The plan was to get out and do another early morning activation before the wet autumn weather arrives. Originally planned for what was to be a sunny Thursday 22nd September, I moved my plans as Andrew VK1AD posted that he would be out on Saturday and hence my first EU-VK S2S contact in 3 years would be “possible”. The risk was with the weather as the rain was expected at the weekend. Thursday was sunny all day and I started wondering whether I had made a mistake but as other activators latched on to the Saturday morning time both in Europe and Australia, I thought these would be added opportunities for S2S contacts. As I had decided on my closest summit Peissenberg that I had already activated this year getting out and possibly getting an S2S contact was the “value” of the activation as I would not get the 1 activator’s point for this drive-up summit again.
As usual for early starts, all equipment was packed and ready to go on Friday evening for the early departure on Friday. This consisted of the usual backpack to carry all radio gear, the 6-metre mast, a flask with hot chocolate and a sandwich. I also loaded my large surveyor’s tripod with the 10-metre mast and the screw-in base for the 6-metre mast in case I needed it. The car would be parked within walking distance from the activation spot so I could take equipment to cover all possibilities.
There are two spots where I have activated previously. The lower (but still within the 25m vertical drop activation zone) is the large car park before the road rises up past the cemetery to the restaurant and church and there is also a nice spot exactly on the summit alongside the church. The last couple of times I have activated it from the lower car park and when trying out different antennas this is ideal as the car is close enough to exchange equipment from. This used to be a free car park however since COVID when lots of motorhome owners have camped there overnight, it has been made into a pay-to-park area. The upper car park has always been free but is a lot smaller however early morning is never a problem. Parking here has the advantage of a toilet but the activation point is out of view from the car (being the other side of the church) and hence everything has to be taken to the site in one action and space is limited, so the large tripod and 10-metre mast cannot be used.
Given that I have worked into VK from both spots I decided to avoid the parking charge (€2 for 3 hours) and head to the actual summit with just the 6-metre mast set-up. If there were problems with this site, I could always head back to the lower location.
I know the drive down so well that I was at Peissenberg in no time. It was just starting to get light as I approached the summit. At the end of the lower car park, there were piles of stones and signs to say no entry via the lower of two entrances – so I guess they are renewing that access. The higher entrance to the car park was still open. I continued up the road to the summit car park, in any case, to be surprised to see large signs everywhere saying this is a private car park and you could be fined if you park here. After stopping and reading the signs in more detail, they said you can be fined if you park here without a ticket and indeed a money-grabbing ticket machine was at the other side of the parking area. So, while the chance of being checked was zero, the place was deserted when I arrived and when I left, l did the right thing and bought a ticket. I realised later that the restaurant’s car park was full of cars as there is no charge there but as the restaurant would still be closed at the time that I left, I would not be able to give them any business and so parking there (if there had been a free spot) would not have been right.
Once I got to the two banks by the side of the church, I was happy to find everything the same as it has been for the last few years and I was able to “Bongo-Tie” the 6-metre mast to the railing and run out the two ends of the inverted-V linked dipole out to another bench on the western end and to a tree branch on the eastern end. While this is ninety degrees to the ideal direction for long-path to Australia at just 5-6 metres off the ground the dipole is not very directional in any case. There is no practical way to run the dipole north-south from this location in any case.
Once I had the gear set up on the bench, I sent Ernie VK3DET a message to see if he could listen for me. 20m has been opening at different times over the previous few days and this was going to turn out to be one where it opened later! So to start with no contacts into VK3 and in fact, Mike 2E0YYY was also setting up a special event station for the railways on-the-air weekend from the UK but as it was to turn out through a combination of MUF and long skip, I was not going to be able to make a contact with GB1FLR whose beam would be pointing away from me in any case, to also try for contacts into VK and into the US along that path.
While I could not get through to Ernie, I knew my chances of getting Andrew VK1AD were even less hopeful at the time however as he had just spotted, I took a listen on his frequency and heard nothing – perhaps later? So while we were all waiting for the band to open, I spotted myself on SOTAWatch and was rewarded with a call from Dinos SV3IEG in Greece, so I knew I was getting out with my 20 watts and a dipole. this contact was followed by an S2S contact with Herbert OE9HRV/P on an Austrian/Bavarian border summit, Hochhaedrich. I presume this was a ground wave contact as if I had checked, I could probably see Herbert’s summit from where I was. Herbert was doing the same as me, waiting for conditions to get better to get a contact with Andrew or possibly one of the other two VK activators who had posted they would be out one from VK4 who I heard and called several times later but got no response and one in VK3 who I never heard, but I think he was mostly on CW.
30 minutes after my contact with Herbert, I got the first of three contacts with Ernie VK3DET (each time getting stronger in both directions). At 0620 UTC, I managed an S2S (portable at a summit to portable at a summit) contact with Andrew VK1AD/P in NSW Australia SUCCESS! At this point, the skies were getting darker again rather than lighter. After another couple of contacts with Ernie who was now an armchair copy, at 0645 UTC I decided to pack everything up and exactly at that point, the first raindrop fell. Ideal timing! 20 minutes later I was packed up back in the car and starting the drive home in the rain showers.
- 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.
- Surveyor’s tripod (not used)
- 10-metre DX-Wire mast (not used)
- Screw-in sun umbrella support. (not used)
- SotaBeams linked dipole (modified).
- SotaBeams random length end-fed antenna (not used)
- 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
- 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
- Painter’s thick plastic sheet.
- Gardener’s nealing pad (not used).
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone for back channel comms with the group over “Signal” and for SOTA spots.
- Band conditions are certainly improving as we start to see solar cycle 25 kicking in.
- As we are right at the autumn equinox, the greyline path on 40 metres is not practical for contacts into VK/ZL however as we move into winter, it will become an option again. For now, long path on 20m is the option with possibly 17&15 metres opening up as well soon.
- The G90 / Linked dipole continues to perform well however if I have time, I should change the end black wire sections for a more visible colour, especially when on summits where I may get the public visiting.
73 ’til the next summit(s).