DL20SOTA/P – May 5th 2022 – DL/AL-179 Weichberg & DL/AL-169 Auerberg.

Preparation:

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 Activation

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.

 Photos:

       DL/AL-179 Weichberg

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

     DL/AL-169 Auerberg

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • 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).

Logs:

     DL/AL-179 Weichberg

     DL/AL-169 Auerberg

Contact maps from Sotamaps:

From Weichberg:

From Auerberg:

Conclusions:

  • 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.

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – April 28th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HAM-015 & SOTA DL/AM-156 Schneidberg.

Preparation:

As conditions between EU and VK are so good at the moment, I decided to head out early to another summit and try out 17m as well as 20 & 40m (possibly even 15m).

As explained last time HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.  Schneidberg is another such summit with a prominence of 103m.

With the long path window to VK, starting earlier and earlier, this would be an early start, getting up at 5:30 am to be on the summit by 8:30 am.  

The plan was to activate the summit as a HEMA summit for 30 minutes and then switch to SOTA. Alongside this, as this would be a Thursday morning we would try to get the “Comms Testers” net together. This consists of Mike 2E0YYY in the UK and Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD (both in Victoria, Australia) and myself in Germany. Mike also said he would go out portable to add to the fun.

I would again stick with the now tried and true configuration of my Xiegu G90 radio and linked dipole antenna on the 6m mast with everything fitting into or onto the medium-sized (40L) rucksack.

The Activation

The weather warnings were for frost however a bigger problem was fog which slowed the drive and caused me to miss a turn near the end of the trip, causing me to lose time. Despite that and the long walk from where I park the car, up to the summit, I did manage to be there, with all equipment set up by 08:15 am local time (06:15 UTC).

The activation did not start well. It’s not just the continental operators who need to go back to radio school one Welsh station forced his way onto a 20m frequency I had been on for 10 minutes and was in a QSO with Ernie VK3DET on. He could hear me telling him the frequency was in use and deliberately kept calling CQ over the top of Ernie and me. This is unacceptable behaviour and had the attitude of I have a 1KW amplifier and a big beam so you can go away and find a different frequency. What was really silly was after two contacts, he decided to go for his breakfast at which time Ernie was already on a different frequency. 

Putting that behind us, on the new frequency, I managed contacts with Ernie, VK3DET, Ian VK3YFD and Mike 2E0YYY/P – so we had the net complete and I had three of the four contacts that I needed to qualify the HEMA summit. Duncan MM5AJN/M on Aberdeen Beach then joined us and I had my needed four contacts. Rather than just continuing on 20m however, we decided to try 17m, so the mast came down and the links came out for 17m and up went the antenna again. Contacts with Ernie and Ian were again reasonably straightforward as they were both putting strong signals into Germany. Try as I may though, I could not get Mike into the log on 17m. Mike was hearing and able to work the guys in VK though, so I left them and went off to find another frequency, spotted myself on the SOTA cluster and see if I could qualify the SOTA summit just with contacts on 17m.

First was Jack from Finland OH3GZ and then with much stronger signals came Ron VK2AFW and Colin VK3GTV, both of whom I have probably not worked for over 5 years – that was a nice surprise.

As no more calls came I went back to the group to find that they were now moving up to try 15m. While I don’t have a “true” 15m link in my dipole I do have some 1 micro-henry plug-in links that should make it possible to use the linked dipole on 15m while it is set to 40m, by substituting both links at the 20m stages with these extra inductances. When I set up my antenna this way, although I could hear some stations on the band, I could hear nothing from Bernie or Ian. I put this down to conditions (apparently the Kp Index had gone up to 4 which can easily suppress the MUF). I was wrong, while setting up to go back to 20m, I realised that I had not closed one of the 17m links, so it’s no wonder it didn’t work! I couldn’t ask the guys to go back to 15m again so I left it for another day and we had a short QSO back on 20m again.  

At this point, Mike texted me that a lot of SOTA chasers in the UK were waiting for me on 40m, so I agreed to move to 40m and hope to find a free frequency (something that as it was getting close to 10 am would not be easy). 

My first contact on 40m was an S2S call from special event station TM2IF/P on F/CR-216. I only found out later that this was a special event station in memory of a recently lost to Cancer and much loved Spanish SOTA activator, Guru EA2IF. I wish I had realised it at the time. Congratulations to Alain F5ODQ for organising the special call sign and I hope that through its use we will all be reminded about all the good things that Guru did for the hobby before he was taken, far too young, from us. 

I then continued to work three more stations on 40m but although I could hear Mike 2E0YYY/P, he could not hear me. The reason became apparent when I was packing up the station. I had managed this time to leave one of the 20m links open when moving to 40m, so the antenna was one half 40m quarter-wave and one half eighth wave, no wonder it was not working well! The ATU in the G90 matches just about anything, so I didn’t notice a horrible SWR which would have been apparent if I had been using a radio without an inbuilt ATU. 

At 10:10 am local time, I packed up and headed back down to the car as with the winds increasing, the temperature had been dropping with the wind-chill factor taking the temperature back down towards zero centigrade.

 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).
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Logs:

HEMA 

SOTA 

Conclusions:

  • The weather got colder as time went on, due to the cold winds increasing.
  • The main purpose of the activation – was to try out 17m and indeed that went well, even though 20 & 40m were fraught with QRM and idiots. 17m does seem to be a better band to use for DX communications when open.
  • I had two times when I accidentally left one of the links in the dipole open when it should have been closed. I need to find some way to be able to see this from the ground as the radio matches into anything when asked and hence the usual “bad VSWR” that would tip me off to a problem is hidden.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P & DL20SOTA – April 23rd 2022 – HEMA – DL/HCN-004 & SOTA DL/AM-180 – Berndorfer Buchet (for EU-NA S2S & First HEMA DL-G H2H).

Preparation:

Because of weather worries, I decided to head back to Berndorfer Buchet which is a current SOTA and a current HEMA summit.

As explained last time HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.  Berndorfer Buchet is one such summit with a prominence of 135m.

