W8/VK2JI/P – May 19th 2019 – W8O/CT-001 Campbell Hill – Activation but no Qualification!

Preparation:

As part of my trip to Hamvention in the US I planned an activation of a summit in the US for my SOTA Mountain Explorer award. That of course comes with some restrictions and the “normal” SOTA kit was going to be too heavy and take up too much space to take on the plane.

Please refer to my last entry – the activation of Peissenberg (here) to test that the seven year old antenna solution still worked. – it did as so it was the solution that I packed.

The activation was going to have to be a quick one as I was with 4 others on this trip, three of whom who weren’t that interested in SOTA. I already new the exact summit was going to be closed as it’s in the private grounds of an educational facility but luckily there. a road alongside the fenced area that is still within the activation zone, so that would be my location.

The Activation:

Despite the fact that the morning was dry, as we got closer to the SOTA summit (the highest point in the state of Ohio) I saw a post on SOTAWatch from another activator on a SOTA summit in Ohio who was packing up as a storm front was coming his way.

Had we got to the summit at the originally planned time we would have been all right however our plans changed and it meant that the (very heavy) storm front hit as we were having lunch in Bellefontaine – where Campbell Hill is located.

we set off anyway in the hope that by the time we arrived at the summit, the rain would have stopped – it didn’t. It got WORSE!

We found a concreted area off the road which was a recycling drop off point and Edmund M0MNG (the other SOTA interested member of the ICQPodcast team) who had sensibly ONLY brought an HT and an extended antenna along, positioned himself under what cover from the rain could be found under the overhang from a small building on the parking area and started calling CQ SOTA on the US 2m FM calling frequency.

I in the mean time, started unpacking my EFHW antenna while trying to see which tree I might get the cord over to get the end of the antenna up in the air. It’s at this point that I remembered how long the 40m EFHW is and that hauling it up in any of the available trees would not allow me to use what little cover the was from the small buildings roof. I decided to wait a while in the car as I was already soaked through. At this point Edmund got his first 2m SOTA contact of the activation working VA3VAD/M – Canada!!! (actually not – it appears the Canadian Hams mobile in the US, simply use their Canadian call without the need for any prefix or suffix! In any case once Edmond had worked the station, I asked if he would let me work the station and of he did. In this way, we had both “activated” if not “qualified”, the summit as I was starting to doubt whether we would achive the required 4 contacts to get the points for the summit.

I waited a further 20 minutes and the rains did not subside – it was a constant downpour and the lightweight jacket I had with me was doing a good job but the jeans were dripping wet. I then asked Edmund whether he wanted to continue as the others were waiting for us still in the coffee shop in the village where we had dropped them off. Then at this point after 40 minutes of no contacts – he got a call and was eager to stay to try to get the 3rd & 4th needed contacts. Number 3 came relatively quickly but number 4 took some time, but it DID come and we were able to head back to the rest of the group. Well done for your perseverance Edmund!

I was disappointed that I didn’t get my station set-up on HF as I’m sure – despite the rain, the contacts would have been there. In hindsight (that great thing Hindsight) I could have attached the telescopic whip and “miracle antenna tuner” to my FT-817 to get on HF without the need for the long wire antenna – it would have been better than nothing, but I simply didn’t think of it! I could have operated on 2m or 70cm as well with the FT917’s “rubber ducky” antenna, but that would most likely have caused interference to Edmund.

  At least, with Edmund’s help, I activated the summit, in that I had a contact from the summit, but having carried all the HF gear with me from Germany, I would have liked to have used it.

An hour earlier and two hours later at the summit there was no rain but that was simply not possible with the travel schedule restrictions that we had.

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment:

Wouxon KG-UV6D (Edmund’s)

Home made two metre loaded vertical whip (Edmund’s).

Log:

Conclusions:

Sometimes things just don’t go right! The rest of my trip went very well.

In hindsight;

If we had stuck with the original schedule the activation would have been finished before the storm arrived – possibly even with a HF S2S contact to the other W8O activator that was out.

I could have tried the “Miracle Antenna” on HF when it became clear I wasn’t going to be able to get the end-fed-half-wave antenna out.

It was lucky that Edmund had taken a different approach. without him having his 2m HT with him – unless I had remembered that the FT-817 does 2m as well, I wouldn’t have activated and Edmund, qualified the 4 point summit.

73 ’til the next Summit!

Advertisements

DD5LP/P – May 8th 2019 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg – testing equipment for US trip.

Preparation:

as I intend visiting Hamvention in the US this month, I have also planned in an activation of a summit in the US for my SOTA Mountain Explorer award. That of course comes with some restrictions and the “normal” SOTA kit is going to be too heavy and take up too much space to take on the plane.

Seven years ago I made up some very lightweight end-fed half wave antennas for a trip from Australia to Europe where I had similar space and weight restraints. At that time however I hadn’t being doing SOTA for very long, so these were some of my first antennas for SOTA.

