DD5LP/P – April 12th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HAM-002 Rösenau Kreuz.

Preparation:

The weather had been very changeable – not uncommon for April but the radio propagation had also been very noisy with the K Index peaking over 6! When the opportunity came for a day out in the sunshine with good radio conditions, I decided to jump at the chance.

I decided to activate my closest summit, as I have not activated it this year as yet. My hope was for a nice warm and sunny morning with contacts around Europe and some DX. The standard equipment would be used – the Xiegu G90, 6m mast and SOTABeams linked dipole, which I have added a link into, to allow it to operate on 17m.

As the summit is a 20-25 minute drive from home my rucksack was prepared and with the mast and the screw-in sun umbrella base, left ready to pick up on Tuesday morning with an around 8 am local time (0600 UTC) planned.

The Activation

The trip to the car parking spot for the summit was uneventful. The walk up to the summit area as well, so by 06:45 UTC (8:45 am local). I was set up and ready to try for contacts on 20m. I was a little earlier than I had told Ernie VK3DET, so I sent him a message via the Signal messenger and when I got no reply decided to tune around. At which point I heard Dave VK5MRD in Adelaide South Australia, booming in and called and had a nice short conversation with him. The band was well open as I was also hearing VK4 and VK2 stations, unfortunately, others in Europe and the US were also hearing them and I had little chance to contact them. At this point, I got a reply from Ernie, who was heading for his radio shack. After searching to find a clear frequency at both ends we eventually managed an easy contact and we decided to try 17 metres as well. Mike 2E0YYY was also monitoring via the hack green WebSDR. Mike could hear Ernie but not me on 20m, which is the usual situation when the skip is long. He could hear neither of us when we went to 17m and indeed we also had some difficulties but managed a basic exchange with Ernie being 5-3 with me and I, 4-3 with him. After we finished on 17 metres I checked the band and there were NO other SSB stations audible on the band, so I think we were very lucky with the timing of our contact! I’m happy that the new link for 17 metres in the dipole works fine and Ernie is looking forward to when he will have his log-periodic beam up again (this contact was made using his 20m beam). 

Mike then suggested I try 40 metres to give some HEMA chasers a chance at this rare summit. Mike reported he was hearing me very strong on 40m into the UK however I hit the problem that is becoming more and more common in Europe these days. The band was full end-to-end with signals, many of them splattering over large sections of the band. Once I found a free frequency there was no guarantee that I would be able to keep it with stations simply starting up on top of other stations without listening first. I managed one Swedish, one German and one Italian contact on 40 metres, all of whom were booming 59++ signals but others had no chance of getting through. I am fairly sure that I heard at least one UK station but as soon as I started to understand their call sign the splatter from a mega-station a couple of kHz away would wipe them out.

After an hour and a half on the summit and the temperature not rising from about +2°C, I decided it was futile trying to get any more contacts on 40 metres and decided to pack up and head home, happy with the easy VK contacts on 20m at the start of the activation and very happy with the contact with Ernie on 17 metres.

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Decathlon mast base spike (not used).
  • Sun Umbrella screw-in base.
  • 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. 

Log:

Conclusions:

  • While the weather was sunny (which lifts the spirits) it remained cold which was a disappointment however I do not regret going out as the next days looked like they would be a lot worse both weather and radio conditions wise. It’s good to be able to “grab and go” when the opportunity arises.
  • I was really happy with the 17metre contact with Ernie VK3DET and the ease of the contacts with Dave VK5MRD and Ernie VK3DET on 20 metres.
  • Thanks to Mike 2E0YYY who rounded up HEMA chasers for me but the QRM from other stations on 40m made it impossible for me to hear them.
  • It’s time to re-check the solder joints on the linked dipole as at one point it gave a high VSWR for no apparent reason.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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:

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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:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella 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:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella 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:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella 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 – February 28th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HAL-019 Sattlersbuckl.

