he was on in Wales 2W0YYY) call CQ SOTA. So of course I went back to him and we had a short chat and that was contact number two, another S2S contact in the log. I then searched for another free frequency, spotted myself and put out several calls with no responses. I tried 20m as well as 40m – no callers – I know I was getting out – why there were no chasers calling me is a mystery.
The conclusion regarding the hoped for better conditions was that the solar winds had not yet passed the Earth as the K-Index was still up at 4, so another couple of days may be needed before the “day after the storm” comes along.
Xiegu X108G 20w transceiver.
SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole.
LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.
Modified camera tripod with SO239, coax cable and radial wires.
Komunica Bazoka Plus wideband loaded vertical
Diamond RHM-8B loaded vertical with sliding coil tuning
No-Name loaded vertical with banana plug cable band switching on the coil.
Thick plastic painters sheet.
Sun Umbrella screw-in base.
We were out too soon to test the “after-the-solar-storm” conditions and any contacts into VK/ZL would have been a fluke. There were stations specifically listening and calling from VK and this time I could not hear anything from Ernie (who I was in touch with via email during the test).
As regards the loaded vertical antennas, these will need to be tested again, now that the mount has been repaired.
Lets hope that conditions do improve for October 20th. which is when a large group of operators in VK/JA/ZL/UK and EU will be trying for S2S contacts.
73 ’til the next Summit!