The primary aim of this activation was to get out again after a time away from activating. To test the equipment (and I) still work. As we have had some small improvement in conditions caused by PAE (Pre-Auroral-Enhancement) over the last few days, I was hoping for perhaps a contact into VK or ZL.
Berndorfer Buchet is my closest summit, being 30 minutes drive away from home however as I had already activated it once this year I would not get the one activation point for the summit. As it turned out I got 3 S2S contacts so that was a good by-product of what was more or less a testing excursion.
As I had decided to try for a VK/ZL contact I planned the use of the linked 20/40m VP2E antenna. The very summit at DL/AM-180 is wooded however and there’s only a little clearing, with nowhere enough space to fit the VP2E in. Plus the VP2E as the name indicates is a Vertically polarised two element wire antenna and vertical antennas do not work well in forrests as the trees absorb the transmitted signal. Just down from the summit however, there is a flat area, still within the activation zone but often quite damp underefoot. This is where I would put up the antenna. Because of its length, the antenna needs to be supported on the 10 metre mast and that I support with my surveyors tripod as there are no suitable other supports for the mast in the area.
My plan was to be on the summit by 0600 UTC which meant setting the alarm for 6am local time and then get ready and leave the house as quietly as possible. To help with this I packed everything I could in the car, the night before.
The trip across to Bernorfer Buchet took exactly the expected 30 minutes, however as I set off at 6:40 am local rather than the planned 7 am. I was at the car park ready to start the 10 minute walk to the summit in plenty of time. As I approached the area where I planned to set up, it was obvious that the constant rain overnight had made the area very boggy in places, so some care would be needed in setting up the station. One improvement that I implemented this time was to put the 10m mast between the legs of the tripod and fold them up, so i had one less piece to carry (I have been laying the mast on top of tripod when I carried it over mty shoulder but this still needed a hand on the top to stop it falling off – the new solution worked well and will stay as part of the “standard processes” as I normally need the tripod when using the 10m mast.
Once at the site, I took a guess at where i would need to set-up the tripod and only had to move it once as I ran the antenna out. One end of the antenna was tied to a tree branch at about 2 metres high, while the other (front) end went down and was tied to a plastic stake. Although I carried my modified telescopic walking poles with me, they didn’t get used this tim to lift up the ends of the antenna.
I had decided to start on 20 metres as the most likely to supply some DX so the antenna was erected with the links open. I had considered putting my traps in, meaning I could use the antenna on both 20 & 40m without having to lower it to change bands but I’m not sure how much signal I lose through the traps and until I’m sure that it’s not important, I will continue with the manual linking and unlinking to change bands.
As I self spotted on 20m, I saw that most other activators were on 40m but I persevered and after my CQ got calls from Poland and Sweden at a good strength but the 20m band was very quiet so it certainly hadn’t opened yet. After a couple more CQ calls with no response I decided to change to 40m, so the mast was lowered and the links put in. 40m sounded immediately louder and tuning around I could here a fair level of activity. I saw that Bill DL/G4WSB/P and Mike 2E0YYY/P were spotted, so I went and worked them for 2 S2S contacts, then found a free frequency, spotted myself and put out my CQ call. Even with some QSB, I had a solid stream of 19 calls in 11 minutes – so a busy time!
At this point I was hearing lightening strikes over the air and my wife had texted me that there was a big storm with her that would no doubt get to me at some point, so I decided to give 20m another go before packing up. Ernie VK3DET in Victoria had been listening for me all the way through the activation but had not heard me yet, so this was the last chance, so I dropped him an email, spotted myself and put out some more CQ calls on 14.310, all the time knowing it would take me probably 10-15 minutes to pack everything up and I’d prefer not to be doing that in the rain. After a few calls with no response I decided it was best to pack up and announced I was going QRT. At this point I saw another activator had also just moved to 20m, so I went to Neno, 9A6ZE’s frequency and he was there, after a few corrections we got the needed information over and there was another S2S contact “in the bag”. By this time, it was definitely time to pack up and get back to the car!
Luckily I got everything packed and was half way home in the car before the rain arrived so I think I did he right thing to pack up when I did.
Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).
10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
Thick plastic painters sheet.
Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.
The propagation was not good enough for me to make contacts into VK/ZL but I’m happy with the three S2S contacts that I made.
All the equipment worked correctly and I had no major problems either with the muddy site or with hiking to a summit after being away from SOTA for a couple of months.
The packing of the 10m telescopic mast “within” the tripod legs for transport is a good solution as is the wooden plate on the top of the tripod that gets used as a base for the mast.
I have confidence in the VP2E antenna which performed well but I still need to check what effect the traps have on it and also how directional the antenna is.
The sue of the PocketRxTx app on my smart phone to display what is on the screen of the X108G continues to be essential and the use of the one piece, short Micro-USB to USB-C-OTG cable instead of various combinations that I have used in the past works well. It is inconvenient to switch from the display app to SOTA Spotter or email however, so perhaps I need to purpose up a second Android smart phone, just to act as the rig’s display?
73 ’til the next Summit!