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

Preparation:

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

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

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

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

The Activation

DL/EW-001 Wank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos:

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

DL/EW-001 Wank – My pictures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

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

Log:

DL/EW-001 Wank

 

Conclusions:

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

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisement

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

Preparation:

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

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

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

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

The Activation

DL/AM-060 Laber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos:

DL/AM-060 Laber

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

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

Logs:

DL/AM-060 Laber

Conclusions:

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

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Preparation:

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

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

The Activation

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

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

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

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

 Photos:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

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

Logs:

Berndorfer Buchet

HEMA DL/HCN-004

SOTA DL/AM-180

Conclusions:

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

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Preparation:

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

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

The Activation

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos:

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Surveyor’s tripod (not used)
  • 10-metre DX-Wire mast (not used)
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support. (not used)
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (modified).
  • SotaBeams random length end-fed antenna (not used)
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet.
  • Gardener’s nealing pad (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone for back channel comms with the group over “Signal” and for SOTA spots.

Logs:

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg

Conclusions:

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

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Preparation:

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

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

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

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

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

The Activations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOTA DL/AL-167 Falkenstein.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Photos:

Burgkranzegger Horn

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Falkenstein

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

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

Logs:

Burgkranzegger Horn

HEMA DL/HAL-033 

SOTA DL/AL-181

Falkenstein  SOTA DL/AL-167

Conclusions:

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

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Preparation:

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

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

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

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

The Activation

DL/AL-179 Weichberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos:

DL/AL-179 Weichberg

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (modified).
  • SotaBeams random length end-fed antenna (not used)
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Gardeners nealing pad (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone for back channel comms with the group over “Signal”.

Logs:

DL/AL-177 Weichberg

 

 

Conclusions:

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

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – July 27 2022 – SOTA DL/AM-177 Kirnberg & SOTA DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

Preparation:

The purpose of these two activations was to take advantage of the good early morning propagation into VK/ZL and to try out a new spotting system, which uses RF rather than the Internet. I am one of four people beta testing the new system worldwide and had successfully tested from home, however, the real test would be from a portable station at which the system is aimed.

The choice of the first of these two summits, Kirnberg DL/AL-177 was because of the 45-50 minutes that it takes to get on site as the further I had to drive to a summit, the earlier I would have to get up in order to be there around 0600 UTC (8 am local) for the long path from Central Europe to Australasia. The second summit is not far away, although has a longer walk-in but my plan was to do the App testing from this summit.

As usual, all equipment was packed and ready to go on Tuesday evening for the early departure on Wednesday. I have now got this down to just one backpack to carry everything needed.

The Activations

SOTA DL/AM-177 Kirnberg

This trip down to Kirnberg was uneventful and I was set up ahead of schedule and in contact via phone-internet with Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD in Australia and Mike 2E0YYY out portable in the UK. Unfortunately, band conditions did not reflect those of a day earlier when I had the easiest contact with Ernie, that I have had in a long time and also worked into Northern California. Despite the conditions, the first entry in the SOTA log was Ron ZL4RMF near Dunedin on the south island of New Zealand and the second Ernie VK3DET near Ballarat in Victoria, Australia. Both of these contacts were difficult for the distant station, however. With just 20 watts of SSB and a dipole at 5 metres above ground, I was certainly not a “superstation”!

After these two contacts, I managed a few more contacts around Europe on 20 metres, including, after the conditions “went short”, Mike 2E0YYY/P in England. The band was very variable with both good and bad reports being sent. many of the chasers who are usually very strong were weak.

I decided to give the new app to send a SOTA spot over RF a try but nothing got through. Oh well, perhaps I’ll have better luck at the next summit where I intended to operate on 40 metres rather than 20 metres.

While I was doing this test I looked up to see a cow and her calf approaching me followed by the farmer who kindly turned them around and took them off to another field. I was near the holy cross which, while still on the land owned by the farmer, he had told me that they allow people there as long as they follow the path he had also provided. So there was no problem with me being there and for the cows, it was a little distraction in their daily routine. Unfortunately, I didn’t think fast enough to take a picture!

So it was now time to pack up and head to the next summit – Ammerleite.

