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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisement

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). I had a report of corrupted audio, possibly caused by RF getting into the radio and since that report, I had added clip-on ferrites and more redial wires to the antenna base. I also found that the microphone gain was set too high – hopefully, this test session on a 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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – September 24th 2022 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Preparation:

The plan was to get out and do another early morning activation before the wet autumn weather arrives. Originally planned for what was to be a sunny Thursday 22nd September, I moved my plans as Andrew VK1AD posted that he would be out on Saturday and hence my first EU-VK S2S contact in 3 years would be “possible”. The risk was with the weather as the rain was expected at the weekend. Thursday was sunny all day and I started wondering whether I had made a mistake but as other activators latched on to the Saturday morning time both in Europe and Australia, I thought these would be added opportunities for S2S contacts. As I had decided on my closest summit Peissenberg that I had already activated this year getting out and possibly getting an S2S contact was the “value” of the activation as I would not get the 1 activator’s point for this drive-up summit again.

As usual for early starts, all equipment was packed and ready to go on Friday evening for the early departure on Friday. This consisted of the usual backpack to carry all radio gear, the 6-metre mast, a flask with hot chocolate and a sandwich. I also loaded my large surveyor’s tripod with the 10-metre mast and the screw-in base for the 6-metre mast in case I needed it. The car would be parked within walking distance from the activation spot so I could take equipment to cover all possibilities.

The Activation

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg

There are two spots where I have activated previously. The lower (but still within the 25m vertical drop activation zone) is the large car park before the road rises up past the cemetery to the restaurant and church and there is also a nice spot exactly on the summit alongside the church. The last couple of times I have activated it from the lower car park and when trying out different antennas this is ideal as the car is close enough to exchange equipment from. This used to be a free car park however since COVID when lots of motorhome owners have camped there overnight, it has been made into a pay-to-park area. The upper car park has always been free but is a lot smaller however early morning is never a problem. Parking here has the advantage of a toilet but the activation point is out of view from the car (being the other side of the church) and hence everything has to be taken to the site in one action and space is limited, so the large tripod and 10-metre mast cannot be used.

Given that I have worked into VK from both spots I decided to avoid the parking charge (€2 for 3 hours) and head to the actual summit with just the 6-metre mast set-up. If there were problems with this site, I could always head back to the lower location.

I know the drive down so well that I was at Peissenberg in no time. It was just starting to get light as I approached the summit. At the end of the lower car park, there were piles of stones and signs to say no entry via the lower of two entrances – so I guess they are renewing that access. The higher entrance to the car park was still open. I continued up the road to the summit car park, in any case, to be surprised to see large signs everywhere saying this is a private car park and you could be fined if you park here. After stopping and reading the signs in more detail, they said you can be fined if you park here without a ticket and indeed a money-grabbing ticket machine was at the other side of the parking area. So, while the chance of being checked was zero, the place was deserted when I arrived and when I left, l did the right thing and bought a ticket. I realised later that the restaurant’s car park was full of cars as there is no charge there but as the restaurant would still be closed at the time that I left, I would not be able to give them any business and so parking there (if there had been a free spot) would not have been right.

Once I got to the two banks by the side of the church, I was happy to find everything the same as it has been for the last few years and I was able to “Bongo-Tie” the 6-metre mast to the railing and run out the two ends of the inverted-V linked dipole out to another bench on the western end and to a tree branch on the eastern end. While this is ninety degrees to the ideal direction for long-path to Australia at just 5-6 metres off the ground the dipole is not very directional in any case. There is no practical way to run the dipole north-south from this location in any case.

Once I had the gear set up on the bench, I sent Ernie VK3DET a message to see if he could listen for me. 20m has been opening at different times over the previous few days and this was going to turn out to be one where it opened later! So to start with no contacts into VK3 and in fact, Mike 2E0YYY was also setting up a special event station for the railways on-the-air weekend from the UK but as it was to turn out through a combination of MUF and long skip, I was not going to be able to make a contact with GB1FLR whose beam would be pointing away from me in any case, to also try for contacts into VK and into the US along that path.

