Background – Double summit.
Some of you may recognise the name of this summit from my previous reports. Rentschen is a current SOTA and a current HEMA summit. How can this happen? Well HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.
This activation was planned to coincide with our twice-weekly “Comms Testers net” on 14.242 MHz which runs from 0745-0815 UTC on Monday & Thursday mornings.
This net was formed out of a Signal messenger group and several years of attempts to make contact on SSB between Europe/UK and the state of Victoria in Australia. Those in the group and hence net normally are Ernie VK3DET, Ian VK3YFD, Mike 2E0YYY and myself. This net has only been formally running a couple of weeks as I write this report and it was created as an “attend if you have time” net but to give a point to start from for further communications tests.
Rentschen is a flat plateau with a road running across it, this makes this the ideal summit if multiple pieces need to be carried for testing and this was going to be the case for this activation. While I could have simply taken the same set-up as I had used on the previous two activations, I wanted to test out an antenna that I had built some time ago and because of the Covid pandemic had not been able to give a proper test on a summit. Now was my chance. the weather would not be as cold as it had been, no rain was forecast and so the 20m VP2E antenna (description here) would get its test on this activation. I was particularly interested as to whether what looks like a double-sized off-centre fed dipole would give the promised gain in the direction that I set it up in (pointing via the long path to Australia).
To support the VP2E only one of my 6m fibreglass poles would be needed however, I decided to take the architect’s tripod and my 10m mast along as well. I might put up both the linked dipole and the VP2E for comparisons in the EU-VK path. The 6-metre fibreglass mast would use the sun umbrella screw-in base as its support.
As usual for early starts, I loaded the car Sunday evening with all but my food and water so that all would be ready for a 7 am (0600 UTC) start the following morning.
Although Google Maps suggested accessing Rentschen from the north, rather than through Wildsteig to the south would be almost 10 minutes quicker, after looking at a satellite image of the suggested route and seeing that it was a mud track rather than a normal road, I decided to take my normal approach route. I had enough time in any case.
The trip to the car parking spot for the summit took around 45 minutes from my home as there was limited traffic.
On arrival, it was not particularly warm and I was happy to have put my Parka on! I did a quick check of my usual set-up spot to find that the farmer had churned it up with his tractor recently, so I took a spot at the other side of the small track that runs from the road to the trig point.
I decided to initially set up the VP2E antenna as it was the one I wanted to test. Once that was up, I would go back to the car and bring the tripos and 10m mast for the linked dipole.
As I put down my painter’s sheet that I use on the ground, I received a message from Ernie and Ian, saying that they had a major thunderstorm coming through and they would have to disconnect all antennas and certainly would not be able to listen for me until the storms passed. Oh well “best-laid plans” and all that. There will be another opportunity I am sure.
I decided that as I had almost completed installing the VP2E antenna, I would continue to activate the summit with that antenna and Mike 2E0YYY would listen for me from the UK. The 20m band started long and then went short skip later but for the first hour or so, I could hear ZL1, VK2, VK5 & VK6 stations at or near S9 signal strength. Unfortunately, they were either in nets, calling an EU (usually EA) station or the pile-up to call them was horrendous!
Mike kindly spotted me on the DX Cluster and the HEMA website but to little avail. Eventually, as I was considering pulling the antenna down and putting up the dipole Lars SA4BLM called me and then after tuning around, I found Keith LZ4DJ who I had worked the previous Monday from the Berndorfer Buchet summit. After this, however, despite searching and calling, I was not getting any contacts on 20m. The band had closed it seems. Mike suggested I try 40m as he was sure there would be HEMA and SOTA chasers looking for me there. I was then faced with taking down one antenna and putting the linked dipole up on the same mast or going back to the car and bringing the tripod and 10m mast. Both options were not very inviting as with an icy cold breeze, the summit was not very warm.
Knowing that the G90 has an internal matching unit that could match the proverbial piece of wet string, I decided to try the 20m VP2E on 40m. The result? Receive is fine but transmit is terrible as regards putting a signal out. Despite that 10 SOTA/HEMA chasers worked hard and I got them into the log.
Lots of lessons were learnt from this activation, despite having to change plans around.
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu G90.
- Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
- Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
- Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
- Screw-in sun umbrella support.
- VP2E 20m antenna.
- Surveyors tripod with 10m mast (not used).
- SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
- 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
- Painters thick plastic sheet.
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone to spot and for back-channel comms.
- The weather although bright was not as warm as it looked!
- It was a shame that Ernie & Ian could not make the Net, but safety first and trying to work DX with a storm around you is not only dangerous but also quite futile with all the electrical noise that a storm produces.
- I need to put the VP2E 20m antenna up in the garden and check that it has not gone off-resonance since it was built.
- The plastic (one-use) medical gloves that I took with me do not keep the hands warm enough. The cloth version is better for this but the plastic ones allowed me to use the smartphone’s touch screen where the cloth ones do not.
- SURPRISE! – I hadn’t realised but until the end of March, Rentschen gets 3 winter bonus points in the SOTA award scheme.
73 ’til the next summit, be it HEMA or SOTA – or perhaps BOTH again?