The reason for the activation initially was to take part in a long-planned Europe to North America, Summit-to-Summit activity day. It seems the date of 23rd of April was a favourite for others as well and coincidentally this is also International Marconi Day, where many special event stations on both sides of the Atlantic are expected to be on the air. As this year marks 20 years of the SOTA award scheme, the SOTA Baden-Wurttemberg group applied for and got the special DL20SOTA call sign for use during the year. They, however, have a meeting planned for the 23rd and while several US SOTA activators would love to get a Summit-to-Summit contact with the special call sign, I offered to operate their call sign during my already planned activation and this was agreed (I am now a member of SOTA-BW).

This plan was originally based on my going to the DL/AM-060 Laber summit however with the weather forecast saying that heavy rain would start on Laber and surrounding mountains at the time I would be activating, I had to find an alternative. The forecast for Berndorfer Buchet was that there would be no rain (it actually started just as I got back to my car after the activation). So the summit was now to be DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet and I was allocated the DL20SOTA call sign from 2pm local time. I intended to be on the summit at least 30 minutes before that, which meant I could activate the HEMA code for the summit (DL/HCN-004) under my own call sign as a test of equipment prior to starting with the special call. While the DL HEMA association has not as yet had an H2H (Hema to Hema) contact, perhaps that would also be possible.

So I had a lot of things planned in what would be a somewhat more complex action with two call signs and two hill references. 

I would stick with the now tried and true configuration of G90 radio and linked dipole antenna on the 6m mast with everything fitting into or onto the medium-sized (40L) rucksack.

The Activation

The trip to the car parking spot for the summit was uneventful. It took under 30 minutes from my home. On arrival, there were three other cars in the parking spot (normally it’s empty) so I thought I might run into some people during my planned 3-hour stay – I didn’t.

After a determined walk into the forest and up the last part of the summit, I arrived at around 12:45 local (1045 UTC) and started to set up the station. As some of the trees here have been cleared, I thought I would see if I could find the trig-point stone which I found several years ago. I couldn’t – perhaps it has been removed or one of the forestry vehicles has run over it and pushed it into the ground?

I had arranged with Rob G7LAS that I would be looking for a Hema H2H contact before 14:00 local (1200 UTC) when I would be switching to the special event call sign and the SOTA summit reference and I expected to be kept quite busy. I started on 40m expecting that 20m would be too close for a contact to the UK with the skip distance. I planned to start using DL20SOTA/P on 20m at 1200 UTC with the intent of giving some S2S contacts to some North American activators. Unfortunately, Rob was delayed in getting to his summit and it was 1220 UTC before we made the contact. At first, it was not G7LAS calling me but rather Rob’s son Ben 2E0VOO/P. I was somehow able to weave this first H2H contact in between the DL20SOTA activation calls. We made contact easily on 20 metres (that should have told me conditions were short skip and Dx would be difficult).

In HEMA, it is not all points, points, points from summits – indeed unlike SOTA where a summit can have a “value” of between 1 and 10 points, in HEMA all summits are worth just one point and the scale of measurement is how many unique summits you have activated or worked and how many H2H contacts you have made. The very first H2H contact between two associations also wins a certificate, so Ben and I will be getting those.

Once the HEMA related activity was out of the way with six contacts in the HEMA log, I could get back to operating DL20SOTA and giving out the SOTA summit reference.

It was interesting that both on 20m and 40m there were bursts of activity mixed with times where the caller liked to talk a little (which is fine). Those wanting the contact waited patiently until the long call was over and then we were off again, just giving an exchange and moving on to the next caller.

DL20SOTA/P under my control made 70 contacts from around Europe. Of those 10 were unique S2S contacts with another three that were activators sharing a summit with each other. So I could say there were 13 S2S contacts. The one non-European contact was “interesting”. While calling CQ on a 20m frequency that I had been on, for over half an hour, I heard another station calling CQ when I released the microphone. This was VU2DED in India, I pointed out to him that the frequency was in use but I would be happy to give him a QSO with the special event call. We had a reports exchange and then he started calling CQ on my in-use frequency again and European stations started calling him. I decided to leave him the frequency and switch to 40m to see what was happening there.

Overall the equipment worked very well with mostly 59 or 59+ reports and a good flow of callers. It’s a while since I have been able to get the voltage down on one of the two 5Ah LIPO batteries so that the radio closed down but it happened on this activation. 

I would have liked to have achieved a contact with a North American activator but it wasn’t to be. Perhaps this is the wrong time of day for the propagation or simply that it was too early for the US and Canadian hams, most of whom were probably still in bed, depending upon how far west they are located.

With the fact that 20m has been open from  Europe to Australia and New Zealand every morning this week, we should have had the EU-VK S2S event, not the EU-NA one on this day but as these events are planned well in advance we cannot predict what propagation will nor even less what the terrestrial weather will do!

 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) – both batteries used.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Logs:

HEMA (DD5LP/P)

 

SOTA (DL20SOTA/P)

 

Conclusions:

  • The weather was colder than predicted and I was glad I had my thick winter jacket on, I had considered changing to a thinner one but it’s always better to be too warm than too cold.
  • It was complex handling the change-over between HEMA and SOTA and those who called me for both summit codes and call signs were confused. In the end, I hope everything was clear.
  • The main purpose of the activation – S2S contacts with North American stations did not work out. The only North American stations that were spotted were either using 2m FM or 10m CW. As far as I know, no one managed a cross-Atlantic S2S on SSB, perhaps there was one or two on CW (but even that isn’t clear at the time of writing).
  • I was really happy that the equipment worked reliably however the fact that when the voltage gets low on the G90, it turns off is fine but that it also turns the power down to 1W from 20W and turns off the speech compressor surprised me. I’ll know next time.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – April 20th 2022 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Preparation:

As conditions have improved greatly as Solar Cycle 25 “ramps up” several SOTA activators on the SOTA Reflector decided to go out to try for EU to VK contacts (ideally S2S). This was an independent effort, not the “semi-official” VK-EU S2S event, just one or two activators in VK and ZL heading for summits late in their afternoon to try for contacts with activators in Europe and the UK who would be out early in their morning. Contacts were mainly planned to be on 20m as it was expected to be open the whole week (18-22nd of April).

