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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 Photos – Hinteres Hoernle:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 – 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:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 – 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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   Ammerleite:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   Rentschen:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

DD5LP/P – January 22nd 2021 – DL/AL-179 Weichberg & DL/AL-169 Auerberg.

Preparation:

As the situation with a possible stronger COVID-19 lockdown has still not been clarified, I decided that I needed to get out and at least activate a couple of Summits in January. The weather, however, had other ideas, so between possibly travel restrictions coming in and bad weather I had been limited for the whole of January.

My preference would, of course, be a couple of higher height and higher scoring summits as these will again bring me more points as we are in a new year. Unfortunately, these summits need a ski lift for any practical activation and the ski-lifts are now closed because of COVID until at least February 14th (most likely until Easter). 

I decided that I would pick just two local easy summits that I could literally decide on the same day to go and activate. Weichberg and Auerberg fit this “half-day activation” model very well.

I always keep my equipment charged and packed ready to go. In fact, I now have one rucksack using the loaded vertical and tripod, battery box and rig in fact everything I need for an activation and a second rucksack with all possible optional additions such as an amplifier, Dipole antennas and even the VP2E antennas and a “short” 6-metre mast. Both packs go in the car but normally only the first one gets pulled out.

After several days of snow and ice an opportunity came up on Friday the 22nd of January and I took it before the expected new snow came in that night.

The Activations

Weichberg

The first summit (DL/AL-179 Weichberg), is one of my favourite summits, it’s not a long drive to get there and is not a busy summit. This time I only met a farmer who drove up a “no public access” track in his tractor, to replace a broken bulb in a spotlight that shines on the little chapel on this summit. Access for walkers is up from the car park just past the farm and before the “restricted road” sign using a track through the woods. I know this can be tricky in winter, so I added spikes to my hiking boots before setting off on the steep walk.

This summit has now got a second bench looking out over the valley, next to the information board and trig stone in addition to the wooden bench/table system that has been there next to the chapel for years and is where I always set-up. This is a larger summit and (in summer) is fine for setting up a larger antenna such as a mast with a wire dipole but in winter it has over two foot of snow on the chapel’s “lawn” so it was still a good idea to go with the simple and small, loaded dipole and photo-tripod option.

After setting up the antenna and radials I operated from the bench with my rig still in the bottom of my rucksack and just my “external control display” (an old smartphone) outside of the bag. I made 18 contacts in a fairly short time and when the calls that I could hear dried-up, I packed up ready to head to my next summit for the day.

Auerberg

The second summit (DL/AL-169 Auerberg) is another easy summit, where there is a car park almost at the summit and a shorter walk than at Weichberg, up to the church on the summit is all that is needed. This was steep and icy but several people had gone before me and kicked out steps in the snow and ice. (when there is no snow, there are proper steps in the ground).

At the rear of the church, there are two wooden benches which I used one of, setting up the tripod, radials and antenna just a little away from the Church walls.

The take-off from this summit would be great for a VHF activation with a good drop-off in all directions. It also seemed at the start to be a better summit than Weichberg with 59/59 reports being exchanged. After 10 minutes or so, signals seemed to drop off. I initially thought this could be band conditions varying but I now think more likely was a high powered station only a few kHz away that was de-sensing my receiver! On both summits, I heard the very loud (probably military) signal moving up and down the 40m band and when that comes, you have no choice but to wait until it passes your frequency. For a band where Amateur radio is supposed to be the primary user, this shouldn’t happen but the regulator isn’t going to argue with the military – most likely it wasn’t the German military rather an ex-eastern bloc EU member state’s military in any case!

I worked fewer chasers from this summit, despite it being a better location but once the chasers calling dried up, I decided to pack up as I was starting to get cold. I wondered whether I might fit in another “easy summit”, the problem was that the others are quite a drive away and I would have had to have started much earlier if I had wanted to include more summits. 

With snow forecast for the weekend, perhaps, just perhaps, there may be an opportunity to activate a group of 4 semi-local summits next week? 