For the transmitter, I decided it would be easier to take my 5 watt FT-817ND rather than my Xiego X108G 20 watt transmitter, given the current aversion to Chinese products by the US Government (and possible questionable FCC approval). The Yaesu will have all of the US approvals while the Chinese unit may not.

So that will be the configuration; the FT817ND and the EFHW antennas for 40m and 20m matched to the 50 ohm antenna port on the rig using a small “Miracle Antenna” ATU unit.

I checked the antennas at home on the antenna analyser and they seem fine still after so many years of no use but I needed to check the complete configuration out at a site that would be somewhat similar to what I expect at the W8O/CT-001 Campbell Hill summit in Ohio. (Please listen for me and the rest of the ICQPodcast team around 1600 UTC on Sunday May 19th).

I chose Piessenberg for this. Not my usual location at the absolute summit, alongside the church but in the car park a little further down the hill, which is still in the activation zone and with a parking arae and a few trees is similar to what I expect at Campbell Hill.

The Activation:

Despite the fact it was cold and drizzling from time to time, it turned out to be a magic activation! My expectations of the antennas were not great before starting and the activation didn’t start well, with me throwing the throw bag too hard and it wrapping it’s cord around two branches. Luckily I had brought the standard gear with me as backup and I took the 6m fishing pole out and used that to untangle the mess I had made. After that I threw the bag with less force and all was fine.

In a quarter of an hour I had 10 chasers call me on 40m, two of those were S2S calls. These came from pretty well most directions around Europe with (true) reports given from 3-3 to 5-9 – even the 3-3 got revised to 5-5 as the QSB came up and the QRM went down.

Taking the 40m antenna down and putting the 20m one up took about 15 minutes and once on 20m I had problems getting calls, so I tuned around and found the IOTA DXPedition station TM5FI who came back to my first call and we exchanged 5-9 reports – I don’t know if this was a true report, however the station after me only got a 5-6, so I think it might have been. A few more 20m CQs raised reliable Lars SA4BLM in Sweden who gave me a 5-3.

With just five watts and simple antennas only about 3m AGL in the lower tree branches at one end and on the bench seat at the rig end – I’m really surprised (and happy) with the results!

I had just one job to do when I returned home – I had managed to snap the 40m antenna while winding it up. I use printed circuit board patching wire (about 28 swg) for the antennas which make them REALLY compact and light to carry but one downside is that the wire breaks easily.

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND

Home made end-fed halfwave antennas for 20m & 40m.

“Miracle Antenna” ATU.

Throw bag and cord.

Log:

Conclusions:

I start to wonder if the bigger heavy antennas I normally use are worth the extra effort when I get such good results with the simple antennas. Conditions weren’t great either. OK but not great.

What is clear is that this ultra-small configuration still works and will be what I take to the US in a weeks time.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – April 20th 2019 – DL/BE-094 Irschenhausen – for the transatlantic S2S event.

Preparation:

April 20th. 2019 was to be the next Summit to Summit activity event between UK/EU and the Americas and the propagation conditions seemed to have slowly improved over the previous week.

My initial plan had been to activate Wank DL/EW-001 above Garmisch Partenkirchen but then the wife said she wanted to meet up with her school friend and two nieces, so an amended plan was needed. The group from Munich wanted to come out to the Easter Market on the banks of the local lake Ammersee and also take a sail with the paddle steamer on the lake. This wasn’t too bad as a 1-pointer summit that I hadn’t yet activated this year was only about 40 minutes drive away from the lake, Irschenhausen.

As Irschenhausen is a forested summit, there was no reason to try to use the VP2E antenna as verticals simply don’t work in forests, so I decided to take the lightweight set-up of the 6m LambdaHalbe mast and the SOTABeams linked dipole along with my screw-in-the-ground sun umbrella base.

As this was to be an afternoon activation with me arriving at the summit at 1400 local time (1200 UTC), the gear would be packed the morning of the activation.

What could go wrong?

The Activation:

With the Easter road traffic, we set off a little earlier than planned, but the traffic on the back roads was not any worse than normal, so I managed to drop off Gabriele, my wife, 30 minutes ahead of schedule – never mind, this gives me another 30 minutes activation time, or so I thought …

On arriving at the parking spot for Irschenhausen, while unloading the gear from the car, my phone rang and it was the wife. The ferry that I had planned for the groups afternoon cruise following the visit to the market, wasn’t running and so the afternoon would be shorter and could I come back earlier than planned. Oh well, that’s life!