Preparation:

The weather had been extremely stormy for the past month but at last, it looked like things were getting better. I had combined a trip with the wife to Kaufbeueren, four days earlier, where she wished to see an art exhibition and I did a survey of this summit (or “reccie” as I like to call it). I didn’t take anything along on the reccie apart from a small shortwave transistor pocket radio to check there was no horrible noise on the summit. There wasn’t and it took me about 30 minutes from the parking spot up to the actual unmarked (although it has a large microwave relay tower on the top of it) summit. That time needs to be taken as a maximum time as I also had our dog with me and hence there were “delays” en-route. Just before the summit (which is totally forested), there is a nice large grassed area that is well within the activation zone and so that would be the place to operate from.

The parking spot at the end of “Hektersteig” in Apfeltrang is about a 40-minute drive from my home, so this will be considered a “local summit” for me. 

I had been watching radio conditions and it looked like if I were to be set up on the summit by 10 am local (0900 UTC) I would have a chance of contacts into VK and possibly ZL on 20m. By 10 am also, the temperatures may get up to freezing point 0°C as mornings had been starting at -7°C recently. So the plan was laid to set off from home at a reasonably comfortable time of 8:30 am on Monday morning. 

As for equipment, with the long, if only a little steep for part of the way, I did not want to carry the large tripod or the 10m mast and decided to go with the rucksack packed with the 6m pole and linked dipole antenna with the backup of the Komunica HF-PRO-2 and the little photo tripod. the rig would of course be the Xiegu G90 to give me 20 watts output. As I thought I might be on the summit for over an hour, I decided not to rely on the 400mAh LiHV battery but also packed my large 10 AH LiPo battery box as well. The rucksack with all equipment was loaded into the car on Sunday evening so that I would only need to bring along my drinking water bottle and pack-up on Monday morning (these would also be packed into the rucksack).

The Activation

The trip to the car parking spot for the new summit was uneventful. It took around 45 minutes due to traffic in Kaufbeueren but still a relatively short drive for an activation.

On arriving at the parking spot, which is just after you drive under the power lines and before the no access except for farm and forestry workers sign and is used by people taking their dogs for a walk or going walking themselves in the countryside. the ground was was somewhat muddy as some foresting work has been going on and the logs are stacked covering part of the grassed parking area. While at the time of arrival it was about -5°C still however the mud was hard and OK to park on.

As I started up the hill, I realised I had left my printed out hiking map inside the rucksack however as I had walked the route before, I was able to remember points as I went up (it is fairly straight-forward), so I didn’t need to stop and take off my rucksack to get the map out. As I mentioned before, there is no indication of this summit on any of the signs along the path.

One very nice surprise was as I turned a corner about 100 metres in front of me a mother deer and her two foals ran across the road in the morning sunshine. It all happened so fast that I had no chance to get a picture of them. By the time I reach the point on the road where they crossed, they were no longer to be seen.

I arrived at my chosen grassy area in around 20 minutes – a little quicker than I had expected, so I took my time setting up as this was the first time I had used my new mast base spike from Decathlon. I’m glad to say it worked fine. I set up the antenna for 20m as it looked like that would have the best chance of a DX contact based on previous days. The first station in the log at exactly 0900 UTC was Ernie VK3DET from Victoria Australia, followed by Ian VK3YFD, also in Victoria. These are two radio amateurs that help me often with long-distance tests and while they were only receiving me at 3-3 (they were both 5-5 / 5-6) – I was happy with that! After that, I had no new contacts in the log until 09:50 and that had two main reasons – one was the fact that I went searching for other VK stations as I would have really liked to have the first 4 stations in the log, for this first activation of this new HEMA summit to be from VK. It wasn’t to be. Although heard by at least one of the other VK stations I could not get a contact as others called over the top of me. The second reason for the delay was that my Internet link had dropped and I hadn’t realised it so all spotting and reports never got to me. At this time Mike 2E0YYY had been busy and lined up lots of HEMA chasers for me on my spotted frequency (where I had worked Ernie and Ian). When I eventually realised there was nothing coming in from the Internet and I switched to my second carrier (I have a dual-SIM smartphone) – I saw several messages from Mike and returned to my previous frequency to work 10 further stations in less than 15 minutes.

