DD5LP/P – January 8 2023 – HEMA DL/HCN-004 & SOTA DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

As Andrew VK1AD was going out using the VI10SOTA special event call sign to celebrate 10 years of SOTA in the ACT, I decided to go out at the same time and try for an S2S and an H2S. If the long path band conditions were as they have been, it should be possible with a little luck.

Mike 2E0YYY/P and Ernie VK3DET would get on as well.

The set-up would be the tried and tested G90 plus OCF dipole from Aerial-51 and the 6m mast, all of which packs into, or onto my medium sized rucksack.

All was prepared and put in the back of the car for a 7:30 am start on Sunday morning.

I decided that I would go to my closest summit, Berndorfer Buchet, which is a HEMA summit as well as a SOTA summit and so I alerted in both award systems of my intention of activating it. 

The Activation

Berndorfer Buchet – HEMA DL/HCN-004 and SOTA DL/AM-180.

The good drive down in just over 30 minutes and I was parked at my usual spot by 8:05 am. The walk from the parking spot to the summit takes 15 minutes and with another 15 minutes to set up the station, I was on the air by 07:40 UTC. I messaged Mike 2E0YYY who had just arrived in his local park and Ernie who was heading to his radio shack.

Tuning around 20m was already active with me but dead with Mike in the UK but as time went on this changed. I heard a JI1 (Japan) station but could not get a reply from him to me calls. I also heard and worked very easily EA5S/M in Spain, so I knew I was getting out. VI10SOTA was spotted on several different frequencies, Andrew was obviously having to move to get away from the normal weekend QRM. On some of his spotted frequencies I could hear the chasers calling him but not Andrew himself and that was to be the story of the activation. Although I eventually got an easy contact with Mike in The UK, I couldn’t manage one with Ernie. On a couple of occasions I could hear someone in the noise but I couldn’t say if it was Ernie or not. He of course could not hear anything from me.

As well as 20m, I also got lots of contacts around Europe on 40m. I tried 10 metres as well but it was the DARC 10m contest and so the band was full of loud, wide stations. Even if the band had opened for DX I would not have been able to get through the QRM from the contest stations.

One positive point from the outing, was that the new power lead which I made after the problems I had on the last activation, worked perfectly. Overall this activation in the cold (maximum +5°C) was a bit of a let down compared to “what could have been” but propagation is like that. I would have like to have worked Andrew on his summit in Australia and although some home stations in Europe managed it, it was not to be from where I was.

At least this time, i did not come home with a list of problems to fix, the equipment worked correctly for the whole 2 hours that I was on the summit.

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • 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.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
  • Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole antenna
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • 4 Ah LifePO4 Eremit battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet and gardeners kneeling pad.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Logs:

Berndorfer Buchet

HEMA DL/HCN-004

SOTA DL/AM-180

Conclusions:

  • Band conditions at the time of this activation were not as good as I had hoped they would be and 10m was totally unusable with the local contest being in full swing.
  • The equipment all worked as it should. The combination of the Xiegu G90 with it’s 20 watts and the Aerial-51 OCF dipole even with the small (effectively 5m high) pole continues to work very well. This is definitely a good combination for single backpack portable operation.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisement

DD5LP/P – January 2nd 2023 – DL/AM-001 Peißenberg.

Preparation:

The new year is here which means that all of my local summits are available to get points again (not that the points are important these days – I have achieved SOTA Mountain Goat status, so the pure points-hunt part of the scheme is finished for me).

Ernie VK3DET said he would be available to listen for me and Mike 2E0YYY may even go out portable to work me, depending upon the weather.

In any case I wanted to get out portable as 10m and 20m have been good lately. Peißenberg is perhaps my second closest summit after Berndorfer Buchet but has the advantage of more flat area to set-up antennas on and of course three winter bonus points. 

My idea was to put up my 10m mast supported by my large surveyors tripod and then have the Aerial-51 OCF antenna at a higher height than normal. As the weather reports are good, I could try out my VP2E antenna on 20m as I haven’t really given it a good trial comparison against any other antenna yet. It is supposed to have some directional gain over a dipole. For the comparison, I would need to have both antennas up at the same time as the band conditions could (and often do) change in the time I need to lower one antenna and raise the other.

This all adds up to more than the usual load but as Peißenberg is a drive-on summit, I wont have to carry everything very far, but to save time, I loaded the car up on Sunday night for this Monday morning activation.

The Activation

DL/AM-001 Peißenberg

The drive down is a route I have taken many times before. On the way, I was deciding whether to perform all the tests in the field or just to keep things simple and operate from the upper operating position by the church. As I approached the lower car park, the decision was made for me – there was some kind of gathering of people with camper vans taking up the lower car park, so if I could get a place in the car park, it would not be that close to the field and who knows what interference would be coming out of all of these “mobile homes” (see later comment about S7 QRM on 40m).

So it would be the reduced set-up, with the OCF antenna and the small 6 metre pole from my old location by the church, in the nice seated area with a wooden fence that the mast straps to and the antenna wires run out to a couple of convenient posts.

First of all though, I had to go and buy a parking ticket. What has been a free public car park for the last 20 years has been changed during the Covid pandemic to a private carpark where they charge €2 for 3 hours parking and €4 for six hours.

 OK, with that small detail taken care of, I took just the equipment that I needed to go up to my usual operating spot – at the side of the church looking straight into the valley.

As I approached the spot, I realised someone was already sat in “my” spot. To make things worse, he had just started eating his breakfast and was obviously enjoying the view and relaxing in the early morning sun. GREAT! I wondered if I might be able to set up at the back of the church but as I went there, I found other people there – what’s going on? This place is never this busy on a Monday:  Oh well, I thought, I’ll just have to go back to the original plan and squeeze in between the camper vans in the lower car park. then the guy behind the church started making small talk about how the view was lovely and the clean clear air is good for you. He was right of course and so I agreed with him and he turned out to be one of those people, who when you start talking to them, you can’t get away. I didn’t want to be rude but time (and the long path to Australia) was slipping away. I eventually got free after about 20 minutes and the man in “my seat” was still there. I asked if he’d mind if I sat on the next bench to him and explained that I would be setting up to do my amateur radio. He said he was about to leave but he had no issues with me setting up there, so I did so and explained a little about out hobby and gave him a brochure as he really seemed to show a little interest. When he finally did leave to walk back down the hill, I moved everything up onto my normal seat, and then it happened – the radio went off. A bad connection in the power lead. It worked a couple of times but a problem with the G90 is that if power drops unexpectedly all settings are returned to defaults! I have seen this problem before. It is something in the power lead. I thought I had fixed it last time – obviously not. To circumvent the problem, I switched from my LifePO4 battery to my LiHV one (which has its own power cable).

