DD5LP/P – May 3rd 2023 – GMA DA/AV-340 Schönbühl.

Preparation:

As I wanted to test out my new “simple 40m Dipole” and I wanted to incorporate a bike ride, the 9 km away Schönbühl which I activated some years ago, seemed like a good option. We have had some fairly constant rainy and cold days but this day was supposed to stay dry  – radio conditions on the other hand didn’t look good and indeed turned out to be less than stunning!

For this GMA (Global Mountain Activity) activation, no car drive would be needed as the summit is only 9 kilometres (a 20-minute cycle ride) from my home. This is going to be my third “Go-Green XOTA” summit where the summit is accessed without any motorised transport.

Mike 2E0YYY agreed to head out to his local summit to give me a contact while he is using his special 2R0YYY/P callsign to celebrate the coronation of King Charles.

Apart from the 40m dipole, the equipment would be – my “light-weight-pack”  (Xiegu G106, throw-bag with cord, 40m Dipole and J_antennas for 20, 17, 15, 12 & 10m, plus my external RF speech clipper). 

The Activation

GMA DA/AV-340

The cycle ride along farm roads and forest tracks (which were more stony than I remember them) there followed a walk along the edge of one field pushing the bike and then a last rise up to the plateau summit. I could find no marking such as a summit cross however this is the highest point in the area and close to the lat/long coordinates given on the GMA site.

I unpacked my throw bag and cord and threw it over a branch of a tree at the side of the field. The branches were quite numerous and I only managed to get the cord over one of the lower, thinner branches, but that would have to do as Mike would be ready in 15 minutes in the UK and rain was forecast for him.

Once the cord was up, the 40m dipole went up easily and I was able to tie off the end cords of the elements onto other trees in the row. After unpacking the radio, log etc onto a new compact mat that I received as a birthday present (this was the first time of use) I powered up and plugged in the antenna and tuned 40m – it was busy – I found a very strong portable French station, Jean-Marie F5NLX/P who I called, he came back to me straight away and we exchanged 58/56 reports – so for the first QSO on the new antenna with just 5w from the g106, that was a good start.

I now tried for my sked with Mike. When I could hear him, he was very weak and within seconds some other station would start calling either directly on our frequency or 1 or 2 k/cs off. This was not boding well. Via the Signal messaging app, Mike suggested we try 20 metres with the hope that that would be better. I agreed and then took down the 40m Dipole and put up the 20m J-Antenna. here is where it would have been better to have the support cord over a higher branch as hauling the 20m J-antenna up, the bottom half was still on the ground and I ended up draping it over branches on other trees and bushes to keep it off the ground. Not an ideal setup.

It was sufficient to get a contact with Mike though. Interestingly he was 1 S-point weaker on 20m than on 40m but we managed a 53/32 contact and he was in the log.

The next 45 minutes I spent trying to get two more contacts so that I could claim the points for a qualified summit.

The loud stations either could not hear me of ignored my weak signal to them.

One rather special contact was with Dave M0DAD/PM – while he was walking along Blackpool seafront in northeast England using a handheld Xiegu X5105 with a loaded whip and a trailing counterpoise wire. We were both running just 5 watts with Xiegu radios and this was a 54/45 contact. A proper QSO as we talked for about 10 minutes.

the rest of my time on this summit was spent calling stations and calling CQ, trying to get the needed fourth contact. The GMAWatch site does not seem to generate any chasers on a weekday, where the SOTA system would bring in a pile-up of callers for a SOTA summit.

Eventually, I managed a contact with Tommy, EI2KP, a booming signal from a coastal town on the north coast of Ireland (but still within the Republic of Ireland). we exchanged 59/53 signal reports, so the radio/antenna was putting out a signal, it was just that conditions were very variable – at one point Tommy dropped from 59+ to 53 and then came back up.

So an interesting activation with a relatively hard cycle ride to and from the summit but the equipment all tested out well but I will need to practice the sling-bag throwing to get it over higher branches in future.