SOTA DL/AM-178 Ammerleite

This summit has some wonderful views and is fairly easy to get to. As planned this time I set the links in the dipole to 40 metres, strapped the mast to the french post and set up the station on one of the two seating banks. Before I started on contacts, I decided to try the new App out – after all, I needed to spot myself on the new summit, so why not use the new app? Well, it didn’t work again and when I got home I realised it was a combination of user errors from my side. I have now written a step-by-step checklist so that the next time I try it, it “ought” to work.

In contrast to the difficulties with getting contacts on 20 metres from the earlier summit, my problem at this summit was picking out the call signs from the pile-up. Although no rain was forecast until late afternoon, some rather dark clouds approaching made me pack up after about 40 minutes on the summit.

With 13 contacts on the first summit and 17 from this second summit, I was happy enough. I had hoped for some contacts from the US but conditions were simply “different” and VK/ZL is twice the distance of the US in any case, so it had been a good morning out and I arrived back home by noon.

Photos:

SOTA DL/AM-177 Kirnberg

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SOTA DL/AM-178 Ammerleite

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • SotaBeams random length end-fed antenna (not used)
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Gardeners nealing pad.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot myself.

Logs:

DL/AM-177 Kirnberg

DL/AM-178 Ammerleite

Conclusions:

  • The radio conditions were not as good as hoped for (but not bad).
  • I need more practice with the new App to be able to use it easily from a summit.
  • The current radio set-up is working well, however, the coax on the Linked dipole at 7.s metres log is a little short when used with a 5-metre mast. I will add another 2.5 metres of coax to it.

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 25-26 2022 – SOTA DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg & DM/BW-854 Höchsten HEMA – DL/HBW-018 Galgenberg, DL/HBW-035 Lutsacher (was NoName) & DL/HBW-039 GalgenHöfe .

Preparation:

As I was attending HAM RADIO 2022 in Friedrichshafen, it is an obvious task to pick up the two easy 8-point summits nearby. On this trip, however, I also planned out some new HEMA summits to activate on my way home.

As well as my now fairly standard rucksack with radio, batteries, antennas and one 6m mast, I also added my large tripod with 10m mast and my old 10Ah battery box into the back of the car with the screw-in mast base support. In this way, I could decide to take out of the car what I thought I would need for each summit and avoid carrying everything to the summit. In the case of the two SOTA summits, I have activated these before and hence know what is the most suitable equipment. The three HEMA summits, however, I have never been to and hence I would need to plan when I arrived at them what I would take with me.

My original plan was to activate the 2 SOTA summits on Saturday evening and leave the three HEMA summits for my afternoon drive home on Sunday as the event effectively closes at lunchtime on Sunday.

As it turned out an appointment clash meant that only one of the SOTA activations was completed on Saturday evening and I decided to drop attending HAM RADIO 2022 on Sunday morning so that I could complete all of the activations.

The Activations

SOTA DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg

This was the Saturday evening (25/6/2022) activation with Chris M0TCH along to activate. He had visited this summit with me back in 2018 but has got more into the swing of SOTA lately and hence was eager to activate both this summit and Höchsten that we had planned also to activate.

We were delayed a little on our departure from the Messe by a ham wanting to talk about something and also when setting up on the summit we had two cyclists as visitors. The end result was that if Chris was to get to his dinner appointment later in the evening, we could not fit Höchsten in. a shame but in my case, I could simply move it to Sunday morning as I had decided not to head into the Messe on Sunday. 

After parking outside the forest at Gehrenberg, the walk up to the summit took a good 10 minutes and set up (with the interruptions) took about half an hour. I had Chris start on HF to get his needed four contacts and then he went a little bit away to try to get further contacts on 2m FM using a newly purchased larger antenna on his HT.

The equipment I used on this summit was the Xiegu G90 and the linked dipole on my lambdahalbe 6-metre pole supported with my sun umbrella screw-in base. Something to note on this summit is that there are tracks arriving at it from multiple directions so installing an inverted-V dipole antenna you need to make sure the wire is high enough as it crosses the track if some racing cyclist is not going to run into it!