I did have a couple of other interruptions. In one case a man on a tractor arrived and I was wondering if he was there to plough up the field but no that was not the case. I explained to him what I was doing and he had no issues with it. Later another local arrived in a four-wheel drive and drove right up to me. Again it was a simple inquiry as to what I was doing and we ended up having a nice chat. Both visitors were given a small brochure about Amateur Radio in German, so who knows – perhaps they may get interested in the hobby as well. They have their own HEMA summit, so that’s a good start! Of course all this time, I was off the air but at times, it’s nicer to take to people 2 metres away rather than fight the QRM to take to people on the other side of the world!

All in all, this was a successful activation and this summit (as you’ll see from the photographs) lends itself to testing new antennas out … once the weather gets a bit warmer!

 Photos:

  1. Reccie on February 24th 2022.

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      2. Activation on February 28th 2022.

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Decathlon mast base spike.
  • 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. 

Log:

Conclusions:

  • While the weather was sunny (which lifts the spirits) it remained very cold and I had made the right decision to keep the equipment simple and what I am used to rather than trying out any of the new antennas that I have built. They can be tested when the temperatures improve.
  • For once, I came home without anything needing repair or improvement!
  • I was really happy with the contacts with Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD being the first in my log but disappointed that trying to get the first four contacts (to qualify the summit) as VK stations was not possible. Not because of radio conditions, not because of mý equipment but because of the greed of the UK and European QRO stations calling on top of me. I’m sure I could have worked VK4, VK2 and another VK3 station by their strengths but that chance was destroyed by the greed of the high powered and big antennaed stations. A sad reflection on the state of amateur radio in Europe and the UK.
  • A great thanks to Mike 2E0YYY who rounded up HEMA chasers for me and for their patience waiting for me to get back on frequency along with thanks to Don G0RQL for holding the frequency for me while I was away.
  • The Decathlon spike worked fine. I have had one of these before, which sheared off, so I hope this one will last longer as it packs easily inside the rucksack.
  • The G90 radio continues to perform well, especially on receive and I don’t think going up to 50 or 100watts output from 20watts would have made any difference to the contacts that I made or those that I was trying for.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

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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:

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – October 8th 2021 – DL/AL-166 Zwoelferkopf “the 1000 point summit”.

Preparation:

Zwoelferkopf is not a 1000 point summit, rather just a 4 point summit but as part of my push to get to the “magic 1000” activator points, I only had another 4 points to get. Weather has been variable and I have some commitments over the following days, so I decided I would go and activate this 4-point summit when I had the opportunity on Friday 8th October. I did not set an alert, in case I had to cancel for some reason. I know the summit but the last time that I activated it the conditions were very different with deep snow and fallen trees blocking the path in several positions. This time no snow but still one spot where the track was blocked.

In any case, I knew this was going to be a challenge but I had forgotten how long the trek to the summit takes and although I didn’t pack the complete kit in hindsight I should have taken less than I did.

The gear in the rucksack was the XIEGU G90, battery box and Komunica HF-PRO2 antenna (and photo tripod) but also the 6-metre mast and linked dipole (now changed to cover 40/20/17 instead of 40/30/20 metres). I had planned perhaps to test this change antenna on the summit. Also there, as it has been on the last few summits is the 4000mAh LiHV battery to be tested. Of course, my food and water also added to the weight of the rucksack but an addition for this trip – a thermos of hot chocolate was to be left in the car as a reward for getting back to the car and to warm me up a little.

I checked the alerts and had hoped to perhaps get an S2S with Phil G4OBK who was on holiday in Spain and Portugal but at the time I was on the summit, he was only on CW, not SSB.

As I only set off when a few tasks (including the morning dog walk) were completed at home, I would not be in time to get any contacts into VK or ZL but that was not the purpose of this activation. I just needed enough contacts to qualify the summit and get to the 1000 activator points.