 Contacts map:

 Photos:

GMA DA/AV-340:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Raddy small rucksack.
  • Xiegu G-106 radio.
  • Throw-bag and cord
  • Lambdahalbe.de lightweight wire antennas (J-antennas) for 10, 12, 15, 17 & 20m (only used the 20m one).
  • Homemade 40m Dipole antenna.
  • 2 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 2 Ah 3S LiPO battery (not used).
  • Pack-small ground mat.
  • Lightweight JVC headphones.
  • Smartphone for spotting.

Log:

DA/AV-340 Schönbühl

 

Conclusions:

  • A mid-week activation of a GMA summit, when band conditions are nothing special is hard work to get the needed four contacts.
  • The new 40m lightweight dipole works fine with the G106 radio. 

73 ’til the next activation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisement

DD5LP/P – April 9th 2023 – GMA DA/AV-071 Gagelberg.

Preparation:

As I wanted to test out my new “Resonant Feeder Antenna” for 40m, I had planned an activation of a local GMA summit for Easter Monday when the weather forecast said, it should be warm and sunny. However as the Sunday, unexpectedly turned out to be dry and not as overcast as the last week, I decided to move the activation forward a day.

This activation would also serve as a signal that I have at long last kicked the influenza that had been troubling me for the last three weeks. While not a serious infection, this particular virus had gained a reputation for being difficult to throw off and 3 – 4 weeks has been normal for many people. After three years of “isolation” to protect ourselves from Covid-19 our immune systems have not been “exercised” by minor colds and flu and hence when this new strain appeared, it has has a high infection rate and the long duration.

For this GMA (Global Mountain Activity) activation, no car drive would be needed as the summit is only 4 kilometres (a 30-minute walk) from my home. This is the second time in a month that I have tried to activate Gagelberg (DA/AV-071) that time I managed no contacts as 20m was closed and I had no 40m antenna with me.

Apart from the 40m RFA the equipment would be the same – my “light-weight-pack”  (Xiegu G106, 40m RFA and J_antennas for 20, 17, 15, 12 & 10m, external RF speech clipper). 

Under the rules in GMA, a summit has to be at least 150m above sea level and be listed in online documentation (on an online map, in WikiPedia etc.). Gagelberg meets these requirements and while it is an open walk (on which I got lost the last time), there is also no rain cover should the showers return. 

The Activation

GMA DA/AV-071

After the walk across the fields and up to the summit cross, I unpacked my throw bag and cord and threw it over a branch of the tree above the seating bank. This was higher than I managed the last time and needed to get the co-ax antenna up sufficiently to be usable. Originally not planned, but Mike 2E0YYY had gone out to his local summit and park to see if he could work me, as well as other stations but despite several tries with the new antenna, I could not hear him and he could not hear me. In fact, the whole 40m band seemed very “quiet” to me and this on a Sunday afternoon? Mike was reporting a band full of signals where I could probably hear only 5-6 stations. The RFA antenna had broken when I was putting it up but I had made, what, as far as I could see, was a good temporary repair. Despite the fact that when tested on my Rig Expert Antenna Analyser, the antenna looked resonant – it appears this antenna design (see article here) is more of a dummy load than an antenna!

I took down the RFA and put up my 20-metre LambdaHalde J-antenna and pulled it up, over the same branch and then tried and got a contact with Mike on 20m with no problems. So that was definitely the end for the RFA.

The J-antennas are single-band antennas, despite that, when I saw there was a lot of activity on 17m, I switched bands and tuned around and found Jack MM0PLX/P on the Isle of Arran, I gave him a call while I was still on the 20m J-antenna. We made the contact and I would have liked to switch over to the 17m J-antenna and call him again but that would have meant taking one antenna down and putting the other up, which would take a few minutes and while the sky was turning dark grey and the temperatures had dropped, I decided against it and simply headed back onto 20m using the 20m J-antenna.

All in all, I only logged 6 contacts – all were around the UK and all but one were portable stations. So the 5 watts from the G106 with the external speech processor seems to work well when attached to a working antenna! One GMA, One IOTA and One POTA is the six is also not a bad collection. In all but one case, I got the station on the first call.

While using the G90 and a mast-supported antenna would certainly get better reports and more contacts, it would also have been twice the weight to carry and need twice the time to put up and take down.

All-in-All the lightweight pack is performing well, I just need to find a solution for a lightweight 40m antenna that I can support using the “throw bag and cord tree mounting system”.   

