DD5LP/P – August 19th 2021 – DL/AL-171 Eisenberg & DL/AL-167 Falkenstein.

Preparation:

With Christos SV2OXS still in Munich and the trains running again after a strike we decided to include another SOTA activation trip. Initially, we had hoped that Michalos would join us as well however with the delay because of the train strikes, his return flight to Greece was on the same day as this new SOTA schedule.

As Michalos is not a ham, I had deliberately chosen two summits that are interesting for other reasons in that they have castle ruins on top of them and have some great views.

This trip would also act as a test for equipment that I will be using the following week on multiple summits in the Bavarian Forest area of Germany.

Before the day started I had also considered squeezing in a third summit – Zwolferkopf DL/AL-166 which is not far from Falkenstein but with train schedules combined with the one-way, traffic lights controlled road, logistically it wasn’t going to work.

Another attraction of the first summit is a nice country restaurant whose car park I always use when going to Eisenberg. That was also added to the plans.

I was surprised to find a railway station quite close to Eisenberg with a direct train from Munich, so Christos agreed that he would take that 2-hour train journey each way to save me having to drive into Munich to collect him. In any case, either arrangement meant that we would be starting the activations around midday local time and so only have the afternoon for the activations.

I have activated both summits previously and so know what antennas can be accommodated there.  Eisenberg would get the 6-metre mast and linked dipole and the limited space Falkenstein just the photo tripod and the Komunica HF-Pro2 vertical.

The Activation – Eisenberg

Having collected Christos from the railway station where the train arrived right on time, we were on the road up to the restaurant under the summit within 15 minutes but there were crowds of people, mainly walking and lots of cars parked at the bottom of the road – this was the busiest I have seen this summit EVER! It is school holiday time in Bavaria and this was the first nice day for about a week and it was approaching noon, so I suppose I could have predicted this but it was a surprise anyway. Luckily one car had just left and I managed to grab what was probably the last parking spot at the restaurant. After a quick check with the owner (as we were intending to go to the castle ruins on the summit before eating and he said it’d be OK but we couldn’t reserve a table for later). So off we went up a track I know in all kinds of weather still with lots of people doing the same thing – I’m used to being totally alone on this summit, so it was a little strange to have it so busy.

On arriving at the platform, I wanted to set up the mast and linked dipole but with several members of the public around I thought I may not be able to but with my guest along as well, I decided to just go and do it and EVERYONE moved when I needed them to and a few were even interested in what we were doing. It still amazes me that Ham Radio is recognised still by lots of people in Germany in England or Australia I’m sure the reaction would have been “What’s that?” but not here. The German public either know what it is or ask more to learn what it is. It’s a nice feeling almost respect, that you get.

In any case on this summit, I just set up the radio and antenna on 40 metres and got busy getting a few contacts in the log. Meantime Christos with his little QCX and telescopic whip antenna was logging good CW contacts using CW on 20 metres. Once I finished, we switched the linked dipole to 20 metres and connected it to the QCX to get a few more contacts in Christos’s log. It was at about this point that he said beware – the gaps in the planks in the platform are a danger as small components could easily drop through. 

Once the calls on 20 metres dried up, we decided it was time to go down and get lunch so that we could then head to the next summit. While packing up I moved one bag and what happened – Yes, an item dropped through the gap in the wooden planks, never to be seen again. This wasn’t an expensive part – it was just a rubber band that I use to keep the wound up antenna “under control” but after the warning, it was embarrassed to have to admit that I had indeed lost something down the hole! Temporarily the old PVC tape came out and served to hold the rolled-up antenna together until I got home where I found a replacement rubber band.

Once we got back to the restaurant, the queue for a table was across the car park. We were wondering whether to leave and try to find a different restaurant on the way to the next summit but after a little while the queue started moving and we were seated at a table. With the COVID restrictions, they are not allowed to simply fill every table which is what used to happen so there are inevitably delays in getting seated. Once seated however we could order and the food and drinks came very quickly (well done Schlossbergalm Zell!). This meant we were back on schedule but in discussions at lunch, we effectively decided to drop summit number three (Zwolferkopf) in favour of a more casual activation of number two (Falkenstein). After a nice lunch, we were on our way again to arrive at the start of the private road up to Falkenstein just after the lights had turned red. (cars are allowed up the road between xx:15 and xx:55 and down the road between xx:00 and xx:10)

The Activation – Falkenstein

After spending ten minutes as a tour guide/explainer to others who hadn’t known there was a one-way road that only opened at certain times in a particular direction and helping out with change for the ticket machine, which only takes coins (the ticket is till €4 as it was last year), we headed up the road as the first car when the lights turned green.

I pointed out the point where I would need to park about 2/3 of the way up the road if we decided to activate Zwolferkopf but with the road open times and the time of Christos’s return train to Munich, we decided to drop the third summit completely.

On arriving at the top car park, I was happy to find it wasn’t completely full, in fact, it was only half full so the crowds of tourists that we saw at Eisenberg hadn’t decided to head to Falkenstein (which was a relief). That’s not to say that there weren’t a lot more people here than I am used to and after we climbed the steep road from the day-visitor car park to the hotel entrance and then on up the steep track to the ruins, there was a surprise waiting for me.

I normally activate from the raised platform inside the ruins but for some reason, when we got to the gate, it was chained and locked. There have been times in winter when it would make sense to lock the gate as the rocks inside and the steps and platform itself are often ice-covered but I presume this action is more related to COVID – wanting to avoid people meeting up on the small platform. In any case as those controlling the ruins are not the hotel but rather the local council, all the way down in the valley, getting the area opened just for an amateur radio action would have not been successful and certainly not within the time we had available. So it was a matter of finding an alternative spot. I had only brought the Komunica HF-PRO-2 and its photo tripod and radials to this summit in any case as the platform is small and because I wanted to show Christos that this antenna does work as he has been blaming it as the reason that he hasn’t heard me from any summit during the last year. Using this on 20m, I worked a friend of Christos, Dinos SV3IEG without problem, so I think the more likely reason for the lack of contacts has been simply that I haven’t been out as much over the last year.

In any case after going around the base of the ruin, we returned back to the side facing the path up and found a small area there to set up the gear on. I wasn’t happy that this was so close to the castle wall but despite that somehow Lars SA4BLM in Sweden made it into the log. We worked 20m SSB and CW before switching to 40 metres which at this time in the afternoon was almost dead. A surprise for me as I’m used to 40m being so full that you can’t find a free frequency! Although we had plenty of time before Christos’s train we had to take into account the fact that the private road used to leave the summit, is only open in a downward direction for 10 minutes and missing that would mean you have to wait until the next hour. All went well, although Christos had rather a long wait at the station in what was like a bus stop shelter (these small rural stations no longer have any buildings whatsoever) and work more like a bus stop than a railway station. 