As time was marching on and we thought we “might” get Höchsten in as well we kept contacts to a minimum and then packed everything up again. On the walk back to the car, however, doing some calculations it was obvious that we could not fit in the second activation and so we headed back into Friedrichshafen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SOTA DM/BW-856 Höchsten

This summit is a fairly recent addition to SOTA and was added when Aacheck was removed. It is a really easy 8-point summit with its own car park on the summit. On Sunday morning I was there, unpacked the gear and set up – this time using the 10 metre DX-Wire mini-mast supported by my large surveyor’s tripod as there is plenty of open space on this summit. This summit, like Gehrenberg, gets very busy around the time of the HAM RADIO event in Friedrichshafen as most SOTA activators can’t resist the easy 8 points for both of the summits. 

After working fourteen stations on forty metres, I packed up so that I could head to the first of my new HEMA Summits of the day. On returning to the car park Christian DL3EC came up to say hello. He had been working on 20m SSB from another field and we had not caused each other any interference at all. 

The weather was just starting to warm up, a sign of what was to come. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HEMA DL/HBW-018 Galgenberg

Galgenberg is the location of a microwave relay station between Vogt and Wetzisreute (to the east of Ravensberg) and once you have parked in the large pull-off car park, you need to cross the L325 road and head up the track that runs around the hill to climb at a reasonable rate for the radio service vehicles to get up. Once you reach the top, there is a nice grassy area behind the brick building at the top of the tower that fits well for putting up an antenna. 

Knowing from the map that I would have the climb, I had opted to take the same equipment in the rucksack to this summit as I had used at Gehrenberg the night before – the Xiegu G90, 6m mast and linked dipole. The day had now changed to be hot and humid with lots of annoying flies, some of which were biting me, so between contacts, I was swatting the little so-and-so’s!

As well as the weather changing, the band conditions also changed with very deep QSB and of course – as with every weekend QRM from deaf contest stations. Spotting on the HEMA cluster does not bring the same rush of callers as when activating a SOTA summit so I was searching around and calling CQ a lot from this summit. One of the stations that took pity on my long CQ calls with no answer was the main special event station out of England for the Queen’s platinum jubilee – GB70E. That was a nice surprise.

After the long drive up from Höchsten, it was getting near noon and I was getting hungry. So, after I had worked eight stations across 40 & 20m from this location, I packed up and headed back down to the car, to set off to the next HEMA summit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HEMA DL/HBW-035 Lutascher (NoName)

The reason I have written “NoName” in brackets is that is what this summit was called in the HEMA database at the time that I activated it. When I surveyed this region I could find a name for the summit on any of the official, detailed maps. I have now asked for the name to be changed in the database.

On arriving at this summit and parking outside of the forest, it was getting rather warm. I had not found anywhere along the way to grab something to eat and so, again I hoped for a quick activation and then to get on the road again. it was not to be so. the bands had got even worse than before.

This is an interesting summit and the actual highest point is in fact on top of a grass bank covering the water tank that supplies the local farms. There is a LOT of cycling activity around here – it seems this location south of Bad Wurzach and through “Waldfeld” is a favourite for the cyclists.

Once I got past a barking dog, (who was more afraid than aggressive) whose owner came along 5 minutes later looking for “Sara” (on a bicycle of course) – I told her the direction the dog had gone, I could climb the grass bank on to the water supply system and set up the gear (which was the same as used on Galgenberg).

This was another summit where getting contacts was difficult because of the band conditions but I did manage six contacts on 20m before the 4Ah LifePO4 battery finally dropped below the voltage needed by the G90 and set off an alarm tone. no issues, I also had my 4 Ah LiHV battery with me but even after connecting that no further contacts were possible, so – as it was now even hotter than before, I packed up and headed back to the car. 

I considered whether to drop the last planned summit but in the end decided that as it was on my direct route home, I should be able to manage it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HEMA DL/HBW-039 Galgenhöfe

This summit is just off the L309 road between Seibranz and Unterzeil. The area is shown on maps as Galgenhöfle however when you arrive the signs don’t have the L in the name. You will need to check the coordinates on the map as you don’t want to go to the hamlet of Galgenhöfe rather you need to go into the forest directly on the other side of the L309 road. There is a large gate and cattle grid. I parked just before that as the rest of the track is only for forestry vehicles’ use.  From that point, it is about a 7-minute walk on a track that goes off to the left and you will see when you get to the top of the rise. Some scrambling is needed over branches and the like on the floor to get to a reasonably open area, where I again set up the G90 and linked dipole. At this summit, it took me 20 minutes to get the required 4 contacts. two on 40 metres and two on 20 metres. The last contact of the day was with Christian DL3EC who I bumped into at Höchsten. He was now on a different SOTA summit – DL/AL-146 Sonneneck, after also visiting DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg on the way.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast (x2 – one spare).
  • DX-Wire 10m travel mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • SotaBeams random length end-fed antenna (not used)
  • 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs) (just as 2nd backup – not used).
  • 4000maH LiHV battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Gardeners nealing pad.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot on either SOTA or HEMA. 

