DD5LP/P – October 14th 2018 – DL/AM-180 Berndiorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

As the opportunity came up to get to Berndorfer Buchet as part of an action to drive the wife somewhere and while I had just managed to match the Antron A-99 (CB/10m) vertical on 20m I decided this would be a great opportunity to try everything out before the following Saturdays UK/EU <> VK/ZL/JL S2S QSO Party. To support the Antron antenna, I have a large surveyors tripod so it would need to go along as well. to avoid having to struggle up the steep and slippery last part of the track to the actual summit will this extra weight, I did some research to see how far the activation zone extends and where possible find a spot with less trees as the vertical antennas do not perform well between trees.

In fact simply walking further along the access track brings one to a more open spot with plenty of space away from trees.

Of course I would pack the linked dipole and mast “just in case” something doesn’t work or 20 metres is dead and I need to go onto 40m (which the Antron can’t cover even with matching components.

A nice coincidence was that the 100 Watts and a Wire “FALLOUT” event was also going to be on, so I would take part in that as well by mentioning the group on-air as part of my CQ calls, and explain it to anyone who asked.

What I was to find out there was another, not so nice, coincidence in that the Scandinavian Activity contest was taking place also up until 1200 UTC and the bands would be full of crocodiles taking part in it (big mouths little ears). It’s especially a shame when these stations operate in the “non-contest” parts of the bands but no matter which contest it is, no one seems able to take action against these bad contest operators (note not all are bad, mainly it’s the wanna-bees – the top operators are no problem).

My timing would be about 0900 to 1000 UTC so too late for any hope of any contacts “down under” this time. So lets see how the equipment works out ….

The Location:

As mentioned above actual set-up location on Berndorfer Buchet was changed because of the heavy vertical antenna but the access is still the same track as is the parking spot on the road down to Kerschlach from the Weilheim to Starnberg B2 road.

The Activation:

As I carried all of the extra equipment to the different location, the ideal spot in the grassland seemed to be being worked on, there was a reel of cable there and some other item, so rather than set-up there only to be moved on if the workers came back (unlikely of course as it was Sunday), I decided to set up at the end of a small track, which was certainly better for the vertical antenna than if I had set up by the trig point stone in the forest on the actual top of the summit. after un-packing, I first set-up the Antron A-99 in the Surveyors tripod (pictures below) and then connected up the gear on the laid out painters plastic sheet. As it turned out this was NOT going to be an easy activation!

I experienced the following problems:

  1. The sunshine! – the display on my Xiegu X108G Chinese HF radio is totally unreadable in sunshine, I set up a lot of things to try to create shade and I had to strain my eyes to get on the right band let alone frequency!
  2. The voltage regulator board in my (2x 4S 5000maH LIPO) battery box decided to become a wide band noise generator across 20 & 40m. I’ve had this problem before but thought I had it fixed – it’s back.
  3. Even my Cell phone checking in to the cell towers managed to get into my headphones lead to cause audio problems.
  4. I set up the Antron A-99 vertical antenna initially to see how it performed but it picked up nothing but noise. Some of this was from the battery box but I think there’s something else on this summit that is also creating electrical noise, (perhaps something underground that was being worked on with the cables on the ground about 10m away from me) which of course vertical antennas are more prone to hear. I didn’t have this problem when I tested the antenna in my back garden.
  5. After taking down the Antron and putting up my fibreglass mast and linked inverted-V dipole, I found the BNC plug or the BNC to PL-259 adapter has an intermittent contact, so so careful positioning was needed to get this to stay connected.
  6. CONTEST TRAFFIC – both 20 & 40m was full with crocodiles – in principal for a test a contest can be useful but not when a contest station doesn’t even acknowledge you calling and later a station from the same part of the country gives you a 5-5 report – so the contest station can only be bothered with 5-9 signals it seems!

DESPITE ALL THAT, I did manage eleven contacts including 4 x S2S contacts (see log below) in just over an hour, by which time it was time to pack up and go and collect my wife.

Photos:

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Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G Chinese 20w HF transceiver “outdoor” model.
  • Antron A-99 vertical antenna with capacitive matching circuit for 20m.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole.
  • LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Sun Umbrella screw-in base (not used).