 Photos – Eisenberg:

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 Photos – Falkenstein:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Sotabeams linked dipole “Band Hopper” on Eisenberg.
  • 6m LambdaHalbe mini-mast on Eisenberg.
  • Komunica HF-PRO2-Plus-T HF/VHF vertical and photo tripod with radials.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log – Eisenberg:

Log – Falkenstein:

Conclusions:

  • The radio gear worked without issue with the only problem being the loss of one rubber band used in packing up the linked dipole, which fell between the planks on the platform at Eisenberg never to be seen again.
  • The new smartphone – an LG K42 was better in its “High-Contrast” mode (black backgrounds) but still was not easy to read. It connected to the 4G LTE network without any issues thankfully.
  • This was a day where the temperature was at the point, where one didn’t know whether to wear a jacket or not and the result of a jacket and a still relatively heavy rucksack caused a lot of sweating.
  • It’s enjoyable but tiring to do a joint activation with another amateur.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – August 6th 2021 – DL/EW-001 Wank & DL/BE-094 Irschenhausen.

Preparation:

With Christos SV2OXS visiting his family in Munich and a promised good day, at least in the afternoon, I agreed with Christos that we’d go to Wank to do a joint SOTA activation. I chose Wank as while it is a straightforward summit to access, it does have some good views and two restaurants on the summit and as Christos was to bring a non-ham friend along, these might stop Michalis from getting too bored while Christos and I “played radio”. We arranged that the two would take a train out part of the way and I would pick them up and then we would head on to the summit near Garmisch Partenkirchen and the Austrian border. This was the summit I had planned to activate in July however the flooded river in the area caused the main road to be closed and so I changed my choice of summits for that trip. going to Hinteres Hornele instead of Wank.

The Activation – Wank

As it turned out Michalis was keen to help with everything and not too interested in taking walks from the summit and both Christos and I had time to check out slightly changed equipment. Christos only had his 20m QCX CW only transceiver along with him and the “about” 5 watts of RF from it was radiated from a telescopic antenna on top of it but despite that he was getting the needed contacts into the log. At one point we swapped to my linked dipole that I had set up but it did not bring any new contacts for him.

While both radios were running we caused each other receiver problems even though one was on 40m and the other 20m. Being so close together (Christos was sat underneath my antenna wire), it was to be expected but as we both managed we’re happy enough.  

In my case, I was using the replacement Xiegu G90 radio (received only days earlier) at its full 20 watts SSB output to the linked dipole set to 40m. This unit replaced the previous one that had a mechanically failed switch (or more likely a dry solder joint) in it – so Radioddity simply swapped the unit out for a brand new one. As well as the 6-metre mast, sun umbrella foot and linked 20/30/40m dipole, I also had the Komunica HF-Pro-2 loaded vertical with me but didn’t have time to compare it with Christos’s small loaded vertical (maybe next time).

While the Xiegu worked fine, I have also had to buy a new smartphone with the closure of the 3G cell service in Germany and while the new LG K42 connected as it should to the LTE (4G) cells and we had Internet connectivity, even at the highest brightness setting, the screen was unreadable in the sunlight!

After about 40 minutes of operating, it was decided it was time to go and sample some food and beer from one of the restaurants, which we duly did and over a late lunch decided that we could fit in another summit. For the second summit, while we would go past it on the way back to the Railway station in Starnberg, I decided we would go to Irschenberg. It is a good example to show Christos the type of small summits with forests on top of them that we have here in Southern Bavaria.

The Activation – Irschenberg

Being a forested summit with lots of trees this was far from an ideal location for the QCX and its vertical antenna, so we agreed I would once again set up the mast and linked dipole and the Xiegu and it would get its first-ever use on CW.

After about a 15 minutes walk from the closest parking point, we found the summit from a combination of my memory of an earlier visit and Christos’s Garmin GPS unit into which he has the SOTA summits loaded. The location was confirmed when I saw the Tig point marker stone. 

I know nothing about CW operation, despite Christos’s determined arguments to try to get me to commit to learning it I probably won’t understand it in the future either however what I did learn from this experience is that there is a lot of set-up actions to get things working correctly between the Palm mini paddle key and the electronic keyer that is built into the G90. Eventually, we got it into a “sort of” working condition and Christos bashed off the needed contacts for him to have activated the summit. After that, I got onto 20 & 40m SSB to gather a few contacts of my own.

After finishing at Irschenhausen, it was just a 15 minutes drive to drop my two Greek guests back at the railway station for their run home.

 Photos – Wank:

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 Photos – Irschenhausen:

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Equipment used (both summits):

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Sotabeams linked dipole “Band Hopper”.
  • 6m LambdaHalbe mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella foot.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log – Wank:

 

Log – Irschenhausen:

 

Conclusions:

  • The replacement Xiegu G90 radio worked as well as its predecessor only the band change “up” button worked also.
  • The new smartphone – an LG K42 let me down badly. Although it connected to the LTE network, the screen was unreadable in the sunlight. I have found it is possible to switch the display from colour to black & white mode but on a new phone from a recognised manufacturer, this really should not be necessary!
  • My rucksack continues to be too heavy for the summits with longer walks/climbs needed. I need to try out the “Raddy” rucksack on a summit.
  • It’s enjoyable but tiring to do a joint activation with another amateur.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – July 19th 2021 – DL/AM-060 Laber & DL/AM-058 Hinteres Hoernle.

Preparation:

With the promise of a fine day after a week of rainy days, Monday, July the 19th. was first earmarked for the Wank and Laber mountains. Both of these 6 point mountains have cabin lifts that take you to the absolute top – in the case of Laber or most of the way, in the case of Wank. Unfortunately on Saturday night, the river next to the main road running into Garmisch Partenkirchen, where the Wank mountain is located broke its banks with an excessive amount of rain coming down from the Alps and both the road that I would need to use and the railway was flooded, causing chaos in the area as access was cut-off for most of Sunday. While by Monday the road would most likely be open again, I thought it best not to increase what would already be congested traffic, just for my trip to a summit.

So on Sunday, I changed my plans to go to Laber followed by Hinteres Hornle and leave Wank for some other time – perhaps the “Yorkshire Day” S2S event on August 1st? We’ll see.

Hinteres Hornle has a rickety chair lift followed by a 30-40 minute mainly uphill walk and so for that summit at least, I would need to use my lighter weight pack. This is just the loaded vertical (HF-PRO2-PLUS-T) from Komunica and a small photo tripod, both of which fit inside the rucksack. I also included my new end-fed random wire “Bandspringer” from SOTABeams and my arborist’s throw bag, in case I needed a backup. I took the dipole antennas, the 6m mast and the screw-in base, but all of these stayed in the back of the car and never found their way to a summit on this occasion.     

All prepared, the plan was to leave at 7:30 am Monday morning to arrive at the cabin lift in Oberammergau for the Laber mountain in good time, so the alarm was set and the bags stood by the door.  

The Activation – Laber

The decision to arrive early at the lift was a good one. It doesn’t officially start until 9 am but I was in the car park by 8:40 am, paid my parking fee and in the office as the first person there. I was expecting a small family group behind me to have been put in the small cabin but that was not the case. One cabin, one group and if that group is one person – then so be it. There are only four cabins on this complete system so that they normally run about every 10 minutes between them. I was at the top of the mountain at about 8:55 am – before the lift should even have started. Had I been 20 minutes later, I would most likely have had to wait 30 minutes before getting on the lift. Indeed when I came back down, there was a long queue of groups of people waiting to go up.