Logs:

SOTA

DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg (25/6/22)

DM/BW-854 Höchsten (26/6/22)

HEMA 

DL/HBW-018 Galgenberg (26/6/22)

DL/HBW-035 Lutascher (26/6/22)

DL/HBW-039 Galgenhöfe (26/6/22)

Conclusions:

  • The common knowledge is not to activate on a weekend (because of contest QRM) – in this case, that made 40 metres difficult however on 20m at least some contesters obey the IARU rules and don’t use frequencies above 14300 kHz. It’s a shame the band was all over the place.
  • The new LifePO4 battery performed well powering four of the five activations.
  • After its total re-build, the linked dipole appears to be working fine.

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 14th 2022 – DL/AM-058 Hinteres Hörnle.

Preparation:

While Rob, DM1CM, was eager to get out and do some more joint activations in addition to his solo ones, we agreed to meet and head up Hinteres Hörnle. we were hoping that perhaps contacts with VK might be possible but with the lift only starting a 0700 UTC, taking 20 minutes to get up to the top station from where it was between a 45-minute and 1-hour walk to the summit, it looked unlikely.

I had also totally re-built my SOTABeams linked dipole and while, after some trimming it all looked fine on the antenna analyser, the only real test is its use from a summit. this was that opportunity but, just in case, the Komunica HF_PRO2 and tripod were also packed as a backup antenna.

The weather forecast was good and while I had originally suggested activating both Hörnle and Laber down the road, this thought changed to just Hörnle and a nice meal and beer at one of the two restaurants on the way to the summit and hence a relaxing day.

As I would only need to leave home at 8 am to get to bad Kohlgrub in time for the first lift up, I did not pre-load the car on this occasion. as I reduced some of the weight in my rucksack, everything was in the one prepared bag ready to “grab and go” after breakfast on Tuesday.

The Activation

Both Rob and I arrived at the car park at the valley station of the chair lift by 8:30 am. Officially the lift only starts taking paying passengers at 9 am but as we were there queuing and the staff for the “Hutte” at the top had already gone up, we were on the lift at 8:45 am and slowly heading up the mountain.

As mentioned above, the walk from the top station of the lift to the summit takes up to an hour and as it goes through a col, you end up walking up, then down and back up again before you get to Hinteres Hörnle. En route, we saw that the restaurant near the lift was getting ready to open while the one which is half way to the summit and is run by the national mountain walking society, hadn’t started setting up yet. The three summits at the top of the lift (Vorderer, Mitte and Hinterer Hörnle) are the “house-mountains” for the village of Bad Kohlgrub below, and often have lots of people walking the track to the summits. Despite this, the cows are not at all phased by the public and often block the track.

The weather was nice, I have been on this summit in both summer and winter. In winter the track can be blocked by fallen trees but as we haven’t had many high winds of late, this was not going to be a problem this time.

The views looking both ways from this series of hills are amazing as you will see from the photos below.

On arriving at the summit, Rob decided to set up on a plateau, well within the activation zone, while I headed up to my usual spot just below the summit. Setting up directly at the summit, even in winter is not possible due to the number of hillwalkers and the limited space.

We agreed that Rob would start on 40m and I on 20m. We knew from a previous activation that we could operate close to each other on 20 & 40 without any issues. This was the case again. Both Rob and I use the Xiegu G90 radio. I set mine up with my linked dipole while he set up with a Komunica HF-PRO-2 loaded whip antenna on a small tripod – the same configuration as I had with me as my backup, should the newly re-built linked dipole were to give problems.  