Log:

Conclusions:

I suppose it was too much to hope for that a newly organised antenna would work in the field without problems on my first attempt however as this model is used to great effect by 2E0YYY from the UK, I was hoping for better than what I got from the Antron. I don’t expect that I will take this antenna for next Saturdays S2S event. It needs some more “normal” activations before it can be trusted to work correctly.

I have had a look at the battery box and cannot see anything obvious why it should start and create so much noise on the bands. It did appear to be radiating from the board (over the air) rather than down the power cables, so this will need some work this coming week to try to resolve.

The SOTABeams linked dipole “saved the day” again and deserves a new BNC connector on its cable if that’s where the connection problem is – that’ll get checked and replaced if needed.

73 ’til the next Summit!

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DD5LP/P – October 10th 2018 – DL/AL-179 Weichberg.

Preparation:

Following an aborted activation on Monday the 8th. due to bad radio conditions and as part of an investigation to see if we get better conditions on the HF bands after a Solar Storm passes the Earth (we already know we get better propagation, the two days before – or at least so it seems), Mike 2E0YYY and I decided head out on Wednesday the 10th. hoping this would be the day after the Solar Storm passed.

In my case this activation would be the first one using the Xiegu X108G since I repaired it, replacing its soldered in rechargeable CMOS memory lithium button cell. So this would be a check that everything was working correctly. I also wanted to test three loaded whip HF Vertical antennas that I have in preparation, perhaps of another attempt to activate DL/AM-031 Breanderschrofen as this summit does not have room for a dipole antenna and lightweight compact equipment is needed as the ascent is a little difficult in places.

The equipment had already been packed for the aborted Monday activation, so a quick check was all that was needed.

Ernie VK3DET promised to try to hear Mike and myself and Jonathan VK7JON was also going to head out to a Tasmanian summit.

The Location:

Weichberg is one of my “local” summits, the drive taking 40-45 minutes and the track up through the forest from the parking spot another 5 minutes. Weichberg has a small chapel on top of it along with a regional TV and radio transmitting tower so normally it’s relatively easy to find. There is a table and bench seats and enough room for the antennas next to the chapel. There is no longer the small tree in the middle of the grassed area which used to act as the support for my mast, so nowadays I take my screw-in umbrella base along to provide that support.

The Activation:

The alarm was set for 6am local (0400 UTC) and I was already on the road by 6:45 am as the morning, like the last two was foggy, so I wanted to allow myself more time to get to the summit. I did not set the Navi (GPS) for this summit as I have been there several times before but as I nearly missed one turn-off in the fog I wondered if it would have been a better idea! In any case, I arrived at the parking spot without any issues picked up the various bags and headed up the track to the summit. On trying to screw the base into the ground I had forgotten that there’s a level of stones not far underneath the grassed area with the result that the support was at somewhat of an angle – it held up though, which was the main point. Once the linked dipole was up on the 6m travel mast, I connected up the X108G and turned it on and …. nothing! Oh NO! now what’s wrong? I checked the fuses in the power cable, they looked fine and then opened the battery box to make sure nothing was shorting there, I lifted out the voltage regulator and put it on top of the batteries but did not see anything wrong. I tried turning the rig on again – this time it burst to life. OK, I made a note to investigate the battery box when I got home. The battery box and regulator worked fine during the activation but when packing up I spotted the problem – the output lead had come out of the terminal block. As I had positioned it on top of the batteries it made contact again but could have stopped at any time!

This was now 05:45 UTC and I spotted myself and put out a call on a free frequency – no takers. OK possibly a bit early. Then I saw that Peter VK3PF was out in Australia on 40m – I took a listen – nothing. So another couple of CQ calls and tuning around. Apart from some italian and Russian nets there was not a lot on, so I took the opportunity to put up my second antenna, A Komunica Bazoka Pro on my converted camera tripod with an SO239 socket and 4 radial wires. I then saw a spot for Herbert OE9HRV who was out on a summit not too far away. I gave him a call and we had a bit of a chat and asked him to listen for me on the loaded vertical. He could not hear anything from me and he was probably 3-4 S-points weaker on the vertical than the dipole.  I let Herbert get off and try for more DX contacts and in fact later he achieved the best DX contact of any of us who were out with a contact into ZL on 20m.