 Photos:

   Weichberg:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   Auerberg:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • HAMA Photo Tripod.
  • Komunica Power HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical.
  • 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/AL-179 Weichberg:

DL/AL-169 Auerberg:

Conclusions:

  • The grab-and-go approached after several planned activations having to be cancelled because of weather or possible travel restrictions. I did these two without any alerts as I was not sure all would go to plan.
  • Using the small tripod and Komunica Power HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T antenna is a very practical solution. With a set-up in 10 minutes from arriving on the summit being the “norm” putting up a mast and dipole in comparison can take up to 30 minutes depending upon the summit (and it’s more to carry).
  • The loaded vertical when compared to the dipole is an inferior antenna in some ways. If the critical frequency gets up to say 7MHz the vertical will not work as a good NVIS antenna but it’s a case of convenience versus performance. If I am going out trying for a VK/ZL contact for example I would take the linked dipole or even the VP2E, which take longer to put up but are better DX antennas. If I have to activate from a wooded summit, then again, it has to be a horizontal antenna.

73 ’til the next summit.

DD5LP/P – December 14th 2020 – DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg – last 2020 activation before lockdown.

Preparation:

With the announcement that Germany was going again into a full COVID-19 lockdown from the light version that we had, had for 2 months, I decided I’d like to get out to a SOTA summit before I would not be able to. The initial plan was that the lockdown would run from December 16th 2020 until January 10th 2021 – but who knows how often it will be extended?

All ski lifts have been stopped for some time now and they will now not start operation again at Christmas as they usually do. So I was limited to summits that didn’t need a cable car or seat lift and one that I knew I hadn’t activated this year, which is a drive-up summit is Schwarzer Berg DL/MF-082. It’s a 90-minute driver from here but then a very straight forward summit to activate. I had activated it twice before.

The weather forecast had a chance of rain, so I decided to go with the quick “grab & go” equipment set-up in my medium-sized rucksack, with the X108G providing 20 watts to the tripod-mounted loaded vertical from Komunica Power.

I didn’t even have to pre-pack the car the day before as this was to be just an afternoon activation. I just put the bag by the door!

The Activation:

This was SOTA 2020 over for me. With the lock-down, running well into January this was the last trip out for 2020. So I wanted to keep things simple. DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg is only a 1 pointer, a drive-up, up a mud track (but an official road, not private, not forestry workers only). The reason for the public access is that there’s a restaurant at the top of the track but with the COVID-19 pandemic that’s been closed for a couple of months now and is still closed. The track is a favourite route for trail bike riders and I guess that’s why on the way up, I unexpectedly came up behind a police car! I think they were up there making sure no one was doing something stupid. I did think for a moment – “there wasn’t a restricted access sign at the bottom was there?” – there wasn’t so I was fine and the police kept going their merry way.

The walk from the small parking area to the lookout/water tower is only about 300 metres and at a slight climb. As I was only carrying the medium-sized rucksack, this may have been one of the easiest summits for some time but the point was to get out and activate one last time and I was rewarded with sunshine. It was still only about 5 or 6 degrees centigrade when I arrived but the sunshine was nice and most importantly, it didn’t rain.

The set-up was very straight forward and this time I remembered to add the radial wires to the tripod otherwise I may not have got any contacts, as with trees surrounding the site, a vertical is not the best antenna. A dipole would have been a lot better but the ease of carrying and putting up the Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical and tripod is making this my favourite configuration.

I started on 40 metres, which was a little noisy but it didn’t take long to get a few chasers in the log. Seeing there were some other activators out, I listened for them and despite hear and calling a couple, I wasn’t to get an S2S contact this day. I finished off by switching to 20 metres and indeed got another couple of calls there.

I could have stayed longer but as the calls had dried up, I decided to pack-up and head home. An uneventful trip with a bonus of going by a petrol station with a good discount on fuel, where I filled the tank of the car.

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T and my modified photo-tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.
  • SOTABeams linked dipole (as backup in car).
  • Screw-in sun umbrella base (as a backup in the car).
  • 6-metre LambdaHalbe fibreglass portable mast (as a backup in the car).

Log:

Conclusions:

The radio conditions were not good but good enough to execute the activation and get out before the lockdown. The fact that I can easily activate and work around Europe with my medium-sized rucksack only half full when compared to what I used to carry to summits is a real luxury.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – December 4th 2020 – DL/AL-282 Steig, DL/AL-181 Burgkranzegger Horn & DL/AL-271 “Auf Dem Falken” (Falkenstein).

