The purpose of this activation was to find out what the current time for the Long Path propagation opening was so that it would help my planning for the VK-EU S2S event on March 11th. Propagation conditions of late had been horrible and the chance of a contact into VK/ZL/JA on this activation would be rare but I might hear some of the QRO stations from VK or ZL and that would tell me what time I “might” get a contact the following weekend.Based on that information, I could calculate what time I would need to leave home to get to my chosen summit DM/BW-484 Bussen which is just less than 2 hours drive away.
In principle I would take exactly the same equipment that has got me contacts into VK from AM-180 previously, with one addition… Normally I strap the fibreglass mast to the side of a tree as there are no other supports available at Berndrfer Buchet however this means the antenna wires are close to the tree branches and probably de-tune because of this. Some years ago I bought a plastic, screw in the ground sun umbrella base. This I used with my aluminium mast when operating in VHF/UHF contests in Australia. I had never tried to use it as a base for the SOTA mast. If it worked, it would enable me to install the antenna away from direct contact with the trees. So another 2 kilograms was added to the equipment to be carried.
Berndorfer Buchet is a one point, low summit but it is the closest to my home location, needing 30 to 45 minutes to get to the parking spot and about 15 minutes walk along a forest track and then up the reasonably steep final ascent to the summit. The summit overlooks Pähl and the Ammersee valley.
I had a good run down arriving at the car park about 35 minutes after leaving home. For the first hour there was nothing but I mean NOTHING on 20m – just noise. 40m was packed full with contest stations but I popped down there and grabbed 4 contacts that I need to have to get points for the activation – interestingly two of the four contacts on 40m were not SOTA chasers, just people who were tuning around and gave me a call. Thumping great signals out of (and into) the UK from here on 40m this morning – almost all 5-9 or 5-9+ both way contacts! As well as 20m & 40m I tried 15m – NOTHING – a waste of time … up to 0800 UTC at least…
Although conditions were not good enough to get a response from them, VK3YFD came out of the noise to a good signal from 08:10UTC and VK3MO was 5-9+ at about 08:35 – both were still there at 0900 UTC – so from that rough estimate, I would say the Long Path window here is only opening at about 0800 UTC at the moment – which is good for me for next Saturday’s activation as I’ll have time for the long drive to the summit I want to use. The two VK3 stations are “super stations” with enormous antennas and lots of power, so they get through on marginal conditions, but are still using the long path propagation.
As I transmitted for so long (calling CQ to no response on 20m mostly) I also had to test both of my back-up LIPO batteries for the FT-817 (internal 2500maH) and the amplifier (1700 mAH internal and 5000mAH external). All worked fine, however I managed to run down the Internal 1.6Ah LIPO in the amplifier too far (see conclusions section below).
The screw-in the ground plastic mast base worked perfectly. I’ve had it for some time (bought in Australia) but never tried it on a SOTA activation before – it’s going to get some kind of bag – as it gets dirty – and then will be a standard part of future activations. It’s really meant to hold up a sun umbrella but works fine as a mast base and avoids having to look for some other support on the summit.
I think I got the best of the weather, there was actually some SUNSHINE! On returning home the temperature has dropped and there are grey clouds around.
Aerial-51 OCF inverted-V dipole.
LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.
Modified QAMP amplifier (25W on 20m, 35W on 40m).
Thick plastic painters sheet
Screw-in mast base
One should watch the voltage on LIPO batteries. The internal amplifier battery could not be recharged after returning home, however a replacement was only €18, so it’s not the end of the world.
The screw-in base was a success and I will take it to Bussen next week.
Although (as expected) I made no contacts into VK/ZL/JA, it was obvious (almost like a light switch) that 0800 UTC is the current time that Long Path propagation becomes available and it is lasting about an hour. This was the purpose of the activation, to find this out, so with the (one) activation point, this was a successful activation!
73 ’til the next Summit!