The plan was to try out my new ultra-small QRP Xiegu G-106 radio from a summit. I had tried it from a park and in fact, made a contact with GB22NH at the UK’s National Hamfest from my back garden, using the small radio and small antenna but the advantage of being on a SOTA summit is that once you spot yourself on SOTAWatch you will undoubtedly get lots of calls (especially for this 6-point summit). In fact I realised later that this summit is also within a POTA park and hence all contacts count for that award scheme as well as for SOTA. I had a report of corrupted audio previously, possibly caused by RF getting into the radio and since that report, I have added clip-on ferrites and more radial wires to the antenna base. I also found that the microphone gain was set too high – hopefully, this test session on the Laber summit will clarify if I still have a problem or not.
The cable car starts at 9 am local time (0700 UTC) so by the time I would be on the summit, it would most likely be too late for any of the DX contacts we have been seeing over the last few weeks into VK on 20m SSB.
Rather than just take my new small radio and its also small, Diamond RHB-8B antenna, I decided to take my normal G90 radio and its antennas as well. The Kommunica HF-PRO2 loaded vertical and the linked dipole and 6-metre fishing pole.
My normal location at Laber is close to the top station of the cable car but looking at the map, there is another area that may have some more space and is still within the activation zone. I would try to go there and see how that was as I could always go back to my normal location if needed. As I wanted to be in the first cabin up, I packed the car and set the alarm for 6:30 am, Monday evening for a not SO early start at 7:45 am on Tuesday morning.
DL/AM-060 Laber DA-0003 Ammergauer Alpen region
The drive down was uneventful – a route I have taken many times before. I arrived at the cabin lift’s car park at 8:50. The parking fees like most things have gone up – it is now €5 for 4 hours of parking where it used to be only 3, and the machines only take coins but I was aware and prepared for this.
After buying my lift ticket, I waited for the cable car. This is a small lift, in fact, the oldest still running in Bavaria, perhaps even Germany and there are only 4 cabins on the system, each coming about every 15 minutes. I indeed got in the first car and alone, so that I did not need to worry about COVID but wore my mask anyway (it is no longer compulsory but I’d say about 10-15% of people still wear them when inside public areas and the mandatory wearing is likely to come back in the next few weeks in any case).
On the way up the mountain, I checked the spotted SOTA activators and saw that Andrew VK1AD was still out and working stations in Europe. For that reason, I decided to go straight to my usual spot – a bench on a rise about 30 metres from the lift building and I set up the HF-PRO2 vertical antenna as putting the dipole up here is difficult and would have taken more time. Once I had the equipment set up, I tuned to Andrew’s spotted frequency only to hear an Italian station chatting there. So either Andrew was below this signal or he had already called it a day. I later heard a couple of other VK, home stations one of which I tried to call but there were too many high-powered home stations calling him that I stood no chance.
I wanted to see how I was getting out with the Komunica vertical, so I found a free frequency on 20m, spotted myself and started calling CQ SOTA. The calls came in thick and fast and within 9 minutes, I had 9 contacts in the log, all of them giving me very good reports – often over 5 and 9. These were all stations within Europe as the band had changed to short skip, which is normal from around 0730 UTC at the moment.
Once the calls dried up, I decided to set up the QRP radio as well, after all, I was there to test the new radio. there was enough room to set up both radios and both antennas so that I could switch between to do checks.
My next call on the 20w radio was Mario DJ2MX in Munich – he was a good signal – not as strong as some of the french and UK stations that I had worked earlier but I was pretty sure that Mario would help me with my tests, so I explained the two different radios and antennas and he agreed to make a comparison. On receive Mario was the same strength on both radios but he could not hear me on the G106 with the Diamond antenna. I checked and found the power was down on the low setting of about 1w, so I changed that to the high setting of at least 5W, usually nearer to 7w – he still could not hear me. I also have two microphones for the g106 – the stock one and a modified HT microphone with higher output. None of this helped. Mario said he could hear “something” in the noise but could not really tell that it was me. The next test, once I found the needed BNC to SO239 adapter, was to try the G106 with the Komunica HFPRO2 antenna instead of the Diamond RHB8B. An immediate result! He could now hear me but he also reported what sounded like RF Ingress getting into the audio. again I switch microphones and adjusted the mic gain but nothing helped. I still have a problem when operating with a portable antenna and the g106.
Time was getting on and I wanted to get home around noon, so I thanked Mario for his help (he had to go as well) and then packed up and went to await the next cable car back down the mountain.
Some would say this was a disappointing activation – not making any DX contacts and not working anyone with the small antenna / small radio combination but as my intent was to test the new radio and see where I am with it – it was (in my eyes) a successful trip. The Komunica HFPRO2 performed brilliantly again, the diamond antenna on the other hand was a letdown. I am really happy that I suffered the extra weight of taking both the normal station and the new station up the mountain as had I just taken the G106 and the Diamond antenna, I would most likely have got very few contacts – if any at all.
The weather was also kind, despite a couple of small showers on the way down, the summit was dry and sunny. Not warm but sunny. The views once the mist lifted were also worth the trip.
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu G90 radio.
- Xiegu G106 radio
- Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna with a modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials.
- Diamond RHB8B loaded HF vertical antenna with modified ultra-small support tripod and counterpoise wires.
- Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast. (not used)
- SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
- 2 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery (for G106).
- 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery (for G90).
- 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
- Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
- Gardener’s nealing pad (not used).
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone for SOTA spotting.
- The “star of the activation” was certainly the Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T antenna, and the flop was the Diamond RHB-8B antenna.
- Band conditions had just changed to short skip so it seems 0600-0730 is the best time for long path contacts into VK on 20m SSB at the moment.
- The G106 still needs some work to improve the transmitted audio and it needs a better antenna than the Diamond but it needs to be small as the intention with the G106 is to have an ultra-compact “holiday station”.
73 ’til the next summit(s).