So, now that I was operational again, I decided to message Ernie VK3DET to see if he was still around. No response from Ernie or Mike – that’s odd. I then tried to check my emails – no Internet connectivity – great! Another problem. One that if you have a dual SIM phone on two different networks as I do is not difficult to fix – I switched over from Deutsche Telekom to Vodaphone and got my Internet connectivity back again. OK, messaged Ernie again and – luckily – he was still around and after finding a free frequency on 20m, we managed a short contact – only exchanging signal reports but it was a contact. I wonder what it would have been like had I got on 30 minutes earlier as I had planned?

The rest of the activation was more “normal”. I had hoped to get some contacts on 10m but it was dead, even after spotting myself I could not get any callers. So the contacts were roughly half on 20m and half on 40m as you will see from the log below. There were two S2S contacts, one into the UK and one into Ireland, which were nice. On 40m I had nearly S7 noise level, which is very strange for this summit – the weather station next door is always RF quiet and I suspect more that the noise was coming from one or more of the camper vans in the lower car park, so had I set up there I would have been even more restricted in what I could do.

So now that I am home, I have a G90 power cable to investigate – in fact I think I will simply build a new one. This was not the best activation with equipment problems and delays because of the tourists and again, I did not get a chance to try out the VP2E antenna. Perhaps on Rentschen, which is a plateau SOTA/HEMA summit with lots of space for antenna experiments as long as I get there before the snow comes again. One year i was there the snow was 2 metres tall against the side of the road!

Photos:

DL/AM-001 Peißenberg:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 radio.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna with a modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials. (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • DX-Wire 10m mast and Surveyors tripod (not used).
  • Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 4 Ah LiHV battery.
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Gardener’s kneeling pad (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone for SOTA spotting.

Log:

DL/AM-001 Peißenberg

 

Conclusions:

  • I hate operating weekend days from a summit due to tourists. This was a Monday but being just after new year, i suppose I should have expected more people than usual to be around.
  • Despite arriving earlier than expected, by the time I got on air on 20 metres I was lucky to get the contact into Australia as the band was starting to close.
  • The 10 metre band is a fickle band. The MUF seems to just creep over from time to time at the moment and if its below 28MHz the band is closed.
  • I need to make a new power cable for the G90, the standard one has some problem (perhaps in the strange connector on the rear of the radio or in the car type fuse holder). I have tried to resolve the problem by rechecking all the connections but the problem re-occurred so no it is time for a complete replacement. 

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – December 30th 2022 – DL/AL-179 Weichberg & DL/AL-169 Auerberg.

Preparation:

With the year coming to a close and the weather being dry, if not warm and radio conditions being generally good, I decided I would activate a SOTA summit. Looking around I realised that the easy summit Weichberg, although I had activated it, I hadn’t activated it in the winter bonus period in 2022, so that was the summit I chose. Given that Auerberg is also an easy summit and only 20 minutes drive away from Weichberg, I usually combine the two summits and that is what I did on this occasion as well. While I had activated both of these summits already in 2022 I would not get their basic points but I would pick-up 3 winter bonus points for both summits. In fact I don’t care so much about the points anymore, having passed the 1000 points mark some time ago and what I was hoping for was some DX contacts from these two summits.

At least from Weichberg, I should be on the summit around the time that 20m has been opening up via long path into VK/ZL recently and even 10 metres has also been opening up.

I put up SOTA alerts for both summits and decided to stay with my standard equipment apart from one change. As I wanted to try out 10 metres and my usual linked dipole does not have a link for 10m, I decided to take along the Aerial-51 404-UL OCF inverted-V dipole which covers the main bands between 40m and 10m. It also covers the WARC bands (30, 17 & 12m) but only using an ATU to match to the antenna on these bands. While my Xiegu G90 has a very good built-in ATU, I could use this however I was not planning activation on any of the WARC bands, and putting an ATU in circuit to match the impedance of a non-resonant antenna to 50 ohms to protect the radio means that the full radio power is not being transmitted from the antenna, so this is only a “last resort” option for me.

My plan was to operate primarily on 10m with 20m as a fall-back if needed. Unfortunately my mates in VK and UK were not going to be on the air to listen for me but Markus HB9DIZ sent me a message asking that I squeeze some time in on 40m as well – as he wanted “completes” of the two summits I was activating as he has activated them himself while on holiday in Germany. With the 40m OCF, and the G90, this request is not a problem. My only concern is not to get “stuck” on 40m and lose out on the opening of 20 and possibly 10 metres for DX contacts.

As these summits are relatively close (about 45 minutes drive from home to the first one), this would be a leisurely start leaving home around 8 am. I put all my gear ready in the hall on Thursday so I could pick it up and head straight off on Friday. 

The Activation

DL/AL-179 Weichberg

On reaching the summit, setting up and switching on the radio, I was surprised to hear as the first station, a VK2 working a pile-up on the frequency that I had last had the radio on – on 40 metres! I was not expecting that and of course I tried calling him when he finished with other stations, but he was only working stations that were 59+ with him it seems. This would have been greyline propagation.

I then tuned around 40 metres, found F8VOF calling CQ and gave him a call – 59 both ways, so I’m getting out OK. After that I searched for a free frequency, spotted myself, hoping some chasers in VK or ZL might see my spot. No such look, however, I made 36 contacts on 40 metres in the following 22 minutes at which point I decided I’d better try 10 metres and 20m before they closed.

Ten metres was totally dead, and was going to stay so for the rest of the day. Tuning around on 20m however, I came across several VK stations and one particularly strong one – Grant VK3OZY, I gave a call and thanks to his perseverance we managed to make a contact. By the time I got home later in the day, Grant had already sent me an email with a QSL card using an interesting new system, which I can see replacing QSL Bureau’s and direct via post, cards in the future.

Having worked Grant, I took another look around 10m and put out a call – no contacts – the band was dead. So back on 20m I found a clear frequency, spotted myself and worked another five European SOTA chasers. Then I saw that Leszek SQ9MDF and his wife Violetta SQ9NOT were out on an OK summit, operating on 40 metres, so I switched the radio back there and made easy 54/55 contacts with both of them for a summit-to-summit contact. Before closing down, I bagged one more SOTA chaser on 40 metres. 

As I was taking the equipment down, I realised two things, firstly that I could slowly feel my fingers again as it had been a cold morning and my new silk inner liner gloves hadn’t done their job very well but they were now warming up as temperatures rose and secondly how much more convenient using the OCF type antenna is compared to a linked dipole. The LD might have a little more gain as it is truly resonant on each band that it covers but the fact that I could simply switch bands on the radio without having to worry about changing anything on the antenna is a real plus point.