The walk to the summit took about 12 minutes. Upon arrival I could see three new wind turbines that seem to tower over the summit, however they are actually a few kilometres away on the other side of the autobahn. At this distance, they don’t appear to cause any RF interference – at least not on HF. I was soon set up and calling CQ SOTA on 20m. It took a little while until I got my first reply which was a ground wave contact with Mario DJ2MX in Munich. A couple of other European activators were on 20m as well and so I tuned to their frequencies. The one that I could hear had a pile-up that I couldn’t break even as a Summit-to-Summit contact, so I went and found a different free frequency and spotted myself and started the CQ SOTA calls again. In the end during the 45 minutes that I was active, I managed six contacts including one european S2S with Stavros SV2RUJ.

I was aware that I had about a 40 minute drive back to where I had dropped my wife off, so at 1230 UTC, I called it a day and started to pack up, at which point I got a call from the wife to say the friends were leaving and could she be picked up please.

So at the end of the day, at least I did manage an activation. Irschenhausen is an easy summit to access and doesn’t rely on any cable cars, so it gives you flexibility on timing.

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • SOTABeams “Bandhopper” linked dipole.
  • Screw-in Sun Umbrella base.
  • 6 metre LambdaHalbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable with various connection leads.

Log:

Conclusions:

 The propagation was not as good as the previous day and EU-US contacts were only possible late afternoon and early evening. Of course I was there far too early for this opportunity.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – April 6th 2019 – DL/AL-179 Weichberg – UK/EU – VK/JA/ZL S2S event.

Preparation:

Following the tests on the previous Thursday (report on this website) all equipment was already decided upon and loaded in the car Friday evening ready for an early start on Saturday.

The Activation:

The trip down to Weichberg was again uneventful. Although the weather forecast was for a warm morning with sunshine, I decided to stick with my winter jacket and I’m glad I did as on arrival at the parking spot the car thermometer showed -1°C and even after 4 hours, with the car parked in the sunshine, it had only risen to +4°C. And… it’s foggy again as it was on Thursday. No time to complain as no one knows exactly when the band will open (or not), so it’s grab all the gear from the back of the car and head up the track to the summit, while at least it’s not raining!

The set-up is exactly the same as on Thursday – the tripod, 10m mast and 40/20m VP2E with the X108G on the picnic bench. Actually based on what I saw on Thursday, I brought an additional item. A bright yellow plastic shopping bag which I clipped with a peg onto the antenna wire as it went over the main pathway on the summit. While putting the antenna up, I found the metal guy peg that I had lost on Thursday!

Based on actions over the last few weeks I thought it would be best to start on 40m, then watch the MUF and when it rose over 14MHz switch to 20m. Usually the maximum usable frequency (MUF) shoot up after dawn but of late that hasn’t been happening, so it’s a question whether the MUF gets over 14MHz before the long path window closes.

I started at 0540 UTC (0740 local) found a free frequency on what was already a busy 40m band, spotted myself and then started calling CQ, only to have EC4AHH start calling on top of me. I announced the frequency was in use and I’m sure he heard me but he just kept continuing to call CQ. This DQRM action, just because he has more power is a bad trait in some operators. I was hoping some QRO SOTA Chaser might come along and move EC4AHH away from the frequency but it wasn’t to be, so I had to find another frequency rather than waste more of my time with this situation. On the new frequency, I got five calls (four of those S2S), before I was DQRMed again, this time from a Russian speaking station. 40 metres in Europe is becoming a real rat race!

Luckily at this point I saw via my smart-phone that the 3000 km MUF was rising nicely, in the direction of 14MHz, so I lowered the mast, opened the links and then up went the antenna again, now resonant on 20m. Tuning around the band was quiet but not for long, soon there were more and more stations on the band including a VK net booming in at 5-9+ – I tried a call but breaking into a local net in Australia with just 20 watts and a wire antenna from the other side of the world is a lot to ask and indeed it proved impossible. I looked around for a free frequency then spotted myself and called CQ. The first call came from Marat RA9WJV/P on R9U/SO-235 in Asiatic Russia! Following Marat, Juergen DK3SJ on holiday in SV8 (Greece) called and after breaking the contact, the conditions peaked and on a second attempt the QSO was completed. After that 20m quietened down again and only semi-local contacts were possible. Checking on the Internet – the 3000 km MUF had dropped below 14MHz again.

At 0751 UTC (0951 local). I decided to call it a day and pack up and head home.

Here’s what happened to the MUF while I was on the summit and a little afterwards:

Looking at this had I stayed another 20-30 minutes, the MUF rose up over 14MHz again but by that time it is likely the long path window will have closed. So at the moment it looks like the time that contacts between Europe and Australasia are only 10 or perhaps 20 minutes long whereas those on 40m might be up to an hour-long. The problem for me is that for me to get via long path from southern Germany signals are weaker here than in northern Europe, possibly due to another “hop” for the signals being needed. Also chaser stations from Australia tend to have a beam on 20m but only a wire antenna on 40m. A comparison from this activation – a VK station on 40 metres was just copyable and probably not workable, whereas those on 20m were 5-9+.