Preparation:

As the situation with a possible stronger COVID-19 lockdown has still not been clarified, I decided that once December 1st. came along I would try to get out and activate some summits that have a winter bonus that will run out at the end of December (or rather will be reset as it will then be the 2021 winter bonus). My preference would be a couple of higher height and higher scoring summits which I have not activated at the start of the year before the early year bonuses stopped. Unfortunately, these summits need a ski lift for any practical activation and the ski-lifts are now cancelled until at least January 10th. Not that the lifts themselves are dangerous but the government is doing everything that it can, short of announcing and official “stay home” order, to stop people going on winter holidays and creating “super-spreader” centres for the COVID-19 virus.

I had had Steig on my list as outstanding for some time, but it’s hardly a “local” summit with at least a 90-minute drive there. I looked at other summits that I already knew that I could perhaps team it up with but all were too far away, more looking at other summits within 30 minutes drive of the car park for Steig I found these two, which I had never activated before. One had a write-up that suggested it was a straight forward walk to the summit (it wasn’t and I wonder if the other activator actually mistook where the summit was? Either that or a walk-in summer is somewhat easier than in sub-zero temperatures through snow). Bet that is it may, these were the three summits I chose and the plan was to be on Falkenstein at the right time for an S2S into Arizona, USA (something, that with the state of the bands was not to come to fruition). 

Given the unknown nature of two of the summits and the long walk into the first summit, I decided to plan to use my smaller configuration – one medium-sized rucksack with everything (rig, antenna, tripod) packed inside it. I also put a second rucksack in the car containing the portable 100W amplifier, 6 metre FG mast and 4 different wire antennas in case the bands were looking good on the first two summits and having the extra gain on the third summit may make the S2S into the US a possibility. In fact, the bands were not good, so the extra equipment stayed in the back of the car the whole time and in fact, on Falkenstein (“Auf Dem Falken”) there is no space for any antenna other than the tripod-mounted vertical antenna.

With all equipment pre-packed in the car the previous evening, I was ready for an 8 am departure on Friday.

The Activations

Temps varied I guess from -3 to +3°C over the day.

Steig

The first summit (DL/AL-282 Steig), is in the middle of a forest and the final climb changes each time as it depends how the foresters have taken their tractor in to harvest the trees. This time compared to last time it was a diagonal route that brought me to the summit. After setting up the first call was from DK4EI who said the audio was breaking up and he thought it was RF getting into it. He spent 15 minutes with me trying to find it without any change. He even made and played a recording back. I decided to try to work another 3 stations to at least claim one summit and then head home. Strangely even when asked none of the following 10 contacts complained about my audio,  but several commented on the QRM from another station a couple of kHz off – I wonder if that was the problem all the time? It sounded a bit like OTHR radar or something industrial like that.

Needless to say, I was unsure whether there was a real problem or not, however, after driving down over 90 minutes from home, I decided to head to the next summit and see how I go.

Burgkranzegger Horn

The second summit (DL/AL-181 Burgkranzeggerhorn) was OK but a lot longer climb than I had expected from the write-up that I read (or perhaps that op had never got to the real summit? (there are three summit crosses on the route! I checked with a local that I was in the right place before setting up, to be sure).

The summit is west from Oy-Mittleberg and the easiest way to find the path is to park at the rehabilitation clinic. By the way, this small town is a little way away from the normal routes and is certainly a hill walking centre with several nice hotels and cafes in the town (all closed because of Corona) and some sports clothing and other “touristy” shops.

Looking at a hiking map, there are clear tracks shown up to the summit – unfortunately apart from the first one, the others are all covered in snow and not visible however there are a few points to follow – a small holy cross near to a large wooden hut across and up a meadow is the start. There is also a signpost at this point. From there a larger holy cross can be seen – that’s the next point to reach up the hill. from there, the really large (telegraph pole sized) holy cross at the top of the hill is visible and this part of the climb has the best views back over the valley – really amazing views – there’s a reason this is a recreation area. The hard work to get up the hill is worth it for the views. A local couple was ahead of me and took the bench seat at the bottom of the cross, so I laid out once more, my painters sheet on a flat piece of ground a few metres away. This couple confirmed that this was indeed the Burgkranzegger Horn.

