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 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.
- 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.
- 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.