During this activation, I switched often between 40m and 20m as at the moment both are possible candidates for a contact into VK/ZL if one was going to be possible at all.

I now tried my other two vertical antenna (a Diamond RHM-8B and a no-name antenna with a banana plug lead to short out parts of the loading coil) on the tripod to see at least how they were receiving and what the SWR on transmit looked like. None of the three loaded vertical antennas seemed to be working very well. The one with the banana lead appeared to receive the best of the three but its SWR was very bad. It was only after testing the last of the three antennas and was removing the coax from the rig to go back to the dipole that I heard the receive signals get stronger as I was removing the PL259 plug. At this point I thought there may be a problem in the plug and made a note to test it when I got home.

Later in the day when I tested the coax, I found the problem at the tripod end not the rig end. The braid on the coax is only crimped into the socket (a commercially built one) and was intermittent at best, most of the time open-circuit. This would mean that the radial wires were never connected to the antennas and as two of the three are designed to have a metal car roof underneath them a set of radials when there is no car roof, is very important. No wonder they didn’t work well ! The joint is now repaired and all three antennas will need to be tested again.

After the loaded vertical antenna testing, I tuned around 40m and found what appeared to be a free frequency, but to make sure called “is the frequency in use” and got a polite reply back that it was and I said OK I’ll QSY. Then I stopped, I recognised that voice and in fact the next thing I heard was Mike 2E0YYY (or from the summit he was on in Wales 2W0YYY) call CQ SOTA. So of course I went back to him and we had a short chat and that was contact number two, another S2S contact in the log. I then searched for another free frequency, spotted myself and put out several calls with no responses. I tried 20m as well as 40m – no callers – I know I was getting out – why there were no chasers calling me is a mystery.

The conclusion regarding the hoped for better conditions was that the solar winds had not yet passed the Earth as the K-Index was still up at 4, so another couple of days may be needed before the “day after the storm” comes along.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G 20w transceiver.

SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole.

LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.

Modified camera tripod with SO239, coax cable and radial wires.

Komunica Bazoka Plus wideband loaded vertical

Diamond RHM-8B loaded vertical with sliding coil tuning

No-Name loaded vertical with banana plug cable band switching on the coil.

Thick plastic painters sheet.

Sun Umbrella screw-in base.

Log:

Conclusions:

We were out too soon to test the “after-the-solar-storm” conditions and any contacts into VK/ZL would have been a fluke. There were stations specifically listening and calling from VK and this time I could not hear anything from Ernie (who I was in touch with via email during the test).

As regards the loaded vertical antennas, these will need to be tested again, now that the mount has been repaired.

Lets hope that conditions do improve for October 20th. which is when a large group of operators in VK/JA/ZL/UK and EU will be trying for S2S contacts.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – September 29th 2018 – DL/BE-094 Irschenhausen.

Preparation:

After the attempt for a 40m contact into VK from Peissenberg failed on the Wednesday, I decided that while the weather was good I’d have another go. With the confidence that the old gear was still working well, I decided to activate Irschenhausen which I had not yet activated in 2018 yet and hence would earn me 1 more activation point.

The equipment would be the same as for Peissenberg with the addition of the screw-in umbrella base as I know this summit hasn’t any convenient support posts.

Luckily, the day before the activation, I checked the route to find out that the connecting road from the Autobahn to the area where I needed to be was closed and would be closed for another few weeks as it was being upgraded and re-surfaced. I worked out an alternative route which would mean a drive of about 1 hour and 15 minutes rather than just an hour, so the alarm clock was set even earlier. the plan to be to leave at 7am local at the latest in order to be on the summit at the right time for the long path to Australia (around 0630-0730 UTC). My normal “partner-in-crime” for these attempts, Mike 2E0YYY in the UK would not be able to take part as he had his stall at the UK’s National Hamfest on this weekend. I contacted John VK6NU and Ernie VK3DET both of whom kindly listen (either from their homes or portable) for these attempts and Ernie was available, so maybe there was a chance?