I had time on Wednesday of this week to try from my side and decided to keep things simple by heading to the Peissenberg summit. It has the advantage of not needing a cable car to access the summit. Some Cable cars are stopped for maintenance and while we still have astronomic numbers of new Covid-19 infections at the moment, being couped up inside a cabin with people I do not know, was a risk I decided to avoid.

I looked at the site and decided that I would attempt to put up the linked dipole in a North-South direction so that its side lobes went East-West. Due west is the direction I needed for long path propagation to Australia.

As this is a drive-up summit, I decided to take my surveyors’ tripod and my 10 metre mast. Apart from that the rest of the equipment would remain “standard” with the Xiegu G90 and the SOTABeams linked dipole and a couple of battery packs. All was packed into the car on Tuesday evening for an early 6:30 am (0430 UTC) start on Wednesday morning. 

The Activation

The trip down was uneventful, a route that I know without the need for maps or GPS as I have been there so many times. What I wasn’t sure I would find, however, was how full the car park would be. This is a favourite spot for camper van owners to drive to and stay overnight, to watch sunset and sunrise over the valley. I was glad to see when I arrived, that the car park was empty. I bought my 3 hour, €2 parking ticket and headed to the opposite end of the car park. I would normally aim for somewhere in the middle where there used to be two benches (now only one) so that I could set up the antenna long-ways along the grass field next to the car park and have my station on a bench. That puts the dipole in an east to west direction however and any directivity on 20m would then be north or south – 90° away from what I need for the long path to Australia. For that reason, I had intended to set up at the far end of the car park with the antenna running north to south. When I got there, however, the farmer had fenced off the area of grass that I had planned to use and so I went down into the normal field instead with my large tripod and 10m mast. 

It took about 15 minutes to lay out my groundsheet, unpack everything that was needed from the rucksack and set up the linked dipole on the 10m “travel mast”. As I was adjusting the inverted-V antenna to get the mast more vertical, it did what it has done on several other occasions and collapsed into itself bringing the feed point crashing down and breaking off one of its mounts.

This was of course a setback and I wondered whether to try again with the long mast but as I was already feeling the cold by this point, the chance of going through raising the mast again only to have it collapse again was too much of a risk, so I took the 10m mast out of the tripod support, laid it to the side and put in my backup 6-metre mast instead. While this would not have the antenna so high, it would stay up! Luckily I was about 20 minutes ahead of my plan and so the lost time with the mast collapse did not create timing problems.

 Tuning around 20 metres the band seemed quite quiet as the MUF was still below 14MHz but it didn’t take long until I could check the DX Cluster and then tune and hear the ZL and VK stations. Being portable, away from metro noise, is a real treat. My home location is rural and I can’t think of how bad it must be trying to operate from within a large city but being out portable (even on a cold morning like this one) remains a pleasure with the clarity and strength of incoming signals even with the simplest of antennas.

 After trying to call some of the Oceania stations and being hammered by QRO stations with big beams, I decided to find a free frequency (while there still were some), spotted myself on the SOTAWatch cluster site and started calling CQ. What a surprise – the first caller was Andy ZL1TM from Auckland, New Zealand. I guess my signal was getting out OK on the lower mast then! I also posted my frequency to our “Comms testers” Signal group and Ernie VK3DET was the next in the log. After chatting with Ernie for a few minutes, my next call was an S2S contact with Andrew VK1AD/P on VK1/AC-039 “Yellow Rabbit Hill”. Andy ZL1TM had told me that Andrew VK1AD was on the air and I had told him that unfortunately, I had a large carrier signal from somewhere in Europe exactly on Andrew VK1AD’s frequency and so hadn’t called him. After our QSO Andy went off called Andrew and asked him to come down to my frequency and so we managed the S2S. Thank you, Andy. Thank you, Andrew.  

That wasn’t the end of the DX though, two more contacts (which were a little more difficult as the band was deteriorating) followed with Ian, VK5CZ and Gerard, VK2IO, both of whom I haven’t spoken to in years.

It was interesting that I was not getting any calls from SOTA chasers in European countries. My thought is that as the skip was long, the DX contacts were working well but other stations in Europe were simply not in range of my antenna. After Gerard, Jack OH3GZ from Finland did call me with a true 5-9 signal but after Jack, the band seemed to be really dead. 

Peissenberg is only a one-point summit however I know that SOTA chasers just love to get as many activators in their logs as possible, so I decided to switch from 20 metres to 40 metres and the world was a different place! I worked 37 chasers in 20 minutes. 

During all of this time the temperatures had not been rising, rather the cold breeze was getting stronger and the mist over the valley had only lifted a little (as you will see in the photos below), so it was time to pack up and head home. At least the trip back to the car was only a couple of minutes rather than the 20-30 minutes that is more usual on the summits around here.

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “travel-mast”.
  • Lambdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • 4000 maH LiHV battery (not used)
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • The DX-Wire mast continues to disappoint even though it has behaved for a few activations. The fact that it is designed to be short and relatively light when packed means that it has many short sections with thin walls and that does not make a good strong mast.
  • Even when the temperature is forecast to be a “warm” 4-5°C never underestimate how a small arctic breeze can take that temperature down very quickly.
  • Overall the activation was a big success with an S2S into Australia and contacts into Australia and New Zealand as if they were local. It won’t be long before we get back to 2014 standards and we can bag half a dozen S2S contacts between Europe and Oceania in an activation with just a few watts of SSB and a dipole!

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – March 24th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HAL-037 & SOTA DL/AL-171 – Eisenberg.

Background – Double summit.

Some of you may recognise the name of this summit from my previous reports. Eisenberg is a current SOTA and a current HEMA summit. How can this happen? Well HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.  

Preparation:

This activation was planned to be a little after the normal time for our twice-weekly “Comms Testers net” on 14.242 MHz which normally runs from 0745-0815 UTC on Monday & Thursday mornings, because of the somewhat longer distance to this summit.

