DD5LP/P – November 25th 2020 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet – a lesson in strange propagation.

Preparation:

With the SFI breaking 100 in what must be the first time in almost five years, it was time to get out and get some summits activated before the COVID lockdown rules were changed again.

The original plan was to activate DL/BE-093 Irschenhausen and then go on to DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg, both of which I have not activated this year. Then two things happened – Mike 2E0YYY suggested we both try for contacts with Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD and that would mean an early start, plus I realised that Schwarzer Berg has 3 winter bonus points starting from December 1st (in a week), so would I want to do the almost 3-hour round-trip again in a week or 10 days time? No. So my revised plan became – head to my closest (already activated this year) summit – Berndorfer Buchet for the contacts into VK and then head on to Irschenhausen afterwards.

As it turned out because of cold, fog and a worry that something wasn’t right with the rig, after the Berndorfer Buchet activation, I headed home. The one pointer Irschenhausen can wait for another day.

I decided to do a comparison between my two most used antenna on this activation. The SOTABeams “band hopper” linked dipole and the Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna, so both sets of antenna and accessories were loaded into my medium-sized rucksack and along with my screw-in foot (intended for sun umbrellas but great for holding up the 6-metre squid pole) and just in case, my 10m mast and modified surveyors tripod, all were loaded into the back of the car on the evening before the activation.

So all packed for what was planned as two easyish activations which turned into just one.

The Activation:

The trip across to Burndorfer Buchet went without any problems. When I set off it was clear visibility at about halfway, the fog came down and on arriving at the Kerschlach car park the fog was almost cleared (to return later).

The 10 metre mast and surveyors tripod got left in the car as the rucksack on its own was heavy enough for the walk up the forest track and up the final climb (which I found blocked by recent tree trimming actions and so had to take a slightly different route to usual). The last part of the climb is often covered in leaves and twigs that are easy to fall through so care is needed but I arrived safely at the summit. The only way to identify this summit is either by the map or to find the trig-point stone but that is often covered by undergrowth. There is no summit cross or identification sign on this summit.

 This was a confusing activation as I could hear VK and ZL stations from the summit on 20m but they couldn’t hear me – even spotting myself and putting out multiple CQ calls – I got no replies. When I changed to 40m though, everything was fine and even some of the chasers on 40m, said they had listened for me on 20m and could not hear me. The equipment used on bath bands was the same.

I used both antennas on 20m and 40m – the loaded vertical and the linked dipole. With the linked dipole I’ve worked into VK before on 20m from that summit and all around Europe as well. I wondered if it was an intermittent fault – but everything (SWR etc.) all looked fine and I know I had each of the antennas set correctly to 20m. The strength and clarity of the signals coming out of VK and ZL were amazing! ZL1ACE was literally 30 dB over 9! OK, he was running 750w and using a 3 element Opti-Beam, so he has a great station but even so, that signal was unbelievable! Ian, VK3YFD (who was trying to work Mike 2E0YYY/P) was also a very comfortable 57. Ernie VK3DET (same group) who runs lower power was 55 at one point and I was listening to those two talking to each other as if they were locals to me during the time that they could not hear Mike. Of course, they didn’t hear me trying to break in. With SFI at 100, the conditions this morning on 20m were great. Mike did get through to both VK3s later on. Mike, on 20m, was never strong enough for me to work on 20m. On 40m, no problem between us apart from some QSB, which tells me the skip on 20m was ultra-long and favouring VK to EU/UK rather than EU/UK to VK. I might have had a better chance 30 minutes earlier than when I arrived on the summit. I got there at 0720 UTC and it was -3°C at the time (30 minutes earlier would have been even colder!). It only warmed up a little, 2 hours later when the sun kindly melted the ice off the tree branches so the I had rain with no clouds in the sky. The fog that had cleared then returned, so this was not a very pleasant operating environment.

I did get some antenna tests done though.
The loaded vertical on 20 metres receives 1.5-2 S-points better than the dipole at about 5 metres AGL.
I don’t know how the two antennas compare on transmit as I could not get one contact on 20 metres on either antenna!

On 40 metres working Mike, the loaded vertical was one S-point down on receive and 2 S-Points down on transmit, compared to the dipole.

Whether the vicinity to vertical, wet, trees will have affected the vertical antenna more than the dipole, I don’t know but certainly on 40m – it is possible to work stations using a vertical on a wooded summit – some had said that would not be possible.

Photos:

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Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • SOTABeams linked dipole.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella base.
  • 6 metre LambdaHalbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T and my modified photo-tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The activation ended with more questions than answers and overall was a little disappointing but it is all part of the education that we get in this great amateur radio hobby of ours.

73 ’til the next Summit!