DD5LP/P – October 4th 2021 – DL/BE-093 Buchberg & DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg.

Preparation:

I had originally planned to activate Buchberg and Zweisselberg but changed at the last minute as the weather forecast changed – and it is lucky that I did. After riding up on the open seat lift, it’s a good 45 minutes to the Zweisselberg summit with some of the way quite steep. The summit itself is open and offers no protection from the weather rather with its sun loungers, this is a summit to visit on a bright sunny, dry, day.

So the plans were changed the day before to be the two one-pointer, easy access summits of Buchberg and Schwarzer Berg and the trip reduced from a full (long) day to just over half a day.

As conditions have been good of late for contacts down into Australia around 0630-0730 UTC, I decided that is what I would try for from Buchberg and while I am at it, I will also try 17 metres as well as 20 metres as the propagation forecasts and reports are indicating that for EU-VK contacts, 17 metres should be also better than 20 metres. Another advantage of 17 metres of course is that contests are not allowed on the band meaning, once conditions do improve on the band it will be a band that can be used by low power portable operators on Saturdays and Sundays – something that, in Europe, neither 40 nor 20 metres are anymore.

As equipment, I decided to take the 10 metre DX-Wire mast, my surveyor’s tripod, as its support and my commercially made 17-metre vertical antenna from LambdaHalbe in Germany – it is effectively a J-Pole antenna, which needs the full 10m mast height to be deployed. I would of course also take the SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole and try to put both antennas up on the same mast at the same time to make switching from 20 metres to 17 metres as quick as possible.

The Activation – Buchburg

After getting up before 6 am, I was on the road by 6:45 am (0445 UTC). The drive down took the expected 90 minutes despite a surprisingly high amount of traffic – I must have hit the time that the building and trades workers travel to work on a Monday morning. Half of the journey (which is completely on country roads) was driving behind other cars and trucks. We even came to a total halt for about 10 minutes in a small town called Weilheim, which is where several roads meet and where some road works were underway.

In any case, once I arrived at Buchberg, which is not far from the regional town of Bad Tölz, I found my usual parking space outside of the field where the cross and summit of Buchberg are located, collected up all my equipment and set off across the field, following a well-worn path that gets steep at the end. It was cold but I was hoping that as the sun came up, it would warm up (it didn’t). I had arranged with a couple of VK hams – Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD to do the tests on 20 & 17 metres. Mike, 2E0YYY who often is the lead to this little group, was sheltering at home in pouring rain but agreed to try and listen for me via his local web SDR receiver. In fact conditions the whole morning were not good between southern Germany and northern England and Mike never heard me on either 20 or 17 metres. I sent out a text via the “Signal” App telling them all that I was setting up. I had a major problem with the idea of having both antennas on the one mast at the same time, in that it bent over at the top to an alarming amount and I had to lower it to about 6 metres in height – which of course then meant that the lower part of the 17m J-pole was laid on the ground. In any case the plan was to start on 20 metres using the linked dipole. 

On connecting up and tuning around, looking for a free frequency, I just caught the end of Paul VK5PAS talking to someone, so I waited on the frequency and he actually handed over to his partner, Marija VK5MAZ. I tried calling her several times in the next hour but without success as the multi-kilowatt Europe based stations with big towers and beams were fighting each other to work her. At the strength she was coming in, with a clear frequency I’m sure she would have been able to work me. Never mind… I kept looking and trying different frequencies only having to move on when some station close to the chosen frequencies splattered all over what I had listened on and found was not in use. Eventually, a sort-of-OK frequency was found, I put out a call and Ian VK3YFD came straight back to me. Ernie was having some local noise on that frequency, so we moved again, and this time, on the new frequency, Ernie VK3DET could join in as well.

Well, that’s not bad for 20w SSB and a dipole, two VK3 stations and levels of signals where we could have a normal conversation, not just exchange signal reports.