Ernie VK3DET had promised to wait until I got on the air and Mike 2E0YYY would listen from the UK and we would use Signal as the “back-channel”.

Eisenberg has popular castle ruins on top of it and in fact, the wooden platform within the ruins is where I always set up. One big advantage to Eisenberg is the mountain restaurant where I would park my car and head there for a beer after completing the activation. It has a great view out over the valley. I avoid this summit on weekends because of the tourists but weekdays are fine (except Monday when the restaurant is closed).

The climb from the restaurant car park to the castle is steep and in winter very slippery. I have needed to fit spikes to get up the ice-covered path in the past but that certainly should not be needed on this activation, with a dry sunny and reasonable warm day forecast.

As usual for early starts, I loaded the car Wednesday evening with all but my food and water so that all would be ready for a 7 am (0600 UTC) start the following morning.

The Activation

I knew there was one part of my route closed (and has been closed now for 6 months while the complete road is renewed for about 5 miles through Seeg – I know the diversion well for this and it adds hardly any time to the trip. What surprised me though was the total closure of the major east-west route including some newly constructed parts of the road on the way to Markt-Obersdorf. It looked like cars were coming through from the other side, so the return journey should be fine (or so I thought). The signposted diversion in fact took me past 4 SOTA summits, all of which I could have easily diverted to but I wanted to activate Eisenberg, so I pressed on. Actually arriving about 20 minutes earlier than I had expected at the restaurant’s car park! I had not been driving any faster than allowed either, while this was the one day in the year that all of the speed traps in Bavaria are set up, especially on the country roads. The police chiefs say this teaches the drivers to slow down but an investigation looking at data from the last 5 years of these actions, carried out by Passau University, found that car drivers ONLY slowed down on this one day and increased speed the following day again. This is purely a money-raising action for the local governments.

On arrival, at the car park, it was still a little chilly but not nearly as cold as it has been over the last few weeks. It looks like we might have spring arriving after all!

The “trudge” up to the castle took the usual about 20 minutes and I found the place deserted. While setting up the antenna and radio, I got an inquiry from Ernie asking how long I was going to be and a few minutes later, he came straight back to my 20m 20w SSB CQ call on our net frequency. We exchanged 53/54 reports and I tried to explain to Ernie that this summit has two codes, one for HEMA and one for SOTA. During my conversation, I noticed what I at first thought was some idiot causing deliberate QRM by playing music on the frequency but later I realised it was over a larger section of the band and I now believe it was the third harmonic of one of the high powered Shortwave broadcast stations that have been re-started to send propaganda into both sites of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Someone at the stations needs to put a spectrum analyser on the transmitter’s output! 

The next surprise was that my radio turned off without warning! Right in the middle of one of my overs with Ernie. I had been running on my 10AH battery box but I also carry a spare supply in the firm of a LiHV battery and when I got that out and connected up, I was working again but with less battery capacity available, so I would not be able to stay as long as I had hoped.

After I had worked Ernie, Mike 2E0YYY kindly spotted me first on HEMA and later on SOTA but today instead of the usual pile of callers, it took a while to gather enough to qualify the summit! Even after switching from 20m to 40m, I was not getting many calls and while Mike reported that I had a “booming signal” into the North of the UK, the only two contacts I made on 40m were into the southwest of England with low signal strengths in both directions. The bands were definitely strange. I thought perhaps there was a break in one of the links in the 40m section of the dipole so I tested it when I got home and it was fine. It was band conditions at the time that I was on that were strange.

My 20m contacts were mainly into Sweden and Finland to the North and Greece and Portugal to the south, suggesting the band was “long”.

In any case after the troubles finding contacts (I ended up with thirteen which is more than enough to qualify the summit but a lot less than I would normally get) and seeing the LiHV battery voltage dropping, I decided it was time to pack up and head back down the hill, arriving at the restaurant a few minutes after they opened and I was able to relax looking out over the valley in the sunshine and drinking a lovely weissbier.

The trip home was not as easy as I had hoped. I headed back using my normal route only to find the main B472 road was indeed completely closed in both directions and the diversion from Markt Oberdorf had obviously been worked out for large trucks as it added over 30 minutes to my journey by avoiding taking me up the small roads that would have reduced the journey time, not only because it would have been a shorter route but also I would have avoided being stuck behind slow-moving trucks, that on this “Speed-trap-day”, had the added danger of a speeding fine while overtaking. 

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Bothy bag (emergency shelter) (not used).
  • 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.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs). (failed)
  • 4000maH LiHV battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and for back-channel comms. 

Logs:

HEMA

SOTA

Conclusions:

  • The weather is getting better – I needed no gloves while operating this time.
  • It was a pleasure to get an immediate contact with Ernie, which probably would not have been possible from home. The lower noise level when operating portable is a great advantage.
  • I checked the dipole when I got home and found no breaks – this must just have been radio conditions or obstructions causing the problems.
  • The failure in the battery box turned out to be a simple broken wire, which must have been breaking over a long time through being plugged and unplugged and over time, breaking a strand at a time and then the final strand not being able to handle the current burning through (picture in the slideshow above).

73 ’til the next summit, be it HEMA or SOTA – or perhaps BOTH again?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – March 14th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HAM-014 & SOTA DL/AM-176 – Rentschen.

Background – Double summit.

Some of you may recognise the name of this summit from my previous reports. Rentschen is a current SOTA and a current HEMA summit. How can this happen? Well HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.  

Preparation:

This activation was planned to coincide with our twice-weekly “Comms Testers net” on 14.242 MHz which runs from 0745-0815 UTC on Monday & Thursday mornings.

This net was formed out of a Signal messenger group and several years of attempts to make contact on SSB between Europe/UK and the state of Victoria in Australia. Those in the group and hence net normally are Ernie VK3DET, Ian VK3YFD, Mike 2E0YYY and myself. This net has only been formally running a couple of weeks as I write this report and it was created as an “attend if you have time” net but to give a point to start from for further communications tests.

