As my brother was visiting, I wanted to take him to an easy summit and while (although he still holds a call) he is far more interested in photography than radio these days, I wanted to have a quick deployment activation, with the minimum of equipment. I have a Diamond RHM-8B 40-10m loaded vertical that fastens directly to the top of the FT-817, that I have used on an earlier activation, so that is what I built this activation around. One small bag (rather than the usual two), no mast, no amplifier just 5 watts to the whip antenna “Handy Talkie” style. To improve the antenna somewhat I have created a set of counterpoise wires (different lengths for different bands) that clip as one unit to the case of the FT-817, this would hopefully help a little in the activation.
As the cable car up to the Laber mountain above Oberammergau had started running again a couple of days earlier after its annual maintenance (it is the oldest cable car in Bavaria after all), I could fit this activation together with a visit to the beautiful village of Oberammergau, famous for its “Passion Play” that it puts on every 10 years.
Oberammergau and the valley station of the cable car is less than an hours drive away from where I live. It is in the foothills of the Alps (the village at around 800m ASL and the summit around 1600m ASL). The drive down I had done many times before.
The weather was fine if cold. There was still snow in Oberammergau and a LOT of snow on the Laber summit. So much in fact, that my normal operating position was under snow and not reachable. A lot of people (and their dogs) were on the summit and a few (very brave people) were actually skiing down from this mountain (this is really one of the most difficult “black” runs in the area, especially with limited snow in the lower parts of the run). This meant that, as the ski slope was open, the path down the mountain was closed and a lot of the people on the summit who would normally taken a nice leisurely walk down to the valley were “stuck” viewing from the summit. All of this reduced the available space, so that if I had brought my normal mast and Inverted-V antenna, I would have had problems deploying it. As it was I was unable to fully deploy the counterpoise wires.
What became very apparent when I connected up the antenna to the rig was the noise from the microwave link station on this summit. With my horizontal antenna from my normal operating position this has not given me any problems but the vertical antenna picked up this noise very well! The way that the RHB-8B works, is that you slide the coil up and down the base of the antenna, adjusting for maximum received signal and then put out a low power carrier and trim for least SWR. On the FT-817, there are 4 power levels which can be selected and selecting the lowest and then going back to the highest before putting out the CQ had its own problems. Add to this the fact that the antenna is not stable on the FT-817’s BNC connector and was affected by nearness to both the snow and my body and adjusting first for a frequency on 40m and then 20m and finally 17m was a challenge. 40m was quite busy with a contest on, so the usual issue of finding a free frequency was there and of course keeping the frequency was even harder! It took quite some effort to bag 4 contacts over about 30 minutes. THANK YOU to those 4 chasers that managed to get through. Try as I did, I couldn’t manage an S2S contact with another activator that I could hear quite well on 40m. The fact that he was giving low signal reports to chasers that with me were booming in, suggests he may also have been having local QRM affecting his receive capabilities.
I went into this activation looking at it as an experiment and indeed, I have some actions to do before I try again. All in all however we both (my brother and I) enjoyed a nice (if a little cold) day out.
Diamond RHM-8B rig mounted antenna.
It would have been better to test everything out before heading out, however with other “tourist guide” duties in the days running up to the activation, I simply had no time.
The Diamond RHM-8B antenna needs to have some non-metal attachment added to it to give it far more stability while connected to the FT-817.
I need to change the counterpoise wire from being wound on a plastic stake to something larger to make deployment and recovery quicker and easier.
73 ’til the next Summit!