The Activation

On arriving at the spot where I intended to park my car, it was quite muddy as some forestry equipment had been through and pulled up the ground leaving it very messy, so I had to park carefully to make sure I wasn’t bogged down when I wanted to leave. The path up to the summit is marked with what I call the Austrian flag but these are just the path markings (white horizontal line, red horizontal line, white horizontal line) these are not the border indicator, as we are also on the German/Austrian border here.

It took hardly any time at all for me to follow what was the (wrong) larger track, which then came to a dead-end and I had to climb back up to the correct track. So word to the wise – look for and follow those three colour markings on trees and stones and you won’t go far wrong. My excuse is that the mountain was in low cloud or mist for all of the time it took me to climb the track to the summit. At one point as I mentioned, there were two fallen trees across the track but I could duck under these without any problem and continue.

Following about 45-50 minutes of walking, I eventually came to the summit. I had forgotten how long this took but eventually, I was at the bench on the summit and I decided that with the track running directly over the summit, setting up the 6-metre mast and linked-Dipole could be an issue with other walkers passing by (in fact only a few came by but as I went back down later I passed over 15 people coming up the track – so my timing worked out quite well).  The small photo-tripod, radial wires and the HF-PRO2 were erected in a small area of grass just off the track, next to the bench, where the tree cover would not block the vertical antenna. Looking in the SOTASpotter app, I saw a couple of other activators were out operating 20m SSB, so I decided to start on 20 metres and possibly switch to 40 metres later. As it happened, I spent very little time on 40 metres because I was getting very cold and my attempts of finding a free frequency were thwarted twice when a stronger station came up and simply blocked me out. We have a real problem with these LIDs in Europe. In any case, my first call was to one of the other activators – Thomas DC8TM/P on DM/BW-002 – a rather short skip for 20 metres but the contact was made and then I went off to find my own frequency and eight contacts followed in the next nine minutes. The key station who gave me my needed 4th contact was Christian F4WBN who has been a regular chaser for me over the last few weeks, from his home near the French/Spanish border – so you could say this was a B2B (Border to Border) contact with me sat exactly on the German/Austrian border. Before leaving 20 metres to try 40 metres, I managed another S2S contact, this time with F5UKL/P who was on F/PO-171. Rather than simply pack up and leave at this point, I adjusted the antenna for 40 metres switched bands on the radio and searched for a free frequency (7.090 the SOTA portable frequency was free) before self-spotting and calling. Horst DK1HKU came back to me for a contact but then as soon as we finished some other home station came up calling CQ without even checking the frequency. Tuning around, I simply could not find another free frequency. Rather than keep trying with little chance of success, I decided (as I was feeling very cold at this point), to simply call it a day and pack up and head back to the car.

The trip down the track took about half the time it had taken to come up despite having to stop to let those coming up the track get past me. On arriving back at the car, I had 40 minutes to wait until the road opened in a downward direction, so after some lunch, I checked emails and listened to the (broadcast) radio.

The trip home was uneventful, except that my wife had arranged a lovely surprise for me as she had bought a sweatshirt and had it printed to celebrate my Mountain Goat achievement. For the evening meal, there was a special homemade “SOTA Desert” as well.

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical, photo tripod and radials.
  • SotaBeams end-fed and linked dipole (both taken but not used).
  • LambdaHalbe 6-metre travel pole (taken but not used).
  • 4000 mAh LiHV battery.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs) (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • LG Smartphone for spotting.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • Once again the combination of the XIEGU G90 running its full 20 watts and the Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T got good reports. So why did I take the extra weight of the other antenna and mast?
  • The LiHV battery worked without issues and is a lot lighter and smaller option than the battery box. This was a successful test and I can see myself using this in the future and leaving the battery box in the car as a backup.
  • I still need to test the modified linked dipole on 17, 20 & 40 metres.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – October 4th 2021 – DL/BE-093 Buchberg & DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg.