A lesson learnt – for me to get a contact into VK with the current propagation conditions I need to concentrate on 20m and be on at just the right time. A difficult combination of requirements when operating from a summit.

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • Linked (20m/40m) VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).
  • Antenna warning marker (bright yellow plastic shopping bag).
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable with new EMI stopper board.

Log:

Conclusions:

This activation was not as successful as on Thursday with no contacts into VK. The extra stations on 40m didn’t help however even if there were less DQRMers on the band I think the signals would not have been strong enough to work in any case.

Equipment-wise I have a feeling that the 40m sections of the VP2E are resonant on the bottom of 40m but not at the top of the band, so some testing will be needed and most likely the 40m section of the antenna reduced in length, probably by wrapping the wire back on itself. This needs doing before my next activation using the antenna. Perhaps it can be done at the same time as measuring the directivity of the antenna?

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – April 4th 2019 – DL/AL-179 Weichberg – Trial run for S2S event.

Preparation:

April 6th. 2019 will be the next Summit to Summit activity event between UK/EU and VK/ZL/JA and given the variable propagation conditions at the moment I decided to do a “dry run” to see when the bands open and which bands open, so that I know when to be at the summit on Saturday.

Although I have already activated Weichberg this year and hence will not get any points for either this activation or the one on Saturday, it is relatively close to home and has an area large enough to put the VP2E antenna up.

The same equipment will be taken to the same summit, so this (Thursday) activation, should reflect what is going to be possible on Saturday – at least to an extent.

The equipment was prepared and packed into the car the night before as an early start was planned.

The Activation:

The trip down to Weichberg was uneventful, I have done it so many times before. The last few days had been warm spring days but not this day and luckily I took my think winter jacket but even with that on over the time I was on the summit, I got very cold. After parking and walking up to the summit with all the gear, what greeted me at 0500 UTC was a cold, damp fog actually with ice-cold water droplets in it. Visibility was limited, so no long distance nice views today. Luckily the predicted high winds only arrived as I was leaving. The last time I had activated this summit it had between 2 and 3 metres of snow on it, at least that is gone but the fact that it is gone means the summit no longer curves as it did and I could only just fit the 40m/20m VP2E antenna into the summit area. I had planned to raise the ends of the elements using hiking sticks however this was not necessary as I raised one end by the rope going over a tree branch and the other end had its rope tied off to the top of a signpost.

This site does have the luxury of a picnic bench and seating banks, which is where I set up the station once the antenna on the 10m mast, supported by my surveyors tripod was all set-up.

Prior to the activation Mike 2E0YYY (or 2W0YYY/P in this case) had said he would also be out the same time as I so that we could compare notes on propagation afterwards. I had also lined up some stations in VK to listen for both of us.

Based on actions over the last few weeks we both thought 40m would be the best option for UK/EU-ANZ contacts this morning and indeed from around 06:35 Mike started making contacts into VK & ZL. His first VK contact was Ernie VK3DET whom I could also hear albeit a little week at around 06:35-37 UTC. I could understand every word after a while. Unfortunately when I tried calling Ernie on 40m I wasn’t able to put enough signal back in his direction to get a two-way contact.

I left Mike working VK/ZL stations and once I found a free frequency (the band was sooo full and that on a Thursday morning – which doesn’t bode well for Saturday) I worked quite a few stations around Europe before 0720, when I took the antenna down and switched it to 20m to give it a try. To start with there was nothing on the band and my CQs brought no replies. I then decided to take a tune around and after a while (at around 0735) I came across VK2MIX who was booming in, of course he had plenty of EU QRO stations calling him and I couldn’t get through the pile-up. I went back to my chosen frequency and put out more CQs again with no response, so I tuned around and found VK3TJK, Tim, even stronger than VK2MIX (I made a recording of how strong and clear his signal was – even less chance getting through this pile-up though).
I think the reason the band was dead and then suddenly opened can be explained if we look at the MUF:

I went back to my frequency again and this time I got a call from Michael DJ5AV which overloaded my headset but then I heard something and put out a call for VK/ZL only and to my amazement, there was Ernie VK3DET at 5-5 and he gave me a 3-3 report. To make the day even better Ernie’s call was followed by a call from John VK6NU again 5-5 with me but I was only 3-1 with QSB back to John. The two contacts were made though! After a few more CQ calls with no answers, I tuned around and could no longer find either VK3TSK or VK2MIX, so, as I was freezing cold (the weather had gone from Spring to mid-winter overnight!) I decided to pack up. If I had waited another 20 minutes or so, it looks like the MUF came back over 14MHz again, so further contacts may have been possible but as the winds were increasing and it was approaching 11am local time when I needed to leave in any case, I decided to pack up and call it a day.

My conclusions time-wise (and this is only from my southern Germany location, the UK will be different). for Saturday, are from 0630-0700 to try 40m Long Path and then as soon as the MUF goes over 14MHz switch to 20m as the signals on 20m were far stronger than on 40m with me.