I have activated Laber so many times, that I know exactly where I will go and what I can set up. In about 15 minutes, I had the station installed and wanted to check who else was out via the SOTA Spotter App but it didn’t seem to be updating, so I switched from the Vodafone to the Telekom network (I have a dual SIM phone) and at that point, I received an email from Ernie VK3DET telling me on which frequency Mike 2E0YYY/P was on – we usually try for contacts between Germany, England and Australia but it was quickly obvious that the conditions to get through to Australia had already closed. I would have needed to have been on the summit an hour earlier at least. As I had set up for 40 metres and Mike was already on 20m, I took a quick tune around and worked two very strong Italian stations and then tried to spot myself. I couldn’t as there was no Internet connectivity again – this was going to be the story of the day – but more of that later. I then changed the setting on the bottom of the HF-PRO-2 vertical for 20m and went to see if I could hear Mike. There was nothing on the frequency that Ernie had given me, so I put a quick call out for Mike. “BOOM” back he came with a fully quieting S9+ signal. The conditions within Europe at least were very good on 20m. Mike had worked a station in St Helena some minutes earlier who had commented that the band was not good. 

Mike kindly left me the frequency as he had to pack up and also spotted me before he left – well that created a big pile-up for me of around 20 stations one after the other from all around Europe. The reports I was getting with the 20w G90 and the small antenna were very impressive. Mostly between 55 and 59, which for such a simple setup over still relatively long distances was good to have.

In fact, the radio gear was working well and time went by until I decided if I was to get to the next summit and activate it, with its long walk. I should get packed up and back down the lift.  Just before I left a hang glider pilot set off and flew down into the valley. The start was so short that I only caught him as he was already starting into his first loop (see the picture below). The ride back down was uneventful, again with a cabin to myself – most people were coming up the mountain at this time around 10 am. This was obvious when I saw the queue when leaving the bottom station of the lift and heading back to my car.

The Activation – Hinteres Hoernle

The drive to Bad Kohlgrub (where the lift up to the Hoernles starts) was less than 30 minutes and when I arrived, the car park was fairly full but this lift is a seat lift with about 100 seats on it – so no problems here with waiting to get on the lift, it was moving at its normal pace, just interrupted when someone had difficulty getting on or off. This is also a very old lift but has a very novel system that when you arrive either at the top or bottom, you just stand up, the seat splits into two and goes around you. When you pay at the parking machine put the main part of the ticket in your car and take the “tab” with you because when you hand this over at the lift ticket office, they pay half of the parking charge and you get a reduction on the lift ticket price.

The ride up the mountain on the seat lift takes about 20 minutes. Time to check things on the phone (yes I had cell network coverage while on the lift) and in my case grab a little lunch from my pack-up. One needs to be careful not to drop anything though, as it’s a long walk to get to where you may have dropped something. there is a path back down the mountain, that winds back and forwards under the lift but watching people walking up the path, tells you how steep it is. Not recommended if you are carrying heavy radio gear.

Once at the top and safely off the lift, it’s time to prepare for the walk to the rear mountain – it’s signposted as needing 40 minutes, I usually take about 30 but when I arrive I need 10 minutes to catch my breath, while those taking it a little slower appear to manage it better but they are not carrying as much weight. My rucksack is still too heavy for these kinds of walks and my next change to what is in the rucksack will be to see how long I can run on a 4000maH LiHV battery instead of the two 5000maH hard cell 4S LIPOs that I currently carry.

The actual summit is often crowded as was the case this time, but there is a nice level patch about 10 metres below the summit across from a strange wooden structure that all ask what it is but no one knows. I believe it was there already in 2020 when I last activated this summit and was something to do with a festival. Unfortunately, the local cowherd knows of this area of grass and had marked it out quite well with cow patts, so caution was needed while setting up the station and especially when running out the radial wires.

It was at this point that I realised that again I had no Internet connectivity either on Telekom or Vodafone (the two choices I have in my dual-SIM phone). At the time, I thought it must be that the cell systems are overloaded with traffic related to the recent flooding around Garmisch Partenkirchen which could be using the same transmitter sites. It was only after getting home, that I realised the actual reason. The 3G data network from all three network providers in Germany was closed down on June 30th. Their intention is to re-use those frequencies and mast space to expand the new 5G network coverage. OK, my phone is a 4G-LTE phone, so how about the 4G network? Why wasn’t that working? In regional Germany, band-20 on 850MHz (the old CDMA band) is used for regional LTE coverage and the older 4G capable phones (like mine) only have the 4G 1800/2100MHz band enabled, not the 850MHz one! DOH!

So I had to manage without any way to spot or to see where other activators were and so I tuned around and found two portable stations chatting and managed to break in. These were Harry SM0VPO/P on his lunch break and Martin M7BIA/P on holiday in the Lake District. Martin had been activating SOTA summits the previous day but today was just out in a field. All three of us had a nice chat for 15 minutes, and I had two of the needed four contacts in my log but now it was time to go and see what other contacts I could make. After another 15 minutes a couple of unanswered calls and trying each cell network with no success, I happened on Lauri LB1RH/P on SOTA LA/OL-184 and worked him for an S2S contact. He was actually just packing up and said the frequency was free – so I thanked him and jumped in and took over the frequency hoping that chasers looking for a SOTA activator would settle for me instead of Lauri who was on his way to his next summit. It worked and I got another four contacts into the log in the next 5 minutes before packing up. Unfortunately without the Internet spotting and checking option, I missed several S2S possibilities and in fact, gave out the wrong SOTA reference to those last 4 stations (PMed in the meantime to correct their logs). I had given out the correct summit name but gave out 068 rather than 058 as I had that written on my paper log sheet. My alert from the previous day was correct and if I had been able to self-spot I would have seen my error straight away as SOTA Spotter display the summit name and details for the code entered. 

The walk back to the lift and ride down to the car park were uneventful as was the drive home. All in all, it was an enjoyable day out that proved the small radio kit (while still too heavy) can perform well. The combination of the XIEGU G90 and the Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T antenna seems to work surprisingly well.

 Photos – Laber:

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 Photos – Hinteres Hoernle:

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Equipment used (both summits):

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T and small photo tripod with radial wires.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • SOTABeams 10-60m bandspringer antenna (not used).
  • Arborist’s throw bag (not used).

Log – Laber:

Log – Hinteres Hoernle:

Conclusions:

  • I was amazed at the performance of the loaded vertical antenna on both summits. The fact that the luxury of self-spotting was taken away from me, meant I had to make “normal” QSOs with non-SOTA chases/activators (at least in most cases).
  • I have to buy a new smartphone – the removal of 3G coverage by all three networks on June 30th in Germany brought me a problem I didn’t expect with my 4G phone.
  • My rucksack is STILL too heavy for the summits with longer walks/climbs needed.
  • The G90 continues to amaze me, especially with its receiver performance.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – July 12th 2021 – HEMA – DL/HAM-003 Schnaidberg.