I checked the contests calendar to see the only major contest was a RTTY contest and thought fine, they won’t affect the SSB part of the band … They did – see below!

The Location:

As mentioned above the normal run from my home QTH to my parking spot would normally take about an hour but with the closed road and hence a different route, I was looking at an extra 15 minutes drive. Irschenhausen summit is located above the village of the same name just off the B11 road running north-south down the eastern side of Starnberger See – one of five large lakes near Munich. The walk from the parking spot takes about 20 minutes, first along a field track and then into the forest and keep going upwards at every junction until you find yourself at the highest spot. If you find the Trig Point stone, you’ve found the summit (see pictures).

The Activation:

The alarm was set for 6am but I was already up by 5:45am with all the gear laid out ready to be picked up and taken. I actually was able to leave by 6:45am rather than my planned 7am. On the run to the summit apart from the last small country roads the traffic was flowing very well and after parking and walking to the summit, I was already on the air by 0600 UTC (8am local). What did I find on 40 metres? The total bottom half of 40 metres from 7.0 to 7.1MHz was full of RTTY contest stations and above 7.1 it was busy as well – as those forced off the bottom half of the band had moved up into the top half. Add to this what sounded like an Over The Horizon RADAR station warbling up and down the top half of the band and the prospects didn’t look good!

After tuning around I came across a strong station and decided to call him to make sure I was getting out, despite the fact he had a pile-up going, who did he come back to? Yes me – with my 30 watts and a dipole! OK, so I was getting out fine.

I searched for a free frequency, double checked it was free and then spotted myself. Contacts only came slowly but there was a nice one from a special event station, probably only about 10-15 km away DL100BY celebrating 100 years of the state of Bavaria (or Bayern), which was being operated at the time by a local SOTA activator Rob, DL4ROB, from Munich. I put out special calls for VK & ZL a couple of times and had to move a couple of times as my frequency was stolen by a French net. I then got an email from Ernie, saying he couldn’t hear me on my spotted frequency, so I asked him to put out a “blind call” and I COULD hear him, not strong, probably 4-2 at best but he was there! We tried for about half an hour hoping the conditions might get better but at the end we had to give up as Ernie went back down into the noise.

Ernie was running 100W to a dipole at his home QTH while I was running 30W also to a dipole but out in the country on a summit and I think that was the difference. My noise level was practically zero once the OTHR left, while Ernie has Metro-noise to hear through. Had I been a CW operator, I think a contact would have been possible and any of the weak signal digital modes would have certainly got through. I see this as a positive experiment – the path (on 40 metres) is there with the long path as it is when 20 metres works – which at the moment with a MUF of 8.6MHz, an SFI of 66 and a K Index of 3 – it isn’t!

After this experiment with Ernie I went back to “normal” SOTA contacts and dropped another five into the log making a total of thirteen valid contacts for the day.

On my way walking back to where I had parked my car a small tractor with the farmer and his very young son came past me and I said good morning to them. As I was driving off, I could see the farmer waving to me, so I stopped and walked back, expecting perhaps a comment that I shouldn’t be there but it was completely the opposite. He was interested in what I was carrying and as I explained Amateur Radio to him (and gave him a German DARC brochure) he seemed genuinely interested and we chatted for about 15 minutes before grandad came by to say there was farm work to be done! That was a nice end to the activation. If he’s around next time I activate this summit, I’ll invite him up to see for himself. Who knows this could be a new radio ham in the making!

The drive back hit the Saturday morning traffic on the Autobahn and so took a little longer but I was back before 11 am (local) which was as I had planned.

All in all a nice activation.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole.

LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.

Modified QAMP amplifier (30W on 40m).

Thick plastic painters sheet.

Sun Umbrella screw-in base.

Log:

Conclusions:

Although I did not achieve a two-way contact with VK, the fact that I could hear Ernie proves the path is there, perhaps a little more power from my side, a higher antenna – or it set up in a better direction, might just make the difference. Running FT-8 would work, I’m sure.  A few more sunspots would certainly help!

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – September 26th 2018 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg – trying for VK on 40m.