Rentschen is a flat plateau with a road running across it, this makes this the ideal summit if multiple pieces need to be carried for testing and this was going to be the case for this activation. While I could have simply taken the same set-up as I had used on the previous two activations, I wanted to test out an antenna that I had built some time ago and because of the Covid pandemic had not been able to give a proper test on a summit. Now was my chance. the weather would not be as cold as it had been, no rain was forecast and so the 20m VP2E antenna (description here) would get its test on this activation. I was particularly interested as to whether what looks like a double-sized off-centre fed dipole would give the promised gain in the direction that I set it up in (pointing via the long path to Australia).

To support the VP2E only one of my 6m fibreglass poles would be needed however, I decided to take the architect’s tripod and my 10m mast along as well. I might put up both the linked dipole and the VP2E for comparisons in the EU-VK path. The 6-metre fibreglass mast would use the sun umbrella screw-in base as its support.

As usual for early starts, I loaded the car Sunday evening with all but my food and water so that all would be ready for a 7 am (0600 UTC) start the following morning.

The Activation

Although Google Maps suggested accessing Rentschen from the north, rather than through Wildsteig to the south would be almost 10 minutes quicker, after looking at a satellite image of the suggested route and seeing that it was a mud track rather than a normal road, I decided to take my normal approach route. I had enough time in any case.

The trip to the car parking spot for the summit took around 45 minutes from my home as there was limited traffic.

On arrival, it was not particularly warm and I was happy to have put my Parka on! I did a quick check of my usual set-up spot to find that the farmer had churned it up with his tractor recently, so I took a spot at the other side of the small track that runs from the road to the trig point.

I decided to initially set up the VP2E antenna as it was the one I wanted to test. Once that was up, I would go back to the car and bring the tripos and 10m mast for the linked dipole.

As I put down my painter’s sheet that I use on the ground, I received a message from Ernie and Ian, saying that they had a major thunderstorm coming through and they would have to disconnect all antennas and certainly would not be able to listen for me until the storms passed. Oh well “best-laid plans” and all that. There will be another opportunity I am sure.

I decided that as I had almost completed installing the VP2E antenna, I would continue to activate the summit with that antenna and Mike 2E0YYY would listen for me from the UK. The 20m band started long and then went short skip later but for the first hour or so, I could hear ZL1, VK2, VK5 & VK6 stations at or near S9 signal strength. Unfortunately, they were either in nets, calling an EU (usually EA) station or the pile-up to call them was horrendous!

Mike kindly spotted me on the DX Cluster and the HEMA website but to little avail. Eventually, as I was considering pulling the antenna down and putting up the dipole Lars SA4BLM called me and then after tuning around, I found Keith LZ4DJ who I had worked the previous Monday from the Berndorfer Buchet summit. After this, however, despite searching and calling, I was not getting any contacts on 20m. The band had closed it seems. Mike suggested I try 40m as he was sure there would be HEMA and SOTA chasers looking for me there. I was then faced with taking down one antenna and putting the linked dipole up on the same mast or going back to the car and bringing the tripod and 10m mast. Both options were not very inviting as with an icy cold breeze, the summit was not very warm.

Knowing that the G90 has an internal matching unit that could match the proverbial piece of wet string, I decided to try the 20m VP2E on 40m. The result? Receive is fine but transmit is terrible as regards putting a signal out. Despite that 10 SOTA/HEMA chasers worked hard and I got them into the log.

Lots of lessons were learnt from this activation, despite having to change plans around.

 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.
  • VP2E 20m antenna.
  • Surveyors tripod with 10m mast (not used).
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and for back-channel comms. 

Logs:

HEMA

SOTA

Conclusions:

  • The weather although bright was not as warm as it looked!
  • It was a shame that Ernie & Ian could not make the Net, but safety first and trying to work DX with a storm around you is not only dangerous but also quite futile with all the electrical noise that a storm produces.
  • I need to put the VP2E 20m antenna up in the garden and check that it has not gone off-resonance since it was built.
  • The plastic (one-use) medical gloves that I took with me do not keep the hands warm enough. The cloth version is better for this but the plastic ones allowed me to use the smartphone’s touch screen where the cloth ones do not.
  • SURPRISE! – I hadn’t realised but until the end of March, Rentschen gets 3 winter bonus points in the SOTA award scheme.

73 ’til the next summit, be it HEMA or SOTA – or perhaps BOTH again?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – March 12th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HCN-015 & SOTA DL/BE-094 – Irschenhausen.

Background – Double summit.

Some of you may recognise the name of this summit from my previous reports. Irschenhausen is a current SOTA and a current HEMA summit. How can this happen? Well HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.  

Preparation:

This activation was planned to coincide with Rob G7LAS being on a HEMA summit in England so that we could make the first H2H contact between DL and G HEMA associations. Luckily unlike other activations, this was aiming for a contact at a respectable time of 1 pm local (1200 UTC).

I originally had chosen a different summit however as this looked like being a sunny day and was a Saturday, I decided to avoid any place with lots of people. With the new COVID infections figure the day before the activation over 260,000 in Germany the risk of catching COVID despite the fact that I am fully vaccinated was simply too high.

As I activate Irschenhausen once a year for SOTA  I know the summit well and chose that as my summit while it is a deserted, safe summit.

The equipment to be used would be the same as used the previous week as I used for Berndorfer Buchet. Irschenhausen, like Berndorfer Buchet, is a forested summit with a 15-20 minute walk-in, so just one rucksack with the 6-metre fibreglass mast and the sun umbrella screw-in base.

The weather promised to be better and by noon, it should be warm enough, but I decided to cover my options with a thin and thick jacket that I could choose from when leaving the car.

The Activation

The trip to the car parking spot for the summit took around 45 minutes from my home as there was limited traffic. In contrast, the return trip took a full hour.