While I could not get through to Ernie, I knew my chances of getting Andrew VK1AD were even less hopeful at the time however as he had just spotted, I took a listen on his frequency and heard nothing – perhaps later?  So while we were all waiting for the band to open, I spotted myself on SOTAWatch and was rewarded with a call from Dinos SV3IEG in Greece, so I knew I was getting out with my 20 watts and a dipole. this contact was followed by an S2S contact with Herbert OE9HRV/P on an Austrian/Bavarian border summit, Hochhaedrich. I presume this was a ground wave contact as if I had checked, I could probably see Herbert’s summit from where I was. Herbert was doing the same as me, waiting for conditions to get better to get a contact with Andrew or possibly one of the other two VK activators who had posted they would be out one from VK4 who I heard and called several times later but got no response and one in VK3 who I never heard, but I think he was mostly on CW.

30 minutes after my contact with Herbert, I got the first of three contacts with Ernie VK3DET (each time getting stronger in both directions). At 0620 UTC, I managed an S2S (portable at a summit to portable at a summit) contact with Andrew VK1AD/P in NSW Australia SUCCESS! At this point, the skies were getting darker again rather than lighter. After another couple of contacts with Ernie who was now an armchair copy, at 0645 UTC I decided to pack everything up and exactly at that point, the first raindrop fell. Ideal timing! 20 minutes later I was packed up back in the car and starting the drive home in the rain showers.

Photos:

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • 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.
  • Surveyor’s tripod (not used)
  • 10-metre DX-Wire mast (not used)
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support. (not used)
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (modified).
  • SotaBeams random length end-fed antenna (not used)
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet.
  • Gardener’s nealing pad (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone for back channel comms with the group over “Signal” and for SOTA spots.

Logs:

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg

Conclusions:

  • Band conditions are certainly improving as we start to see solar cycle 25 kicking in.
  • As we are right at the autumn equinox, the greyline path on 40 metres is not practical for contacts into VK/ZL however as we move into winter, it will become an option again. For now, long path on 20m is the option with possibly 17&15 metres opening up as well soon.
  • The G90 / Linked dipole continues to perform well however if I have time, I should change the end black wire sections for a more visible colour, especially when on summits where I may get the public visiting.

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – September 13-14 2022 – HEMA DL/HAL-033 & SOTA DL/AL-181 Burgkranzegger Horn and SOTA DL/AL-167 Falkenstein.

Preparation:

As part of my short holiday away from home, I had hoped to activate some higher HEMA and SOTA summits that I had not activated before however as it turned out with uncertain weather and the fact that my wife and the dog wanted to come along, I decided on some simpler summits mixed with some sightseeing around the southern part of Allgau, Bavaria.

As it was to turn out, this was a good decision and we had two enjoyable days and one where it rained all day and we came home early. At this time of year that was probably the best, we could have hoped for. 

Preparation for the trip was limited by the space available as the rear area where I would normally load all of my radio gear was taken up by our dog “Bonnie” meaning all luggage had to fit in our small car on the rear seat.

So the activation equipment was limited to what could go into or be attached to the side of, my 40-litre rucksack. I even chose not to take the lithium battery charges to recharge batteries overnight and rather took three battery packs of different sizes with the expectation that I would not drain them all. This of course added to the weight of the rucksack, as did the screw-in mast base attached to its side.

No experiments with antennas, I would take the linked dipole and the 6m mast with the HF-PRO2 loaded HF whip and its small tripod inside the rucksack as the backup option (which I needed on the second summit).

The Activations

As the weather looked fine, it was decided to fit in one activation en-route to our hotel.

Burgkranzegger Horn – HEMA DL/HAL-033 and SOTA DL/AL-181.

This is a summit with not too difficult access – especially in late summer (the last time that I activated it was in winter and a big problem was fighting through the deep snow as no track was obvious). The summit itself has an open area where the dog could entertain itself. The reason that this summit is in both the HEMA and SOTA schemes is historical and while its prominence is just 125m it fits nicely into the HEMA range of 100-150m while being well under the SOTA 150m minimum.

On arriving at the parking spot at the clinic on the outskirts of Mittleberg village, the weather was fine and we all three set off up the track. Unfortunately, my wife was unable to complete the last part of the climb (she got over 85% of the way there) but rather than risk anything, she said after sitting and taking in the views for a while, she would start off slowly back down, with the dog and wait for me at the car. I continued on to the large telegraph pole sized holy cross on the summit and started to set up on the bench below it. Before I could get set up 5 cyclists arrived, they were doing a tour around the whole of Allgau and were interested in knowing what I was doing. I gave them one of my leaflets in german about “what is amateur radio” and realised that I had forgotten to re-stock my supply so I would not have any more brochures should other visitors happen by – which they did. A younger couple arrived about 20 minutes later and showed interest and so I broke off operations to explain to them what our wonderful hobby is all about.

