DD5LP/P – November 2nd 2019 – DL/MF-082 Schwarzerberg – UK/EU – USA S2S event.

Preparation:

All weather forecasts said that this activation would be a nice sunny one being scheduled to start early afternoon and run for a couple of hours, what could be better?

I had a summit that I hadn’t activated before but as I didn’t know what to expect at the summit, I excluded it from any early start exercise but with a midday start, I should be able to solve any set-up issues without time pressure. Schwarzerberg – or Taubenberg as it is indicated on maps and local signposts also has a “Gaststatte” (restaurant) near to the summit and the public track up to the restaurant is open to cars and gives easy access to the lookout tower on the summit as well.

I had wanted to invite another ex-pat Brit along to one of my activations for some time. Rob DM1CM was previously active in SOTA but has moved on, but as he offered to give me a hand (and doing an activation with someone else along is fun as well as spreading the load a little). Schwarzerberg fitted well as it isn’t too far from his home QTH and by planning the restaurant into the day we could make a social event out of this, and get to take part in the SOTA EU-NA S2S event as well.

A couple of days prior to the activation, the weather forecasts changed drastically and there was a chance I would have to cancel the trip but in the end we decided to go ahead and while it did rain on us as we set-up the equipment about 3 or four times with just a few minutes between each shower,  the rest of the time it was dry and there was even a little sunshine.

I had been hoping to use my VP2E antenna that I have been using on some recent activations and that I have been trying to track down some problems on. My last change was to go back to single-band versions of the antenna and I have one built for 40 metres and one for 20 metres meaning that switching bands would take about 15 minutes if there is not enough room to put up both antennas without them interfering with each other. Looking at maps, there’s looked to be a clearing but whether this would be large enough to get the 40m VP2E into I wasn’t sure. So although I actually took the two VP2E antennas along, I decided that I’d either use my Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole or my SOTABeams linked dipole. Added to these and the X108G transceiver was my newly built portable RF amplifier, which in ideal conditions should produce up to 100 watts PEP output – 50 watts is a more believable figure.

All gear was prepared the day before and put ready to take near the main house door.

The Activation:

I had arranged to meet Rob at the bottom of the track up to the restaurant at 11am and as Google Maps told me it was a 90 minute drive, I set off at 9:30am only to get a call from Rob to say he was already there at 10am while I was still at least an hour away. It seems we Brits like to get to places early! The route chosen as the shortest by the GPS Navigator in my new Peugeot car was “interesting” in places as it wanted me to turn off the main road and go through villages rather than use the by-pass road around the village to save a few metres on the route – as I knew the first 90% of the journey, I simply carried on along the roads I knew and the GPS sorted itself out after a while.

I met up with Rob at the restaurant shortly after 11am and we went in and had lunch and a beer before driving back along the track and parking at the end of the 200-metre long track up to the summit.

The activation brought lots of contacts within Europe including 5 S2S contacts but nothing from over the pond. In the first 12 minutes, I made 24 contacts on 40m. There were a couple of US super stations on 20m belting in. I kept trying to call one of them but couldn’t get through. I get the feeling that “something” is wrong with the amplifier on 20m but it certainly belts out the RF on 40m. At one point I was calling another activator 4 or 5 times with no success on 20m, then I took the amp out of the circuit and put the coax directly to the rig and turned up its power to 20 watts and the other station came straight back to me. I don’t think it’s the amp as much as the low pass filter board – I’ll have to do some re-wiring so that I have a position to run the amp without the Low Pass filters and see what happens when I switch there for a test.

After two hours of operation, the number of contacts had dropped to zero, so we decided, with more dark clouds on their way, to pack up, head back to the restaurant for a drink and some cake and a good chat before both leaving to head home. Even on the way down the track to the car, there was a problem – the shoulder strap on the tripod broke and will need to be repaired. Oh well!

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

Leson amplified microphone.

Portable HF amplifier and cables.

Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).

Aerial-51 404-UL OCF Inverted-V dipole antenna.

Surveyors tripod.

10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.

Plastic tablecloth as ground cover.

Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable (only used for spotting and taking pictures this time).

Log:

Conclusions:

I wish I hadn’t gone so early to the summit! Going 2 hours later would not only have avoided the showers (which weren’t too bad) but probably also bagged me some S2S contacts into North America!  Hindsight is a great thing though!

Plus and Minus points from this activation:

Plus – I had another ham along – Rob DM1CM – another Englishman living in Germany and actually got him on the air making some contacts. Rob helped with set-up and took some photos and in fact, brought his professional audio gear along and recorded most of the two hours we were on the summit.
Plus – it was a new summit for me gaining me an extra activators point. The summit is really easy to get to as there’s a publicly accessible track where you can drive up to 200 metres from the summit.
Plus – I was very happy with how well the simple off centre fed dipole antenna (Aerial-51 404-UL) worked. (I had decided not to put the VP2E antennas up and there wasn’t space enough in any case for the 40m VP2E).
Plus – I was happy with the extra “punch” on 40 metres that the amplifier gave me (but not on 20m – see below). Straight after setting up I had a run of 24 contacts in 12 minutes.

