There was little preparation for this activation as it was decided upon when the weather and radio conditions looked a little better, while those in the upcoming days were not looking very good.
For the last few activations I have been trying to make a contact into VK or ZL – something which used to be relatively easy as long as one was on at the right time to use the Long path or short path window. In this case, as the decision to activate was taken after the long path windows was nearly over – the only option was to try during short path window around 1100 UTC. The closest summit where I could set up my new VP2E antenna up without any problems is Rentschen, the same summit that I couldn’t activate about 2.5 weeks earlier due to 1.5 – 2.0 metres of snow. I was hoping that most of the snow would have melted by now!
Once I had decided to try an activation, I grabbed all the needed gear, in principle my two standard bags, my surveyors tripod, screw-in sun umbrella base and two masts as I planned to put up my 40/20m dipole as well as the VP2E.
As I approached Rentschen, I could still see snow on the upper slopes but luckily when I arrived at the summit, a lot of the snow had gone and I could quickly find a spot to set up and I proceeded to put up the tripod, 6 metre mast and VP2E antenna set to direct its slight gain lobe in the direction of VK/ZL via short path. I was earlier than I expected on site but I decided the best action would be to start calling anyway to pick up the needed 4 contacts for me to get the activator point plus the three winter bonus points for the summit.
Of interest, is the fact that the high voltage power lines that used to cross exactly over the trig-point / summit marker stone are gone! I presume they have been either buried underground or re-routed in some way.
Although the sun was shining, the temperatures were affected by a very cold wind, which in the end would limit the time I would be on the summit.
I had email contact with Ernie VK3DET and let him know that I was already calling, so he could try to listen for me. Unfortunately he could not hear anything from me – radio conditions were bad again. That being said I did make 8 contacts on what others reported as a “flat” 20m band. I managed two contacts into Finland, one into Norway, one into Portugal, one into Spain, one into the Ukraine and two into Russia. So the antenna does appear to work and the lack of contacts into the direction of the UK suggests some directivity of the antenna.
I had planned to put my second antenna up however a lot of my time was consumed with calming down a dog who came up to the summit on its own from a house down the lane and continually barked at me until she finally got bored and went home. Putting up a second mast with the dog there may have caused more problems with the dog. In any case I decided that as I had got my required 4 contacts fairly quickly I would continue testing with the 20m antenna and trying to get that short path contact into VK. Unfortunately the VK contact wasn’t going to happen, despite 20 watts of SSB and the new antenna, propagation simply did not happen.
To do proper antenna comparisons I think I need a second Op. along so that I can compare and log data and also get a second opinion of what is performing and what not.
Perhaps next time?
Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).
6 metre lambdahalbe fibreglass portable mast.
Thick plastic painters sheet.
Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.
The propagation seemed not to be very good with the noise level raised by yet another solar storm hitting the ionosphere. This was a risk, but at least I managed to activate and qualify the summit.
The display on the X108G was again unreadable so I used the Smart Phone to view and control the rig. With a different cable configuration to last time I had less problems with the program hanging-up and leaving the rig on TX, but it did still happen.
The VP2E antenna does appear to perform well, even though at one point the app on the phone told me that the X108G was seeing a 10:1 SWR but then the next moment it was 1.1 or 1.5:1. A bad connection perhaps? – Something to be looked at.
I am happy that I was able to simply grab my gear and go as the weather for the following week is not looking very good.
73 ’til the next Summit!