At some point between the visitors, I managed to get enough contacts to activate the summit. It was very clear however that there is a far smaller following for HEMA than for SOTA. Indeed I think all of my HEMA contacts were people who just happened to find me on 40 metres, not people who had seen my spot on the HEMA website.

SOTA was the usual pile-up following just one spot and a couple of CQ calls.

One thing is for sure, the radio and linked-dipole did their usual sterling service with lots of good reports and in SOTA we do tend to give real reports.

After 45 minutes on the summit, it was time to pack up and head back down to the car park where my wife and dog would be waiting. As I had however texted to say that I was packing up, by the time I was halfway down the steepest part, I could hear the barks of a dog that I recognised and when I finally got down onto the level track, it wasn’t long before I found my wife and dog waiting for me on a sheltered bank under a tree. They had set off to meet me halfway. 

 That was the end of activations on Tuesday, it was now time to head to the apartment hotel in Pfronten and en route buy some supplies at a supermarket. Once we got settled in and went out for an evening meal, the discussion was about what I would do on  Wednesday. Whether I would go off alone to a higher summit or do something easy again.

The weather was looking like it would “hold out” until at least Wednesday afternoon and after some thought, we agreed that we would visit the local farmers market first thing, then head on up to Falkenstein followed by a tourists visit to Fussen about 30 minutes away.

SOTA DL/AL-167 Falkenstein.

This is a summit that I have activated several times (but not this year as yet). It has a quirky one-way private road that opens one-way at times related to minutes past and before the hour. (to be safe there are also traffic lights) so a bit of bad timing on arrival and you might have to wait 20 minutes before you can drive up the road, once you have bought your €4 ticket for use of the road.

We started Wednesday with a rather disappointing weekly market in Pfronten with just two stalls there, so we grabbed breakfast at a cafe and then headed off to the start of the private rod up to Falkenstein, arriving at the start of the road as it closed to allow those at the castle to drive down. No problems we had enough time.

Falkenstein is the highest castle ruins in Germany and was the last of the famous King Ludwig II’s castles and was going to be his base for hunting in the surrounding mountains however he drowned under suspicious circumstances in Starnberg Lake before it could be finished. 

The walk from the car park takes you past a 4-star hotel with expensive luxury cars parked outside, belonging to the hotel’s guests. After what was already a steep walk up the road, the last section is a series of natural and manmade steps up to the ruins themselves. I was glad to see the message that the ruins are open at the bottom of this last climb. Both my wife and dog were determined to get to the ruins to be with me this time while I was operating. It was a fairly hard climb but the views from the top reward you and my wife was very impressed. There was a hefty wind coming up, so I would need to get set up and complete the activation before any bad weather arrived. So I went to the gate to the inside of the ruins, which has a sturdy platform with solid steps up its two levels and even has a round wooden table on the top level – ideal to set the radio up on. The gate was padlocked shut. Whoever put the sign to the ruins being open at the start of the last climb was having a laugh at our expense now!

The problem now is that although there is room inside the ruins to set up the 6-metre mast and linked dipole, outside there is not. So after carrying the bigger antenna and mast and support up all those steps, I had to revert to my backup antenna – the Komunica HF-PRO2 loaded vertical whip on my small photo tripod and with my homemade radial wires. Thankfully once I got set up, this antenna performed like a champion on both 40 & 20m (it actually covers from 80m through to 70cm).  Despite being close to the ruin’s walls contacts were made from around Europe with good signal reports.

 Just as importantly, the dog had settled herself down and my wife was able to sit on a stone seat (of sorts) and enjoy the views and fresh air.

Once the callers dried up, I was able to pack up and we headed back to the car park to wait for the traffic light system to tell us that we could go back down the single-lane road. we then had a nice afternoon looking through the old town of Fussen before returning back to the hotel and heading out to a closer (and better) restaurant than the night before, just as the heavy rain started.

Thursday was literally a wash-out but we had had two great days and activated a couple of nice summits – a low-stress holiday.

 Photos:

Burgkranzegger Horn

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Falkenstein

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (used on Falkenstein)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (used of Falkenstein)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast (used on Bergkranzegger Horn).
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support(used on Bergkranzegger Horn).
  • SotaBeams linked dipole(used on Bergkranzegger Horn).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs) .
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • 4 Ah LifePO4 Eremit battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Logs:

Burgkranzegger Horn

HEMA DL/HAL-033 

SOTA DL/AL-181

Falkenstein  SOTA DL/AL-167

Conclusions:

  • Despite the uncertain weather it was possible to have a low-stress and an enjoyable couple of days including some summit activations.
  • The HF-PRO2 on its small tripod worked very well and I wonder if I would have made any more contacts with the linked dipole on its 6-metre mast had I been able to put it up at Falkenstein.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – August 5th 2022 – DL/AL-179 Weichberg.

