With the year coming to a close and the weather being dry, if not warm and radio conditions being generally good, I decided I would activate a SOTA summit. Looking around I realised that the easy summit Weichberg, although I had activated it, I hadn’t activated it in the winter bonus period in 2022, so that was the summit I chose. Given that Auerberg is also an easy summit and only 20 minutes drive away from Weichberg, I usually combine the two summits and that is what I did on this occasion as well. While I had activated both of these summits already in 2022 I would not get their basic points but I would pick-up 3 winter bonus points for both summits. In fact I don’t care so much about the points anymore, having passed the 1000 points mark some time ago and what I was hoping for was some DX contacts from these two summits.
At least from Weichberg, I should be on the summit around the time that 20m has been opening up via long path into VK/ZL recently and even 10 metres has also been opening up.
I put up SOTA alerts for both summits and decided to stay with my standard equipment apart from one change. As I wanted to try out 10 metres and my usual linked dipole does not have a link for 10m, I decided to take along the Aerial-51 404-UL OCF inverted-V dipole which covers the main bands between 40m and 10m. It also covers the WARC bands (30, 17 & 12m) but only using an ATU to match to the antenna on these bands. While my Xiegu G90 has a very good built-in ATU, I could use this however I was not planning activation on any of the WARC bands, and putting an ATU in circuit to match the impedance of a non-resonant antenna to 50 ohms to protect the radio means that the full radio power is not being transmitted from the antenna, so this is only a “last resort” option for me.
My plan was to operate primarily on 10m with 20m as a fall-back if needed. Unfortunately my mates in VK and UK were not going to be on the air to listen for me but Markus HB9DIZ sent me a message asking that I squeeze some time in on 40m as well – as he wanted “completes” of the two summits I was activating as he has activated them himself while on holiday in Germany. With the 40m OCF, and the G90, this request is not a problem. My only concern is not to get “stuck” on 40m and lose out on the opening of 20 and possibly 10 metres for DX contacts.
As these summits are relatively close (about 45 minutes drive from home to the first one), this would be a leisurely start leaving home around 8 am. I put all my gear ready in the hall on Thursday so I could pick it up and head straight off on Friday.
On reaching the summit, setting up and switching on the radio, I was surprised to hear as the first station, a VK2 working a pile-up on the frequency that I had last had the radio on – on 40 metres! I was not expecting that and of course I tried calling him when he finished with other stations, but he was only working stations that were 59+ with him it seems. This would have been greyline propagation.
I then tuned around 40 metres, found F8VOF calling CQ and gave him a call – 59 both ways, so I’m getting out OK. After that I searched for a free frequency, spotted myself, hoping some chasers in VK or ZL might see my spot. No such look, however, I made 36 contacts on 40 metres in the following 22 minutes at which point I decided I’d better try 10 metres and 20m before they closed.
Ten metres was totally dead, and was going to stay so for the rest of the day. Tuning around on 20m however, I came across several VK stations and one particularly strong one – Grant VK3OZY, I gave a call and thanks to his perseverance we managed to make a contact. By the time I got home later in the day, Grant had already sent me an email with a QSL card using an interesting new system, which I can see replacing QSL Bureau’s and direct via post, cards in the future.
Having worked Grant, I took another look around 10m and put out a call – no contacts – the band was dead. So back on 20m I found a clear frequency, spotted myself and worked another five European SOTA chasers. Then I saw that Leszek SQ9MDF and his wife Violetta SQ9NOT were out on an OK summit, operating on 40 metres, so I switched the radio back there and made easy 54/55 contacts with both of them for a summit-to-summit contact. Before closing down, I bagged one more SOTA chaser on 40 metres.
As I was taking the equipment down, I realised two things, firstly that I could slowly feel my fingers again as it had been a cold morning and my new silk inner liner gloves hadn’t done their job very well but they were now warming up as temperatures rose and secondly how much more convenient using the OCF type antenna is compared to a linked dipole. The LD might have a little more gain as it is truly resonant on each band that it covers but the fact that I could simply switch bands on the radio without having to worry about changing anything on the antenna is a real plus point.
I know I have the address for Auerberg programmed into my Navi (GPS) in the car but I could not find it, so I just set-off and went from my memory for the route. No Problems 20 minutes later, I was in the combined restaurant and church car park at Auerberg.
When I finished setting up the station, I tuned a little around 20m and was surprised to find that at 1030 UTC (11:30 local), there were STILL VK stations coming through at good strengths. Of course getting a contact from them would only be possible if they wanted to call me, so again, I found a free frequency, spotted myself and hoped for a SOTA chaser from VK to call, however, by now it would be approaching midnight in the “land down under” and indeed there were no DX calls answering my CQ SOTA call from Auerberg but I did work 23 stations from all around Europe including two S2S contacts in the next 25 minutes. I also checked 10 metres which was still closed and I almost forgot but Markus HB9DIZ texted me while I was packing up and I got back on 40m to give him his second complete of the day.
The weather was kind to me (apart from the cold in the early morning), that there was no rain, indeed around lunchtime it was almost like a spring day and this at the very end of the year, almost .
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Silk inner gloves.
- Xiegu G90 radio.
- Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna with a modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials. (not used)
- Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
- Sun Umbrella screw-in base (used at Weichberg).
- SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
- SotaBeams end-fed (not used).
- Aerial-51 404-UL 40m OCF Inverted-V dipole.
- 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
- 4 Ah LiHV battery (not used).
- Painter’s thick plastic sheet.
- Gardener’s kneeling pad.
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone for SOTA spotting.
- A surprising change in the propagation conditions from the previous day. 20m was open and 10m completely closed. The reverse of what happened the previous day. Hearing VK on 40m via Greyline was a surprise.
- The number of chasers is becoming too much for a comfortable activation. While it is an indication of how popular SOTA is, sometimes one likes more casual contacts. After all you need is four contacts to qualify the summit. I hate to let anyone down though.
- Having not used the Aerial-51 antenna for a couple of years, it worked flawlessly and the convenience of being able to switch bands without having to change settings on the antenna cannot be understated.
- I was lucky with the weather however I have made some more log sheets from glossy photo paper, and used these with my write-in-the-wet pens that I have. All OK but normal paper would also have been OK on this activation.
73 ’til the next summit(s).