Preparation:

The weather had been so variable that I had a one day window to get out and activate. I considered “bagging” two 6 point SOTA summits that I know but decided rather to try to access this HEMA summit and then possibly go on, to one of the SOTA summits. The risk was that I hadn’t done a “Reccie” of this summit and it was possible that access may be impractical. If it was quickly clear that access was going to be a problem, I could always head straight on to one of the SOTA Summits.

I did know that this was a wooded summit and as such, my super light HF-PRO2 loaded vertical antenna set-up would not perform well, so I would use the old SOTABeams linked dipole and my 6-metre pole and screw-in sun umbrella base. All of which are not light but can be packed onto one rucksack. Perhaps next time I can use my new SOTABeams Bandspringer end-fed antenna, which arrived here two days later.

Another attraction of this summit is the fact that it still has the highest wooden radio tower in Germany on its top. It’s used by Vodafone as a cell tower. Despite being wooden, the 62.5m high, Rottenbuch Radio Tower was only built in 2002 but now is suffering from ants and so may soon be replaced with a more conventional tower. I wanted to get to see it before it perhaps disappears.

Another delay to my activations recently has been that one of the main roads that I use to get to the summits (the B17) had been closed for repairs and upgrades over the last few months. One major stage (the large bridge over the Lech river) was finished on Friday and a further part of the repairs to the road junction nearby would only start mid-week, so Monday was THE day, for this reason as well!

The Activation

The trip to the new summit went down a route that I know well and in fact, I had driven past this summit many times as hasn’t enough prominence to be in SOTA but it does have, for HEMA. There are two approach roads to the summit from the B23 main road. The first is from a car park of a small roadside restaurant. Unfortunately, this one proved to be a disappointment straight away with a sign banning all motorised vehicles except for those living on the road or working on the road (eg winter clearance). So I headed on to the next possible access road. This one again is at the end of a roadside parking area, which meant I was able to park and then go and see if this was also a restricted road. Thankfully it was not, so I drove up this (single track) road until I came to where the road changes to a track to head off up the hill – where – there was again a restricted road sign (the black P on the map shows where I stopped), this time restricting motorised vehicle access to only forestry workers. Looking at the map (see below), it was some distance and a steep climb up the track. I wondered whether to take the easy option and head on to the SOTA summit that I know and leave this for another day. While the weather was nice, however, I decided to load up with the rucksack and see how much closer I could get to the summit.

Some 25 minutes and several bites from flies later I reached the summit and found a cleared area across from the radio mast. The absolute summit is about 50m before this point but this area is certainly in the activation zone and thankfully now had fewer biting flies! Ernie VK3DET kindly said he would listen for me but with the DX radio conditions being pretty horrible of late we didn’t hold out much hope. That proved to be the case. With several calls on 20 metres, Ernie could hear nothing. So I spotted myself on the HEMA website and on the DX Cluster and happily, I soon had a few callers. 

Interestingly the strength of signals from around Europe, especially the UK were strong on 20 metres. At the start, there was some QSB but as the band “woke up” even this went away. The contacts were more like nice conversations than quick activator/chaser calls which was refreshing. Once the calls on 20 metres dried up (perhaps the MUF had dropped under 14MHz again) I took down the antenna and reset it for 40 metres. On this band, the background noise was worse (K Index was up to 4 after all) and it was difficult to find a free frequency and once I had one, even more difficult to keep it! Typical 40m SSB in Europe!

After about an hour, I decided it was getting quite hot and I should start packing up and head back down the hill. At this point, I decided not to go on to a SOTA summit but as the climb up the hill had been quite strenuous, I would amble slowly back down and then drive home. As I got to the main road in the car, I realised this had been a wise call as the road was full of everyone and his dog in their campervans and cars towing caravans were on the road heading south towards “my” SOTA summits. Had I also gone that way, I would inevitably hit queues at the lifts and crowded summits. The SOTA summits can wait for another day.  

 Photos:

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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 base.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Aerial 51 404-UL OCF dipole (not used).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • New 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig. (not used)

Log:

 

Conclusions:

  • While the weather stayed nice, I am happy that I battled on and reached the summit but also that I did not try to activate a second summit.
  • One thing that I should not have left behind in the car was my water bottle but once I realised, going back for it was not an option.
  • Although the DX band conditions were not good, I was happy with the performance on 20 metres around Europe. With some UK stations being the strongest that I have heard them from a summit! 40 metres was just noisy and messy.
  • A HEMA summit does not attract as many callers as a SOTA one does, but the QSOs that you have are more “chatty” rather than just a “contest exchange”.
  • The HEMA to SOTA contact was a nice one, even though it doesn’t count for anything special.
  • The G90 radio continues to perform well.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 30th 2021 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Preparation:

Despite the fact that I have already activated Peissenberg this year and hence won’t give me any additional activator points, it has two advantages. Firstly it is a drive-up summit, so for testing, I can take a lot more equipment with me and secondly, (normally) it is a quick summit to get to, so that early morning activations (Greyline or Long Path contacts into ZL/VK).

I say “normally”, but more of that later.

One thing I had been working on before the COVID pandemic was a directional wire HF antenna, called the VP2E (Vertically polarised 2 Element) – all the details are on this website, here. As the pandemic lockdown situation combined with winter weather, I never got my comparison tests completed. Hence along with trying for a contact with Mike 2E0YYY/P in England, Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD in Victoria, Australia, this activation was meant to act as a test of my 20m version of the VP2E.

The car was loaded the night before to allow an early departure, the plan to be on the summit operational by 0600 UTC. The weather was questionable having had two evenings with thunderstorms and high winds – one of those storms, bringing down one of my antenna support masts at home (repaired in 15 minutes, no real damage). The forecast was for a mixed day but with several other appointments in the week, it had to be this Wednesday morning or not at all.

The gear would be the new XIEGU G90 and battery box in my rucksack and several antennas including the HF-PRO2 antenna (and photo tripod), the SOTABeams linked dipole and of course the VP2E for 20m. To support the VP2E and linked dipole configurations I packed the surveyor’s tripod and 6 and 10 metre squid poles.  

The Activation

Peissenberg has two good activation points. One on the very summit alongside the church and one in the car park below the graveyard. The first has a nice seat and fence where I can attach the mast and run the wire antenna out to a flagpole in one direction and down around a try to a second bench seat in the other direction. The best for antenna tests with lots of room is the car park.

But first I had to get there! Everything was going to plan as I left home at 7 am local time (0500 UTC) and the trip down over the country roads, I could probably do almost with my eyes closed, I have driven it so often. It was on the last turn-off onto the road up to the TV transmitter tower and church, that I caught a sign that is normally not there, something about “full hours” – Where it was located on the junction it was difficult to see. It became clear what it had said when I got halfway up the road and there was another one (see below) – there were major roadworks in process and the road was closed until the next hour. It was 07:35 local – bang goes my chance of being on the air at 8 am (0600 UTC) – I had to wait the 25 minutes until the road section was opened and the various road working machines moved out of the way to let the traffic through. I guessed at this point that probably the road in the downward direction would be open only on the half-hour as there is no way two-way traffic would work with all the holes that had been dug along the side of the road (more of THAT, later).