Minus – the summit is over 1.5 hours away from home for just one activator point.
Minus – the timing was off – we were there far too early to get contacts into the US that others managed two to three hours after we closed down.
Minus – the amplifier had a problem on 20m where I simply was not getting the reports that I should have been and in fact, taking the amplifier out of the circuit and turning up the power from the rig I was able to make one contact that I failed to get with the amplifier in circuit.

Plus and Minus – The weather was variable and overcast with rain showers which were inconvenient but it meant that I could read the OLED display on the rig.
Plus and Minus – Five Summit to Summit contacts but only within Europe. Without the amplifier problem on 20 metres and if we had started 1-2 hours later, I think I would have had some transatlantic S2S contacts in the log – which was the intention of the event.

An activation to learn from!

My plan of action is as follows:

Amplifier problem – I will re-wire the band switch to allow me one position without the low-pass filter board in-circuit – this will allow me to isolate if the problem is the amplifier or (as I suspect) the 20m Low pass filter.

I would have liked to have used the new VP2E 20m antenna but its high SWR meant I went with the standard off centre fed dipole instead (which worked well). This could be an element length problem through the changes I made and then removed for dual-band operation. I will validate all lengths against the calculator and adjust and test, hopefully to correct the problem before my next activation.

Repair the shoulder strap on the tripod.

73 ’til the next summit!

DD5LP/P – October 19th 2019 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen – UK/EU – VK/ZL S2S event.

Preparation:

I had planned to be on Attenberg in southern Allgau for the bi-annual UK/EU – VK/ZL/JA S2S QSO party however as the wife caught a rather nasty strain of Flu, she was told by her doctor not to travel. The plan had been to stay with wife and dog in the hotel that has Attenberg in its back field. We have done this before and I have worked both ZL and VK from there. OK radio conditions are not as good as they were last year, so the chances of a contact into Australasia were reduced and indeed that was to be the story of the activation. I had hopes that with a lot of luck and some ‘Pre-Auroral-Enhancement” created by ionised solar winds ahead of plasma from a CME from a coronal hole on the sun, I might just be able to get at least a contact with an Australian or New Zealand chaser.

In place of Attenberg, I had to look for another summit, which I could get to by 0530 UTC (0730 local) if not earlier, which ruled out a lot of the better summits as they require the cable car or seat lift to be running and they don’t start until 9 am local. As I intended using the 40/20m VP2E the summit also needed some space and the ability to put the antenna up in the correct direction. Rentschen is a drive-on plateau with plenty of space and only 45 minutes from home, so rather than not take part in the event, I decided to go back to Rentschen for my third time this year (which of course means I would get no activator points for it).

Knowing a summit, allows you to try out new things and as well as the VP2E antenna (which two others in the event had also built on my recommendation and would be testing), I also had a new HF portable amplifier which should give out up to 100 watts PEP on 40 metres. This might help a little in the bad radio conditions but brings with it, extra power supply and cabling needs, all of which I had tested at a local GMA summit Kramerberg, a couple of weeks earlier.

As I would need an early start, all the gear was loaded into the new car, the night before so that I could just get up, get ready and go.

The Activation:

As planned I was up early – in fact even earlier than I thought I needed to be but in the end, it worked out about right as setting up the antenna in half-light just after dawn took longer than I expected.

The run down to Rentschen was uneventful and I was happy to see that the field where the summit marker trig point stone is located had been recently cut so the farmer hopefully wouldn’t be coming up and moving me on. (The guy is really quite nice and understanding about what I am doing – his wife, not so).

Despite the weight, part of my standard gear to take to a summit is now the surveyor’s tripod and the 10m DX-Wire “Mini-mast”. This allows me to set up where it is best for the antenna rather than only where I might find a mast support. I decided to set up the tripod and mast right next to the trig point stone (i.e. on the absolute summit). I also noticed a nice looking hut at the edge of the woods that might be worth checking out next time as it open, it would give nice protection from rain and wind.

I was lucky with the weather despite some dark cloud overhead during the whole of the activation, the first rain I saw was just a few drops on the windscreen on the drive home. It was still cold though.

Setting up the VP2E antenna in the required direction took a little longer than expected as I misjudged the distance out to where I would put the walking stick posts and guy rope pegs meaning I had to do a couple of changes until the antenna was up as I required. In order to keep the ends of the antenna at the correct distance off the ground, I run the guy cords that are on the end of the antenna through a hole that I drilled in the tops of my telescopic walking poles. This simple solution seems to work quite well.

