This activation was in principal a “points grab” with the period when winter bonus points drawing ever closer, but more of a problem, the fact that the cable car that is needed to access the Laber mountain will stop for its annual maintenance on March 23rd so with that date approaching and the weather varying from day to day with high winds being the main concern, I decided to try to get up to Laber on Wednesday 11th and if that wasn’t possible I might include it in a group of summits the following week.
After my problems on the last two activations with the RF from the amplifier getting back into the rig’s audio, I ordered the official interface unit for the rig but as that has to come from China, the amplifier is now out of service for a few weeks and the next few activations will have to make do with 20 watts instead of 70 watts. Laber is a summit with limited space, so I decided to just take my loaded HF whip antenna and small photo-tripod. This configuration does not perform as well as the squid pole and either of my HF dipole antennas but it should be good enough to get me 4 contacts from the top of Laber. Friends in Australia (Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD) agreed to take a listen for me but with the reduced antenna and the timing (too late for Long path / grey-line), the chances of a DX contact were going to be minimal.
I am still trying to adapt my new rucksack to allow me to operate the rig without taking it out of the rack sack and at the same time, pack all required gear for an activation into just this one bag instead of the two which I normally need to carry.
On Tuesday I did a mock set-up in my cellar of the gear that I would be taking to Laber. This could not operate from underground however it was a check that I had packed everything that would be needed in the new bag. There’s nothing worse than getting to a summit to find you have forgotten one part that is needed to make everything work! An outside test was not possible as it was pouring down with rain and there were high winds – not a good omen for Wednesday!
I woke to a fairly clear morning with some wind but certainly not as bad as the previous day. A quick check of the webcam at Laber and I decided to try. I set off at just after 8 am and the 1-hour drive went without any problems.
I headed out from the cable car’s top station to the actual summit, which is less than 50m away and set up as I usually do on the seat bank under the flag-pole. I set up the photo tripod in the snow behind the seat and then slung out the radial wires in a few directions before attaching the Komunica HF-Pro2 antenna. It was actually pre-adjusted to the right spot on its coil however I moved it to see whether I could hear the difference. Nothing – no change in background noise. I then moved the cable that I have coming out of my rucksack to an SO239 line socket and suddenly the volume of the receiver shot up – so I have an intermittent contact there which I will need to investigate before my next activation.
With the battery box and radio still in the rucksack, all operation is performed using the PocketRxTx Android app on a smartphone, which acts as the display and controls for the rig.
Initially, I wondered if I was getting out or not as after spotting and then calling CQ, I was getting no replies but the delay appears to have been in the spotting system as after a while I got a call from Manuel EA2DT and then a string of calls from around Europe. Eight calls in thirteen minutes. As there were no more calls that I could hear I decided to pack-up with my “mission” completed. It was good that I chose that point to close down as the winds rose and some clouds came in (as can be seen from the webcam shots in the slideshow below).
Overall I was very lucky with the weather as when I arrived home some thousand metres lower, the winds were quite severe, so they would have blown everything away on the summit.
Some of the cable car ride down the mountain can be seen here:
- Xiegu X108G.
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
- Photo tripod with clip-on radial wires.
- Komunica Power HF-Pro-2 loaded vertical antenna.
- Thick green plastic painters sheet.
- Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.
I was lucky with the weather but at the moment I have to “chance it” as it is so variable and the forecasts continue to be unreliable.
- The new voltage regulator circuit in the battery box performed without any issues.
- The HF-PRO2 antenna and small tripod is hardly a very good antenna system but given the summit, it’s a good combination to get contacts from around Europe.
- Operating the radio while still within the new rucksack, controlling via the Android App works well.
- No RF Ingres problems as I did not have the amplifier with me.
- No DX calls but given the timing, this was to be expected.
- The antenna cable extension needs attention but as this was the first time that it has been used, I was lucky that it was only an intermittent problem not a permanent one.
- I did not get time to test the speech processor, which I had with me, but it was more important to get back down the mountain before the winds got too bad!.
73 ’til the next summit!