I get the feeling that 40m long path contacts are easier to make from the UK than from southern central Europe and the added gain by the use of beams by chasers on 20m makes all the difference in making a EU-VK contact.

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 with new EMI stopper board.

Log:

Conclusions:

I’d say this was a successful activation in that I know now when the band is opening on the long path on 40m & 20m and why the 20m opening was delayed (MUF). I tried out the filter unit in the USB connection lead and it appeared to work fine (considering it has had some bad reviews, I’d better order a couple of spares before giving it a good review). My set-up with a USB adapter rather than a cable made is rather short, but the required USB cable has been ordered and should be here in a couple of days, so soon I should be able to put the problem away. Strangely today, I could actually read the display on the rig itself most of the time as it was such a grey morning.

 I could hear one VK on 40m (weak), two on 20m booming in but with pile-ups and worked two pre-arranged VK chasers who were 5-5 with me and I got a 3-3 from one and a 3-1 from the other! VK3DET & VK6NU.

My mechanical modification to my wooden plate to use it as a base for the bottom of the mast worked first time as well!

I lost one of my metal guy pegs this morning on the summit. I put it in my pocket but it fell out somewhere – I looked and looked but couldn’t find it. I’ll take another look on Saturday.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – March 27th 2019 – DL/AL-149 Blender, DL/AL-281 Urserberg & DL/AL-282 Steig.

Preparation:

All equipment was prepared and loaded in the car the previous day even though I wasn’t planning a very early departure. These were not to be DX-seeking activations rather grabbing the last of the easy summits with winter bonus points before those stop at the end of the week.

The Activation (Blender):

Listening to the radio while having my breakfast with the snow falling outside, I head that the B12 (one of the roads I was intending to use), was totally blocked because of an accident. This meant a longer route via two Autobahns but not a lot of difference time wise. In any case I set off at 8:30 am instead of my planned 9am, – it’s always good to have some time in reserve.

I expected some delays around the Kempten ring road but the navi took me from the autobahn across country to avoid the town and its traffic. The downside of this is that I did not know the route and pulled up at a sign on the road which said access for those who live here only. But i could see the TV tower and before making a really long diversion, I decided to trust the Navi and drove down the road it suggested. part of the way down this road, the surface was gone and I was driving on a pot-holed mud track. Hoping not to get bogged I kept going and then as the tarmac returned, I realised where I was. The navi had brought me in from the other side to what I was used to. In any case I now headed to my usual parking spot, took out the gear I wanted to use, loaded myself up and started on the slog up the hill. I had decided to use the Vertically polarised two element (VP2E) 40/20m antenna on this summit as I knew it was fairly flat and I would be able to fit the antenna in. The temperatures were still cold and so I had my thick jacket on.

On arriving near the seat on the summit, I dropped everything down and proceeded to put the surveyors tripod up to support the 10 metre mast and the VP2E. All went well, but I was aware of some threatening cloud in the sky but luckily the rain held off.

I was not expecting any intercontinental DX as I was too late for long path and too early for short path. There was a time at the start when I wondered if I was getting out but after about 4 CQ calls the chasers appeared. Although I had checked and called to make sure the frequency wasn’t in use, as soon as I started to get calls, some station started up about 1 kHz away causing problems both for me and the chasers. This same problem actually occurred on all three summits!

Eleven contacts in 6 minutes and I was happy and packed up to head to the next summit, one that I have not activated for several years and it turns out that Urserberg isn’t that far from Blender especially if you take the narrow farm roads as directed by the navi!

The Activation (Urserberg):

On approaching Urserberg, I recognised where I was and drove straight into the car park, which is signposted as the car park for the Eschacher  Weiher (pond) on the other side of the road. This is a good place to park as there is a track from here up the hill and the car is safely parked. The navi wanted to take me closer, around the other side of the hill, where I suspect the parking would not have been as good.

It is a fair walk up the track until you reach the summit (above the ski lifts), so I decided not to take the tripod this time chosing my screw-in sun umbrella base and 6 metre mast instead. To go with this I would use the Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole. I actually had all antennas in my rucksack, so I could choose a different one if I hit any problems. As had happened the previous week on Senkelekopf.

There’s no seat on this summit, so everything (including myself) was sat on my plastic painters sheet and after putting up the antenna and with some cold winds around, I managed 14 European contacts in 17 minutes, before packing up again to head off to the next summit. The walk up and down from this summit takes about 15 minutes and in my rush to get down I was not as careful as I should have been and slightly strained my ankle. Luckily this wasn’t as bad as it could have been but it underlines that rushing is not good in slippery conditions. I wasn’t going to let this stop me “bagging” summit number three of the day however, so once back at the car, it was time for a bit of lunch, reset the navi for the next summit and set off.