Once I had the mast and antenna up, I went back to my operating position and my painter’s sheet to set up the gear. Although the farmer had cut the grass he hadn’t yet collected it all and with the morning dew, the grass stuck to my boots and stayed there all the way home.

With the addition of the amplifier setting up the station was made more complex than usual but I decided to have it in-circuit ready for use although my first couple of contacts were made using the X108G “barefoot” at “only” 20 watts output but as I realised what a rat race 40 metres was going to be, I put the amplifier on full time on 40m. As 20m conditions were not good everyone was on 40m – including many of the contest stations who were getting ready for the “Worked All Germany” which only started in the afternoon, but it seems individual operators were running these QRO stations under their non-contest call signs to check out the equipment. This was also JOTA weekend and so there were also additional stations on the air for that. Normally I would be very happy with extra activity on the band but the problem turned out to be two-fold. One problem was that even with my extra power, within minutes of finding a free frequency, checking it was free and then spotting myself on the SOTAWatch cluster – some other station would fire up 1kHz above or below me and splatter all over the frequency. The second point was that when ZL and VK stations spotted their frequencies these would always be where a QRO European station was (correctly) operating – so I had no way of seeing if I could hear the DX station.

These are normal problems on 40m in Europe on a weekend. I believe it would be better to have our S2S event on a weekday when less is happening on the bands.

So how did I do? In just under2 hours of operating, I only worked 27 stations with a big part of the time being wasted on 20 metres. While activity was less and so more free frequencies were available – there was no propagation to speak of. 40 metres, on the other hand, had propagation and I actually heard a VK4 home station but could not call him as he was in a net. He was about 5-5. Mike 2E0YYY/P on G/SP-004 managed a short contact to Ernie VK3DET but the majority of stations didn’t manage any intercontinental QSOs and had to make do with intra-regional S2S and chaser contacts.

As you’ll see from the log below, I managed six S2S contacts and 2 JOTA contacts within my overall 27 contacts. That isn’t bad.

As is normal on my activations, I came back with some tasks to complete before the next outing, which is likely to be the North America – Europe S2S QSO Party on November 2nd. These are – it appears that the amplifier has stopped working on 20m – it’s fine on 40m so I suspect this could be a problem in the relay switched low pass filter module. The HB9SL Vertically Polarised two element (VP2E) antenna has an SWR of 2.2:1 which is higher than I would like and I suspect adding the links may be part of the reason for this, so I will need to get out in a large enough area (local farmers field) and run the analyser on the antenna and try to improve the SWR ratio by either shortening or lengthening both elements of the antenna. The old problem of the X108G display becoming invisible once there is any sunshine around, was less of a problem on this activation with the dark overhead clouds but towards the end I did have to plug in my smartphone to check settings, so this is still a problem with only one phone that supports the needed OTG feature.

I was fairly sure that the long path window to VK/ZL had passed by 07:45 UTC and I was not getting the flow of calls that I had previously so I decided to pack up and head home after watching a black hot air balloon travel down the valley (I would think they would not be travelling so well in the cold air).

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

Leson amplified microphione.

Portable HF amplifier and cables.

Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).

VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).

Surveyors tripod.

10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet.

Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The propagation was not as good as I had hoped for. The problems with operating portable on 40 metres in Europe, especially when a contest or special event is also planned makes operating unnecessarily difficult.

The 20m performance of the amplifier will need to be investigated as will the reason that the VP2E now has an SWR of 2.2:1 rather than the previous 1.1:1.

The Leson microphone is better that the standard (ICOM) Xiegu microphone but the internal audio compressor in the X108G should not be turned up to 3 (out of 10) – it’s OK at setting number 2.

73 ’til the next summit!

DD5LP/P – October 8th 2019 – DL/AL-179 Weichberg – Tests before UK/EU – VK/JA/ZL S2S event.

Preparation:

With the S2S event coming up on the 19th and the fact that I have built an HF Amplifier that hasn’t been tested “in the field” I needed to do an activation where I could use all the gear I have planned for Attensberg on the 19th. Weichberg is a good location to test as it’s about a 50-minute drive from home, has just enough room to get the VP2E antenna out and it has a picnic bench and seats to work from. I had intended to do my test a week earlier however I caught the flu and the weather turned bad. The weather forecast for the 8th. was one of the better days in the week, with heavy rain expected from Wednesday onwards. As I was going to be using the gear intended for contacts into VK/ZL, I decided an early start to get me to Weichberg in time for the morning long path window would be a good idea and one of my mates in Australia – Ernie VK3DET agreed to be in the shack to see if he could hear me and give me a call.

All was not to go to plan …. But the purpose of this activation was to catch problems before the “big event”.