DL/AL-169 Auerberg

I know I have the address for Auerberg programmed into my Navi (GPS) in the car but I could not find it, so I just set-off and went from my memory for the route. No Problems 20 minutes later, I was in the combined restaurant and church car park at Auerberg.

When I finished setting up the station, I tuned a little around 20m and was surprised to find that at 1030 UTC (11:30 local), there were STILL VK stations coming through at good strengths. Of course getting a contact from them would only be possible if they wanted to call me, so again, I found a free frequency, spotted myself and hoped for a SOTA chaser from VK  to call, however, by now it would be approaching midnight in the “land down under” and indeed there were no DX calls answering my CQ SOTA call from Auerberg but I did work 23 stations from all around Europe including two S2S contacts in the next 25 minutes. I also checked 10 metres which was still closed and I almost forgot but Markus HB9DIZ texted me while I was packing up and I got back on 40m to give him his second complete of the day. 

The weather was kind to me (apart from the cold in the early morning), that there was no rain, indeed around lunchtime it was almost like a spring day and this at the very end of the year, almost .

Photos:

DL/AL-179 Weichberg:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

DL/AL-169 Auerberg:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Silk inner gloves.
  • Xiegu G90 radio.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna with a modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials. (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Sun Umbrella screw-in base (used at Weichberg).
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
  • SotaBeams end-fed (not used).
  • Aerial-51 404-UL 40m OCF Inverted-V dipole.
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 4 Ah LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet.
  • Gardener’s kneeling pad.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone for SOTA spotting.

Log:

DL/AL-179 Weichberg

DL/AL-169 Auerberg

Conclusions:

  • A surprising change in the propagation conditions from the previous day. 20m was open and 10m completely closed. The reverse of what happened the previous day. Hearing VK on 40m via Greyline was a surprise.
  • The number of chasers is becoming too much for a comfortable activation. While it is an indication of how popular SOTA is, sometimes one likes more casual contacts. After all you need is four contacts to qualify the summit. I hate to let anyone down though.
  • Having not used the Aerial-51 antenna for a couple of years, it worked flawlessly and the convenience of being able to switch bands without having to change settings on the antenna cannot be understated.
  • I was lucky with the weather however I have made some more log sheets from glossy photo paper, and used these with my write-in-the-wet pens that I have. All OK but normal paper would also have been OK on this activation. 

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – November 23rd 2022 – POTA DA-0277 Karwendel und Karwendelvorgebirge National Park.

Preparation:

For this POTA (Parks on the air) activation, coordination was needed with an already planned trip that my wife was making to the area. It was agreed that I would drop her off and then drive another 45 minutes to arrive at this park, this time with our dog, Bonnie along for the ride and walks. (at the end in total, it was 5 separate walks that the dog got during the whole trip and loved the opportunity of being in so many different places).

There are no rules forbidding motorised transport or operating from a parked car, so for this activation, like the last one, I decided to do just that. I wouldn’t even put up the mast and linked dipole, rather I would use the Komunica HF-PRO2 on a three-magnet mount on the car roof and operate from within the car. The temperatures were expected to be just above freezing and indeed the first of this year’s snow arrived at the location the night before the activation.

This would be an early start and so all radio gear was loaded into the car, the Tuesday afternoon before the Wednesday activation.

The Activation

POTA DA-0277

After dropping my wife off, the road south was VERY curvey and took the best part of the 45 minutes that Google maps told me it would. Part of the way, I stopped and gave the dog another walk as she wasn’t so happy with the road conditions. Upon arriving at the location, the first task was again to take the dog on a 15-minute walk so that she could “take care of business” before I could start to set up the radio. After being put back into the back of the car she settled down and just listened to my attempts of making radio contacts.

Little did I know that this was not to be as easy an activation as I had expected!

I set up the Komunica HF-Pro antenna on the roof of the car using my 3-Magnet base as I had done on the previous activation, running the coax in through the rubber at the top of the rear door. The radio (the Xiegu G90) was set up on the passenger’s seat, propped up a little to make viewing the display easier but sun reflection was not going to be an issue this time.

After tuning around on 20m, I spotted myself and called CQ. After a while Ron, G0RQL came back to me and we had a short QSO. The whole radio seemed a little quiet though. To start with I put this down to the location being very quiet. In fact, soon after that, I lost power to the radio while moving it around on the seat. Previously this had been a bad connection in the inline fuse holder but as I was pressed for time – I only had a maximum of 90 minutes of operation time before I would have to return to collect my wife, I decided to change from the LifePO4 4AH battery using the Xiegu supplied power lead to my LiHV 4Ah battery which uses a lead that I made up. That worked and I was off again trying to find stations but I was getting no calls. At this point, I saw the SWR which was high. I had not seen it earlier as before losing power, the automatic tuner had been enabled and that ATU will literally match a wet piece of spaghetti to the radio!  So I got out and checked that I had the coil set correctly on the antenna – it was correct according to my list. I checked the connectors but all looked OK and the SWR stayed high. I changed the antenna setting and the radio to 40 metres hoping that would bring me more contacts (in POTA ten contacts are needed and my time was running out quickly). Still no luck as the SWR was high on 40m as well. 

It was time to change the antenna. Rather than put up the fibreglass mast and linked dipole, I decided to switch to my other HF-PRO2 antenna which I mount on a small tripod with radial wires. My streak of bad luck was still with me as the connecting wire on the tripod, where I normally clip the radials onto had gone AWOL. I managed to clip to bare metal which worked. This took more valuable time however it got the needed result. Once I was using that antenna, the SWR was normal and I started making contacts and attracting some deliberate QRM from some idiot dumping a carrier on the frequency I was on for minutes at a time. Time was running short and moving frequency and re-spotting as well as calling another POTA operator for a “Park-to-Park” contact got me to 11 contacts in the log and I was only 10 minutes over my planned departure time.  

Of course, before setting off down that winding road again, it was best to take Bonnie, the dog, for a quick walk which I did after literally throwing the antennas, tripod, magnetic mount and cables onto the back seat of the car. I texted my wife to say I would be 15 minutes late but in fact, it was only 5 minutes as I was able to reduce that Google travel time by 10 minutes by applying a little heavier right foot on the way back.  

 Photos:

POTA DA-0277:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 radio & Xiegu G-106 radio (not used).
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2 loaded vertical antenna with a three-magnet car roof mount base.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-Plus-T loaded vertical antenna with a tripod and radial wires.
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast (not used).
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
  • 4 Ah and (not used) 2Ah Eremit LifePO4 batteries.
  • 4 Ah LiHV battery.
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Gardener’s kneeling pad (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones (not used).
  • Smartphone for spotting.