The Activation (Steig):

For some reason, this time the Navi decided to take me back via Kempten and there was some delay getting around the town but not as much as when I approached the summit. Previously I had used notes from Google maps to get to the car park and start of the walking trails in this forest-covered summit. This time I just gave in the summit reference and it directed me to the closed road to the summit – which just happened to end in a farm-yard at the other side of the summit where there are no official tracks to the summit from. To get me to this farm-yard, another length of mud track was included in the route so some interesting driving and some strange looks from the locals. Once I realised what had happened and having no way to tell the navi where the entrance to the forest was that I wanted, I reverted to Google Maps on my phone and was able to pick out two villages where I could tell the navi to bring me to and I knew the road between them and so found my parking spot for Steig with probably 40 minutes delay over a direct route.

This summit also entails a fairly long but not difficult walk, so again I opted for the lighter set-up and left the tripod and 10m mast in the car.

The forest looks a little different to what I remember as an awful lot of the trees have been cut down however the tracks are the same and I soon found my way up to the summit alongside the lookout platform.

Again the painters sheet became the base for operations and the SOTABeams linked dipole went up on the 6m mast and despite the QRM problem again on this summit, I bagged 12 contacts from around Europe in 10 minutes. At this summit the sun actually came out, so I felt like staying longer but as I had lost so much time through mis-navigation and the chance that the weather could change, I decided to pack up and head home, where I was by 15:30.

All in all good day out!

Photos (Blender):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos (Urserberg):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos (Steig):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

Blender:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs)
  • Linked (40m/20m) VP2E antenna
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Urserberg:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • Aerial-51 OCF dipole antenna
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Steig:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs)
  • 6 metre lambdahalbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet
  • SOTABeams Linked dipole
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable

Log (Blender):

Log (Urserberg):

Log (Steig):

Conclusions:

Don’t trust your Navi (GPS) to take you where you expect it to. I took the summit locations as a KML file from the SOTAMaps website. The Navi will try to get you as close as possible on a normal road but that isn’t always where the parking is or where the tracks go from.

I used different antennas on each of the three summits and all worked fine. I have the feeling that the VP2E was the best of the three and I will most likely use that one for the UK/EU – VK/JA/ZL S2S event on April 6th once I replace the centre mount which broke when I was taking it down at Blender.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – March 21st 2019 – DL/AL-170 Zwieselberg, DL/AL-172 Senkelekopf & DL/AL-171 Eisenberg – a tale of technical problems.

Preparation:

All equipment was prepared and loaded in the car the previous day following the activation of Buchberg. This activation was initially planned for a leisurely start but brought forward as it looks like there “might” be some 7MHz long path possibilities into VK/ZL. So a pre-7am start was planned for.

I actually woke earlier as the dog woke me up barking at 4 am when the neighbours cat came past the back door! after dealing with that I tried to get a little more sleep before the alarm went off. I was on the road by 6:50am (0550 UTC) and all went to plan heading for my first summit “Zwieselberg” that I had activated a couple of years ago, so I knew the route but despite that I put the Navi (GPS) on in the car to avoid any problems. One SOTA operator had told me the week prior that there were trees blocking the road and hence a longer walk is needed. As this was a day after some very heavy winds, i thought he meant that the trees had been blown down. in that case they will have been cleared by now right? well that wasn’t what he meant – see later. First of all we need to get to the summit …

The main road closed on my route someway away from Zwieselberg – at first I thought it was just in the village where I saw the first signs so I diverted around the outside of that village (Bruggen) and that was the problem solved. That was not to be the case, as I approached the small town of Bernbeuren (under the SOTA summit Auerberg) I could see the main road into the town was dug up! The diversion was NOT well sign-posted. In fact at one point it had you going down a “restricted for motor vehicles” road – but everyone else went down there, so I followed them. The Navi (GPS) doesn’t help when a road is closed, it keeps trying to route you back to the same point and indeed the restricted road it didn’t even have in its maps!

The Activation (Zwieselberg):

So after arriving at Vorderzwieselberg and driving up the private road (there’s a sign: public access but at your own risk), I find what the previous activator meant! it wasn’t that one or two trees had been blown over rather that tens of trees had been cut down and stacked not only along the side of the road but also IN the road in the area where I have parked previously (see photos below). with a bit of trepidation, I decide to drive up and park on the grass bank behind some of the logs. the picture doesn’t show the angle very well, but I can say it took all my strength to open the driver’s door wide enough, to be able to get out. Going to the rear of the car, even with it in gear and the hand brake on, I decided to lodge my large sun umbrella base under the back wheel to act as a check. It was not an ideal situation but it looked solid enough. So I now unpacked the car, loaded myself up with my normal two bags, the 10 metre mast and the Surveyors tripod and set off up the steep track (about 85 metre rise in less than a kilometre would be my estimate, to the summit and summit cross. part of the way up, the ground was still muddy and even with my good hiking boots on, I felt myself sliding, some sideways walking solved that problem and indeed I made it up to the top of the summit as the sun was rising into the sky. This summit has lots of space so I decided to put up the linked VP2E that I had used the previous day on Buchberg. Although there is lots of space, the ground does curve down quite a lot, meaning the ends of the antenna were closer to the ground than I would have liked. But “it is what it is”. The views from this summit are stunning and although it was quite cold, the fact that the sun was shining helped me to start to forget the “aggro” from the closed road and the difficult parking situation both of which had cost me valuable time.