So now it was time to try 17 metres and even though half of the antenna was on the ground, there was Ian, stronger than he had been on 20 metres! The trouble was, he couldn’t hear me. So I decided to take the mast down, remove the dipole and put it back up only with the J-Pole antenna, to its full 10 metre height, so that the driven element was no longer on the ground. I tried with Ian again. He was as strong as ever, but he could hear nothing from me! The VSWR on the antenna was fine, it was now set-up OK – there was nothing for it – it simply doesn’t work for whatever reason! My next problem was to even get the single point for the SOTA summit, I needed two more contacts, so I put out calls on 17m in the hope that someone in Europe would be able to hear me – but no, nothing! This was starting to be a bit of a disaster but there was nothing for it, I had to lower the mast remove the J-Pole and put the linked-dipole back up and go back on 20m to get the needed contacts quickly as it was already time for me to head over to the next summit.

I managed 3 quick contacts following Mike spotting me on SOTAWatch again and then that was it. Time to pack everything up and head back down the field to the car with mixed feelings. It was great to get to talk on 20m with Ernie and Ian but the fact that the 17m J-pole receives (as well as VK, I could also hear JA stations with it) why wasn’t it transmitting? 

The Activation – Schwarzer Berg

The trip from Buchberg to Schwarzer Berg took about 25 minutes and upon arrival at the parking spot, it was still as cold as it had been early morning but the skies were starting to look more threatening, despite the fact that the forecast said there would be no rain, I was starting to doubt that.
I decided not to bother with the big mast and tripod on this summit and just took the 6-metre one and the sun umbrella screw-in foot along with the radio equipment in the rucksack. At this point, I realised I could have tried with the HF-PRO-2 on 17 metres from the last summit as it covers all bands – but that was all too late now.
Once set-up, I started on 40m to try to get enough contacts into the log in case I had to abort quickly if the weather turned bad. There were no problems with calls on 40 metres though, I had what is now becoming usual, a pile-up of chasers calling, even managing 2 S2S contacts. Once the flow of calls finished, I decided that while it hadn’t yet started to rain, I would give 20 metres a go. The G90 has a band scope and after switching the antenna and rig to 20m, it was obvious 20m had passed its best, there was very little showing in the SSB part of the band.  I only managed one contact, that with Lars SA4BLM who had also called me on 40m – he was a lot stronger on 20 metres as the skip distance is better for Sweden and Greece on 20m than on 40m. Lars was my only contact on 20 metres, so I decided I might as well pack up and as I was packing up, the rain started. Only light, but my timing couldn’t have been better.
Once back at the car, I loaded everything and set off home. When I passed the lift up to Blomberg and Zweisselberg, it was raining harder and I could see the summit was inside the clouds. If I had continued with my plan to activate that summit, I would have been halfway when the rains started and probably have been soaked by the time I reached the summit. So all in all, even though I only accrued two activator points not five, the choice of summits was right.

 Photos – Buchberg:

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 Photos – Schwarzer Berg:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack with added radio section protection.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Sotabeams linked dipole “Band Hopper” (used on both summits).
  • LambdaHalbe J-Pole vertical antenna for 17 metres (used on Buchberg).
  • 10m DX-wire mini-mast (on Buchberg).
  • 6m LambdaHalbe mini-mast (on Schwarzer Berg).
  • Sun umbrella screw-in foot (used on Schwarzer Berg).
  • Surveyors Tripod (as support for the 10m mast – used on Buchberg).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • 4000 maH LiHV battery (carried but not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log – Buchberg:

Log – Schwarzer Berg:

Conclusions:

  • I was lucky that I chose to change the second summit to be activated. Stuck on a mountain without cover in a rainstorm is not fun.
  • The Linked dipole has now been modified to work on 17m as well as 20 & 40m as the LambdaHalbe 17m J-Pole has issues.
  • I’m two points closer to Mountain Goat – only 4 more points to go.
  • Never trust weather forecasts – how often have I said that?
  • Radio propagation conditions are definitely improving as Solar Cycle 25 “wakes up”.
  • I still have to test the LiHV battery on an activation, rather than just carrying the extra weight.