Log:

DA-0277 Karwendel und Karwendelvorgebirge National Park

Conclusions:

  • Never expect an activation to go without problems. This time I was particularly unlucky with 3 different faults but taking alternatives along when you are car-based, only costs time rather than adding carry weight.
  • After checking both the magnetic mount and cable and power lead, I was unable to find any faults. In the case of the bad SWR, it is possible that the data, that I have from the non-telescopic HF-PRO2 is from when I calibrated it on the top of my previous car and hence I will need to recalibrate it. The power lead problem, I can only think is caused by the strange power connector that Xiegu use on the G90.

73 ’til the next activation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – November 11th 2022 – POTA DA-0006 Augsburg Westlische Wälde naturpark.

Preparation:

This was to be my first POTA (Parks on the air) activation. POTA is like WWFF (an award scheme in which I haven’t taken part) but was formed in the US as a follow-on from the ARRL National Parks on-the-air celebration. It has taken off in the US and now is spreading internationally. They have a good spotting and logging web infrastructure, which is essential nowadays. The award definitions are very varied and nothing like the other schemes that I take part in. A minimum of 10 contacts are required to qualify a park activation and the activation itself can take place anywhere within the park’s boundaries. For some POTA awards, the park can be activated more than once a year.   

What attracts me is that this park is only a 30-40 minute drive away from my home (in fact it’s even closer but I picked a nice spot by a large lake to go to). There are no rules forbidding motorised transport or operating from a parked car, so for this first one, I decided to do just that. I wouldn’t even put up the mast and linked dipole, rather I would use the Komunica HF-PRO2 on a three-magnet mount on the car roof and operate from within the car. as it turned out with temps between 4 and 8 degrees centigrade, this was a wise plan!

I installed the appropriate POTA spotting App on my phone and checked it was working. 

This activation would take place late morning, so that I could take the dog for her morning walk before leaving and get back just after lunchtime having spent about 90 minutes operating. Nothing needed to be loaded in the car until the morning of the trip with this later-than-usual start.

This was going to be a trial of this “luxury” set-up and my, chosen from maps, location to see if it was indeed accessible.

The Activation

POTA DA-0006

I decided to take the country road route rather than the autobahn as according to Google it would only take about 5 minutes longer. This was true however the number of small villages this took me through was a pain, so the return route would be via the Autobahn.

On arriving at my site, I took a walk around and made some photos before returning to the car, setup up the radio and antenna and tuning around to see what I could hear. I started on the 40-metre band which was full of stations from end to end (and this was a Friday, not a weekend). I found one portable station calling CQ, so I decided to give him a call to make sure I was getting out. No Issues – a short, 59 each-way contact with Luc, who was actually activating a WWFF park location.

I then saw another POTA activator on the spotting page and called Stuart M0OVG for my first “park-to-park” contact with 55 reports each way.

Now that I was happy that everything was working, I found a free frequency and spotted myself on the POTA website and got a couple of calls from Poland. At this point, I managed to contact Mike 2E0YYY who was still out in his local park (not POTA), so I moved to 20m to work him and to test out the new QRP radio – a Xiegu G-106 which I had along as well as the Xiegu G90. Tests were performed and while the little G106 with my external RF-Clipper speech processor was workable it was down a couple of S-Points on the more powerful G90 radio, which was running 20 watts of the speech-compressed signal.   I still have the feeling that the G-106 is not as loud as it should be however in these tests the 20m band was up and down with QSB and so a really accurate test was not possible.

When I finished with Mike, I re-spotted myself on the POTA website on 20m and the calls started. I ended up with 20 contacts in 45 minutes. A lower rate than when I do a SOTA activation but not bad for a scheme that is still new in Europe. I finished off back on 40m to get another Park-to-Park contact with Dave G8XDD/P who was in two different parks at the same time, in the UK.

All in all, I think this went very well for my first POTA activation. Although the site was fine, I may try a different location the next time that I activate this park, given that there are locations all over the 1100 square kilometre park to choose from!

 Photos:

POTA DA-0006:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 radio & Xiegu G-106 radio.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2 loaded vertical antenna with a three-magnet car roof mount base.
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast (not used).
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
  • 4 Ah and 2Ah Eremit LifePO4 batteries.
  • 4 Ah LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Gardener’s kneeling pad (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones (not used).
  • Smartphone for spotting.

Log:

DA-0006 Augsburg Westlische Wälde Naturpark

Conclusions:

  • For a first activation, this went well but I think (unless the weather stops it), I’d prefer to operate away from the car in the future.
  • I’m still not convinced that the G-106 radio is performing as I expect it to. It’s good that the added speech processor is making it easier to hear but I’m not sure that I could rely on its signal if I used this radio on holiday. Receive is fine but there’s something “lacking” on transmit, even for a 5w QRP radio.

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – November 5th 2022 – DL/EW-001 Wank.

Preparation:

I don’t normally activate on a Saturday, however as the Transatlantic SOTA S2S event was scheduled for Saturday 5th of November, I had no choice. I decided the week before on activating Wank Mountain near Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the southern border of Germany with Austria. This mountain has a cable car which stops, as all in Bavaria do, at the start of November for annual maintenance. What is different about the wankbahn cable car is that it stops all the way through into the spring of the following year while most re-open for the Christmas season. Probably as there are no ski runs from the Wank mountain, the owners have decided that it is not worth restarting before the walkers arrive eager to go in spring.

As I hadn’t activated DL/EW-001 in 2022, this was the opportunity to bag it and hopefully several contacts into North America. As the date neared the number of activators that alerted that they would be out around 1300 UTC on Saturday increased and increased with over 25 on Friday. Most of these were in the US and there were only a limited number of UK stations going out as the weather forecast for them had been bad, however, as the day neared, the weather forecast for the UK improved and my, planned easy activation in the sunshine on the grass, slipped away. Thursday night brought a good covering of snow to the top of Wank Mountain and with temps between -6°C at night and -2°C during the day, this wasn’t going to be gone by Saturday.

I considered going to an alternative summit, that was lower and free of snow as I could see from the webcam pictures that the track from the cable car station up to the very summit of the mountain hadn’t been cleared and was unlikely to be cleared with very few people on the mountain. Then I checked where the activation zone for the summit comes down to and saw that the area to the east of the cable car station, above a children’s play area and in fact where the webcam is located is actually still in the activation zone, so I decided to stick with Wank Mountain and it’s 6-points rather than going to a lower hill with just 1 or 2 points to give out to each chaser. 