The log shows that despite the expectations and my timing being “OK” despite the delays, no VK contacts were achieved. I had scheds with Ernie VK3DET in Victoria, Australia on both 40m & 20m but to no avail. The conditions were simply not good enough. Added to that there was a “clicking” type of QRM on 40m and something that soundeD like OTHR from 14.140 to 14.350 on 20m. I thought the “clicking” QRM may have been a faulty electrical farmers fence but the noise was still there on the next summit, so it seems it was atmospheric. The 20m QRM was however definitely man-made.

Despite the noise I managed 5 contacts on 40m and in fact it was almost 6 contacts but one I had to mark as a “no contact” as I could not copy my report. I did stay longer, calling and hoping that the bands would improve to let me get through to Ernie in Australia but to no avail. As I had lost time already and I knew that the trip to the next summit (which I hadn’t activated before) would take sometime as the 7-8 km away Senkelekopf needed an over 30 minute drive to get there as there are no direct roads, I decided at 0810 UTC to pack up and head back to the car.

Little did I know that I was about to get my next challenge. The car was still where I had parked it and I could load all the equipment into the back of the car but the placement of the large trees would make it difficult  to turn around (in hindsight, I should have reversed back down off the bank onto the road at the same angle that I came up and reversed back down the whole of the private road). The problem as well as the large logs was that the ground under the car was waterlogged and hence grip was limited. Unfortunately my car, like the majority these days is front wheel drive, so as I backed down the slop trying to turn the rear of the car, the driving wheels were still on the slippery surface. I was very aware of the line of logs directly behind my car and so I would stop and check and stop and check inch by inch until I got almost onto the road BUT the problem was the steering doesn’t work on such surfaces so I wasn’t able to turn the front of the car and trying to drive back up the bank to have another go simply spun the wheels. I did not want to have to walk down to the farm to see if they could help, so I looked around in the car to see what I might put under the front wheels to get some traction and decided on the canvas covers from two folding seats. These I jammed under the front wheels. They made a little difference but I was edging closer and closer to those logs behind me. I was at this point that I realised that when the wheels were spinning, the car was slowly sliding sideways on the muddy bank, so with some brake, clutch and accelerator “trickery” I manager to get the front of the car to slide sideways onto the road BEFORE the back of the car met the stacked logs. PHEW! That was close but after finding the canvas covers (which after a run through the washing machine are as good as new) and putting them in the back of the car, I was, at last, able to drive off in the right direction and on to Senkelekopf with the help of the Navi (GPS).

I’m sure the farmer will wonder what has happened to the grass bank, but if he hadn’t stacked the logs on the road rather than at the side of the road (where there was space) I would never have had this problem!

The Activation (Senkelekopf):

The drive to Senkelekopf from Zwieselberg was along single track farm roads for most of the way and when I arrived at the suggested starting point for the climb, by a country guest house, I wondered if someone would complain about me parking there. There was a gravelled spot for parking two cars which didn’t appear to be on anyones actual property (I expect it was the parking for the chapel, for when they have services). So I parked there and decided what to take with me for this summit I actually took the same set-up as I had for Zwieselberg, except I was expecting to have to use the SOTABeams linked dipole antenna rather than the VP2E, but in case I could get that out, I took the 10 metre mast again not the lighter 6 metre one. In my small rucksack I had 2 VP2E antennas, The SOTABeams linked dipole and the Aerial-51 40m OCF antenna.

This is also a steep climb. There are other not so steep routes but they are a lot longer – nice if you have the time. I took my time climbing up the track, stopping to get my breath and take some photos as I climbed. Eventually I saw the summit. There is some large building near to it, which is obviously accessible via one of the other routes with a tractor or similar – it seems to be some kind of farm building. While approaching it a squirrel ran across about 10 metres in front of me and went up a tree. To the left of the building the ground rises up to the actual summit and on top of that is the Holy Cross – this appears to be totalled fenced in and surrounded within the fencing with bushes and small trees. It’s obvious public access to it is not invited. In any case at a similar height behind the cross there was some fairly flat land where I could easily set-up. There was not enough space for the 40m VP2E so I decided to put up my “old faithful” the SOTABeams Bandhopper linked dipole.