I sent Mike and the guys in VK a message to say I had been delayed. Mike let me know that 20m was open to the US and just starting to open to VK.

When I arrived at the car park it was almost completely full of campervans. Obviously, this is a favourite location for the brilliant view. I did find a spot to park, not too far away from one of the two benches there and unloaded and set up the gear.  Half an hour after arriving I was listening for Mike. He was weaker than usual but an OK signal in any case. At this point, I wasn’t going to do any antenna comparison tests, with the lost time I wanted to concentrate on seeing if I could indeed hear the guys in Australia – and I could! The problem was they couldn’t hear me!

The receiver in the G90 is impressive – combine that with a low background noise level and you can hear the weakest signals. The fact that I run 20 watts when I am portable, not 450 watts will be a factor but not the main one. The fact was that despite an SFI in the mid to high 90s 20m was not good and by the time I got on the air. It was already suffering deep QSB on signals and soon went short. I could easily make contacts around Europe and even locally into Munich. Mario DJ2MX compared my signal on his beam and his vertical antenna and I was stronger on the vertical. As the VP2E is supposed to be vertically polarised, that was good news even though Mario would be off the side of the antenna – not in the direction of its gain – that was definitely pointing towards England and Long path to VK over the US.

After spotting on the SOTA cluster I had about 8 more contacts in the log, most of them giving me a good signal report. When those calls dried up and because another station had started called 2 kHz above my frequency, I went back to see how Mike was doing on his frequency. He also had no calls, so I called in again and we both agreed the DX capabilities of the band were gone and we both had storm clouds coming in but before we both packed up, Mike agreed to give me a comparison report between the VP2E and my normal linked dipole. It would have been best if I had had both antennas set up but I didn’t so there was a 10-minute break between the tests and while the VP2E appeared to give a 1 point advantage over the linked dipole, with the QSB on the band, this was probably not a good test. (1 S-point stronger is what it should be theoretically). I think my best bet is to use WSPR on both antennas as a true comparison at the same time or at least switching between them.

One Mike and I finished the test, I saw that half of the campervans had or were leaving – I looked at my watch to see it was quarter past the hours, so I thought, the road must be open at half-past for downward traffic, so I used to pack everything up into the car and get down while the road is open, otherwise I would have to wait another hour and with the storms coming in, that might not have been much fun.

  When I got to the closed section of the road, there was one Dutch campervan waiting at the traffic lights and a sign saying the road opens on the hour. I don’t know where the other campervans went – either they got through late on the previous hour or they knew some other route down the mountain on the farm tracks.  In any case, I had a good half an hour to wait, so I took the time re-packing the radio gear that had been just dropped into the back of the car.

One pile of wire (the linked dipole) had to wait until I got home to be un-tangled – that was a long job as you can see:

 Once the lights changed to green we DID meet some traffic coming up the hill but managed to manoeuvre past each other. There seems to have been a miscommunication between the two workers who were controlling the traffic lights manually. They had intended to get the cars down the hill first and then let the ones free to go up the hill.

  By the time I got home the next rain front was coming through, so staying longer would not have been pleasant. Overall the activation did not deliver what I had hoped for but it was a trip out and next time, I may try some of the farm roads to get up to the summit.

 Photos:

 

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “mini-mast”.
  • Six-metre fibreglass mast.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • VP2E wire “beam”.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log:

 

Conclusions:

  • Sometimes unannounced road works can mess up your plans. There is a good possibility that I had been on the summit 30 minutes earlier I may have made a contact into VK3 with at least one of the two guys.
  • Comparing antennas alone on a summit does not give accurate results, especially if they are not both set up together and you can switch between them. Perhaps next time I will test using my WSPRLite unit.
  • The G90 continues to amaze me with its receiver performance.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 23rd 2021 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

As we had now moved into hot summer days, where being on a summit later in the day was not be recommended, I decided to do an early morning activation when it was still cool. At the same time, I wanted to get a 40 metre Grey Line contact from a summit into ZL and possibly VK.

The conditions of late, hadn’t been so great and the SFI had dropped so it was quite possible that only a Grey Line propagation contact would be possible into VK/ZL and not the long-path F-Layer communication, but “who knows”? This would also be my second outing with the new XIEGU G90 radio.

Mike 2E0YYY kindly offered to go out to his local UK HEMA summit “Overmoor” G/HSP-021 at the same time and Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD would try to be listening from Victoria, Australia.

I decided on the one point Berndorfer Buchet summit as it is my closest summit and I hadn’t activated it in 2021 yet. My plan was to be operational by 0500 UTC (7am local time). so a short driving time means more time to wake up and have breakfast. Little did I know that there would be a road closure and diversion on my shortest route! The alarm was set for 05:30 local time and all equipment packed into the one (quite heavy) rucksack. The planned equipment was the new XIEGU G90 radio, battery box plus my new LiHV battery, my 6-metre mast with sun umbrella base and my linked dipole. As a backup, I would have my OCF dipole and the loaded HF vertical/tripod/radials configuration (hence the heavy backpack). 

The Activation

The trip down to Berndorfer Buchet normally takes 20-25 minutes but this day, the council had decided to do renovation work on part of my route adding 20 minutes to the first half of my journey and so dropping me into the time when many tradesmen are heading to work to be further delayed on the small country roads where overtaking is almost impossible. The result being that I arrived at the car park at Kerschlach around 7 am local time – when I had hoped to already be operational on the summit. It was raining and there was a cold, wet mist around. This was only to clear up and the sun to come out when I was packing up three hours later. I set off through the forest and up to the summit getting the gear set up and operational by 0520 UTC. As a change to my normal installation, I ran the linked dipole east-west rather than north-south. While at this height, the antenna is omnidirectional, the advantage of running it E-W is that it runs along the small ridge of the summit rather than down each side and hence the ends of the Inverted-V configuration are a little higher.  My first contact was with Mike 2E0YYY/P (so is that an H2S or an S2H contact?)  in any case he told me he had just worked Ron ZL4RMF in Dunedin, New Zealand (I often work Ron from my home station and he is always a pleasure to work), so I said 73 to Mike and headed off to find Ron – there he was a solid 55 signal but by now the pileup had arrived and I had no chance of getting through. When the hub-hub did finish and I might have had a chance, Ron either went off to 80 metres or for his evening meal. I did not have an easy way to check the DX Cluster (I must add a cluster monitoring app to my phone). Had I been on the summit 20 minutes earlier, it may have been before the amateurs in the UK could hear Ron and I think I would have had a good chance of a QSO with him as he is also in a location with a low background noise level. What I did realise during this activation was how the receiver in the new rig excels with no local “metro-noise” I was hearing lots of stations such as Jim E51JD in the south cook islands but with the high powered callers, again I had no chance of getting through although I’m sure he would have heard me.

