With the weather improving and the bands being kind for DX contacts lately, it was time to get out and test the antennas on the higher bands (17m, 15m, 10m). I didn’t want a long journey and so decided to see if a local GMA (Global Mountains Award) summit would serve as a testing ground for antennas going forwards. this would be my first GMA activation since 2018 and the online website has had a lot of features added, indeed spotting and alternating and monitoring all cover several schemes whether it be WWFF, SOTA, Castles, Lighthouses or GMA, all are covered through the system.
The summit, which I had never visited is just a 15-minute drive from my home, so if this worked out as a good summit, it could be very useful for tests.
Being so close I wouldn’t need to get up and leave so early if I wanted to try for contacts with VK. I loaded my rucksack with additional antennas and masts into the car on Tuesday afternoon in any case, to minimise what I would need to do on Wednesday morning.
Although I have never been to this summit before I have been through the village that it overlooks many times. On the map, there is no public car park but looking at a satellite picture I saw an area with a car parked in it that was close to the start of the track up to the summit. On arriving there, the car park is labelled as an official public car park for walkers.
It was no time at all before I had parked the car, and put on my rucksack after deciding to take one antenna and one mast out of it to lighten the load a little. I crossed the road and headed along the parallel to the road bitumen path to where the track up the hill starts. As you will see from the photos, there is a series of monuments with pictures of Christ carrying his cross up a hill, so this is definitely a pilgrim way up to the small church on the top of the hill.
Although steep in places, it is a reasonably easy climb to the top and after passing the grotto you come onto a sort of lawned area before you get to the church. There is also a grassed area by the church but the first one had two bench seats and I could set up there without obstructing the way for others, so that is what I did and I was fully operational with the first of my two wire antennas (a 40m OCF antenna from Aerial-51) by 0630 UTC (8:30 am local time) half an hour ahead of schedule.
I tuned around 20m and could hear several VK5 and VK2 stations on the band. Most activity on the band was in the bottom half. I believe this is because the lower half of the band will open first as the MUF increases.
I messaged Ernie (VK3DET) and Ian (VK3YFD) in Victoria Australia and my hope was to try 20, then 17 and then 15m with them and see how the antennas performed.
Contacts were more difficult than usual today but with some hard work on their ends, I got Ernie and Ian into the log. To make sure it was not a problem with the Aerial-51 OCF antenna, I took it down and replaced it with the SOTABeams linked dipole. Although Ernie and Ian reported a slightly stronger signal from me, I believe this was just a change in radio conditions rather than the antenna. Of course, the best would have been to have both antennas up at the same time and switch between them but there is not enough space at this summit to do that without risking interaction between the antennas. Checking 17 metres from both Australia and Germany – it was dead and it was obvious that I was not going to be doing any tests on 17 or 15 metres.
After finishing with Ernie and Ian, I spotted myself on the GMAWatch site and put out calls on both 20m and 40m. The final total for the activation was contacting just 6 different stations. a bit of a disappointment but at least I had been able to check out this local GMA summit which looks like a nice place to go in good weather but could also fill up quickly with tourists making radio operation difficult if not impossible.
- 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.
- Decathlon mast base spike (not used).
- Sun Umbrella screw-in base.
- SotaBeams linked dipole.
- Spider beam / Aerial-51 404-UL 40m OCF inverted-V dipole.
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
- 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
- Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms.
- While the weather was sunny (which lifts the spirits) the radio conditions were not nearly as good as they have been of late. This meant NOTHING was happening on 17m and above and I was lucky to get the contacts on 20m.
- As conditions were changing, I was not able to conclusively say whether the linked dipole is a “better” antenna than the OCF or whether simply the conditions changed.
73 ’til the next summit.