The drive down to the summit is just over 90 minutes in the car, so I kept checking on Friday and Saturday morning that they did not close the lift early because of a lack of trade. All seemed OK, the cable car was still open, as was the restaurant in the cable car building, but not the one on the very summit, which is run by the DAV (national alpine walking club).

The Activation

DL/EW-001 Wank

The drive down was uneventful – a route I have taken many times before. I arrived at the cabin lift’s car park at 1 pm as planned. The parking fee is excessive at €6 but that’s for a full day of parking (there are no shorter options). The lift is also expensive at normally €24 but for us OAPs it’s €22.50 for the round trip which takes about 20 minutes each way. My guess is that at any one time, there were a maximum of 20 visitors on the mountain possibly closer to 10 at times. So the company that owns the cable car will not have made a profit this Saturday. The Sunday, however, was expected to be sunny and so for the last day of operation in 2022, I suspect they will have been busy.

On arriving at the top station of the lift, I did a quick check around to see whether going to the actual summit would be possible, but the track hadn’t been cleared, so it was off to the spot on the map which is actually marked on some maps as the SOTA summit location, although it isn’t the actual summit (it’s in the AZ, which is all that matters). 

After clearing the ice and snow off the bench, I set to, to get the mast and antenna up as quickly as possible as some of the work required me to remove my gloves and in -2°C you want gloves on whenever possible. I had thought I might have a problem getting my screw-in mast base (it’s actually meant for a sun umbrella) into the ground, but no, that was easy enough. Ideally, I would have liked to have run the inverted-v linked dipole N-S to give the best radiation and reception to/from North America but so doing would have one wire across the path and while visibility was restricted with the low clouds that I was sat in, I thought the danger to others would be too great and simply ran the wire out of the way in an almost E-W direction. At only 5m AGL the antenna is still rather Omnidirectional in any case.

Somehow, I managed to have my radio set up almost 30 minutes ahead of my alerted time, despite the weather. I had decided to start on 20m as that was the most likely band for the S2S contacts. I tuned 20m and found a full band (well it was the weekend and I’m sure some contest or other would be belting away somewhere). On tuning around 20m I found that 14.285 was free but I decided not to operate there as that is the QRP calling frequency on 20m and found 14.290 as a good alternative.

After calling only a short while I had a constant pile-up of chasers from around Europe, nothing from the US but it was a bit early. Checking spots on SOTAWatch, I saw a couple of US stations on 20m CW, so perhaps there might be some SSB stations at some point.

After about 20 minutes the pile up calling me just kept calling and calling and no matter which station I went back to, they did not respond, then they started calling with their call sign again and there were more and more and more of these callers – something was very odd – I seemed to still be transmitting – no problems there… Then I guessed what was going on – what is it when lots of people transmit but don’t listen? Yes, a DXPedition station had looked for a space on the band and found 14285 free (as I had) but ignored the fact that it is the QRP calling frequency (and they were certainly running QRO), started up there and found he could not separate all the stations calling him. No problem, “I’ll work split” – listening 5-up – Yeah, 5-up the frequency is already in use but does he check that? NO – he unleashes his hoards of chasers, who also listen only on the DXPedition frequency, not where they are transmitting, and I get hammered with stations on my frequency who don’t respond! Is this “in the spirit of amateur radio?” I think not – but this is a DXPedition so they can break the rules can’t they? NO, THEY CAN’T! Perhaps I should have re-spotted on the same frequency and stated that I was listening 5 kHz down to block the DXPeditions signal with my chasers? but I’m not like that, instead, I sought out a new frequency and luckily the outstanding SOTA chasers followed me when I moved.

While the rest of the activation went without further incident apart from the usual splatter from stations up to 5kHz away from my frequency, when I finally decided the weather was getting the better of me and I took the station down, the mast had frozen and the ice inside it broke the base cap on the mast. Not a big problem until I found that the electrician’s tape that I had with me didn’t like the cold and refused to come off its reel without splitting, making it useless. Luckily the mast’s top “bung” was still OK, so I simply put the mast in the side of my rucksack, upside down and that was fine until I could get it to my car in the car park of the bottom station of the cable car lift for my drive home.

Not the best activation but it has pointed out what I need to look at to improve the equipment as we move into the winter activation months.

Photos:

DL/EW-001 Wank – Timelapse pictures from public webcam:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

DL/EW-001 Wank – My pictures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 radio.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna with a modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials. (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 4 Ah LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Gardener’s kneeling pad.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone for SOTA spotting.

Log:

DL/EW-001 Wank

 

Conclusions:

  • I hate operating weekend days from a summit. In this case, however, the offences perpetrated by the DXPedition station could just as easily have happened on a weekday.
  • Sometimes limited time due to bad weather and DX Contacts simply do not work well together. If I had been able to stay another hour, I may have been able to have got an S2S into North America.
  • The Xiegu G90’s 20w and the linked dipole continue to work very well, with lots of reports received being 5-9. Shame about the mast breaking its bottom cap but that is already repaired and ready for its next outing.
  • I need to make some more log sheets from glossy photo paper, normal paper is terrible to write on without tearing it in the middle of sleet storms. 

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – October 31 2022 – HEMA DL/HAL-019 Sattlersbuckl.

Preparation:

As the weather was forecast to be sunny and I wanted to test the G106 radio against the G90 again from a summit to make sure the RFI problem is removed after the modification, I looked around for a summit to activate, where we might make this a family out with the wife. Kaufbeuren is a town about 40 minutes’ drive from where we live and sometimes they have exhibitions in the art galleries or museums that could interest Gabriele. Also about 15 minutes south of Kaufbeuren is the HEMA summit of Sattlersbuckl, which I thought I had last activated in 2021 (in fact that was wrong, I activated it early in 2022, so I would not get a point this time around). 

The band conditions on 20m and up have been good for some days and so I planned to try not only but perhaps 17,15 & 10m as well if I had time. My modified SOTABeams linked dipole covers 80,60,40,20,17 &15m but not 10m, so the “backup antenna”, the Komunica HF-PRO-2 with its tripod would be used for 10 metres. These two antennas, the two radios, the mast with its screw-in mast foot and the needed batteries all added up to a heavy rucksack but at least I managed to get it all and my water and my pack-up into the one rucksack.

The Activation

We hadn’t realised it but Monday, October 31st 2022 seemed to have been defined as German road maintenance day! We already have rod closures on our route to the autobahn and the slightly quicker route to Kaufbeuren, so I had planned an alternative route “cross country” that should only take about 5 minutes longer. Before leaving we went to our local supermarket, only to see that our planned country road route had also been closed to resurface the road, not far from our home, so another re-route was planned and apart from one wrong turning worked out fine later in the day. Little did we know however that midway along our planned cross-country road route another road had been pulled up and while not announced, the navi knew nothing about this. the first we knew of it was roadsigns with villages crossed out on them and then later half-closed roads with “locals only” signs for carrying on. despite this, I passed three of these and half-road-closures and when we arrived at the actual roadworks, it was a simple job to take some smaller roads within this village to get past the blockage! 

