I decided that Hesselberg would be my summit for the big EU-NA “Transatlantic” S2S event. After the activation on the previous Thursday, this one is a “walk in the park” to get to from the car park.
Having had some success with two NA contacts from Hinteres Hornele, I was hoping conditions would hold up not realising the “small” contest that was on was actually the Ukrainian DX contest and it would cause problems.
I had decided that the new Komunica HF-PRO-2 plus tripod would be my primary antenna for 20m with the standard SOTABeams linked dipole covering 40 metres for me, as well as being a back-up for 20m. The rig would be the X108G again and I was not expecting any sunshine from the forecast, so maybe the difficulty of reading the display on this (marketed as an “outdoor” transceiver) rig would not be a problem (wrong!). After my experiences on Hinteres Hornele, I was back with the two backpacks. The camera case with the rig, battery box and headphones in it and my small rucksack with the wire antennas, to which I added my three J-pole antennas from Lambdahalbe (20m, 17m and 15m) – well you never know! I also put the 10m DX-Wire portable mini-mast in the car as I would need that if I decided to use the 20m J-pole. So again, I’d be taking more than I need but I could leave the heavy things in the car and pop back for them if I needed them at this summit.
Hesselberg is a 6 point summit, so I hoped it would be attractive to the chasers and especially other activators looking for an S2S contact. Timing-wise, given the 2 hour drive each way, I’d need to be leaving by 3:30pm local to head back home before it gets too dark. Based on this, a departure from home at 10:30am local would give me sufficient time on the summit, if a little earlier than ideal for EU-NA contacts.
Hesselberg is located north of Augsberg and about half way between Ingolstadt and Stuttgart. It has the advantage that having a Radio transmitter mast on top of it, there’s a road almost all the way to the top. It is also in an area where access to the summit for walkers is well-defined. There are even disabled persons spots in the car park, making this summit a possible for disabled operators although some help getting up the last few metres to the summit would be needed as it’s a rough track.
At the summit, as well as the standard cross, there is also a mini-cross and a trig point stone along with two information boards and a table with bench seats at each side of it.
The drive was uneventful and the weather clear and it stayed that way on arrival for a change. I was actually able to take some shots from the summit that weren’t just clouds and fog as they had been in the last two visits.
After leaving the car park and heading up to the summit, I could see this was going to be a busy summit. The table and benches were occupied but as I approached, I was lucky, they were just leaving. There were also some other people standing around enjoying the view but they indicated they didn’t want the table, so I unloaded both packs, mast and HF-PRO-2 onto the table and set to putting the vertical antenna together. At this point I got asked what I was doing and I stopped to explain something about Ham Radio and gave out a brochure. This was going to be the pattern all through the activation. I spent more time explaining the hobby thank being on the air.
The HF loaded whip was set up quite close to the end of the picnic table and the 6m mast got fastened to one of the information signs and the linked dipole put up. One end of the dipole ran out nicely into some bush land. The other end unfortunately ran out into the open area. Later one woman tripped on it (despite it being bright yellow). She didn’t hurt herself, apologised and asked what it was all about … I put the peg back in and went through my explanation again. The worst visitor was one unruly young girl who despite being told by her teacher or parent (it was a big group) continually kicked at the antenna guy peg until it came out (bent). I was not happy but there was little I could do! To their merit another family group had three young ladies probably between 9 and 12 years old and they politely asked if they could sit at the table and asked polite questions and they were a pleasure to talk with. They were learning English at school but didn’t try any with me, the conversation was in German – but I think they’ll have a story to take back to school about meeting the crazy English man with his radio talking to people in other countries. Their parents also got one of the DARC brochures that I had luckily thought to print out on Friday.
Somewhere in between all the explanations, I did manage to get on the air. First I tried the HF whip on 20m – I could hear lots of stations as there was the contest in full swing but from the start of the activation to the end it was very, very difficult to read anything on the X108G display and while it was light, there wasn’t any bright sunshine. I could hear lots on the whip but all of the stations that I called and my CQs never received any answers. So I switched to the wire dipole and changed the links to cover 20m. to find …. I could hear lots of stations but no one came back when I called them! I started to wonder if I had hit one of the buttons on the rig and something wasn’t set right – but I COULDN’T READ THE DISPLAY!
Perhaps it’s 20m? So I switched to 40m. and I managed to get through to F5KKD/P – this was my first contact after over half an hour on the summit! I was starting to think I wasn’t going to even get the needed 4 contacts to get the points for this summit, never mind any S2S contacts NA or EU! I went back to twenty metres to see if I could hear any of the other SOTA activators who by this point were on their summits – NOTHING and this using the trusted linked dipole. Conditions seemed to be going up and down but this was worse than I had seen for sometime. Had the solar winds already hit? (I found out later – no, we were lucky and missed those). Another 20 minutes, some more instruction on Amateur radio to visitors and then CT2IUV replies to my spotted CQ call (oh yes while using Vodaphone the Internet connection was questionable and I was unable to spot, despite the fact that the phone was showing 3 bars and a 4G indication – once I realised and switched to the other SIM to get a Deutsche Telekom 3G link, everything worked fine). Another half an hour passed by which time it had got cold on the summit and my departure time was fast approaching. This was starting to look like a failed activation, then all of a sudden I got a stream of calls on 40m – 16 contacts in 15 minutes.
Once the calls stopped, it certainly was time to pack up and while packing away the HF vertical, the clip for the radials broke from its wire (I don’t think this will have affected the performance as it was still hanging by a few wires I guess), but who knows and also the wire to one of the links in the linked dipole broke – this one I think could have affected the dipole antennas performance as would have the number of people stood next to the wire and that unruly female offspring kicking the peg!
Xiegu X108G and Battery box
Komunica HF-PRO-2 and tripod.
SOTABeams Bandhopper linked dipole plus home-made loaded J-Pole for 20m and
LambdaHalbe “End Fed Half wave” (J-pole) antennas for 20m, 17m & 15m (not used).
Lambdahalbe 6m fibreglass mast.
DX-Wire 10m portable mast (not used).
The good: I did mange two S2S contacts (albeit this side of the “pond”) and qualified the summit. The battery box with it’s diodes replacing the “Buck” converter worked without RFI problems again.
The Bad: The continuing problems with not being able to read the rigs display! The suspicion that perhaps one half of the antenna was not fully connected on 40m.
The Ugly: That little brat-ess kicking away at the antenna! In fact trying to operate from a summit when there is a contest on and it’s a summit that is easy to get to and so is crowded. The variation in the conditions and the fact that apparently, some better conditions arrived after I had packed up.
73 ’til the next Summit!