Once the surveyors tripod was set up and the 10m mast within it, it took no time to get the rest of the station deployed on my painters sheet on the ground next to the tripod. I was on the air just after 1000 UTC and there were some other summits being activated, so I tuned around and I could hear a couple of the activators and despite my determined calling, neither of them came back to me. So I picked a free frequency, spotted myself and started calling CQ – nothing. Perhaps there was someone on the same frequency that I can’t hear because they are within my skip zone? tried another frequency, still no calls. Then there was QRM on the frequency, tried another frequency. This is all very strange! I check the rig, all appeared OK. So I dropped the antenna, switched to 20m and got my first calls after being on the summit nearly an hour. 20m wasn’t that good though, so I went back to 40m. Again I could hear plenty of stations but none of them wanted to work me. What could be wrong? split frequency? no. Wrong sideband? no. OK, it had to be the antenna! I lowered the mast took off the linked dipole and put up the Aerial-51 OCF. As soon as I spotted myself and called, I had a pile-up – everything was now working – so what was wrong with the other antenna?

Then the battery box failed – what now? I opened the box and found that one of the diodes that I use to drop the voltage down to an acceptable level from my 4S LIPOs had come loose – I pushed it back in place and all worked again. By this point I had 13 calls in the log and was again running late to my schedule, so it was time at 1130 UTC to pack up and head off.

As I was rolling up the SOTABeams linked dipole the wire from the 20m link came away in my hand – THAT had been the problem! that was the reason why it was OK on 20m but not on 40m. when on 40m, one half of the dipole would have been the correct length while the other side would have been too short. I wonder if this caused the rig to draw more power with the bad VSWR and that was the reason, combined with the extended length of time I was using the rig, that one end of one of the diodes de-soldered itself?

At this point with the series of problems I had had, I wondered whether to cancel my third activation and head home? I decided to make the call once I was back at the car and could see how long it would take to get to Eisenberg – a summit that I have activated several times so I knew what was possible and what not.

After getting to the car and packing the gear in, the Navi told me I’m only about a 1/4 hours drive to the next summit and I still had time to do it, so I decided to include it in the day’s activations as planned. So off to Castle Eisenburg!

The Activation (Eisenberg):

On arriving at Eisenberg, I decided not to take the 10 metre mast, the tripod or the VP2E antennas and stick to the 6 metre mast and the Aerial-51 OCF dipole. I’d just get the minimum 4 contacts and then head back down to the car park and to the restaurant for a well-earned “Weissbier” (Wheat beer).

My favourite spot at this summit is out on the wooden platform that has been built onto the end of the ruins. It has convenient posts to support the mast and the ends of the antenna can be tied off to the wooden railings. I set myself up in a corner on my painters sheet quite quickly as there were no tourists there when I arrived. they came later but caused no issues or interruptions. Starting at 1300 UTC all went well with seven 40m contacts in seven minutes. Just as I finished the last QSO of the seven I lost power from the battery box again and looking at it this time, the diode that had disconnected itself at Senkelekopf has disconnected at both ends this time and so there was no “quick fix”. I no longer use the bump-up bump-down “buck” voltage converters as they create RFI, hence the reason that I switched to the “quiet” diodes but these do need to dissipate some power as heat. After getting home I re-soldered the diode back in place as this is the first time in 10 activations that this has happened. If the problem occurs again I’ll add a second run of terminal block so that the diodes are no longer soldered together.

I packed up at 1310 UTC following the loss of power and headed back to the car park, dropped in all the gear into the car and went across to sit outside the restaurant in the sun, gaze at the views and drink a nice cool, well-earned, Weissbier. A great end to a busy day.

The drive home was a route I knew without needing to use the Navi and went without any more incidents.

That’s 15 activating points today 3 x 2 point summits each with a 3 point winter bonus. There’s still three more summits, all with long walk-ins located a fair distance from the home QTH which, if the weather keeps fine I will try to fit in, in one day, before the winter bonus finishes.

Photos (Zwieselberg):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos (Senkelekopf):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos (Eisenberg):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment used:

Zwieselberg:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs)
  • Linked (40m/20m) VP2E antenna
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Senkelekopf:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • SOTABeams linked dipole.
  • Aerial-51 OCF dipole antenna
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Eisenberg:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs)
  • 6 metre lambdahalbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet
  • Aerial-51 OCF dipole antenna
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable

Log (Zwieselberg):

Log (Senkelekopf):

Log (Eisenberg):

Conclusions:

A really challenging day with a few problems to resolve but in the end, I managed the three summit activations almost on schedule and all were in sunshine, something that has been rare around here lately.

All three summits had long steep climbs of 80-100m. Despite the cumbersomeness and weight of the surveyors tripod it continues to be my favorite when going to a summit where I know mast supports are limited or to a new summit, where I don’t know whether there will be any supports at all (as was the case with Senkelekopf).

The propagation did not provide the expected improvements and no contacts into VK were possible although I was at the first summit at the right time for long path.

73 ’til the next Summit!