Once we got to the Neugablonz suburb of Kaufbeuren (which also had roadworks in progress) I was able to drop the wife off at the first of two museums that she wanted to visit and then set off for my HEMA summit. Guess what, on leaving Kaufbeueren on the road south to the summit, there was a sign – first of all, it said bridge closed and then later, only bridge closed for heavy vehicles. In any case, as I had been successful so far with roadworks, I carried on and while there were some traffic-light-controlled roadworks just before Apfeltrang where the summit is, the more major bridgeworks were apparently still further to the south on the road.  

Sattlersbuckl – HEMA DL/HAL-019.

Having arrived at my parking spot, just after going under the HV power lines and by the junction where there used to be a sign saying no motor vehicles allowed (but it seems to have been removed now), I got the rucksack on and set off up the track to the summit.

I had forgotten how steep the track is, especially on the first part and I was feeling the extra weight from the loaded rucksack! At one point I saw a fox on the track but before I could take a photo it was gone. Having got to the sign for the “Mammutbaum” (Mammoth tree), I thought – nearly there … No this was only about 2/3 of the way. Onwards and upwards!

When I got to the spot that I had used last time the grass on the area had been cut but was laid in rows ready to be picked up – I hoped the farmer hadn’t decided to come up and collect this “winter fodder” today as once I put my antenna up, it would certainly be in the way. Later in the activation, a couple of tractors did come by, but they were heading to chop up cut-down trees to sell as winter fuel in the next field. Firewood logs are a very valuable and profitable resource in Germany at the moment!

Although sunny, it was still not warm so I decided to set everything up, firstly the G90 and then the G106. Well, after getting the mast and antenna set up, I had a nasty surprise with the radio. Although apparently working, it was picking up what sounded like a noisy carrier, only when I turned the 20m band it was right across it and on 17 & 15m. I wondered if this was some new installation nearby. If it was things would be difficult. But then it stopped suddenly and I thought, OK, let’s hope it doesn’t come back but it did soon after. I thought, perhaps it was an antenna fault and sure enough as soon as I touched the PL259 plug I could turn the interference on and off! When I had what was in fact a good connection, the incoming signals also improved drastically. So I diagnosed that it was a broken connection on the plug – most likely the centre core of the coax (this was a true diagnosis as I found out later in the day at home, where I have since repaired it). I was able to position the radio on the co-ax to hold the plug in a position where it worked and that is how I worked my eight contacts from the summit. 

With this fault, however, the plans had to be changed – I could not switch the antenna back and forth between the G90 and the G106, so further tests of the G106 will have to wait. I decided changing bands would probably not be advisable as well.

To add to my problems spotting myself via the HEMA website went wrong and pressing the submit button for my spot didn’t appear to do anything – actually it did and I posted 10 identical spots from the summit! Well, at least it brought some contacts with Don G0RQL from Devon in England being the first in the log. Most contacts as you will see from the log below, were into the UK with very strong signals to east coast stations while those in the west while strong were not as strong. I guess the skip distance on 20m at the time, from where I was, was into the east coast of the UK. 

During the activation, I did make two “H2S” contacts with activators on SOTA summits. Generally, I got very good reports on the 20w signal from the G90 with Peter M0PBR in SE London being astounded at the signal level for “only” 20 watts. At around noon, I decided to pack up as it was time to head back to collect the wife from her museum/gallery visits and then home in time for our dog’s afternoon walk and feeding time.

We took the faster autobahn route home and apart from the one known road closure did not find any more surprises on the “German roadworks day”.

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Xiegu G106 (not used)
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • SOTABeams random-length end-fed antenna (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • 4 Ah and 2Ah LifePO4 Eremit batteries.
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Log:

Sattlersbuckl

HEMA DL/HAL-019

Conclusions:

  • The broken centre core in the antenna plug was quickly repaired and strengthened at the same time. these things can happen and that is why I always take a backup antenna.
  • The rucksack is too heavy with both radios and their batteries in it, especially on summits with a bit of a climb to them.
  • The Xiegu G90 and linked dipole are a great combination and enable me to even break mini-pileups calling other activators even when the other chasers are running more power.
  • The G106 tests are still open but I won’t be taking it to next week’s SOTA Transatlantic S2S event. I will have time to do some more work – adding speech compression capabilities, to boost the effectiveness of the little radio’s 5-6 watts.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – October 25 2022 – HEMA DL/HAM-002 Rösenau Kreuz.

Preparation:

As Rob G7LAS was heading out to G/HNP-009 Grizedales in the UK, I wanted to try for an H2H (HEMA summit to HEMA summit contact) with the UK. As I have applied the Xiegu-approved modification to my G106, I wanted to test whether that had indeed stopped the RF Ingress that was around when I operated from Laber. I also wanted to make a comparison between the G90 and the G106 signal strengths, so I decided that I would use both with the same linked-dipole antenna.

Rösenau Kreuz is my closest “HEMA only” summit (Berndorfer Buchet is closer but that is both a SOTA and HEMA summit that I have recently activated). The high point on the small plateau does not have its own summit name (Schwalbenstein is not far away but is lower than this actual summit), so it is named after the very small metal cross on a concrete base by the track in the forest on the actual summit.

The day before, Monday, it rained non-stop all day, so I wondered whether the weather forecast of a sunny, dry Tuesday was to come about or whether I might have to call off my activation. As Rob was only going to be on his summit by 2 pm his time, 3 pm mine, I would have Tuesday morning to see how the weather actually was.

I packed what is probably my heaviest rucksack for some time with two radios and batteries and the linked dipole and mast. At Rösenau Kreuz there is a short but steep walk up a forest track to get to the summit plateau, so the extra weight – my guess is about 16-18 kilos of rucksack would be somewhat of a test, however, packing in the rucksack is preferable than to try to carry multiple bags as it is supported on the back and shoulders with strong straps.

The band conditions on 20m on Monday were short skip, as they would be on Tuesday, but I decided that I would plan to operate primarily on 40m and then switch to 20m if needed.

My biggest worry was what the ground was likely to be like on arrival.

The Activation

Röseau Kreuz – HEMA DL/HAM-002.

Tuesday morning was dry and the sun was out (in fact this was the day of a partial eclipse of the sun, so it was lucky for the sun watchers that the clouds had cleared). I am unused to setting off in the afternoon to head to a summit as most of my activations are morning ones in the hope of contacts with VK & ZL, those would not be part of this activation.

