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.

 

DD5LP/P – March 13th 2020 – DL/BE-093 Buchberg.

Preparation:

I had written out a list of simple summits that still have winter bonus points and grouped them together. As the weather forecast was for some occasional light rain but otherwise OK, I decided after my activation of Laber on Wednesday to activate both DL/BE-093 Buchberg and DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg as they are not too far apart and both are summits I have already activated in 2019 and access is fairly straight forward. These activations were in principal “points grab”  activations with the period when winter bonus points drawing ever closer.

As it turned out because of the unexpectedly severe weather that I hit on the first summit, I never got to the second one.

I had checked out and re-charged the equipment from the Laber activation and so added the large surveyor’s tripod, the 10 metre mast and my two dipole antenna to the gear to be taken and loaded it all into the car on Thursday evening as I was planning an 0830 (local time) departure for Friday.

The Activation:

 When I set off from home it was raining, but not too bad and after about 20 minutes driving it stopped…. until I approached the town of Bad Tölz, that the summit “Buchberg” where I was heading for, is close to, then the rain started and by the time I got to where I park my car, it was driving snow! I sat for a while wondering what to do. After having driven for an hour, it would be a real waste if I didn’t try to activate. At that point the snow stopped, the skies looked clearer, so I decided to go for it! By the time I reached the summit, it was snowing again (well a mixture of sleet and snow) and the winds started to blow. Oh Great! but I decided to carry on – a quick activation – four contacts, then pack up and head off to the next summit! I put up the mast and dipole wire antenna at less than two metres high – just so it cleared the tripod support and the ends of the dipole were not on the ground. Not ideal but “it’ll do” for getting four European contacts on 40m I think.

Checked a suitable frequency – the band sounded quiet. No response to my question “is the frequency in use” so I self-spotted and called – no response. Tried again – still no response. Tuned around – the band is REALLY quiet. Then I tried moving the antenna cable and … it nearly blew me over. The band noise and stations suddenly were there! The short PL-259 extension cable that I thought I had a problem with on the last activation but could not find a fault when I tested in the workshop was indeed still faulty! I took it out of circuit, pulled the rig half out of the rucksack so that the antenna cable would reach the socket on the rear of the rig and now I could work stations! I searched around and found a frequency where there was a little less splatter-QRM from the other SSB stations on the band, self spotted and called CQ. At last, over 20 minutes after arriving at the summit I got a reply – Andrew G4AFI (who is becoming a welcome entry in the log of late) was followed by 10 other contacts from around Europe in just 5 minutes.

All of this time though, the storm was getting worse and as I kept having to take off my large gloves to operate or enter log data, my hands were losing feeling and when I was finally able to go QRT, I didn’t bother to pack the antenna properly, rather I bundled it as best as was possible into the top of the rucksack. I lowered and packed the mast inside the folded tripod for transport and headed away from the summit and storm as quickly as possible, taking care not to slip over on the now very muddy track on the way back to the car.

I was happy to get back to the car and after a few minutes de-frosting, I considered the situation. Better weather was forecast but could I believe that. The set-up at the second summit would take longer as I would have to un-raffle the antenna, which is a job better done in a warm cellar at home. So I decided to call it a day and leave Schwarzer Berg for another day. On the drive home, the snow and sleet stopped and the sun came out however the winds did not die down, so it would have been a difficult activation at the second summit even if I could get some protection from the winds using the concrete tower there.

Photos:

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Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • DX-Wire 10m mast.
  • SOTABeams linked dipole antenna.
  • Thick green plastic painters sheet (not used).
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Log:

Conclusions:

I was unlucky with the weather but I persevered and got the activation in the log. I would have liked to have gone on to the next summit but I was in no conditions to do so.

  • Positives
  • Despite the sudden weather change, I managed the activation and the equipment survived.
  • Operating the radio while still within the new rucksack, controlling via the Android App works well (at least when the android phone is not covered with ice and water!).
  • Ten contacts in five minutes once I had the equipment working was quite a good run-rate.
  • Negatives
  • The faulty coax lead wasted a lot of time – I should have ditched it after the problems on the last activation.
  • Again I did not get time to test the speech processor, which I had with me, but in that weather, it was certainly quite low down my priority list!