During the 3 hour activation (a long one for me) I heard at workable strength’s ZL4RMF, Ron, (40m), E51JD, Jim (20m), VK3YFD, Ian (twice) 20m and K9TK BOOMING in from Florida on 20m. There was also some quite deep QSB on 20m, but I suspect this was related to the MUF only just getting above 14 MHz earlier in the activation.

What this outing has proved to me is when you get a good radio outside, even just with an inverted-V dipole at 5m AGL – you can hear the world! The problem is that with all the other impatient mega-watt home stations, the DX stations don’t often get a chance to hear lower power stations.

The SDR and waterfall proved useful when looking for a clear frequency but that didn’t help the one time when, by accident, I chose the SSTV calling frequency (14230) – oops -sorry! Even after finding a valid free frequency and checking it is free what often happens is that some idiot starts up 1-2 kHz off your frequency with modulation set far too high and never checks before calling! GRRR!

This was the longest activation I have done for some time with almost 3 hours on the summit. I actually managed to drain one of my 5Ah Lipo batteries so that the G90 reduced output power drastically at about 9v on load (receive kept working perfectly). I have two 5Ah Hardcase Lipos in my battery box, so it was just a matter of swapping the cable over and I could continue. Had it been needed, I also had a 4Ah LiHV battery in my bag as well.

Although it would have been nice to make a contact into VK or ZL during this activation, I am happy with the outing – I have 36 contacts in the log, including one H2S and one S2S contact and most importantly I have a station in one rucksack with everything needed, including a mast – a mast foot – a tripod mount with radials, two inverted_V antennas (one linked dipole, one OCF) and a loaded vertical that can do 80m through 70cm.

The G90 receiver, now that I am a bit more used to using it, is amazing! Certainly IC7300 class if not better and when I have been received, I have only had good comments about the transmit audio and I ran the whole time with speech compression on today.

 Photos:

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Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 transceiver.
  • Battery box with 2 x 5000 maH 4S LIPO batteries.
  • 4000 maH 3S LiHV battery (not used).
  • 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 base.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Aerial-59 OCF dipole (not used)
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig. (not used).

Log:

Conclusions:

  • The G90 performed brilliantly – the receiver combined with the spectrum scope/waterfall, despite its small size, is really useful
  • I need to add an easy to use DX-Cluster displaying app to my phone, to see where the DX stations have gone to. 
  •  That 20 minutes delay with the road diversion was a problem and now I know it’d have been quicker to have turned around and taken a different route rather than follow the signposted diversion. 
  • Running the antenna at 90° to my normal direction seems to be better, perhaps only because having the ends of the Inverted-V higher does help?

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 15th 2021 – HEMA – DL/HAM-002 Rösenau Kreuz.

Preparation:

The DL association of HEMA came into existence on April 5th after my surveyed summits were accepted. I have been trying to get out and activate the first HEMA DL Summit since then. With equipment problems, COVID lockdowns, bad weather and illness delaying my attempt, I determined to get to this – my closest HEMA summit at last!

Since my last portable operation, I have bought myself a new radio. A XIEGU G90 – I have written a review on it which can be found here.  So this was to be a “trial of fire” for the new radio as well.

I had already visited the summit twice, taking two different approaches. The first was when there was still a lot of snow on the ground and was a long access route. The second visit and this one got my car much closer to the summit, leaving just a 10-15 minute walk up prepared tracks to get to the summit.

The Activation

The trip down to Hohenfurch (the nearest village to the summit) is straightforward using the B17 main road. It wouldn’t have been a few weeks earlier as the whole road is being resurfaced and improved. Further south on this road the main large bridge over the Lech River is closed for a month for upgrades (something to remember as I normally travel over that bridge to get to many of my favourite SOTA summits). As far as I was going all roadworks are complete and after leaving Hohenfirth, I took the road to North Schongau and immediately turned off it onto single track roads to take me to the closest parking point for the summit at (47.83556, 10.91673). Parking at the holy cross next to the ram-shackle farm it’s only a short 10-15 minute walk up the track to the summit. Just keep taking the track that goes upwards and then takes you under the high voltage electricity pylons and you are there. There is no local name for this summit, a lower one close by is the 774m high Schwalbenstein but if you end up there you have gone past the higher 780m summit, which, as it is over Rösenau on the River Lech and there is a small stone cross on it, (at 47.83556, 10.91673) I have called the HEMA summit Rosenau Kreuz. Hopefully, the sequence of photos below will guide future activators to the summit.

The summit area itself is fairly flat and so it’s possible to choose a location in the woods or on the open grassland. I arrived to find that the farmer had his cows grazing but they were in fenced-off areas below the power lines. I did have some pulsed noises on 20 metres during my activation and I wonder if this was coming from the power lines but generally this seems to be a very quiet location and the view down into the Fuchstal valley is amazing. A short walk through the forest gets you to the “LechErlebnisWeg” walking trail that is part of the famous JakobsWeg pilgrim’s way and gives lovely views down to the River Lech. 

I think the combination of the fact that HEMA is a much smaller community than SOTA and a contact with a German portable station, isn’t of a lot of interest to most watching the DX Cluster in Europe, is what made contacts hard to come by.

I was thankful to have contacts with Mike 2E0YYY/P from HEMA summit G/HSP-021 Overmoor on both 40 and 20m. My first H2H contact and the first into the new DL association!

For its first trip out, the new XIEGU G90 performed well. It still suffered from an inexperienced user though. All but my last contact on 20m were made with the attenuator on and the preamp off. Despite that, the few signals that were on the band were strong enough and once the preamp was turned on I still had an S0 noise level! Apart from some annoying pulse noise which could have been coming from the nearby 33KV power lines, both 40 & 20m were very quiet – unfortunately, that also meant not many signals. I was happy to find that the speech compressor in the rig performed a lot better than the one in the X108G which distorts speech when set at any value above 2 out of 10. I actually managed to be able to read the display the whole time, even in sunlight and didn’t have to revert to my external (Android smartphone) display.

I did hear one VK6 station but he was in a net with several other stations and I had no chance of getting in. I was hearing the VK6 at S1 and that was partially due to having the attenuator engaged – I guess he may have been S3 without the attenuator and with the preamp on.

I managed contacts with 5 different stations in all and so I had qualified my first HEMA summit.

  All in all, an enjoyable morning out!

 Photos:

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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 base.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • New 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig. (not used)

Log:

 

Conclusions:

  • The band conditions were not good and a HEMA summit does not attract as many callers as a SOTA one does, so getting contacts were difficult.
  • The new radio performed well (especially when I turned the attenuator off!).

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – March 1st 2021 – DL/AL-170 Zwieselberg.

Preparation:

Following a failed activation attempt at Eisenberg (DL/AL-171) the previous week, I needed to get out to make sure what I had found as the problem was now resolved.