The drive down was uneventful and I was parked at my usual spot by the cross for St Ursula facing the walk up the track to the summit. Once unpacked I started on the trail, which passes two further religious wooden crosses as you will see from the photos and takes about 10 minutes. I then sent Rob a message via the “Signal” web messenger to find that as I arrived on the summit plateau, he was just starting his climb, so I would have plenty of time to set up. Also on the Signal messenger “listening in” was Mike 2E0YYY, he would not get out today but was happy to act as “pilot” spotting me to the HEMA UK followers on FaceCrook as well as to the HEMA spotting website.

On arrival at the spot which I found the last time I was up here (basically, turn sharp right at the Rösenau Kreuz and head through the forest and out onto the grassed area), I was glad to find it was not waterlogged and while needing a small groundsheet as the grass was wet, it wasn’t going to be a bog-like experience.

It took about 15 – 20 minutes to set up. First of all to check the equipment was working I called and had an easy contact with another portable station on 40m, Jean-Marie F5NLX/P was activating a castle in central France. we exchanged true 59 reports – yes the radio and antenna were working fine! This was the 20w G90, so while waiting I also unpacked the QRP G106 radio, ready for tests later.

As Rob was still climbing to his summit, Mike suggest he spot me and I could get some HEMA chasers in the log. Which I did, and bagged eleven contacts in quick successions – many being true 59 reports on the G90 and linked-dipole. The QRM was getting constantly worse on 40m with more and more stations along with some military-sounding transmission going up and down the band. I wondered later if in fact, that signal might have been coming from the 1940’s vintage two propellered (perhaps a Junkers?) aircraft that circled the area again and again and again – perhaps they were doing some kind of soil survey from the air using RF signals? Mike then told me that despite the fact that I had had several contacts with the UK, there were stations saying that they could not hear me on 40m and would I try 20m? Well, as I was still waiting for that H2H with Rob G7LAS-  I agreed to move to 20m to get some more contacts in the log.

After I had a contact with a UK station activating a Lighthouse in devon in the UK, Rob called in and we made that H2H contact.

I also asked Rob then to listen for me using the same antenna but using the G106 instead of the G90. He did and while the signal report dropped more than I expected (from 56-7 on the G90 to 41 on the G106) at least he said the audio sounded fine – no sign of any RF ingress into the audio. Of course, it would have been better to test with a stronger station, but at least there was no obvious audio problem. The drop of 36 dB (6 s-points) going from 20w to 5w is not as expected. The difference should not have been that great. This was a subjective report, however, it does tell me that (even though others later told me they had also heard the g106), something is not correct with the signal strength of the G106.

Given that the G90 has speech compression enabled – its actual 20w+ output can “seem” like up to 50w and the g106 has no speech compression. This power difference is therefore an “effective” 10x  or 10 dB which would be 2-3 s-points difference – not the complete 5 s-points reported by Rob but if the G106’s 5w could have speech compression added (it’s not a feature of this radio) it could appear as 10w, then the perceived signal difference would be less.

Following another eight contacts using the G90, mostly into the UK, on 20m, I decided to pack up as a herd of ants had found I was present and were starting to investigate all of the equipment! Once everything was packed again into the rucksack, the walk down the track back to the car, was somewhat easier than the walk up! 

In all a good activation but as it often the case, more work to be completed before the next one!

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Xiegu G106
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Diamond RHM8B loaded vertical and tripod (not used)
  • SOTABeams random-length end-fed antenna (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • 4 Ah and 2Ah LifePO4 Eremit batteries.
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Log:

Rösenau Kreuz

HEMA DL/HAM-002

 

 

Conclusions:

  • Band conditions at the time of this activation were short skip on 20m, making contacts into the UK possible when normally they would not have been. 40m was both busy and full of QRM from whatever sources.
  • The combination of the Xiegu G90 with its 20 watts and the linked dipole even with the small (effectively 5m high) pole continues to work very well. This is definitely a good combination for single backpack portable operation. The G106 on the other hand – even with the good antenna, needs some more work – possibly speech compression, to boost the effectiveness of its 5-6 watts.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – October 18th 2022 – DL/AM-060 Laber.

Preparation:

The plan was to try out my new ultra-small QRP Xiegu G-106 radio from a summit. I had tried it from a park and in fact, made a contact with GB22NH at the UK’s National Hamfest from my back garden, using the small radio and small antenna but the advantage of being on a SOTA summit is that once you spot yourself on SOTAWatch you will undoubtedly get lots of calls (especially for this 6-point summit). In fact I realised later that this summit is also within a POTA park and hence all contacts count for that award scheme as well as for SOTA. I had a report of corrupted audio previously, possibly caused by RF getting into the radio and since that report, I have added clip-on ferrites and more radial wires to the antenna base. I also found that the microphone gain was set too high – hopefully, this test session on the Laber summit will clarify if I still have a problem or not. 

The cable car starts at 9 am local time (0700 UTC) so by the time I would be on the summit, it would most likely be too late for any of the DX contacts we have been seeing over the last few weeks into VK on 20m SSB.

Rather than just take my new small radio and its also small, Diamond RHB-8B antenna, I decided to take my normal G90 radio and its antennas as well. The Kommunica HF-PRO2 loaded vertical and the linked dipole and 6-metre fishing pole.

My normal location at Laber is close to the top station of the cable car but looking at the map, there is another area that may have some more space and is still within the activation zone. I would try to go there and see how that was as I could always go back to my normal location if needed. As I wanted to be in the first cabin up, I packed the car and set the alarm for 6:30 am, Monday evening for a not SO early start at 7:45 am on Tuesday morning.

The Activation

DL/AM-060 Laber DA-0003 Ammergauer Alpen region

The drive down was uneventful – a route I have taken many times before. I arrived at the cabin lift’s car park at 8:50. The parking fees like most things have gone up – it is now €5 for 4 hours of parking where it used to be only 3, and the machines only take coins but I was aware and prepared for this.

After buying my lift ticket, I waited for the cable car. This is a small lift, in fact, the oldest still running in Bavaria, perhaps even Germany and there are only 4 cabins on the system, each coming about every 15 minutes. I indeed got in the first car and alone, so that I did not need to worry about COVID but wore my mask anyway (it is no longer compulsory but I’d say about 10-15% of people still wear them when inside public areas and the mandatory wearing is likely to come back in the next few weeks in any case).