Preparation:

For some time now twenty metres has been in the doldrums and not providing contacts into VK/ZL on the morning grey line via Long Path. After hearing some stations on 40m from home during the previous few days Mike 2E0YYY from the UK and I decided to try to get out and see if indeed we could manage contacts into VK on 7MHz from a SOTA summit. All looked good the two days before and we lined up Ernie VK3DET and John VK6NU to be listening for both of us.

Unfortunately my normal rig – the X108G was out of service awaiting a replacement CMOS battery for its memory. So this activation would double as a check that the “old gear” still works, I carefully re-packed my SOTA bags with the FT817ND, my vastly modified Ramsey amplifier and (hopefully) all cables and batteries needed to run the old system.

The Location:

As is often the case, the need to be on the summit relatively early meant that the higher scoring summits were out and I had planned to activate Irschenhausen, a one point summit that I have not yet activated in 2018. It’s just over an hours drive away and then 15-20 minutes walk from the parking spot to the summit. Although in the middle of a forest, I have had contacts into VK from this summit in the past. A couple of days before however, I  decided, given the chance that the equipment may not work for some reason, the “drive-up” Peissenberg summit would be a better choice even though I have already activated it in 2018 and hence would not get any points for activating it.

Peissenberg is also closer and simpler to drive to – although not my closest summit, it is the easiest drive which is about 40-45 minutes at most down well driven (by me) country roads.

The Activation:

As I said above I have driven the route down many times and this time as well, everything went without problems. As I was setting up the station around 0615 UTC almost an hour earlier than I had alerted (always better to be early rather than late!) – just as I finished setting up the antenna and station on my usual bench with all required cables, fuses and connectors in place,  I saw an alert for Mike 2E0YYY/P on GW/NW-070 Great Orme and so this first contact was also an S2S contact, so I did get one point for my outing. Despite listening specifically for VK/ZL on several occasions, none were to be had. Mike also was unsuccessful, however his attempt was hindered by high winds meaning he had to set up down the hill a little to get some protection from the winds which would also affect his antenna.

Although I made no VK/ZL contacts, as you can see from the log below, I made plenty of contacts around Europe and that with a limited transmission “punch” as I realised after the activation that the, in microphone, RF-Speech-Clipper had been turned off and this does make a difference. Generally an apparent S-point over having no compression. I have switched that switch back on already for next time.

Checking with Ernie and John afterwards they heard neither me nor Mike on the band. It appears we were just one day late as there had been VK-EU QSOs on 7MHz the day before.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Ramsey HF amplified (30w on 40m).

SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole.

6 metre fibreglass “Squid Pole”.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

Conclusions:

The VK contacts were not to be, but I still think they are possible and will try again. as we have now passed the equinox and are moving into Autumn, radio conditions will change – hopefully for the better.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – July 10th. 2018 – DM/BM-345 Kalavarienberg.

Preparation:

From the 10th. through the 17th. of July, I was supporting the World Radiosport Team Championship in Wittenberg, about 6-7 hours drive north of this QTH. I had thought I might get out at some point to accivate a local SOTA summit but as the closest to Wittenberg is probably at least a 90 minute drive away, my idea changed, to doing one en-route, so breaking the driving up as well. I have found that the “Adventure Radio” maps that cover SOTA, GMA, Humps, IOTA and other portable operation programs has a rather nice feature, that the summit information shown on the map has a note as to whether it’s a “drive-up” summit. Which in this case I needed if I was not to lose too much time on the journey. I looked at several possible summits and DM/BM-345 Kalavarienberg was the one I chose. I had hoped to be able to take the magnetic loop antenna and spent a lot of time trying to get it to a reliable state but I wasn’t quite there, so before I took it and had a wasted journey, I decided to take the 6m mast and linked dipole along with the surveyors tripod, which is becoming my preferred support method for the mast. The rig would be the X108-G again.

The Location:

Kalavarienberg is about a 45 minute drive north of Nuremberg and about 10 Km off  the A-9 Autobahn that I would be using to head north on to Liepzig and then Wittenberg. The nearest village is Thurndorf.