73 ’til the next summit!

DD5LP/P – March 20th 2019 – DL/BE-093 Buchberg.

Preparation:

With the end of Winter bonus points drawing closer and at last some nicer (if still cold) weather and preparations for the EU-VK/ZL S2S event on April 6th, once I could get the car I decided to grab my bags and the newly constructed linked 40m / 20m VP2E antenna and head off to a not yet activated by me this year (actually not for a couple of years) summit – Buchberg, which is down near the town of Bad Toelz, just over an hours drive from here.

There was little preparation for this activation and as it was to be in the afternoon the DX contacts would be limited as I would be too late for short path to VK/ZL and too early for North America (even if the band conditions were good enough).

No, this would not be an activation seeking DX contacts, only to check out the physical equipment and to “tick-off” another easy summit with winter bonus.

The Activation:

The trip down to Buchberg was uneventful, except for the fact that the Navi wanted me to turn off the main road really early compared to where I had turned on earlier activations. Checking afterwards, it seems that it would have taken me along a restricted road as Google tried 4 years ago. I stuck to my known route in any case.

After I parked the car I loaded up with the two normal bags plus the 10 metre pole (which I need for the 40m VP2E and my surveyor’s tripod and slogged slowly across the field on a well-worn track, up the hill to the Holy Cross and (more importantly) the seating bank. Setting up the tripod was straight forward as was putting the mast into it and this time I remembered to remove my wooden plate that I have fitted to support the Antron A-99 antenna. The 10m mast is just to thick to go through the hole in the wooden plate, so ir needs to ne removed. I’m wondering about a small modification to this plate so that it can be used as a bottom stabiliser for the mast although so fat I have not needed that.

I decided to have the side with the coax feed in it, at the seat bank side of the mast so that the antenna would be “pointing” roughly in the direction of Holland, Belgium and the UK. I still haven’t been able to do conclusive tests to show how directional the antenna is. At the moment, the antenna seems to be better than my normal dipoles. Perhaps that’s because it is vertically polarised and somewhat directional or simply because it puts more wire in the air.

After setting up the antenna, with the links closed for 40m, I put the antenna analyser on the antenna and everything seemed “OK”.

So after that it was time to get at least 4 contacts in the log. I actually got nine 40m contacts in eight minutes, one of which was an S2S with Mike 2E0YYY on Walton Hill in the UK. I also decided to give 20 metres a try so I lowered the mast, took out the links and raised it again for one 5-9 contact into Russia (off the “back” of the antenna) and a 4-4 one into the UK. Band conditions on 20m were not good but at least this proved that the antenna works fine on both bands. After this “acceptable” activation, I decided to pack up and head home as I had three more summits planned for the following day (see later report on these). The drive home was uneventful and I was home in time to get the battery box on charge (it had used about 20% of the capacity of one of the two 5aH LIPO batteries in the box) and make sure all of the equipment was ready and packed for the following days activations as an early start was planned.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).

Linked (20m/40m) VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).

Surveyors tripod.

10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.

Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

RigExpert AA-30 antenna Analyser.

Log:

Conclusions:

The propagation seemed variable and I was not out at the best time, but overall this was a good test of the equipment. The tripod is cumbersome to carry but it does mean one can put the mast up where you want it to be rather than be restricted to what supports are around.

The display on the X108G was of course unreadable but now using the Smart Phone to view and control the rig seems standard. With the new USB cable configuration the program didn’t hang-up and leave the rig on TX, but it still suffers from RFI from the phone raising the noise floor on the rig’s receiver. This still needs to be addressed. In the meantime once set up on a clear frequency, I can disconnect the lead to the phone and operate that way without the RFI from the phone.

The Linked VP2E antenna appears to perform well. I still don’t know if it really is directional though.

I am happy that I was able to simply “grab my gear and go” as both the terrestrial and space weather are very variable at the moment.

73 ’til the next Summit!