On the way up the mountain, I checked the spotted SOTA activators and saw that Andrew VK1AD was still out and working stations in Europe. For that reason, I decided to go straight to my usual spot – a bench on a rise about 30 metres from the lift building and I set up the HF-PRO2 vertical antenna as putting the dipole up here is difficult and would have taken more time. Once I had the equipment set up, I tuned to Andrew’s spotted frequency only to hear an Italian station chatting there. So either Andrew was below this signal or he had already called it a day. I later heard a couple of other VK, home stations one of which I tried to call but there were too many high-powered home stations calling him that I stood no chance.

I wanted to see how I was getting out with the Komunica vertical, so I found a free frequency on 20m, spotted myself and started calling CQ SOTA. The calls came in thick and fast and within 9 minutes, I had 9 contacts in the log, all of them giving me very good reports – often over 5 and 9. These were all stations within Europe as the band had changed to short skip, which is normal from around 0730 UTC at the moment.

Once the calls dried up, I decided to set up the QRP radio as well, after all, I was there to test the new radio. there was enough room to set up both radios and both antennas so that I could switch between to do checks.

My next call on the 20w radio was Mario DJ2MX in Munich – he was a good signal – not as strong as some of the french and UK stations that I had worked earlier but I was pretty sure that Mario would help me with my tests, so I explained the two different radios and antennas and he agreed to make a comparison. On receive Mario was the same strength on both radios but he could not hear me on the G106 with the Diamond antenna. I checked and found the power was down on the low setting of about 1w, so I changed that to the high setting of at least 5W, usually nearer to 7w – he still could not hear me. I also have two microphones for the g106 – the stock one and a modified HT microphone with higher output. None of this helped. Mario said he could hear “something” in the noise but could not really tell that it was me. The next test, once I found the needed BNC to SO239 adapter, was to try the G106 with the Komunica HFPRO2 antenna instead of the Diamond RHB8B. An immediate result! He could now hear me but he also reported what sounded like RF Ingress getting into the audio. again I switch microphones and adjusted the mic gain but nothing helped. I still have a problem when operating with a portable antenna and the g106.

Time was getting on and I wanted to get home around noon, so I thanked Mario for his help (he had to go as well) and then packed up and went to await the next cable car back down the mountain.

Some would say this was a disappointing activation – not making any DX contacts and not working anyone with the small antenna / small radio combination but as my intent was to test the new radio and see where I am with it – it was (in my eyes) a successful trip. The Komunica HFPRO2 performed brilliantly again, the diamond antenna on the other hand was a letdown. I am really happy that I suffered the extra weight of taking both the normal station and the new station up the mountain as had I just taken the G106 and the Diamond antenna, I would most likely have got very few contacts – if any at all.

The weather was also kind, despite a couple of small showers on the way down, the summit was dry and sunny. Not warm but sunny. The views once the mist lifted were also worth the trip.

Photos:

DL/AM-060 Laber

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 radio.
  • Xiegu G106 radio
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna with a modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials.
  • Diamond RHB8B loaded HF vertical antenna with modified ultra-small support tripod and counterpoise wires.
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast. (not used)
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
  • 2 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery (for G106).
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery (for G90).
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Gardener’s nealing pad (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone for SOTA spotting.

Logs:

DL/AM-060 Laber

Conclusions:

  • The “star of the activation” was certainly the Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T antenna, and the flop was the Diamond RHB-8B antenna.
  • Band conditions had just changed to short skip so it seems 0600-0730 is the best time for long path contacts into VK on 20m SSB at the moment.
  • The G106 still needs some work to improve the transmitted audio and it needs a better antenna than the Diamond but it needs to be small as the intention with the G106 is to have an ultra-compact “holiday station”.

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – September 30 2022 – HEMA DL/HCN-004 & SOTA DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

As long path band conditions on 20m were good I wanted to get out and work VK from a portable location, away from “metro noise” and with a simple antenna and low power. The problem was that the terrestrial weather was not nearly as good as the space weather and we were having constant rain most days. Friday and Saturday mornings looked like they might be better. while I saw that Ian VK5CZ was going out to celebrate 10 years of SOTA in South Australia on Saturday the 1st. October. I thought this would be the best option however as the summit planned for Saturday needed a two-hour walk-in / out it meant that Ian would not be there when the 20m band has been opening up around 0600 UTC so the alternative was to head out on Friday as Ian planned to camp on a summit overnight and hence being on the summit at 0600 UTC (8 am with me, 3:30 pm with Ian) would not be a problem. So Friday it would be and as it turned out with a CME hitting the ionosphere on Friday afternoon, it was the better day in any case.

I decided on going to my closest summit, Berndorfer Buchet, which I had already activated twice this year and hence would not get any points for the activation but that was secondary in this case. This is a HEMA summit as well as a SOTA summit and so I alerted in both award systems of my intention of activating it. I set the HEMA time 15 minutes before the SOTA time.

The Activation

Berndorfer Buchet – HEMA DL/HCN-004 and SOTA DL/AM-180.

The drive down was uneventful and I was parked at my usual spot by 7:05 am. The walk from the parking spot to the summit takes 15 minutes and with another 15 minutes to set up the station, I was on the air by 05:50 UTC. As this was still too early for 20m, I started on 40m and having found a frequency spotted myself on the HEMA website and started calling CQ. Unfortunately, I got a limited response and so at 0600 UTC, I spotted myself on SOTAwatch where I got several more responses. Once these dried up, it was time to take the antenna down and un-link to make the linked dipole into a 20m antenna.

I was very happy to hear Ian VK5CZ/P on VK5/NE-093 come back to my call. he was followed by four other stations from Australia; Gerard VK2IO, Peter VK3ZPF, Andrew VK1AD/M and Ron VK3AFW. So in a matter of seven minutes, I had been called from four different Australian states and all from people I know from my time in Australia. Two more European stations finished the activation. I looked around to find other VK stations and one – Joesph VK3DXJ was hammering in but by this time there were a lot more people on the band and he had an enormous pile-up that I couldn’t break into.  As it was starting to rain, I packed up and was home before 10 am (0800 UTC). This was a short but very successful activation. 

The weather forecasts for the next few days (both terrestrial and space weather) don’t look very good, so it’ll be a few days before I get out portable again. perhaps next time with the new ultra-small G106 radio?

 Photos:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • 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.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • 4 Ah LifePO4 Eremit battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Logs:

Berndorfer Buchet

HEMA DL/HCN-004

SOTA DL/AM-180

Conclusions:

  • Band conditions at the time of this activation were very good on 20m, making the run of five contacts possible via the long path. the following day a CME hit the ionosphere and I wonder how I would have faired, had I gone out as originally planned on Saturday morning.
  • The combination of the Xiegu G90 with it’s 20 watts and the linked dipole eve3n with the small (effectively 5m high) pole continues to work very well. This is definitely a good combination for single backpack portable operation.

73 ’til the next summit.