After setting up the equipment and taking a few minutes to explain what I was doing .. the contacts came in without problems and without any mention of corrupted audio. So indeed it looks like the problem at the previous summit came from QRM, not from my system! OK, as I was starting to get cold, it was time to pack-up and head back down the way I came, back to the “Reha” (re-habilitation) clinic, not down the main track which leads back into the town of Oy-Mettleberg itself. Climbing down the steep fields while not seeing what was under the snow was more of a challenge than coming up. I suspect this summit will be easier to access when the actual track can be seen!  

Auf Dem Falken (Falkenstein)

Another thirty minutes should have got me to the car park for the third summit (DL/AL-271 Auf Der Falken) which should be called Falkenstein in the SOTA database, there is no reason that it should be named as it is, as far as I can see!

The trip from Steig here went fine except for the last 10 kilometres where the Navi (GPS) took me up some really small and windy back roads until I was instructed to take one that was clearly signposted as only accessible for the Forestry Commission so I parked up and tried to find where I was. I walked up the road to see how far the car park for the summit might be without success. I decided to try further along the “main” road where I saw a young gentleman cleaning his car, so I drove up to him to check I was in the village that I thought I was – I wasn’t! In principle, the GPS had taken me out of the previous large town (Rettenberg) on completely the wrong road! However, the local lad said, rather than driving all the way back into town, do as the locals do and use the forestry road, which comes out right at the car park for the hiking trails. He didn’t have to tell me twice!

Having parked up in the correct car park, I grabbed the gear and set off, what on the map looks like an easy climb. It is not, it’s through a forest up to the top of a long ridge and then along there for a good 15 minutes. The route reminds me of the hard climb up and along to Zwolferkopf near the other Falkenstein (castle ruins). The views when you get to this holy cross and trig stone at this summit are amazing though.

But, with several people around – including a small family with two small boys who were very interested in what I was doing (and got the mandatory brochures), I got distracted and forgot to attach the radials to the bottom of the vertical, again (there’s no way I could have put up an Inverted-V dipole on this summit). No wonder the signals from this summit were not as good as from the other two, I’m surprised that I made contacts so easily – I wonder how much stronger they would have been with the other “half” of the antenna attached?

I didn’t even bother trying 20 metres for the guy in Phoenix USA who was out looking for an S2S contact as I didn’t have time and the bands from the previous summits were not in as good a condition as they were a week ago.

Well, at least that was 1+3, 2+3 and 2+3 activator points earned for a days work.

 Photos:

   Steig:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   Burgkranzegger Horn:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   Auf Dem Falken:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • HAMA Photo Tripod.
  • Komunica Power HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical.
  • 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/AL-282 Steig:

DL/AL-181 Burgkranzegger Horn:

DL/AL-271 Auf Dem Falken:

Conclusions:

  • All told, it was a long long day but worthwhile. Going to these summits in future years will be easier. The views from Burgkranzegger Horn are really worth the climb!
  • Why must every Navi (GPS) ignore when a road is not allowed to be used? Luckily this time it was not a big problem, it could have ended with me dropping the last summit.
  • The simplified “Rapid deployment kit” works very well (but only when I remember to connect the radial wires) – I can’t believe I forgot this AGAIN.
  • The Komunica Power HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T antenna is now my favourite. A good portable antenna which gives a good balance between performance and ease of transport and assembly along with not needing very much space to put up.
  • Interference on 40 metres is becoming worse, but from military/commercial installations and from other amateurs. It won’t be long before we will no longer be able to operate portable on the band! This is not a good demonstration of Amateur Radio for those who come by and ask me what I am doing!

73 ’til the next summit.

DD5LP/P – November 25th 2020 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet – a lesson in strange propagation.

Preparation:

With the SFI breaking 100 in what must be the first time in almost five years, it was time to get out and get some summits activated before the COVID lockdown rules were changed again.

