Despite the fact that I have already activated Peissenberg this year and hence won’t give me any additional activator points, it has two advantages. Firstly it is a drive-up summit, so for testing, I can take a lot more equipment with me and secondly, (normally) it is a quick summit to get to, so that early morning activations (Greyline or Long Path contacts into ZL/VK).
I say “normally”, but more of that later.
One thing I had been working on before the COVID pandemic was a directional wire HF antenna, called the VP2E (Vertically polarised 2 Element) – all the details are on this website, here. As the pandemic lockdown situation combined with winter weather, I never got my comparison tests completed. Hence along with trying for a contact with Mike 2E0YYY/P in England, Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD in Victoria, Australia, this activation was meant to act as a test of my 20m version of the VP2E.
The car was loaded the night before to allow an early departure, the plan to be on the summit operational by 0600 UTC. The weather was questionable having had two evenings with thunderstorms and high winds – one of those storms, bringing down one of my antenna support masts at home (repaired in 15 minutes, no real damage). The forecast was for a mixed day but with several other appointments in the week, it had to be this Wednesday morning or not at all.
The gear would be the new XIEGU G90 and battery box in my rucksack and several antennas including the HF-PRO2 antenna (and photo tripod), the SOTABeams linked dipole and of course the VP2E for 20m. To support the VP2E and linked dipole configurations I packed the surveyor’s tripod and 6 and 10 metre squid poles.
Peissenberg has two good activation points. One on the very summit alongside the church and one in the car park below the graveyard. The first has a nice seat and fence where I can attach the mast and run the wire antenna out to a flagpole in one direction and down around a try to a second bench seat in the other direction. The best for antenna tests with lots of room is the car park.
But first I had to get there! Everything was going to plan as I left home at 7 am local time (0500 UTC) and the trip down over the country roads, I could probably do almost with my eyes closed, I have driven it so often. It was on the last turn-off onto the road up to the TV transmitter tower and church, that I caught a sign that is normally not there, something about “full hours” – Where it was located on the junction it was difficult to see. It became clear what it had said when I got halfway up the road and there was another one (see below) – there were major roadworks in process and the road was closed until the next hour. It was 07:35 local – bang goes my chance of being on the air at 8 am (0600 UTC) – I had to wait the 25 minutes until the road section was opened and the various road working machines moved out of the way to let the traffic through. I guessed at this point that probably the road in the downward direction would be open only on the half-hour as there is no way two-way traffic would work with all the holes that had been dug along the side of the road (more of THAT, later).
I sent Mike and the guys in VK a message to say I had been delayed. Mike let me know that 20m was open to the US and just starting to open to VK.
When I arrived at the car park it was almost completely full of campervans. Obviously, this is a favourite location for the brilliant view. I did find a spot to park, not too far away from one of the two benches there and unloaded and set up the gear. Half an hour after arriving I was listening for Mike. He was weaker than usual but an OK signal in any case. At this point, I wasn’t going to do any antenna comparison tests, with the lost time I wanted to concentrate on seeing if I could indeed hear the guys in Australia – and I could! The problem was they couldn’t hear me!
The receiver in the G90 is impressive – combine that with a low background noise level and you can hear the weakest signals. The fact that I run 20 watts when I am portable, not 450 watts will be a factor but not the main one. The fact was that despite an SFI in the mid to high 90s 20m was not good and by the time I got on the air. It was already suffering deep QSB on signals and soon went short. I could easily make contacts around Europe and even locally into Munich. Mario DJ2MX compared my signal on his beam and his vertical antenna and I was stronger on the vertical. As the VP2E is supposed to be vertically polarised, that was good news even though Mario would be off the side of the antenna – not in the direction of its gain – that was definitely pointing towards England and Long path to VK over the US.
After spotting on the SOTA cluster I had about 8 more contacts in the log, most of them giving me a good signal report. When those calls dried up and because another station had started called 2 kHz above my frequency, I went back to see how Mike was doing on his frequency. He also had no calls, so I called in again and we both agreed the DX capabilities of the band were gone and we both had storm clouds coming in but before we both packed up, Mike agreed to give me a comparison report between the VP2E and my normal linked dipole. It would have been best if I had had both antennas set up but I didn’t so there was a 10-minute break between the tests and while the VP2E appeared to give a 1 point advantage over the linked dipole, with the QSB on the band, this was probably not a good test. (1 S-point stronger is what it should be theoretically). I think my best bet is to use WSPR on both antennas as a true comparison at the same time or at least switching between them.
One Mike and I finished the test, I saw that half of the campervans had or were leaving – I looked at my watch to see it was quarter past the hours, so I thought, the road must be open at half-past for downward traffic, so I used to pack everything up into the car and get down while the road is open, otherwise I would have to wait another hour and with the storms coming in, that might not have been much fun.
When I got to the closed section of the road, there was one Dutch campervan waiting at the traffic lights and a sign saying the road opens on the hour. I don’t know where the other campervans went – either they got through late on the previous hour or they knew some other route down the mountain on the farm tracks. In any case, I had a good half an hour to wait, so I took the time re-packing the radio gear that had been just dropped into the back of the car.
One pile of wire (the linked dipole) had to wait until I got home to be un-tangled – that was a long job as you can see:
Once the lights changed to green we DID meet some traffic coming up the hill but managed to manoeuvre past each other. There seems to have been a miscommunication between the two workers who were controlling the traffic lights manually. They had intended to get the cars down the hill first and then let the ones free to go up the hill.
By the time I got home the next rain front was coming through, so staying longer would not have been pleasant. Overall the activation did not deliver what I had hoped for but it was a trip out and next time, I may try some of the farm roads to get up to the summit.
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu G90.
- Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “mini-mast”.
- Six-metre fibreglass mast.
- SotaBeams linked dipole.
- VP2E wire “beam”.
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
- Painters thick plastic sheet.
- Lightweight headphones.
- Sometimes unannounced road works can mess up your plans. There is a good possibility that I had been on the summit 30 minutes earlier I may have made a contact into VK3 with at least one of the two guys.
- Comparing antennas alone on a summit does not give accurate results, especially if they are not both set up together and you can switch between them. Perhaps next time I will test using my WSPRLite unit.
- The G90 continues to amaze me with its receiver performance.
73 ’til the next summit.