This activation was planned to be Zwieselberg and then on to either Senklekopf or Eisenberg but as you will see, things did not go to plan!

Over the last couple of years, I have managed to put together a fairly reliable set of SOTA activation gear. I have even got it down from two rucksacks to one and for quick activations or those with limited space moved away from large fibreglass poles and large wire antennas to the Komunica Power HF-PRO2 adjustable loaded vertical and an ex-photo tripod that I modified. A real “grab and go” set-up.

The problem that I had on Eisenberg was that no one was hearing my calls, so the first thing to check was that the rig itself was putting out RF – thankfully, it was and when I reduced the power by switching to AM and running the rig through an external SWR bridge first into a dummy load and then into the station antenna, everything continued to work fine. The problem had to be elsewhere and the next thing I looked at was the loaded vertical on the modified photo tripod that I had been using for the last 6 months.

Testing this using the same radial wires and coax that I had been using, the antenna was no longer resonant at the same point on its adjustable shaft as I have on-record for setting the antenna on the summit (without having to take an antenna analyser along). Now, this could be the tripod, the coax, the radials or the antenna itself where something has happened. I checked the connectivity of the radials back to the antenna and outer of the coax – all OK. I checked at least at DC, the coax, all OK. Where is the problem?

I had modified a second photo tripod to mount the vertical on soon after the first as a backup. This one is an even smaller, even lighter tripod and not as mechanically stable but I have it and its calibration details, so I set that up with its radial wires and coax and checked the same Komunica antenna on the tripod in the garden. All settings were close to or exactly the same as when I had last recorded them, so I knew this combination was working. What is wrong with the slightly larger tripod that had served well for the last 18 months, I have no idea.

  Just in-case this new configuration also gave issues on the summit, I packed my short (6-metre) fibreglass pole and the SOTABeams linked-dipole to take along.

The Activation

The trip down to Zwieselberg seemed longer than I remembered, needing to take small country roads but after about an hour and a half, I was at the spot that I park in the “Independent Republic of Vorderzwieselberg” and I loaded myself up with the somewhat heavier than normal rucksack (due to the extra mast and antenna in it) At least I had managed to avoid having to carry two bags. The walk up the track starts off as a concreted path but soon changes to a soil track that has lots of large stones (almost small boulders) on it – these are not helpful to the walker but I think they are there so that the farmer can get his tractor up this very steep track.

The views from the track were amazing on this sunny, but still very cold, day. I had to stop to catch my breath a few times on the way up. Eventually, though, I got to where the summit cross and trig point stone are. This appears visibly to be the highest point, even though some maps show a point in the adjacent forest at another 10 metres higher – we’re in the AZ in any case.

Initially, I set up the Komunica HF-Pro2-PLUS-T on the tripod and ran the coax back to the bench under the holy cross.  As soon as I turned the radio on, I could tell there was a problem – the radio was too quiet (especially considering the K index was up at 5 at the time!). I checked the SWR, the best I could (this rig – the Xiegu X108G is the one that the display is totally invisible in any level of sunshine, and I use an attached SmartPhone to read and change some of the values from the rig).

I started on 20m, spotted myself, put out calls – no answers. I found other activators were out and a couple were on 20m – I took a listen, nothing heard but that was not a surprise as they were most likely too close for 20m skip.

I kept calling, I tried different frequencies and eventually, Ricardo EA1DHB came back to me. But he was only S3 at best and normally he booms in. Something was not right!

After working two more Spanish stations, Jose EA7GV and Miguel EA5K, I thought I would try 40m in the hope of more contacts (I still did not have the needed four). The radio was louder here but the amount of QRM was unbelievable with multiple stations on at the same time but not on the same frequency – and here was the clue as to what had happened. When I switched the rig to AM during the SWR tests at home, it also switched to 6kHz bandwidth rather than the 2.3 kHz used for SSB. Out on the summit, I can’t see the display and I use my SmartPhone and PocketRxTx as a remote control. Here I can change the mode back to USB or LSB as needed BUT the CiV command set implemented by Xiegu doesn’t allow for the filter width to be changed and it also does not allow me to see what it is set to from my SmartPhone. This has happened to me once before and I was able to see just enough on the rig’s display to be able to correct it – this time, this simply wasn’t possible.

While on the summit, I thought this might be the problem but could only check when I got home and indeed that proved to be true. So as I needed whoever called me, to be as strong a signal as possible, I took down the loaded-vertical and put up the linked dipole and mast and managed thankfully two more contacts John CT2GSN in Portugal and Lucas ON3YB in Belgium. If you can imagine trying to listen to amateur stations using an old transistor, broadcast bands receiver, this is what I was effectively doing, so once I had the extra two contacts, it was time to head home. I did consider still activating a second summit but the problems had taken up my available time as had the installation and take-down of two antenna systems instead of one and I still wasn’t sure what the problem was, so I decided the best option was to head home and look at the problem there.

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna.
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • The added problem of the filter width invalidated the test of the loaded vertical on the small tripod. I would like to go back to using the larger tripod in any case as it is more stable. 
  • I am now looking at possibly changing the OLED display out in the rig – it is absolutely crazy that I cannot see what ALL of the rig’s settings are. 
  • A later thought was that I could have used the “filter” key on the multi-function microphone that comes with the X-108G to solve my problem but of course, I didn’t think of that at the time – Doh! 

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – February 18th 2021 – DL/AM-177 Kirnberg & DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

Preparation:

As the weather was in double negative figures (down to -18°C) for over a week, as soon as the weather started to look better, I had two close & easy summits to “knock off” while we are still in the winter bonus period!

I had originally planned these two summits with the last two as a group of four but the access conditions didn’t allow it. As it was this time, it was going to be a balancing act. Warm enough to activate but before the ground thaws out and turns into a bog!

The two summits are Kirnberg and Ammerleite. I have met with farmers on both of these summits, Kirnberg as I managed to get my car bogged a couple of years ago and needed him to tow me out with his tractor. Ammerleite where a farmer had blocked the road without thought for other people wanting to use it!

I was hoping not to meet either farmer this time, although the one at Kirnberg is a really typical older Bavarian, friendly and helpful guy. The one at Ammerleite was a young foreigner (not Bavarian) pain in the proverbial.

The gear would once again be the X108G and battery in my rucksack and HF-PRO2 antenna but I also loaded the old linked dipole and the surveyor’s tripod and 10 metre mini-mast in the car as backup.  

The Activations

As it turned out leaving the activations to Friday, which was considered would have been a bad decision as the ground on both summits had already started to melt and was quite muddy in places but the nice sunshine and no wind on the second summit made up for a bit of a muddy walk-in. So here are my reports on the two summits.

Kirnberg DL/AM-177

On arriving at Kirnberg, I saw a large new farm building, where the path used to start, but the farmer had done the right thing and run a new track into the corner of one of his fields for those visiting the holy cross.

Once I set everything up on the bench by the cross – I had the little tripod and the loaded HF Komunica HF-PRO2 whip a couple of metres away from the seat (see photos).