On arrival, it was indeed warm enough to go with the thin jacket and I loaded up ready for the walk. At this point, a farmer came by with his tractor and a log trailer. This didn’t sound any bells for me, however, it seems the local farmers were taking advantage of the improved weather to get their trees felled and transported. I set off up my well-known route through the forest but as I arrived up the last small track to the summit, it was blocked by another tractor. At first, I thought this was strange but could not see anyone nearby, so I pushed through the brush and up to the summit. It wasn’t long before I heard a chain saw in use though. This farmer had decided today was a good day to harvest the trees of the summit! 

This was not going to be a good area to set up my station with the possibility of having a tree dropped on me!

Luckily, there are plenty of other areas that are in the activation zone and soon, I found an alternative spot, closer to the main track that was well in the AZ. I even found a marker stone there – at first I wondered if this could be the summits trig-point stone but I think it was simply marking the border between two parts of the forest.

Despite the changed location, I was still in good time for my 1200 UTC sked and had my linked dipole set up on 40m and the station was ready to go in about 15 minutes. It’s so much easier when doing this in plus rather than minutes 10°C! Following a recent CME hit to the ionosphere, 40m was very noisy and I started to wonder if the contact into the UK was going to be possible. As I was early, I decided to simply put out a CQ and ended up with two quite long rag-chews with some Austrian and German hams. As this summit is in both the SOTA and HEMA schemes I was watching both spotting pages from my phone and when I saw Rudi OE7RDI who was visiting Germany on a SOTA summit, not more than 15 minutes drive away from me, I gave him a call and we had my first S2S contact of the day. This was difficult though with 52 / 53 reports exchanged – an indication of how bad the band was.

Karl 2E0FEH was next in the log, responding to my “CQ HEMA” call, but again, I only got a 33 report from him. At this point, it was 1200 UTC and I had not seen any spot from Rob, so I sent him a message via the Internet to which I got a surprising response! He had got to his summit and the field where the summit is was filled with a herd of bulls! There was no alternate location in his case and so the planned H2H could not take place. He was going to go to another summit but it would take longer than I was able to wait, so that first H2H between DL and G in HEMA will have to wait for another day.

After 1200 UTC, the band quickly improved and rather than packing up, I decided to go SOTA S2S hunting and worked a row of other SOTA activators on their frequencies around 40m. At the end of the day, I was to have ten S2S contacts in the log. While skipping between calling the other activators, I called for both HEMA and then later SOTA chasers – spotting myself in the appropriate systems to give the chasers a chance to get a contact with this summit. I had a total of 34 contacts from the summit. 

One could also say I had an eyeball QSO as well. While in conversation with another ham with my headphones on, I suddenly felt something next to me and it was a young medium-sized dog who had come over from the main track to see what I was doing! I looked around and there was a large family group walking down the main track, so I sent their dog back to them and then tried to explain to the other ham why I hadn’t come back to his last over!

 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).
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and for back-channel comms. 

Logs:

HEMA

SOTA

Conclusions:

  • The weather was lovely for a change.
  • It was a shame that Rob and I could not make the H2H as the time is running out for this first H2H contact as it has to be done in the first year of the new association and the DL association started in April 2021.
  • Once again with the equipment – everything worked as it should including the Xiegu G90 radio which continues to perform well, despite mediocre conditions on 40m at the start of the activation.

73 ’til the next summit, be it HEMA or SOTA – or perhaps BOTH again?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – March 7th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HCN-004 & SOTA DL/AM-180 – Berndorfer Buchet.

Background – Double summit.

Some of you may recognise the name of this summit from my previous reports. Berndorfer Buchet is a current SOTA and a current HEMA summit. How can this happen? Well HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.  

Preparation:

This activation would be the first activation of a summit in the HEMA Southern Bavaria Central region and I wanted to get out to see what conditions were like portable into VK, early morning (around 0800 UTC). While a group of us had been making contact from home around this time, I seemed to be getting a far better report from Ernie VK3DET, than I was giving him. I have checked antennas and equipment and we are both running about the same power level. Ernie has a 3 element beam and I am only using a wire sky-loop antenna but none of this really explained the difference. I had also looked into whether the use of different antenna types, could cause the angle of incidence to the Ionosphere to be different and hence change the skip distance and coverage area at each end. Perhaps man-made noise levels could be the cause? The portable operation would be another research action. If I were to be able to work Ernie, this would be with an even simpler dipole antenna not far off the ground sending signals to Ernie’s 20m Yagi beam.

The weather had been extremely cold of late and was staying that way, so the early start needed for the radio window to Australia would be a test of my fortitude as well as a test for the equipment!

As usual, I packed the one rucksack full of equipment into the back of the car the night before the activation, so I could get an early start.

The Activation

The trip to the car parking spot for the summit was uneventful. It took around 35 minutes from my home.

On arrival, I could see that a lot of tree-felling had been done and the logs were pilled up ready for collection. Unfortunately, the track that I walked up to the summit was quite a mess, hopefully, the forestry people will repair it after they take the wood out. I had packed my screw-in sun-umbrella base on the side of the rucksack and this was the first thing to be unpacked on the summit. I screwed it into the same old tree trunk remains that I have used for the last five years. Next was the 6-metre fibreglass mast and linked dipole, with the links set for 20m as I had planned to only operate on 20m so that I would not need to be on the summit longer than needed.

Sending a quick note via the Signal app, which serves as our “back-channel” when we test, Ernie was there straight away in response to my CQ call. We exchanged 58 / 56 reports for this 24,000 km / 15,000 mile SSB contact via long path.  The 13 dB difference in power levels (I was using 20w, Ernie 400w) matches the 2-S point difference in reported signals. So this seems to confirm the point about the received noise level causing the imbalance in reports from the home location. After Ernie, I worked Keith, an ex-Pat Brit living in Bulgaria with the call LZ4DJ and Christos SV2OXS from Greece. Although spotted on the HEMA & DX Clusters I received no calls from the UK and Mike 2E0YYY using the Hack Green SDR could not hear me at all. The 20m band was obviously “running long” as normally I would get calls from the UK. I hadn’t planned to, but as I was still missing one contact to qualify the summit, I took the antenna down and switched the links to 40m where I bagged another three contacts reasonably easily.