The Activation:

The trip down to Weichberg was uneventful even in the new car (a three-year-old Peugeot mini-SUV 2008 model – a bit underpowered compared to my last car but far more economical). Another question was answered as regards transport – the Surveyors tripod would fit in the back of the car along with the usual small rucksack and camera bag (which now holds the rig, the amplifier and the battery box).

The weather forecast was for dry but cold – and indeed it WAS cold! My quilted winter jacket put in good service but as many actions needed me to take off my gloves and by the end of the activation I could hardly feel my fingers. I guess it was never over 6 degrees on the summit and with the winds during the second half of the activation, I guess the wind-chill factor took temperatures down to near zero.

As mentioned above this was NOT an easy activation with several problems occurring causing me, most likely to miss the long path window due to the delays. Here is a list of the problems …

Problem 1 – while putting up the mast, I dropped and lost a large silver coloured washer – not essential but I didn’t want to leave litter on the summit – searched around for 15 minutes – it had disappeared! I found it when packing up, but why was it not visible earlier I have no idea!

Problem 2 – I was surprised to fund squeezing in the 40/20m VP2E antenna was a stretch and involved a bit of careful climbing down a slope to tie off one end of the antenna to a tree in the correct direction. This took longer than expected.

Problem 3 – Once I had connected all the gear up (made more complicated with the added amplifier and its control cable), it didn’t seem like I was getting nearly as much power out as I would expect. Suspecting the new amplifier I tried with the amplifier turned off (pass-thru mode) – even that was not showing a fifth of what I would expect on the power meter. I replaced both coax leads thinking that may be the issue – no change – then I decided to check the SWR on the antenna – it was bad, with way too much RF coming back down the antenna lead!  OK, something has failed in the antenna. should I put up the 20m/17m VP2E antenna instead? Probably not as 40m seemed to be the band of choice. So I took down the 40m/20m VP2E and packed it away and then put up “old faithful” the SOTABeam 40/30/20m linked dipole. As I was rushing, it managed to tie itself in knots but I got it up eventually.

Problem 4 – now checking the SOTABeams linked dipole, it also had a terrible SWR – why is that, is it the SWR bridge that is faulty? Then the penny dropped …. the coax cables on the back of the meter were reversed – so of course the reflected power was high and the forward low – as this was reversed!! I switched the cables around and things looked fine again. Of course, I now don’t know if the VP2E had a problem or not – probably not but I will need to check again. Having lost so much time, I decided not to switch back to the VP2E and rather just use the linked dipole – which was, of course, was set-up in the wrong direction for VK/ZL but even at the 9 metres that the middle now was, the Inverted-V on 40m has little or no directivity.

Problem 5 – in order to try to get the average output up, I had increased the compression on the built-in (audio) compressor to 3 from the usual 2 (it can be set from 0 to 10) and that was not sounding good to some contacts but while the button on the X108G for putting the value UP works fine, the one for DOWN did not (something else to fix). These are rubber buttons that have ferrite in them that short against printed circuit board contacts. I decided after trying several times, to leave it as it was – the winds had increased at this point and some clouds were heading my way, so I tried a couple more calls specifically looking for Ernie VK3DET without success and then started to pack-up.

Throughout the activation, it only ever took 2-3 minutes for QRM to appear next to (or on) the clear frequencies that I found – unfortunately that’s normal for 40 Metres SSB in Central Europe!

At least the day was so dull, that I could read the display on the rig and didn’t need to plug the Smart Phone in to see the frequency, power etc. It served its other roles as a camera and a spotting and email terminal.

Photos:

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Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • Linked (20m/40m) VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, wire antenna).
    • SOTABeams Linked Inverted-V 40/30/20m dipole.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • HF 70/100w PEP output power amplifier.

Log:

Conclusions:

This activation was not as successful as I had hoped. It would have been great to make a contact with Ernie in VK but with the delayed start I think I was simply too late. The PA doesn’t seem to be putting out as much power into the antenna as it did into the dummy load and the X108G’s standard microphone doesn’t seem to be very “punchy” I will consider trying a different one once I make up an adapter. The VP2E antenna will need to be re-tested to make sure it’s SWR is actually OK and it was only my cabling error on the SWR Bridge that was the problem. The button problem is solved as I have swapped the important DOWN adjustment button with a less used one. Longer-term I may look to replace these buttons with proper mini-buttons with normal contacts in them.

This was planned as an activation to find problems and that it did! I will need to make another outing (probably not to a summit this time), to check the antenna is, in fact, OK and possibly to try out the different microphone.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – August 29th 2019 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

The primary aim of this activation was to get out again after a time away from activating. To test the equipment (and I) still work. As we have had some small improvement in conditions caused by PAE (Pre-Auroral-Enhancement) over the last few days, I was hoping for perhaps a contact into VK or ZL.