Well I started on 40m and tuning around there was plenty of activity, so I found a free spot, checked it was free and spotted myself on SOTAWatch. I called and called – no replies I waited a while and then, there was Manuel EA2DT – great – we’re off! Went back to him – no answer … This was not looking good checked all cables, checked the SWR as best I can on this rig – it showed 1.1:1 so it has to be the rig!

I was strongly considering packing up and heading home to continue the fault-finding there but I decided to switch to 20m and give it a try and I’m glad that I did as on 20m, as soon as I spotted myself, there was Lars SA4BLM from Sweden BOOMING in and … yes he heard me strong as well (real 5-9 both ways). Eight further strong contacts followed with a real variety in the last two – one was Klaus DL7KBA who was located about 10 km away as the crow flies and following him was my last contact from this summit – Voldemar UR5QW in the Ukraine! Once I could hear no more callers it was time to pack up and set off for my second summit. One improvement from the last activation – I have now added winding posts on the legs of the small photo-tripod for the radial wires and these worked well in two ways. They were less tangled wires and I didn’t forget to put the radials out (which has happened in the past).

Ammerleite DL/AM-178

On arriving at Ammerleite, the sun had come out and although cold it was a nice change to see true sunshine. I set up at my usual spot behind the (very large) Holy Cross on what is known locally as Schnalz (Ammerleite is the area around this summit). At this summit, there are two bench seats – looking a little worse for wear after the cold winter but still very usable. I had again only brought my small antenna from the car and because of the problems I had had at Kirnberg, on 40m I decided to try 20m first but unfortunately, conditions had changed and I only managed two contacts on 20m. I had to find why 40m had not performed and as I adjusted the tuning coil on the bottom of the HF-Pro-2 it struck me. I had set it to 15 on the scale at Kirnberg, not at 13.5 which my notes say. My previous similar antenna (the model with a solid whip element rather than a telescopic element, had needed the coil set to 15! So that was indeed the problem. Why the rig showed me a 1.1:1 SWR I have no idea but with the antenna tuned off frequency, it would not have radiated well. Feeling a bit stupid that I hadn’t checked the setting at Kirnberg, I spotted myself and put out a call on 40m and was “rewarded” with a wall of noise. A real pile-up so I was definitely radiating now. I worked 27 stations in 30 minutes with no difficulty.

As it approached noon, I decided it was time to shut down the station and enjoy some pack-up lunch in the sunshine and then pack the station up and head home.

What had initially looked like being a complete failure turned out to be two nice activations of two easy summits. Perhaps the next pair will be a little bit more difficult – perhaps two castle ruin summits, we’ll see.

 Photos:

   Kirnberg:

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   Ammerleite:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna.
  • Modified photo tripod with radials on new storage mounts on tripods legs.
  • Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “mini-mast” (not used).
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Logs:

DL/AM-177 Kirnberg:

DL/AM-178 Ammerleite:

Conclusions:

  • The new wire winding posts on the tripod worked well and are a good upgrade to the system.
  • A double-check of settings no matter what the SWR shows is always a good move, had I re-checked the loading coil setting for 40m on Kirnberg, I expect I would have made several contacts in the first 30 minutes rather than considering calling the day-off.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

DD5LP/P – February 5th 2021 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg & DL/AM-176 Rentschen.

Preparation:

As the pandemic lockdown situation combined with winter weather continuing, I was eager to get out onto a couple of simple summits and bag a few contacts along with some winter bonus points. My original plan was to head to a group of four which are reasonably close together but two of the four can be difficult to access depending upon the ground condition and as we had had multiple days of rain, following 2 weeks of snow, I was not hopeful for those, but depending upon how the first two summits went and what the ground was like on those, I could add one or two of the others into the day.

The gear would be the (now standard) X108G and battery in my rucksack and HF-PRO2 antenna but also taking along the old linked dipole and the surveyors tripod and 10 metre mini-mast as the main two summits are easy to access and have room for the mast.  

The Activations

As it turned out on the first two summits Peissenberg and Rentschen, there were large patches of soft wet ground and so the decision was made early not to attempt the two more susceptible-to-rainwater summits (Ammerleite and Kirnberg) this time, rather leave them as a pair to be activated when the ground dries out somewhat. So here are my reports on the two summits that I did activate.

Peißenberg DL/AM-001

Peissenberg has two good activation point. One on the very summit alongside the church and one in the car park below the graveyard. The first has a nice seat and fence where I can attach the mast and run the wire antenna out to a flagpole in one direction and down around a try to a second bench seat in the other direction. While this was still quite early in the day and we are still in lockdown, I didn’t expect that many people to be around. It seems that since this was the first fine day in some time all the local walkers were out and two had decided to sit at the bench that I normally use. If this wasn’t in the middle of a pandemic, it may have been possible to position myself closeby but mounting the mast would be an issue and being close to this pair who seemed to be going to stay there for some time, forced my decision to head down to the other location (still in the AZ). There I am glad to say was free of the public and indeed gave me lots of room to put up the surveyors tripod, 10m mast and linked dipole antenna.

The activation from Peissenberg was straight forward and I had 26 chasers call me (all at once it seemed) on 40m. With so many in the log, I decided to leave 20m but as I found out only later, I should have tried 20m as communication between portable stations in the UK and Australia was taking place via the long path. I had hoped for some greyline propagation on 40 metres but that did not eventuate, in fact, contacts were somewhat shorter distances than I am used to with only one contact from the UK and nothing from Scandanavia.

I had one member of the public who came by to ask if I had been taking photographs when I explained it was Amateur Radio he showed some interest and so he got a small brochure and my QSL card.

Once I could hear no more callers, I packed up and set off for my second summit.

Rentschen DL/AM-176

On arriving at Rentschen and almost getting stuck with the car at the spot where I always park, it was clear that the other two summits were out of the question with the land here being so boggy the other two would be underwater almost! I did manage to find a little harder ground to set up my station, right next to the Trig point Stone which marks the absolute summit. As Rentschen is a large flat plateau, it was easy to get the linked dipole strung out again, supported by the 10m mast and surveyors tripod.

Again I started on 40m, this time I worked a total of 30 stations before the clouds came over and a cold wind arrived. This was just around noon, so I decided after the calls dried up to pack up and head home as I had some AR podcasts to publish and some other computer-based AR work to complete.

l was happy to have got out away from the house, got some fresh air and make some radio contacts.

It’s interesting that I am now noticing some “new regulars” in the chasers calling me. I can only presume these are either people working from home or others that have returned to the hobby because of the lockdown. In any case, welcome! It’s good to have more join the party of SOTA.

 Photos:

   Peissenberg:

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   Rentschen:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “mini-mast”.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Logs:

DL/AM-001 Piessenberg:

DL/AM-176 Rentschen:

Conclusions:

  • The grab-and-go approach works well combined with bigger antennas as well – this time I had more time and so decided to put up the big mast and dipole antenna, which takes longer but the simplicity of laying the rucksack on the bench or floor and simply opening the side and plugging in the antenna cable makes life really easy!

73 ’til the next summit.