As weather and radio conditions were OK and I had the opportunity to use the 20 years of SOTA special event callsign DL20SOTA again, I decided at relatively short notice to activate these two easy summits. I was looking for summits where if the weather turned bad, I knew them well and could safely get back down from them with the limited risk of injury. They also needed to be not too far away as I planned to get on the first summit at least in time for some 20m long path contacts into Australia and possibly New Zealand. It seems that now, in May, the greyline is coming across earlier and hence I would not be lucky enough to get 40m contacts “down under” but I did plan to try for some 17m contacts as well.
With a planned leave time from home of 7 am, the gear was packed in the car the night before and I also decided to take my new seat along for use on the second summit as the last time I was there, the benches had been removed. While this is a short walk from the car park the extra weight of the pop-out seat would not be a problem.
The trip down was uneventful and quick as this is a route that I know without the need for maps or GPS having been there many times (mind you, that didn’t stop me from missing one turn in the route between the two summits and having to turn back to find it).
Weichberg – DL/AL-179.
My plan was to work Ernie VK3DET, Ian VK3YFD and Mike 2E0YYY/P on 20 and possibly 17 and 40 metres before I started the “true” activation where I expected (and got) pile-ups from SOTA chasers wanting to talk to the special event station.
My equipment set-up did not start well. When putting up the antenna, running out both arms of the linked dipole (which also act as guys for the telescopic mast) one side broke off at the feed-point bracket. My belief is that this must have been bent backwards and forwards many times over the years and finally, it gave way.
While this was an unwanted problem, I did at least have 15 minutes or more in hand on my planned times. As you will see from the pictures I managed to jerry-rig a repair which thankfully worked for both activations. I had taken my Swiss Army penknife out from my bag just the day before as the wife wished to borrow it, so I had to revert to strip the wire covering off with my teeth. Thankfully everything went well and we were back in business. Had this not worked I also had my Komunica HF-PRO2 loaded whip antenna and tripod in my pack, however, I prefer to use the linked dipole when I have the option.
As I was a little early, Mike was still setting up as I worked Ian and Ernie on 20m. after those successful contacts I asked them to try 17m and while I could hear the guys in VK3, they could not hear me, so the band seemed not to be as good as it had been. By this time Mike had set up so we went back to 20m and then 40m, where I managed to work Mike but the others could not hear either of us on 40m.
It was now getting close to my alerted time for the SOTA chasers, so I messaged the group via Signal and left them to complete their contacts while I went off and found a free frequency on 20m. Not a simple task as there are many stations these days on 20m in the morning. Many of whom were not around trying for contacts when conditions were more difficult over the last few years. Many of these stations need to go back and learn some manners as they start up without checking the frequency range that their wide signals cover is free for use. The end result is that the lower-powered stations like myself, have to change frequency often to be able to make contacts. Sometimes this frequency change can be combined with a band change to give different chasers a chance of a contact with the summit – and in these two activations with a contact with the special event call sign.
By the time I finished on weichberg, I had 39 contacts in the log mainly on 20 & 40m. 17m wasn’t working so well it seemed … but that was to change at the next summit.
Auerberg – DL/AL-169.
After packing up and returning to the car at the first summit, I set off for what should have been a 30 minute trip to the next summit (Auerberg). It actually took about 5 minutes longer as I missed one turn-off as mentioned before but I was still well within my time plan.
Because the last time I was here the benches behind the church (which is located exactly on the summit) had been removed, I took my new “telescopic chair” with me from the car. As I walked around the church, I saw there has been additional wooden benches installed at the side and as I turned the corner, also at the end of the church where I always set up. So the new chair was not needed after all.
On this summit, I did not try for any VK/ZL contacts as it was later in the morning and too late for long path, or so I thought. (I found out later that had I started on 20m rather than 40m from Auerberg I may have got a couple of VK contacts). In any case, on this 2-point summit, I wanted to get as many chaser contacts in the DL20SOTA/P log as possible. The surprise was three S2S (Summit-to-Summit) contacts including one with JW/LB1RH who is part of the DXpedition team to Svalbard way up in the Arctic Circle! That contact was even on 17m to surprise me even more. The other two S2S contacts only count as one as it was with Stavros SV2RUJ/P on a Greek summit – firstly on 17m and then on 20m. So 17 metres certainly seems like the band to look at to get away from the DQRM and general bad behaviour from some operators.
I did get one request for a 60-metre contact and I only realised afterwards that I DID have the antenna extensions with me but while running the special event callsign and having the large pile-ups it was not the time to try out an untried antenna extension! That’s something to try when I’m “just” operating under my own callsign.
The totals from this second summit were 15 contacts on 40 metres, 4 on 17metres and 20 on 20 metres.
As I arrived home, the forecasted rain started but not as strong as had been predicted, at least not where I live. The heavy storms only arrived in the evening.
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu G90.
- Lambdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
- SotaBeams linked dipole.
- 4000 maH LiHV battery (not used)
- Komunica HF-PEO2-PLUS-T, tripod and radials (Not used).
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
- Painters thick plastic sheet.
- Lightweight headphones.
- “Telescopic” seat (taken up to the second summit but not used).
Contact maps from Sotamaps:
- The break in the linked dipole was a surprise from this, my most reliable antenna. It is now properly repaired and ready for a few more activations. At least my temporary fix held-up for both activations.
- The Solar flares that arrived in the two days prior to these activations certainly had an effect on radio conditions but I was really happy to get the 17m S2S with the station on Svalbard – even more so when after getting home, I looked at where this island is! It is a lot further north than I had thought it was.
- Overall the activation was a success with plenty of chasers getting a contact with DL20SOTA/P. The level of QRM on both 20m and 40m now, especially on a weekday, is becoming totally out of hand. Add to that incompetent or simply full-of-themselves operators and the WARC bands are becoming more and more attractive. I think I may try to use 60 metres next time out.
73 ’til the next summit.