Preparation:

I had originally planned to activate Buchberg and Zweisselberg but changed at the last minute as the weather forecast changed – and it is lucky that I did. After riding up on the open seat lift, it’s a good 45 minutes to the Zweisselberg summit with some of the way quite steep. The summit itself is open and offers no protection from the weather rather with its sun loungers, this is a summit to visit on a bright sunny, dry, day.

So the plans were changed the day before to be the two one-pointer, easy access summits of Buchberg and Schwarzer Berg and the trip reduced from a full (long) day to just over half a day.

As conditions have been good of late for contacts down into Australia around 0630-0730 UTC, I decided that is what I would try for from Buchberg and while I am at it, I will also try 17 metres as well as 20 metres as the propagation forecasts and reports are indicating that for EU-VK contacts, 17 metres should be also better than 20 metres. Another advantage of 17 metres of course is that contests are not allowed on the band meaning, once conditions do improve on the band it will be a band that can be used by low power portable operators on Saturdays and Sundays – something that, in Europe, neither 40 nor 20 metres are anymore.

As equipment, I decided to take the 10 metre DX-Wire mast, my surveyor’s tripod, as its support and my commercially made 17-metre vertical antenna from LambdaHalbe in Germany – it is effectively a J-Pole antenna, which needs the full 10m mast height to be deployed. I would of course also take the SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole and try to put both antennas up on the same mast at the same time to make switching from 20 metres to 17 metres as quick as possible.

The Activation – Buchburg

After getting up before 6 am, I was on the road by 6:45 am (0445 UTC). The drive down took the expected 90 minutes despite a surprisingly high amount of traffic – I must have hit the time that the building and trades workers travel to work on a Monday morning. Half of the journey (which is completely on country roads) was driving behind other cars and trucks. We even came to a total halt for about 10 minutes in a small town called Weilheim, which is where several roads meet and where some road works were underway.

In any case, once I arrived at Buchberg, which is not far from the regional town of Bad Tölz, I found my usual parking space outside of the field where the cross and summit of Buchberg are located, collected up all my equipment and set off across the field, following a well-worn path that gets steep at the end. It was cold but I was hoping that as the sun came up, it would warm up (it didn’t). I had arranged with a couple of VK hams – Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD to do the tests on 20 & 17 metres. Mike, 2E0YYY who often is the lead to this little group, was sheltering at home in pouring rain but agreed to try and listen for me via his local web SDR receiver. In fact conditions the whole morning were not good between southern Germany and northern England and Mike never heard me on either 20 or 17 metres. I sent out a text via the “Signal” App telling them all that I was setting up. I had a major problem with the idea of having both antennas on the one mast at the same time, in that it bent over at the top to an alarming amount and I had to lower it to about 6 metres in height – which of course then meant that the lower part of the 17m J-pole was laid on the ground. In any case the plan was to start on 20 metres using the linked dipole. 

On connecting up and tuning around, looking for a free frequency, I just caught the end of Paul VK5PAS talking to someone, so I waited on the frequency and he actually handed over to his partner, Marija VK5MAZ. I tried calling her several times in the next hour but without success as the multi-kilowatt Europe based stations with big towers and beams were fighting each other to work her. At the strength she was coming in, with a clear frequency I’m sure she would have been able to work me. Never mind… I kept looking and trying different frequencies only having to move on when some station close to the chosen frequencies splattered all over what I had listened on and found was not in use. Eventually, a sort-of-OK frequency was found, I put out a call and Ian VK3YFD came straight back to me. Ernie was having some local noise on that frequency, so we moved again, and this time, on the new frequency, Ernie VK3DET could join in as well.

Well, that’s not bad for 20w SSB and a dipole, two VK3 stations and levels of signals where we could have a normal conversation, not just exchange signal reports.