Berndorfer Buchet is my closest summit, being 30 minutes drive away from home however as I had already activated it once this year I would not get the one activation point for the summit. As it turned out I got 3 S2S contacts so that was a good by-product of what was more or less a testing excursion.

As I had decided to try for a VK/ZL contact I planned the use of the linked 20/40m VP2E antenna. The very summit at DL/AM-180 is wooded however and there’s only a little clearing, with nowhere enough space to fit the VP2E in. Plus the VP2E as the name indicates is a Vertically polarised two element wire antenna and vertical antennas do not work well in forrests as the trees absorb the transmitted signal. Just down from the summit however, there is a flat area, still within the activation zone but often quite damp underefoot. This is where I would put up the antenna. Because of its length, the antenna needs to be supported on the 10 metre mast and that I support with my surveyors tripod as there are no suitable other supports for the mast in the area.

My plan was to be on the summit by 0600 UTC which meant setting the alarm for 6am local time and then get ready and leave the house as quietly as possible. To help with this I packed everything I could in the car, the night before.

The Activation:

The trip across to Bernorfer Buchet took exactly the expected 30 minutes, however as I set off at 6:40 am local rather than the planned 7 am. I was at the car park ready to start the 10 minute walk to the summit in plenty of time.  As I approached the area where I planned to set up, it was obvious that the constant rain overnight had made the area very boggy in places, so some care would be needed in setting up the station. One improvement that I implemented this time was to put the 10m mast between the legs of the tripod and fold them up, so i had one less piece to carry (I have been laying the mast on top of tripod when I carried it over mty shoulder but this still needed a hand on the top to stop it falling off – the new solution worked well and will stay as part of the “standard processes” as I normally need the tripod when using the 10m mast.

Once at the site, I took a guess at where i would need to set-up the tripod and only had to move it once as I ran the antenna out. One end of the antenna was tied to a tree branch at about 2 metres high, while the other (front) end went down and was tied to a plastic stake. Although I carried my modified telescopic walking poles with me, they didn’t get used this tim to lift up the ends of the antenna.

I had decided to start on 20 metres as the most likely to supply some DX so the antenna was erected with the links open. I had considered putting my traps in, meaning I could use the antenna on both 20 & 40m without having to lower it to change bands but I’m not sure how much signal I lose through the traps and until I’m sure that it’s not important, I will continue with the manual linking and unlinking to change bands.

As I self spotted on 20m, I saw that most other activators were on 40m but I persevered and after my CQ got calls from Poland and Sweden at a good strength but the 20m band was very quiet so it certainly hadn’t opened yet. After a couple more CQ calls with no response I decided to change to 40m, so the mast was lowered and the links put in. 40m sounded immediately louder and tuning around I could here a fair level of activity. I saw that Bill DL/G4WSB/P and Mike 2E0YYY/P were spotted, so I went and worked them for 2 S2S contacts, then found a free frequency, spotted myself and put out my CQ call. Even with some QSB, I had a solid stream of 19 calls in 11 minutes – so a busy time!

At this point I was hearing lightening strikes over the air and my wife had texted me that there was a big storm with her that would no doubt get to me at some point, so I decided to give 20m another go before packing up. Ernie VK3DET in Victoria had been listening for me all the way through the activation but had not heard me yet, so this was the last chance, so I dropped him an email, spotted myself and put out some more CQ calls on 14.310, all the time knowing it would take me probably 10-15 minutes to pack everything up and I’d prefer not to be doing that in the rain. After a few calls with no response I decided it was best to pack up and announced I was going QRT. At this point I saw another activator had also just moved to 20m, so I went to Neno, 9A6ZE’s frequency and he was there, after a few corrections we got the needed information over and there was another S2S contact “in the bag”. By this time, it was definitely time to pack up and get back to the car!

Luckily I got everything packed and was half way home in the car before the rain arrived so I think I did he right thing to pack up when I did.

Photos:

 

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).

VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).

Surveyors tripod.

10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet.

Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The propagation was not good enough for me to make contacts into VK/ZL but I’m happy with the three S2S contacts that I made.

All the equipment worked correctly and I had no major problems either with the muddy site or with hiking to a summit after being away from SOTA for a couple of months.

The packing of the 10m telescopic mast “within” the tripod legs for transport is a good solution as is the wooden plate on the top of the tripod that gets used as a base for the mast.

I have confidence in the VP2E antenna which performed well but I still need to check what effect the traps have on it and also how directional the antenna is.

The sue of the PocketRxTx app on my smart phone to display what is on the screen of the X108G continues to be essential and the use of the one piece, short Micro-USB to USB-C-OTG cable instead of various combinations that I have used in the past works well. It is inconvenient to switch from the display app to SOTA Spotter or email however, so perhaps I need to purpose up a second Android smart phone, just to act as the rig’s display?