The Activation:

I set off in dry sunny conditions but as I approached Nuremberg the rain started and got heavier and heavier as I got closer to the summit. When I arrived at the summit and parked in the chapel’s car park, the rain was coming in spurts. I wondered whether to wait and see whether it cleared but I was little tight on time, so I decided to put the antenna up and then see if the rain changed it didn’t. as I already had my winter waterproof jacket on, I decided to operate in the rain and probably just “bag” 4 contacts and then call it a day. Well the first three came slowly (this included one S2S) but then there was a flood of calls and that 4 target was well beaten with 23 in the log within 20 minutes. The use of the tripod paid off as it allowed me to locate the antenna close enough for the coax to run to a wooden table and benches near the chapel. Everything got wet but the new pens I have bought indeed kept working in the wet, didn’t smudge or rip the wet paper which I could have rung the water out of by the time I hd finished but rather I put the log page in a place to dry out slowly. I didn’t bother trying 20m after 40m as I wanted to head off on my long drive and dry out a little in the car. Just as I completed taking the station down and packing it in the car, the rain stopped and the sun came out! Typical! In dry weather this would be a nice summit for a family visit, the views without cloud and rain must be really nice and the propagation from there is certainly good.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X-108G.

SOTABeams linked dipole

Battery box.

Lambdahalbe 6m telescopic fibreglass mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Surveyors tripod.

Log:

Conclusions:

The ease of putting up the mast and antenna with the Surveyors tripod far outweighs the problem with its bulk.

The X108G now seems to be working well, although the sunshade was certainly not needed this time!

In the interim, I have found out that some of my problems with the Mag loop are down to a fault in the Rig Expert AA-30 Antenna Analyser that I use to tune the antenna. So perhaps now that I have the loop re-calibrated I’ll take it to a simple summit to try it out on again. It’s also now modified so that it can use the surveyors tripod as it’s base rather than needing a table.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – June 28th. 2018 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen to test Mag. Loop antenna.

Preparation:

Having set up and calibrated the magnetic loop antenna that I bought at Friedrichshafen (details to be added under equipment/antennas at some point). It was time to try it out for real on a summit rather than just on the antenna analyser or on the balcony. So equipped with a piece of equipment that hopefully later I wont need to take with me (a table). The now standard Xiegu X-108G, with its sunshade (not that it was needed), battery box and other accessories along with the disassembled “DL4KCJ Direct gamma match fed asymmetrical magnetic loop antenna” were packed for the outing. I planned to try to make contacts on 80m (which hasn’t been done from this summit before), 40m and 20m. It would be interesting to put up the normal dipole as well to compare the antennas but I decided just to concentrate on the loop.

The Location:

Rentschen is a one point, flat summit which lends itself well to antenna tests as there is a lot of space with no obstructions. It is about a 50 minutes drive from my home and therefore one of my “local” summits. The actual summit is marked by a trig-point stone which is about 100m away from the road, where I would park my car as usual. The summit is between Rottenbuch and Steingaden villages.

The Activation:

I have driven the route down many times so I did not need my GPS navi or maps. About 15 minutes into the drive a few spots of rain fell and then it stopped. Some rain was forecast but hopefully there would also be some dry intervals, so I kept on driving. Soon the rain was back and as time went on, it got heavier and heavier. It never got to storm level but by the time I arrived at the summit it was a constant soaking drizzle. In fact it continued this way for the rest of the day.

OK so after driving down, I wasn’t going to turn around without at least trying some tests. I didn’t need 4 contacts as I had already activated the summit in 2018, so I would get no points for it, but a few contacts would be nice.

I started on 80m with the antenna set as I had calibrated it at home, SWR looked good tuning around I could hear a couple of stations fairly well, so I chose a free frequency, spotted myself and started calling CQ. Nothing! I called for over 10 minutes without one response. OK I thought, there simply aren’t that many chasers on 80m, I will try the more usual band, 40m. After adjusting the antenna to my settings for 40m, I could see there was something wrong straight away as the SWR was so high that the rig refused to transmit. I played around with the antenna settings, the location of the gamma match and the setting of the variable capacitor, but could not make any improvement to the SWR. It had tested OK at home, so this was a strange problem. In any case, I didn’t want to spend more time in the rain than I must, so I switched to 20m, adjusted the antenna again and this time the SWR was under 2:1 so I spotted myself and called CQ SOTA with the reward of three contacts. 20m was strange though, with a high noise level plus very deep QSB, with the result that stations I would normally be able to work without trouble, I was having to really listen to hear their reports. Not ideal conditions to test an antenna in!