I had checked cell coverage on the web the previous day and the reports indicated that the Vodafone and Telefonica(O2) networks should work fine but Telekom may not be so good. On trying to look at who else was out on a summit I could see no spots. this would be strange as normally there will be a few spots. I thought I was having cell network issues and getting no Internet connection, so I spotted myself via SMS. indeed I started getting calls, so although I could not see it, my spot had gone through. Then I got a Signal messenger message from Mike 2E0YYY/P who had also planned to be out and we were to try for a contact. He was having difficulty hearing me but eventually we made the contact. So then I thought the problem must be the SOTA Spotter App and indeed switching to using sotl.as instead, I could see all the spots. it later turned out that there was a setting in SOTA Spotter that I had changed not expecting any problems and this effectively turns off all spots if you have no filters set. 

Conditions were not good and any last hope of a contact into Australia went away very quickly. A CME had hit the Ionosphere the previous day and skip had gone short as a result. The signals around Europe on 20 metres were strong however and I exchanged several (true) 59 reports with the chasers. After a good run on 20m, I called down to Rob and his callers on 40 metres had dried up, so we agreed to switch bands with me on 40m and him on 20m. 40m was a jungle, finding a free frequency was difficult but when I found one I used sotl.as to spot myself and we were “off and running” again. 

After about another 20 minutes my calls on 40m dried up and I decided to pack up and go and see how Rob was doing. at the same time Rob had made the same decision and he came over the brow onto the flat spot where I was en route to going to the cross on the absolute summit, to say he had been there.

So it seems that lunch was calling us both equally strongly! While I was still packing up a couple came by and asked what I was doing, so they got a short explanation and one of my pre-printed brochures and they went away happy.

Once both Rob and I had packed up we headed back towards the lift and seeing that the mid-way restaurant was open, we decided to stop and eat. They did a lovely “Brotzeit platter” (see the picture in the slideshow below).

Once we were finished with lunch it was a calm walk back to the lift where Rob told me later he had almost fallen asleep on the lift chair, which would have been a problem had he done so, as on arrival the chair splits in half and goes around you. this is the only lift anywhere that does this. It is strange until you are used to it but for older people, it’s better than the normal jump and run to exit, chairs! 

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 HF transceiver.
  • New gardening kneeling pad.
  • Lambdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Decathlon push in mast base mount.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • SOTAbeams end-fed antenna (not used)
  • Komunica Power HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T loaded vertical and tripod (not used).
  • LiHV 4AH battery (not used).
  • LifePO4 4AH battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • The visibility of the smartphone screen is becoming a problem as the activations start happening in bright sunlight.
  • Making changes to software settings on the phone and not testing fully before going out is a BAD idea!
  • The repaired linked-dipole antenna works fine on 20 & 40m and with the new winders is easier to pack up at the end of an activation.
  • The kneeling pad worked well to sit on and the fact that it fits exactly into the inside of the rucksack means it will be a “keeper”.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 3rd 2022 – HEMA – DL/HCG-005 & SOTA DL/CG-094 Ratzinger Höhe.

Preparation:

Having activated a SOTA summit last time and a GMA one before that, it was time to get to activate a HEMA summit again. I looked on the map for the next one that I haven’t yet activated and came up with Ratzinger Höhe which overlooks Chiemsee in the east of Bavaria. I was looking for a summit to the east of Munich so that I could activate with Rob DM1CM and as Rob can only do limited climbing this summit looked ideal. The downside was that it wasn’t very close, taking between 90 and 120 minutes to get there depending upon the time of day as I have to drive around Munich, where the traffic can be horrendous at times. As I wanted to start off the activation with a contact with Ernie VK3DET, down in Australia, I would need to be operational by 0700 UTC going by previous experiences. Unfortunately, the radio conditions on the days coming up to the planned Friday were not good and so this might be a case of only European contacts to qualify the summit, which would be my first summit in the DL/HCG region of HEMA and the first time that it had been activated in HEMA at all.

I still need to test out my vertical Moxon antenna on 15m, but with the band conditions the way they were, I was not hopeful however I would take it along in case things were good and the MUF was over 21 MHz.

When looking at the map to find parking and access tracks, I realised that this was also a SOTA summit – this is another case of a sub 150m prominence (actually 136m) being in the p150m SOTA region for historical reasons. As Rob prefers to activate SOTA summits, this would fit well. I would also activate the summit in SOTA after I had finished my HEMA activation as I have not been to this summit before, let alone activated it.

There is also a Gasthaus “Weingarten” (a small hotel with a restaurant open to the public) close by so that would fit very well as a way to round off the activation before heading back home. 