Preparation:

The purpose of this activation was to test that adding a link for 15 metres into my long-suffering linked dipole hadn’t caused issues on the other bands that it covers. Ideally, some contacts on the new 15m section would be great but this would depend upon the MUF getting high enough, which over the preceding days had not been the case.

I also had just received a new beta version of the FT8 Radio smartphone App from Dhiru, where he had added support for the G90 radio, so I needed to test that out as well. The change over just using vox as I have been doing is that the radio is now switched via CAT running over a second cable between the Xiegu G90 radio and my Android 11 smartphone. The change should also automatically move the radio to the required frequency to transmit its data message into the FT8 network, later to appear on SOTAWatch as a spot message – This is sent over RF for situations where no cell coverage for internet connectivity from the phone and even no SMS coverage. Some people would use APRS to achieve a similar result however the number of in-range APRS digital gateways on HF may be low, where HF skimmers and SDRs that receive FT8 signals are plentiful.

Checking with our small “comm Checkers” group, Mike 2E0YYY was willing to head out to his local park and Ian VK3YFD was also happy to try for contacts on the bands as we moved up them to test the antenna.

As usual, all equipment was packed and ready to go on Thursday evening for the early departure on Friday. This consists of just one backpack to carry everything needed.

The Activation

DL/AL-179 Weichberg

The last time I activated this summit was in May under the DL20SOTA call sign, so I would not receive any activator points for this outing but the main purpose was to perform tests. The site is good for that with a nice area for setting up the 6m mast and antenna. What I had forgotten was that there is only a thin topsoil before you hit stones into which the screw-in sun umbrella base which I use to support the mast does not cut into very well. I would have been better bringing the surveyor’s tripod with me but I didn’t so I had to make do with a slightly wobbly mast.

Both Mike and I arrived at our respective sites at around the same time just after 0530 UTC (or 7:30 am local time with me) and indeed the first and only 40m contact today would be a short contact with Mike, who was having difficulty hearing me. Ian in Victoria, Australia took a listen as well, but not surprisingly no contact on 40m. So we all agreed to head up to 20m and after changing the links on the antenna and finding a free frequency, Ian, VK3YFD was the first 20m contact this morning in my log. Ian puts a good signal into Europe thanks to his beam antenna. 

Mike joined Ian and me a couple of minutes later and we had a small net going. Ian was having issues with WSB on my relatively weak signal with him, but he made it work.

The next band up to test was 17m and when we all went there none of us could hear each other and indeed we could hear nothing on the band. The band was dead, so trying even higher on 15m would have been a waste of time, so we all agreed to head back to 20m, where I logged a few SOTA contacts before saying 73 to the guys, leaving Mike with the frequency.

So my next task was to test the updated smartphone App and although I was able to successfully send the spot via RF using FT&8 and it was picked up and displayed on SOTAWatch, I still had to tune the radio manually to the required 14074 kHz frequency for the transmission. So although the message sending worked, the new feature has not given me anything in addition to what I could do using VOX rather than CAT control and for CAT control I have to have a second cable between radio and phone.

I have reported back to the developer that the frequency change feature has not worked.

By 0700 UTC the skies were still dark and a cool wind had appeared. as I had finished the purpose of my activation, I decided to pack up and leave before any rain arrived (it didn’t, at least not until the afternoon).

Photos:

DL/AL-179 Weichberg

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 (modified).
  • SotaBeams random length end-fed antenna (not used)
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Gardeners nealing pad (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone for back channel comms with the group over “Signal”.

Logs:

DL/AL-177 Weichberg

 

 

Conclusions:

  • The FT8 Radio App appears to have an issue with the “set frequency” function.
  • Extending the coax on the Linked dipole made it easier to position the mast base than had been possible previously with just seven metres of the feeder. I now have almost 10 metres of coax on the antenna.
  • It appears that certainly on 40m and 20m that adding in the new 15m band link has not affected the antennas performance however the most likely band to be affected would be 17m I will need to test again, once 17 & 15-metre bands open up more often,

73 ’til the next summit(s).