 Contacts map:

 

 Photos:

GMA DA/AV-071:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • Raddy small rucksack.
  • Xiegu G-106 radio.
  • Throw-bag and cord
  • Lambdahalbe.de lightweight wire antennas (J-antennas) for 10, 12, 15, 17 & 20m (only used the 20m one).
  • Homemade 40m resonant feeder antenna.
  • 2 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 2 Ah 3S LiPO battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Lightweight JVC headphones.
  • Smartphone for spotting.

Log:

DA/AV-071 Gagelberg

 

Conclusions:

  • I qualified this simple summit, only on my third attempt but at least my bag-throwing skills have improved!
  • The combination of the G106 and the J-antennas is a good combination but the “Resonant Feeder Antenna” is a complete failure and I will need to find an alternative antenna, that while small and light still performs.

73 ’til the next activation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – March 16th 2023 – GMA DA/AV-393 Kappelenberg.

Preparation:

For this GMA (Global Mountain Activity) activation, no car drive would be needed as the summit is only 2 kilometres from my home and I would walk there. A few weeks previously, I had tried to activate another local GMA summit Gagelberg (DA/AV-071) but I managed no contacts and hence I wanted to check that my light-weight-pack equipment (Xiegu G106, J_antennas for 20, 17, 15, 12 & 10m). I had repaired two broken wires in my external RF speech clipper and hence hoped that this would give the 5 watts from the G106 a little more “punch”. I had been heard well on an SDR in England from the other summit but was just unable to raise any contacts.

Under the rules in GMA, a summit has to be at least 150m above sea level and be listed in online documentation (on an online map, in WikiPedia etc.). Kappelenberg meets these requirements and often forms part of my morning dog walk. So while not being a real challenge in terms of ascent, it is a valid summit and a good spot to test out equipment and antennas from. I wondered whether the nearby water pumping station and houses that are not far away, might be generating some RFI however that was not the case, thankfully.

The Activation

GMA DA/AV-393

After the walk across the fields and up to the summit cross, I unpacked my throw bag and cord and threw it over a branch of the tree above the seating bank. To me, this looked quite high but when I attached my 20-metre LambdaHalde J-antenna and pulled it up, there was still some on the antenna on the ground so I took this and laid it over a lower branch on another tree, so this was then a “sloper” antenna rather than a vertical as it should be. The J-antenna (sometimes known as the “Zepp” antenna, as it was initially designed for use from the Zeppelin airships), has its own counterpoise built in, in the form of a quarter-wave stub – so there are (thankfully) no radials to lay out on the ground. The antenna is a resonant antenna on the band it is cut for. As the G106 has no built-in ATU, this is an important point.

Once I had the antenna in the trees, I set up my station on the bench – this entailed plugging the antenna into a fly lead from the G106’s pouch and plugging the radio into the battery and turning it on.

Just at this point, Mike 2E0YYY sent me a message that he was already set up on a GMA summit in England (M/SP-001 Cobridge Hill) and that at his end, 14.250 MHz was free. I tuned there and called Mike and he came straight back to me. The station was working.

Following my contact with Mike, I spotted myself on the GMA system and he spotted me in the DX Cluster. Four contacts followed breaking the 4-contact requirement to be able to declare the summit activated. As the first contact was with Mike when he was on another GMA summit, this counts as a Summit-to-Summit contact as well as being the first contact from this new summit.

I only operated on 20m as the radio conditions were not the best and I had no antenna for lower bands with me. A 40m j-antenna would need a very high tree to put it in and whether, with my current “bag throwing” skills, I would be able to do that, I’m not sure!

The map below shows that I was getting out well but of course, the first skip distance on 20m ruled out many possible contacts – which may also be why I had an issue at the previous local GMA summit.

The aim of this pack is to have a very lightweight, small and simple solution, that I can take with me when travelling by air, train or bus. I think I will need to find a small antenna for 40m to fit these requirements to add that band to the pack.       

 Contacts map:

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

GMA DA/AV-393:

Equipment taken:

  • Raddy small rucksack.
  • Xiegu G-106 radio.
  • Throw-bag and cord
  • Lambdahalbe.de lightweight wire antennas (J-antennas) for 10, 12, 15, 17 & 20m (only used the 20m one).
  • 2 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
  • 2 Ah 3S LiPO battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones (not used).
  • Smartphone for spotting.