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – June 21st and 22nd 2019 – DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg and DM/BW-854 Hoechsten.

Preparation:

Well it’s Ham Radio Friedrichshafen time again – the largest Ham Fest in IARU Region 1. There are two summits within reasonable driving distance from Friedrichshafen and indeed I picked my hotel (and the location of the annual SOTA Dinner) to be near one of them – Hoechsten.

I had to change my planned activation dates based on some storm warnings. In fact the storms never came but I managed to fit both into my 3 day, two night, stay in the area in any case. I had several antennas with me but the plan was always to use the linked dipole at the wooded Gehrenberg and the VP2E at the more open Hoechsten and indeed that’s what I did.

The Activation (Gehrenberg):

I had intended activating this summit on Saturday evening on the way back from Ham Radio to my hotel but as the weather forecast assured me that it was going to pour down for the whole of Saturday, I decided to fit the activation in on the Friday and then still get back to the hotel in time to check-in, get changed and ready for the SOTA dinner which I had organised.

I have activated this summit for the last three years but one year the Navi (GPS) took me to the wrong place so this time I had a printed map of the area with me as well. There was no need however and I found my way to the edge of the woods fine. Although the track goes up almost to the summit, that road is restricted and intented for use only by the forrestry commission (see photo of sign below). Whetehr anyone ever chexcks, I doubt it, but I wanted to do the “right thing” so I unload and walked up the track to the summit with large tripod, 6 metre mast and linked dipole along with the Xiegu X108G rig, microphone, logbook, etc. etc. – i.e. the normal gear. I checked the spots and saw nothing, so as i was setting off from the car, I spotted myself, saying I would be QRV in 20 minutes.

as it turned out, on arriving at the summit I was met by two other SOTA activators who were just coming to the end of their activation and had seen my spot. It was lucky that they were there as after setting up my gear and when they had finished on HF, I was only able to get two contacts for the summit. Appraently there had been a constant flow of activations all day long meaning that the chasers were no longer intere4sted as they do not get points for a duplicate contact within a day. Thomas DL1DVE, seeing my problem, quickly “rustled up” three simplex contacts on 2 metres from his Handy Talkie (one of them an S2S) meaning, I had the needed contacts. Thanks Tom! Tom and his friend (sorry I forgot the name and call sign), then left the summit and I started to pack up as Luc ON7DQ arrived. This is a busy summit indeed! After greeting Luc, who seemed to find contact easily using CW, I left back to the car.

I then set the Navi (GPS) to take me to the hotel by the shortest route and that route took me first to Hoechsten. I was tempted to stop and make my activation there but decided the time was too short and I’d leave it for the next morning.

Arriving backt the Hotel, the weather was still beautiful and it was to stay that way for the complete weekend, despite whet the forecast had said.

There followed a lovely evening with a total of 33 SOTA-ists at the dinner, most who had or were planning to activate the two summits over the weekend.

At the dinner I met Jaan SM0OEK who had managed to activate Hoechsten on his way from Friedrichshafen with Steve G1INK who had given him a lift from the Ham Radio show. Jann was also staying at the hotel like me, so wwe agreed I would give him a lift in on Saturday.

The Activation (Hoechsten):

Saturday started with an early breakfast and then Jaan and I set off for Hoechsten. As Jaan has activated the summit the previous day, he was not worried about activating again but happy to help me set up the equipment.

This time the arcitects tripod and the 10 metre mast along with the 20m/40m VP2E antenna and all the radio gear was taken out of the car.

Hoechsten is a real “drive-up” SOTA summit with us setting up no more than 500 metres away from the car, which was good as it would turn out.

Jaan assisted with the set-up and the (large) antenna was soon up and ready to go. The weather was still nice and the sun had come up, meaning I was back to my normal issue of not being able to read the OLED screen in the X108G. I didn’t want to have to connect up my phone if I could avid it as this was to be a “hit and run” activation so that we could get to the show ASAP. The problems turned out to be even worse that the bad visibility. The wrong filter and mode had been selected and pressing the buttons made no difference. I had to get the rig somewhere where I could read the display, so I disconnected the antenna and took the rig and battery box back to the car, where thankfully I could sort everything out. The problem is one I have had before – the CMOS battery had gone flat and hence no settings were being remembered. The CMOS battery should be recharged from the rig’s supply but that seems not to work in the later X108G models. I do have a spare (solder tab equipped) CMOS battery but not with me in Friedrichshafen, so this would be the laast operation of the rig until I got it repaired after returning home. So with the rig still running I went back out to the field and antenna where Jaan was waiting and thankfully managed to get six quick contacts on 40m before we packed up and headed into the show. It was during driving back that I realised I had not taken any photos for this report but thankfully Jaan had and he sent me the photos, so those you see below for Hoechsten are courtesey of Jaan SM0OEK. Thanks Jaan.

