April 6th. 2019 will be the next Summit to Summit activity event between UK/EU and VK/ZL/JA and given the variable propagation conditions at the moment I decided to do a “dry run” to see when the bands open and which bands open, so that I know when to be at the summit on Saturday.
Although I have already activated Weichberg this year and hence will not get any points for either this activation or the one on Saturday, it is relatively close to home and has an area large enough to put the VP2E antenna up.
The same equipment will be taken to the same summit, so this (Thursday) activation, should reflect what is going to be possible on Saturday – at least to an extent.
The equipment was prepared and packed into the car the night before as an early start was planned.
The trip down to Weichberg was uneventful, I have done it so many times before. The last few days had been warm spring days but not this day and luckily I took my think winter jacket but even with that on over the time I was on the summit, I got very cold. After parking and walking up to the summit with all the gear, what greeted me at 0500 UTC was a cold, damp fog actually with ice-cold water droplets in it. Visibility was limited, so no long distance nice views today. Luckily the predicted high winds only arrived as I was leaving. The last time I had activated this summit it had between 2 and 3 metres of snow on it, at least that is gone but the fact that it is gone means the summit no longer curves as it did and I could only just fit the 40m/20m VP2E antenna into the summit area. I had planned to raise the ends of the elements using hiking sticks however this was not necessary as I raised one end by the rope going over a tree branch and the other end had its rope tied off to the top of a signpost.
This site does have the luxury of a picnic bench and seating banks, which is where I set up the station once the antenna on the 10m mast, supported by my surveyors tripod was all set-up.
Prior to the activation Mike 2E0YYY (or 2W0YYY/P in this case) had said he would also be out the same time as I so that we could compare notes on propagation afterwards. I had also lined up some stations in VK to listen for both of us.
Based on actions over the last few weeks we both thought 40m would be the best option for UK/EU-ANZ contacts this morning and indeed from around 06:35 Mike started making contacts into VK & ZL. His first VK contact was Ernie VK3DET whom I could also hear albeit a little week at around 06:35-37 UTC. I could understand every word after a while. Unfortunately when I tried calling Ernie on 40m I wasn’t able to put enough signal back in his direction to get a two-way contact.
I left Mike working VK/ZL stations and once I found a free frequency (the band was sooo full and that on a Thursday morning – which doesn’t bode well for Saturday) I worked quite a few stations around Europe before 0720, when I took the antenna down and switched it to 20m to give it a try. To start with there was nothing on the band and my CQs brought no replies. I then decided to take a tune around and after a while (at around 0735) I came across VK2MIX who was booming in, of course he had plenty of EU QRO stations calling him and I couldn’t get through the pile-up. I went back to my chosen frequency and put out more CQs again with no response, so I tuned around and found VK3TJK, Tim, even stronger than VK2MIX (I made a recording of how strong and clear his signal was – even less chance getting through this pile-up though).
I think the reason the band was dead and then suddenly opened can be explained if we look at the MUF:
I went back to my frequency again and this time I got a call from Michael DJ5AV which overloaded my headset but then I heard something and put out a call for VK/ZL only and to my amazement, there was Ernie VK3DET at 5-5 and he gave me a 3-3 report. To make the day even better Ernie’s call was followed by a call from John VK6NU again 5-5 with me but I was only 3-1 with QSB back to John. The two contacts were made though! After a few more CQ calls with no answers, I tuned around and could no longer find either VK3TSK or VK2MIX, so, as I was freezing cold (the weather had gone from Spring to mid-winter overnight!) I decided to pack up. If I had waited another 20 minutes or so, it looks like the MUF came back over 14MHz again, so further contacts may have been possible but as the winds were increasing and it was approaching 11am local time when I needed to leave in any case, I decided to pack up and call it a day.
My conclusions time-wise (and this is only from my southern Germany location, the UK will be different). for Saturday, are from 0630-0700 to try 40m Long Path and then as soon as the MUF goes over 14MHz switch to 20m as the signals on 20m were far stronger than on 40m with me.
I get the feeling that 40m long path contacts are easier to make from the UK than from southern central Europe and the added gain by the use of beams by chasers on 20m makes all the difference in making a EU-VK contact.
- Xiegu X108G.
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
- Linked (20m/40m) VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).
- Surveyors tripod.
- 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
- Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable with new EMI stopper board.
I’d say this was a successful activation in that I know now when the band is opening on the long path on 40m & 20m and why the 20m opening was delayed (MUF). I tried out the filter unit in the USB connection lead and it appeared to work fine (considering it has had some bad reviews, I’d better order a couple of spares before giving it a good review). My set-up with a USB adapter rather than a cable made is rather short, but the required USB cable has been ordered and should be here in a couple of days, so soon I should be able to put the problem away. Strangely today, I could actually read the display on the rig itself most of the time as it was such a grey morning.
I could hear one VK on 40m (weak), two on 20m booming in but with pile-ups and worked two pre-arranged VK chasers who were 5-5 with me and I got a 3-3 from one and a 3-1 from the other! VK3DET & VK6NU.
My mechanical modification to my wooden plate to use it as a base for the bottom of the mast worked first time as well!
I lost one of my metal guy pegs this morning on the summit. I put it in my pocket but it fell out somewhere – I looked and looked but couldn’t find it. I’ll take another look on Saturday.
73 ’til the next Summit!