Log:

DA/AV-393 Kappelemberg

Conclusions:

  • I need to improve my bag-throwing skills! I should be able to get the antenna over a much higher branch (and get the cord down again without it “snagging”.
  • The combination of the G106 and the J-antennas is a good combination and gets the signal out well, although an antenna for 40m would enable many more, “closer-in” contacts.

73 ’til the next activation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – May 18th 2022 – GMA – DA/AV-392 Kalvarienberg.

Preparation:

With the weather improving and the bands being kind for DX contacts lately, it was time to get out and test the antennas on the higher bands (17m, 15m, 10m). I didn’t want a long journey and so decided to see if a local GMA (Global Mountains Award) summit would serve as a testing ground for antennas going forwards. this would be my first GMA activation since 2018 and the online website has had a lot of features added, indeed spotting and alternating and monitoring all cover several schemes whether it be WWFF, SOTA, Castles, Lighthouses or GMA, all are covered through the system.

The summit, which I had never visited is just a 15-minute drive from my home, so if this worked out as a good summit, it could be very useful for tests.

Being so close I wouldn’t need to get up and leave so early if I wanted to try for contacts with VK. I loaded my rucksack with additional antennas and masts into the car on Tuesday afternoon in any case, to minimise what I would need to do on Wednesday morning.

The Activation

Although I have never been to this summit before I have been through the village that it overlooks many times. On the map, there is no public car park but looking at a satellite picture I saw an area with a car parked in it that was close to the start of the track up to the summit. On arriving there, the car park is labelled as an official public car park for walkers.

It was no time at all before I had parked the car, and put on my rucksack after deciding to take one antenna and one mast out of it to lighten the load a little. I crossed the road and headed along the parallel to the road bitumen path to where the track up the hill starts. As you will see from the photos, there is a series of monuments with pictures of Christ carrying his cross up a hill, so this is definitely a pilgrim way up to the small church on the top of the hill. 

Although steep in places, it is a reasonably easy climb to the top and after passing the grotto you come onto a sort of lawned area before you get to the church. There is also a grassed area by the church but the first one had two bench seats and I could set up there without obstructing the way for others, so that is what I did and I was fully operational with the first of my two wire antennas (a 40m OCF antenna from Aerial-51) by 0630 UTC (8:30 am local time) half an hour ahead of schedule.

I tuned around 20m and could hear several VK5 and VK2 stations on the band. Most activity on the band was in the bottom half. I believe this is because the lower half of the band will open first as the MUF increases.

  I messaged Ernie (VK3DET) and Ian (VK3YFD) in Victoria Australia and my hope was to try 20, then 17 and then 15m with them and see how the antennas performed.

Contacts were more difficult than usual today but with some hard work on their ends, I got Ernie and Ian into the log. To make sure it was not a problem with the Aerial-51 OCF antenna, I took it down and replaced it with the SOTABeams linked dipole. Although Ernie and Ian reported a slightly stronger signal from me, I believe this was just a change in radio conditions rather than the antenna. Of course, the best would have been to have both antennas up at the same time and switch between them but there is not enough space at this summit to do that without risking interaction between the antennas. Checking 17 metres from both Australia and Germany – it was dead and it was obvious that I was not going to be doing any tests on 17 or 15 metres. 

After finishing with Ernie and Ian, I spotted myself on the GMAWatch site and put out calls on both 20m and 40m. The final total for the activation was contacting just 6 different stations. a bit of a disappointment but at least I had been able to check out this local GMA summit which looks like a nice place to go in good weather but could also fill up quickly with tourists making radio operation difficult if not impossible.

 Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment taken:

  • 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.
  • Spider beam / Aerial-51 404-UL 40m OCF inverted-V dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Log:

 

Conclusions:

  • While the weather was sunny (which lifts the spirits) the radio conditions were not nearly as good as they have been of late. This meant NOTHING was happening on 17m and above and I was lucky to get the contacts on 20m.
  • As conditions were changing, I was not able to conclusively say whether the linked dipole is a “better” antenna than the OCF or whether simply the conditions changed.

73 ’til the next summit.