Photos (Gehrenberg):

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Photos (Hoechsten):

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Equipment used:

Gehrenberg:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs)
  • Linked dipole antenna
  • 6 metre Lambda-Halbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Tom DL1DVE’s HT with RH-770 antenna.

Hoechsten:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • Linked (20/40m) VP2E antenna
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.

Log (Gehrenberg):

Log (Hoechsten):

Conclusions:

Don’t trust that your equipment will continue to work, even if you test it. Previous problems WILL return in the gear – it’s only ever a question of time (OLED display and CMOS battery in the X108G).

Taking a lightweight dual-band HT along would have been good “insurance” in this case where there is known to be a lot of 2m/70cm activity in the area (normally there’s nothing).

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – June 18th 2019 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen.

Preparation:

The primary aim of this activation was to give John (VK6NU) a summit-to-summit contact while he was on a summit in Ireland (EI/IE-057) as part of his European trip.

I had planned to go to Wank near Garmisch Partenkirchen as I have not activated that summit this year as yet. Looking at the time involved and the somewhat strenuous last section up to the summit with all the gear, I decided to simply go to the closer Rentschen summit, where one can literally drive on to the summit (it is a plateau).

This would also be another chance to use the new VP2E antenna with its traps fitted, to see how it performs.

I only needed to be on the summit by 11:30am, local time, so I had time to prepare all the gear in the morning. This would be the Xiegu X108G and cable to my Smartphone, so that I can read the display, the 10 metre “mini-mast”, the Surveyors tripod and the 40/20m trapped or linked VP2E wire antenna along with the walking sticks to lift the ends of the antenna.

The Activation:

As I approached Rentschen, I saw a farmer cutting the grass and hoped he hadn’t planned to start on the top field where the actual summit with its trig point stone was. Luckily this did not turn out to be the case.

I set up right at the Trig point marker stone and after some taffling and un-taffling of the antenna wires, I had got the antenna up with the 20 metre traps installed in the antenna – this should make it possible to use the antenna on 40m and 20m without having to lower the antenna to link or unlink sections. I had tried these traps previously using the antenna on 20m and all seemed fine. This time I was going to start on 40m.

Listening around the band, despite all the space weather readings that say it shouldn’t be, the band was nicely active with strong signals coming in up and down the 40m band. I even heard and called GB19DDAY on-board the HMS Belfast ship in the Thames in London, but couldn’t get through all the others calling him. That was a shame as some of the ICQPodcast team volunteer on the HMS Belfast some weekends. But it wasn’t to be.

My first contact after spotting myself on SOTAWatch was Lucas ON3YB and although he was a strong 5-9 signal, his report back to me was only 2-2. I suspected the traps and so I asked him to wait until I removed them. I lowered the antenna, unplugged the traps and plugged the links for 40m through and put everything back up. Unfortunately, by this time Lucas had gone, but most of the following contacts got reports between 5-5 and 5-9 which is more what I would expect, so it does seem the traps degrade the antenna considerably. to be sure, however I’ll need to do more tests.

Mixed into my 17 contacts on this activation, I had 8 Summit-to-summit (S2S) contacts, including the planned one with John VK6NU in Ireland and Mike 2E0YYY/P who was out for the same reason and Luc ON7DQ who is on his way down to Friedrichshafen for the HAM RADIO show at the end of the week. I also talked to a few people who I plan to see at FN in a few days.

After an hours operating I got a problem that I switched the receive filter to the 500Hz CW position and while I could not read the display and the filter setting cannot be changed via the CiV remote control commands from my phone on this rig, I decided to pack up and call it a day with a nice list of contacts in the bag.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).

VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).

Surveyors tripod.

10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet.

Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The propagation was better than was expected and reflected in the number of S2S contacts made. Some of them from stations that I would not normally hear because of skip distance. There was deep QSB on the band, so perhaps this was Sporadic-E ? whatever it was, it was a nice activation, making several nice contacts including the one with John VK6NU, which was the purpose of the activation.

The VP2E antenna performed well once the traps were out of the circuit. The SWR this time showed between 1:1 and 1.1:1 so it looks that raising the ends with the walking poles is a good move.

The problem at the very end of the activation, where I pressed a button in error and switched to the CW filter may be able to be fixed by using a special initialisation string in the remote control software that runs on the smartphone. I will take a look at this.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – May 31st 2019 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg – hoping for contact into VK with VP2E antenna.

Preparation:

As Jonathan VK7JON was heading out with his wife to a beach in Tasmania to operate portable, Mike 2E0YYY, Bill F/G4WSB and myself decided, despite the early hour that we would head out to some summits to see if we could get a contact via 40 metres long path.