The over-bearing problem on this activation was not the equipment, nor the propagation but rather the weather. When I decided to go QRT at 0900 UTC it was still minus 3 degrees centigrade and there was an icy wind starting. In these conditions, the best action is to close down and head back to the car, which I did.

 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).
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Logs:

HEMA

SOTA

 

Conclusions:

  • The weather was on the borderline of dangerously cold and if this hadn’t been a summit that I know well, I may well have cancelled. Learning – know your limits and be prepared to shut down and go home earlier than planned.
  • It does seem that the reason that I can not give Ernie as good a report at my home station as he gives me, is the local noise level. Ernie is out on a farm where I live in a modern village. So electrical QRM is likely to get worse rather than better!
  • I was really happy with the contact with Ernie VK3DET – it just shows what a portable location can provide if you are there at the right time, even with low power.
  • No comments on the equipment – everything worked as it should including the Xiegu G90 radio which continues to perform well, especially on receive.

73 ’til the next summit, be it HEMA or SOTA – or perhaps BOTH again?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – December 20th 2021 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Preparation:

As I hadn’t activated a summit recently, the radio conditions appear to be getting better and the threat of new COVID lockdowns is getting ever closer. I decided to activate one of my closest and simplest to get to summits – Piessenberg. I have already activated Peissenberg this year and hence won’t give me any additional activator points, not even winter bonus points, but for a quick activation it is a drive-up summit, and it’s a summit that I can get to early in the morning (to take advantage of Greyline or Long Path contacts into ZL/VK).

I decided to take the reliable Xiegu G90 and linked dipole combination but with the 10m mast and the surveyors tripod to support it (of course, other options would be along in the car “just in case” there were any problems). The car was loaded the night before to allow an early departure, the plan was to be on the summit and operational by 0800 UTC or 9 am local time – which was around the time that the 20m-band has been opening to VK recently. The weather was another factor. This is winter in southern Bavaria and Monday was to be the warmest day of the week, with temperatures getting as HIGH as zero degrees! Between minus 9 and minus 6 was forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The Activation

The trip down took nearer to 50 minutes rather than the expected 35 minutes, due to being stuck in a queue of traffic following a slow truck with a trailer which refused to travel at more than 60 km/h on the country roads where 100 is allowed. Peissenberg was reached therefore at 8 am (0700 UTC) and the first surprise was new signs in the previously free car park, stating that it is now privately owned (but still not very well maintained) and hence costs money to use. I paid my €2 for 3 hours although others who came and left seemed to ignore the signs and machine completely, so I don’t know how often it is checked, most likely at this time of year not at all but I did the right thing and paid.

Once I had parked, it’s only a few metres to the benches where I set up. The tripod, I set up with the 10m mast and linked dipole, I thought quite close but a couple of steps further and the coax wouldn’t have reached (it did, just). 

Ernie VK3DET in Victoria Australia had agreed to listen for me and Mike 2E0YYY/P had headed out to a HEMA Summit in the UK, so we had a group of three of us. As it was too early for 20m to be open, I started on 40m and after a little tuning around, I found Ron ZL4RMF calling CQ from the south island of New Zealand not getting any replies. So I called him – hang on, no output – Oh dear, what is going on? Well, I have been testing using my Bluetooth headset and for that to work, the microphone audio has to be switched to the line input connector on the ACC socket. I had forgotten to switch it back. After a few attempts, I remembered what I had to press to get to the menu setting to change it back and then everything was fine again. By this time others had found Ron and were calling him. I threw my call in to have a try and Ivan (sorry I can’t remember his call, from Russia, said to Ron when he had finished his contact – there’s a portable station in Germany calling you – please take a listen for him (thanks to Ivan – that was very thoughtful and kind of you). So my first entry in the log was a 5 & 6 contact with New Zealand and a few words with Ron, who I hadn’t spoken to for a while. After working Ron, I realised the speech compressor had not been turned on (another change due to the BT headset tests) and I know that makes a difference, so I turned it on for the rest of the contacts.  

I now found a free frequency and put out some CQ calls and was surprised to get calls back without even spotting myself. Mike had, had a delay as his antenna was reporting a bad VSWR reading on 40m and indeed when I did get to work him, he wasn’t as loud as usual. That could have been conditions but other UK stations were strong, so I think Mike must have had a bad contact in the antenna somewhere. Once we all switched to 20m, Mike was not so strong to start with plus he had S9 QRM across the whole of the 20m-band (we believe this could be from a timer/light level switched floodlight on a nearby building at Mow Cop as all interference disappeared later). As the band changed, Mike was so strong that there was no background noise when he spoke and the S-Meter was up around 10 dB over nine. He was like a local 2m FM station. Later again, he dropped to just above the noise within 30 seconds but this was radio conditions changing, not a faulty antenna. The 20m-Band was really variable during this period. I never managed to hear Ernie VK3DET although we tried several times. I did hear VK3XAT at about 3-3 at one point but he could not hear me. I think the extra “hop” needed on the long-path route for a VK signal to get to me rather than to the UK makes a lot of difference to the signal strength.

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “mini-mast”.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • 4000 maH LiHV battery
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • Overall a successful activation with lots of good reports for the G90 – Linked dipole combination.
  • Greyline propagation into ZL is a reliable thing, especially when other hams help you get through the pile-up.
  • The equipment, even the smartphone, needs me to operate without gloves on far too often. In winter this is a risk as when operating alone, simply packing the gear away can be difficult with hands going purple with cold.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – October 20th 2021 – DL/AM-156 Schneidberg.