The original plan was to activate DL/BE-093 Irschenhausen and then go on to DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg, both of which I have not activated this year. Then two things happened – Mike 2E0YYY suggested we both try for contacts with Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD and that would mean an early start, plus I realised that Schwarzer Berg has 3 winter bonus points starting from December 1st (in a week), so would I want to do the almost 3-hour round-trip again in a week or 10 days time? No. So my revised plan became – head to my closest (already activated this year) summit – Berndorfer Buchet for the contacts into VK and then head on to Irschenhausen afterwards.

As it turned out because of cold, fog and a worry that something wasn’t right with the rig, after the Berndorfer Buchet activation, I headed home. The one pointer Irschenhausen can wait for another day.

I decided to do a comparison between my two most used antenna on this activation. The SOTABeams “band hopper” linked dipole and the Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna, so both sets of antenna and accessories were loaded into my medium-sized rucksack and along with my screw-in foot (intended for sun umbrellas but great for holding up the 6-metre squid pole) and just in case, my 10m mast and modified surveyors tripod, all were loaded into the back of the car on the evening before the activation.

So all packed for what was planned as two easyish activations which turned into just one.

The Activation:

The trip across to Burndorfer Buchet went without any problems. When I set off it was clear visibility at about halfway, the fog came down and on arriving at the Kerschlach car park the fog was almost cleared (to return later).

The 10 metre mast and surveyors tripod got left in the car as the rucksack on its own was heavy enough for the walk up the forest track and up the final climb (which I found blocked by recent tree trimming actions and so had to take a slightly different route to usual). The last part of the climb is often covered in leaves and twigs that are easy to fall through so care is needed but I arrived safely at the summit. The only way to identify this summit is either by the map or to find the trig-point stone but that is often covered by undergrowth. There is no summit cross or identification sign on this summit.

 This was a confusing activation as I could hear VK and ZL stations from the summit on 20m but they couldn’t hear me – even spotting myself and putting out multiple CQ calls – I got no replies. When I changed to 40m though, everything was fine and even some of the chasers on 40m, said they had listened for me on 20m and could not hear me. The equipment used on bath bands was the same.

I used both antennas on 20m and 40m – the loaded vertical and the linked dipole. With the linked dipole I’ve worked into VK before on 20m from that summit and all around Europe as well. I wondered if it was an intermittent fault – but everything (SWR etc.) all looked fine and I know I had each of the antennas set correctly to 20m. The strength and clarity of the signals coming out of VK and ZL were amazing! ZL1ACE was literally 30 dB over 9! OK, he was running 750w and using a 3 element Opti-Beam, so he has a great station but even so, that signal was unbelievable! Ian, VK3YFD (who was trying to work Mike 2E0YYY/P) was also a very comfortable 57. Ernie VK3DET (same group) who runs lower power was 55 at one point and I was listening to those two talking to each other as if they were locals to me during the time that they could not hear Mike. Of course, they didn’t hear me trying to break in. With SFI at 100, the conditions this morning on 20m were great. Mike did get through to both VK3s later on. Mike, on 20m, was never strong enough for me to work on 20m. On 40m, no problem between us apart from some QSB, which tells me the skip on 20m was ultra-long and favouring VK to EU/UK rather than EU/UK to VK. I might have had a better chance 30 minutes earlier than when I arrived on the summit. I got there at 0720 UTC and it was -3°C at the time (30 minutes earlier would have been even colder!). It only warmed up a little, 2 hours later when the sun kindly melted the ice off the tree branches so the I had rain with no clouds in the sky. The fog that had cleared then returned, so this was not a very pleasant operating environment.

I did get some antenna tests done though.
The loaded vertical on 20 metres receives 1.5-2 S-points better than the dipole at about 5 metres AGL.
I don’t know how the two antennas compare on transmit as I could not get one contact on 20 metres on either antenna!

On 40 metres working Mike, the loaded vertical was one S-point down on receive and 2 S-Points down on transmit, compared to the dipole.

Whether the vicinity to vertical, wet, trees will have affected the vertical antenna more than the dipole, I don’t know but certainly on 40m – it is possible to work stations using a vertical on a wooded summit – some had said that would not be possible.

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • SOTABeams linked dipole.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella base.
  • 6 metre LambdaHalbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T and my modified photo-tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The activation ended with more questions than answers and overall was a little disappointing but it is all part of the education that we get in this great amateur radio hobby of ours.

73 ’til the next Summit!