Due to the early start needed to meet the long path window and Jonathan’s planned activation time, I chose Piessenberg even though I had already activated it three times this year.

There was also a chance to make a contact with Thomas operating as FR/F4HPX/P from Reunion Island off the coast of Mozambique on the 10 pointer FR/RE-004 summit about 30 minutes later (this most likely on 20 metres).

As I had updated my two VP2E antennas since getting back from Dayton, I decided it was best to check that they were still correctly resonant on their bands (one is 40/20m and the other 20/17m). This I did on Thursday (the day before the activation) and thankfully all was fine (if you are interested in this antenna, the full design details and my tests are documented on this website under Equipment/Antennas/HB9SL Vp2E antenna).

The Activation:

The 40 minute run down to Peissenberg went without any problems only when I arrived, there was a surprise. The car park was not there any more! It was covered with an enormous marque tent, such as sometimes are used for large wedding receptions. Luckily there was still some parking space off the road at the end (near the woodwork statue) and the area that I wanted to use (on the grass field at the side of the car park) was still clear. So i parked and then carried everything to one of the convenient bench seats.

 After setting the antenna and station up, while tuning around looking 40 metres for a free frequency I came across this strange transmission on the band.

I initially checked if 7090kHz was free, spotted my self and started putting out a CQ. after about 10 minutes of no contacts a CW station started up on the frequency. While this is the QRP channel, it is well outside of the normal CW area of the band. Given the slow speed of the morse, I guessed it was some form of CW teaching class and decided to go and find a different free frequency.

I ended up on 7163 kHz between two other stations as the band was quite busy. I was able to keep this frequency for the whole time I was active however, so that worked out well. Perhaps as it was still silly-early there were not that any callers to start with and I wondered if in fact I was getting out OK? I could certainly hear stations. I took a tune around and found GJ/OQ7A/P on an IOTA DXPedition on “The Minkies” in the Channel Islands. As he was not getting any responses to his CQ calls I gave him a call and we had a short chat proving that we were both getting out and it was the lack of chasers that was the problem. I then went back to my 7163kHz frequency and got a slow run of callers from around Europe, including an S2S call from Bill F/G4WSB/P on FL/VL-001. Mike 2E0YYY/P also called in, he had chosen to go to a closer HEMA summit rather than a SOTA one, so this didn’t count as an S2S contact in SOTA terms but a nice short chat in any case. In the ten stations that I worked there were both a few new calls and a few of the old reliable chasers. It was interesting that with some of the stations they were weaker than usual, while others were stronger. This I put down to the direction I had set up the VP2E antenna as it was “aimed” long path at VK. Unfortunately even though Jonathan VK7JON managed a contact with Mike 2E0YYY in the UK, he never made it the whole way down to me which would have been another 1000 km and another skip off the Ionosphere. I was just thinking it might be time to take a listen for Thomas on Reunion Island as we had come to the end of the best possible part of the long path window to VK by this time and then I heard an engine. It was the local farmer coming across the field cutting the tall grass down. I managed to flag him down before he got to the antenna and told him I’d have it packed up and out of the way in 5 minutes. He was apologetic but explained that the field had to be cut at that time – hey it’s his field I’m in, he didn’t need to be apologetic. In any case it was a nice meeting. He went off and cut another part of the field while I packed up and then came back to take care of that area. He said he wouldn’t be long and it would be fine if I wanted to set-up again in a few minutes. I thanked him but decided not to as it was already almost the time I was going to call it a day in any case.

That’s the first time my activation has been “cut short” as the antenna nearly was! in any case HI!

After packing up, it was a casual drive back home during which time it started to rain, so had I stayed longer, that would also have been with me.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108D 20w HF transciever

Surveyors large tripod

DX-Wire 10m “mini-mast”.

Home made HB9SL VP2E antenna (Linked 40/20m).

Log:

Conclusions:

With the Kp Index still being between 2 & 3 from a CME that hit 48 hours earlier, some deep QSB and static cracks from the approaching storm, reception on 40m was never going to be good. I did hear at least one station calling me that I couldn’t make out in the noise. Another started but came up out of the noise so that I could work him, so with a LOT of luck and Jonathan calling me on my frequency – the contact “might” have been possible but it would have been a minimal contact, nothing like the 5-7 each way contact that he had with Mike 2E0YYY/P. That extra 1000 km and extra bounce off the Ionosphere make a big difference.

I continue to like the capability og putting the mast where I want it, with the surveyors tripod, despite its size and weight. At Peissenberg, I only needed to carry it about 70 metres in any case.

The VP2E does appear to work well and I know have the ends raised off the ground using my walking poles, so that the wire doesn’t drop into the grass.

As it was still early and there was little sun to speak of, I was able to opearte the X108G without having to plug my Smart Phone into it to use as an external larger and brighter screen.

73 ’til the next Summit!