Preparation:

Schneidberg (the SOTA one, not the HEMA Schnaidberg one) is a summit that is not too far away from home but I haven’t activated it for some time. The last time I went there it required fighting through the forest as the direct track had a gate on it and there were bulls in the field! This also requires a long walk from the nearest car parking spot, so a lot of time can be consumed for just 2 points. The days before this activation the bands had been great with openings to Australia, New Zealand and the Americas every morning. I wasn’t to know it but the conditions were about to take a dive, just as I could get out to a summit! In any case, based on what I thought would be good conditions, the radio kit was to include the good old linked dipole (albeit modified to cover 17 metres in place of 30 metres) which would also require at least the 6-metre LambdaHalbe Mast and a support – the screw-in sun umbrella base. The backpack was going to be heavy, so I looked at what I might possibly remove and the battery box, which contains two 5000 mAh 4S LIPO batteries and the electronics to reduce their 16.5v down to 13v came to mind as I now have my 4000 mAh LiHV 3S battery which is smaller, lighter and needs no voltage reduction circuit electronics. I had used this on my last activation, so now it was time to rely on it on its own. I also removed my SOTABeams end-fed wire, which while not very heavy did take up some space. Then I considered removing the HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T and its mini-tripod, all of which fits inside the rucksack and I decided not to as, without it, I would have no backup should anything happen to the linked dipole. A good decision as it turned out …

The removed items were put in a second rucksack which would travel in the car but not be taken to the summit unless something unforeseen were to happen. As I wished to hopefully take advantage of the morning grey-line propagation for some contacts into ZL, I would need an early rise and early start, so the car was loaded the night before, with just pack-up and water to be added to the rucksack on the day of the activation.

The Activation

I was awake before the alarm went off and on the road by 6:45 am local time (0445 UTC). On getting to the spot that I wanted to park at about an hour later, I double-checked that all that I intended taking was in my rucksack and the long walk started.

On walking up to where the gate had been closed a couple of years ago, I found it had gone, gateposts and everything. The reason appears to be that the small hut at the higher end of this field is being renovated – most likely to make a summer rental property. It looks like they have just put a new metal roof on it, but with all the wooden scaffolding still around it, the work looks like it’s far from finished.

Going up the track to the small house and then past it, I found the highest area before the forest where there is a plateau of sorts. This area is definitely within the activation zone and walking another km to increase my height by 15 vertical metres and be in the middle of the forest was not an attractive option. At this point, I found that the forestry commission has put in a new track through the forest just behind the flat grassy area – this is not marked on any maps yet as far as I can see, so it is very new.

Anyway, time to set up and see what I can hear…

As I was hoping for ZL/VK and Ian VK3YFD had kindly offered to listen for me, I decided the best chance would be with the linked-dipole on the 6-metre mast, so up it went and as it was still possible that contacts via Greyline could be possible I started on 40m. I even head Ron ZL4RMF, not as strong as usual but there at least. I tried a call – no response (not a surprise with the other mega kW stations calling him at the same time, but sometimes he picks me out of the pile). Ian told me that he couldn’t hear me on 40m, no surprise there, 20m is usually better with the gain of his beam and the long-path propagation. It was still a bit early though and the MUF was still under 14 MHz so I decided to spot myself on the SOTA cluster, put out a CQ and see what I could get in the log so that the summit would be qualified. The first station who came back to my call was Klaus DL6MST and while we made the contact, his report for me was not what I expected initially at 3-1 and then at best 5-2 where I was getting him 5-9. This was worrying. I checked for anything obvious on the coax connection to the rig (this had broken a couple of months ago, but that wasn’t the problem. I tried a few more calls and got no response – even with a bad 40m band, I normally get a small pile-up. Eventually, I made another contact, Eric F5LMH. By this time I had set up the backup antenna, the HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T on its little tripod and so could switch between the two antennas. Eric reported at least a 2 S-point better signal from the far lower loaded vertical to the inverted-V dipole. That is the opposite way round of what I would have expected. There is really something wrong with the linked dipole. 

Time had marched on and so I decided to switch to 20 metres, initially with the loaded vertical and tried an arranged call with Ian VK3YFD. He could not hear me but I could hear him “Just”. I then had a thought, perhaps the problem on the dipole was only on 40 metres, so down came the mast to unlink both 20m links and …. one was ALREADY UNLINKED! No wonder the antenna wasn’t working as it normally does – it was set to 20m on one side and 40m on the other. This would have caused a bad SWR with my old X108G rig but as the G90 has an auto-ATU in it, it had matched the rig to the faulty antenna and hence I had a 1.3:1 VSWR showing – about normal. 

I took out the remaining 20m link and put the mast back up to full height and asked Ian to call again. Now I could hear Ian on both antennas (but he could not hear me on either) – that was just bad radio conditions and it’s great that Ian stayed around to try. If anything he was a little stronger on the vertical than on the (operating correctly on 20m) linked dipole. This was a surprise but often it is said that a vertical is a better DX antenna because of its lower angle of radiation. I’ll have to compare the antennas again once I get out when the conditions are better.

 I then completed four 20m QSOs in quick succession with 59 exchanges both ways. Although there was little on the band, I was getting out. The activation finished with a contact into Portugal with CT1DIZ 55 both ways and then it was time to pack up and head back down to the car as I was getting cold. The sun came out as I was halfway back to the car – typical!

Even when conditions are bad (as confirmed by several others on the day), you can learn from an activation. In this case, it’s perhaps to set up the radio without the ATU engaged first to check the antenna and only turn it on when needed. After all, an ATU in a rig connecting to an antenna via a length of coax will NEVER actually TUNE an antenna, it can only match the antenna. Directly connected antennas, like end-feds you can say the ATU in a radio tunes the antenna if it connects directly to the radio.

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical, photo tripod and radials.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (modified for 17m).
  • LambdaHalbe 6-metre travel pole.
  • Sun umbrella screw-in base.
  • 4000 mAh LiHV battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • LG Smartphone for spotting.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • Happily, the problem on the dipole was a simple error in physical configuration however it still needs to be tried on 17 metres.
  • The Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T was great to have as a backup and got good reports. Once I have worked VK or ZL reliably using it I can remove the extra weight of the linked dipole and mast.
  • The LiHV battery worked again without issues and while it is a lot lighter and smaller than the battery box except on long activations I will most likely rely on this battery from now on.
  • You can never rely on good radio conditions staying long enough to get out and make DX contacts. You need to be lucky.

73 ’til the next summit.