Given the long drive and possibility of unexpected delays, I planned to set off by 06:45 am local time, which meant rising at 05:30, so the plan was to load everything into the car the previous evening so that I could get away with the minimum delay and noise in the morning.

The Activation

The drive took 95 minutes so a good run and the “wanderparkplatz” was easy to find. On arriving, Rob had arrived before me, so at this point, I decided what equipment I would carry up the last part of the hill. The parking spot is actually well within the activation zone, so one could activate from the field by the car parking spot and hence come back easily to the cars for any extra needed equipment. There was also a port-a-loo here should it be needed, not something you expect in a country walkers car park. I decided however to leave the 15m Moxon and also the large tripod and 10 metre mast in the car as I thought band conditions would not be suitable for 15 metres. I later found out that assumption to be true, however, had I been able to arrive 30 minutes earlier, the 15m band was actually open for DX.

In any case, my decision was to take my usual rucksack and equipment (radio, 6-metre mast, screw-in base, etc) and set up with the linked dipole running north-south with the hope of managing a contact on 20 and perhaps 17m into VK.

On walking up the hill through the house and farm shown on the map as “Berg” we passed a small path off to a couple of seats at a lookout spot but continued on to where the coordinates say the real summit it. This was somewhat of a surprise as a bee-keepers club have put their hives and a meeting hut on this spot and several bees were busy leaving and returning to the hives across the public right-of-way. This was obviously not going to be suitable for our activation and so we decided to head back down the road to the first lookout point which indeed carried the Ratzinger Höhe name sign. The lookout spot has two benches under some trees opened out into a relatively flat field and while Rob set up his equipment close to the trees with his small tripod and Komunica Power HF-PRO2-PLUS-T multi-band loaded vertical, I moved further into the field and set up the mast and linked dipole. At this point, I contacted Mike 2E0YYY/P in the UK and Ernie VK3DET in Australia via the Signal App that we use as our “back channel”. I had agreed with Rob that I would start on 20m and he would start on 40 metres and then we would switch. One interesting fact from this activation was that although we were only about 20 metres away from each other neither of us caused the other any interference when using the 20 & 40m bands.

After several tries, I was unable to hear Ernie in VK3 but I did make a contact with Mike who was using the special 2Q0YYY call sign for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. As Mike was willing, I then suggested we try 17 or 15 metres – both bands were unfortunately dead however and trying to operate on 15m while Rob was transmitting on 40 metres was impossible as he wiped out the whole band. So another point learnt, the second harmonic of a 40m signal on 20m is not a problem however the third harmonic on 15 metres certainly is!

After working Mike on 20m, I also worked another three stations on 20 metres under the HEMA activation. Rob, who had been activating the summit under its SOTA number on 40 metres then agreed to switch to 20m so that I could get some HEMA chasers who were waiting for me on 40m. After working another 5 stations under the HEMA summit code, I then switched to using the SOTA code and went on to work 14 SOTA chasers on 40m.

After things slowed down, Rob and I agreed to call it a day. It had been quite hot in the sunshine and a nice cold beer was calling from the Gasthaus not far away!

After packing up and bringing everything back to the cars, it was a 2-minute drive to the restaurant, where they hadn’t yet started serving food but cold Weißbier was certainly available. The service was friendly and our waitress understood a lot of English. We were sat in the garden area with a wonderful view into the valley and out to the lake Chiemsee. The food was good quality Bavarian fair and it was a nice way to complete the morning’s radio activities before setting off home. the journey back took longer with delays on the Mittlerer Ring around Munich but after two hours I was back home just before the rains started. 

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

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

Logs:

HEMA 

 

SOTA 

 

Conclusions:

  • This is a nice (easy) summit with space to test antennas but it is too far to drive to catch the long path DX window into Australia.
  • The two G90s worked remarkedly well close together on 20 & 40 metres (but not on 40 and 15m).
  • The difference between the HF-PRO2 on a small tripod and the linked dipole on a 5-6 metre mast is not as great as I would have expected. We both covered Europe and into the UK.
  • We both used Eremit 4Ah LifePO4 batteries and had no problems with them.
  • The ability to compare similar sets of equipment is very useful when the operation takes place around the same time and from the same location.

73 ’til the next summit.