So now it was time to try 17 metres and even though half of the antenna was on the ground, there was Ian, stronger than he had been on 20 metres! The trouble was, he couldn’t hear me. So I decided to take the mast down, remove the dipole and put it back up only with the J-Pole antenna, to its full 10 metre height, so that the driven element was no longer on the ground. I tried with Ian again. He was as strong as ever, but he could hear nothing from me! The VSWR on the antenna was fine, it was now set-up OK – there was nothing for it – it simply doesn’t work for whatever reason! My next problem was to even get the single point for the SOTA summit, I needed two more contacts, so I put out calls on 17m in the hope that someone in Europe would be able to hear me – but no, nothing! This was starting to be a bit of a disaster but there was nothing for it, I had to lower the mast remove the J-Pole and put the linked-dipole back up and go back on 20m to get the needed contacts quickly as it was already time for me to head over to the next summit.

I managed 3 quick contacts following Mike spotting me on SOTAWatch again and then that was it. Time to pack everything up and head back down the field to the car with mixed feelings. It was great to get to talk on 20m with Ernie and Ian but the fact that the 17m J-pole receives (as well as VK, I could also hear JA stations with it) why wasn’t it transmitting? 

The Activation – Schwarzer Berg

The trip from Buchberg to Schwarzer Berg took about 25 minutes and upon arrival at the parking spot, it was still as cold as it had been early morning but the skies were starting to look more threatening, despite the fact that the forecast said there would be no rain, I was starting to doubt that.
I decided not to bother with the big mast and tripod on this summit and just took the 6-metre one and the sun umbrella screw-in foot along with the radio equipment in the rucksack. At this point, I realised I could have tried with the HF-PRO-2 on 17 metres from the last summit as it covers all bands – but that was all too late now.
Once set-up, I started on 40m to try to get enough contacts into the log in case I had to abort quickly if the weather turned bad. There were no problems with calls on 40 metres though, I had what is now becoming usual, a pile-up of chasers calling, even managing 2 S2S contacts. Once the flow of calls finished, I decided that while it hadn’t yet started to rain, I would give 20 metres a go. The G90 has a band scope and after switching the antenna and rig to 20m, it was obvious 20m had passed its best, there was very little showing in the SSB part of the band.  I only managed one contact, that with Lars SA4BLM who had also called me on 40m – he was a lot stronger on 20 metres as the skip distance is better for Sweden and Greece on 20m than on 40m. Lars was my only contact on 20 metres, so I decided I might as well pack up and as I was packing up, the rain started. Only light, but my timing couldn’t have been better.
Once back at the car, I loaded everything and set off home. When I passed the lift up to Blomberg and Zweisselberg, it was raining harder and I could see the summit was inside the clouds. If I had continued with my plan to activate that summit, I would have been halfway when the rains started and probably have been soaked by the time I reached the summit. So all in all, even though I only accrued two activator points not five, the choice of summits was right.

 Photos – Buchberg:

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 Photos – Schwarzer Berg:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack with added radio section protection.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Sotabeams linked dipole “Band Hopper” (used on both summits).
  • LambdaHalbe J-Pole vertical antenna for 17 metres (used on Buchberg).
  • 10m DX-wire mini-mast (on Buchberg).
  • 6m LambdaHalbe mini-mast (on Schwarzer Berg).
  • Sun umbrella screw-in foot (used on Schwarzer Berg).
  • Surveyors Tripod (as support for the 10m mast – used on Buchberg).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • 4000 maH LiHV battery (carried but not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log – Buchberg:

Log – Schwarzer Berg:

Conclusions:

  • I was lucky that I chose to change the second summit to be activated. Stuck on a mountain without cover in a rainstorm is not fun.
  • The Linked dipole has now been modified to work on 17m as well as 20 & 40m as the LambdaHalbe 17m J-Pole has issues.
  • I’m two points closer to Mountain Goat – only 4 more points to go.
  • Never trust weather forecasts – how often have I said that?
  • Radio propagation conditions are definitely improving as Solar Cycle 25 “wakes up”.
  • I still have to test the LiHV battery on an activation, rather than just carrying the extra weight.