By this time I had, had enough of the rain. I had proved that the antenna works on 20m albeit not brilliantly, I think 80m is fine but 40m would need more investigation. Why do the settings work from home on the other bands but not 40m? I will definitely need to do some further portable tests with the antenna, perhaps not another SOTA summit until I understand better how to tune the antenna.

For now I was happy to get back into the car and drive home.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X-108G.

DL4KCJ Magnetic Loop antenna.

Battery box.

Fold-up table.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Mini-VSWR meter and coax cables.

Log:

Conclusions:

The loop needs to be checked on 40m again, first at home and then at some portable location. – Later tests showed that my Rig Expert AA-30 Antenna Analyser was no longer accurate. It was indicating the wrong frequency for the resonance of the antenna. Strangely – when used attached to a PC, the PC software shows the correct frequency, so I have now re-calibrated the loop using the PC program through the analyser. As yet Rig Expert have been unable to find the reason for this fault in their equipment when used stand-alone.

The mini-VSWR bridge I had with me was not good for some bands as in cal. it wouldn’t go all the way across. However the SWR scan feature in the rig – while rather wide on it’s frequency range does appear to be accurate.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – June 3rd. 2018 – DM/BW-854 Hoechsten & DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg while attending HamRadio FN 2018.

Preparation:

Since the previous year when only one summit was easily reachable from Friedrichshafen following the removal of two summits from the SOTA scheme, a new SOTA Summit “Hoechsten” has been added making it relatively easy to activate two 8 points summits while attending the Ham Radio Hamfest in Friedrichshafen. To this end I booked a hotel about 15 minutes drive away from the new summit. The original plan was to activate both summits on Friday afternoon prior to the annual SOTA Dinner that I had arranged again, However the weather forecasts were predicting serious rain on Friday, so I changed my activation plans to Sunday morning. In the end NO rain came and all three days were sunny and warm. My intention was to have group activations of both summits, with S2S contacts between them however when I saw the weather, I suggested all make their own plans. Several stuck with Friday afternoon and enjoyed some nice weather and lots of contacts. Some planned to activate at least Hoechsten prior to or after the Ham Radio event as they were taking a longer holiday in the area.

My revised plan for Sunday morning was adjusted to fit in with some of the ICQ Podcast team who I was working with to get interviews for the podcast, so they could also take a look at a SOTA activation. The final plan was that I would activate Hoechsten before breakfast on Sunday, then return to the hotel, have breakfast and check-out, then go and pick the guys up and head up to Gehrenberg and when finished go back to Ham radio for a couple of last interviews and then take and drop them off either at the ferry to Switzerland or Memmingen airport. That is finally what came about.

The Locations:

Hoechsten  was about 15 minutes drive from my hotel near Wilhelmsdorf and the closest hamlet is Glashuetten. From the car park to the summit is an easy 5 minutes walk up to “Aussichtspunkt Hoechsten” (in fact not to block the lookout point I went past it to a larger grassed area behind the lookout).

Gehrenberg is a few km north of Markdorf and is approached best from a small road just on the southern end of the village of Harresheim (make a note of this as every Navi/GPS I have used has taken me to the wrong location!). It’s about a 10-15 minute  walk from where no motor vehicles are allowed, up to the summit. I usually activate near the base of the radio tower (which well within the AZ) but this time I decided to follow the track up through the forest to the actual summit.

The Activations:

Hoechsten.

I woke before the alarm went off and was underway to the summit before 6am. The navi takes a while to lock onto satellites but I didn’t want to wait with the engine running in the hotel car park and wake the other guests up, so I set off in the rough direction that I expected the summit to be. Once the Navi locked in its satellites, I was one village past the turn off I needed, so I had to turn around and head back. From there on the Navi diligently lead me up the (small) roads to Hoechsten and I came out at the road junction across from the car park. I could just see the small bandstand like lookout building through the trees. Not as obvious as I was expecting it to be, but sign-posted from the car park. So I unpacked the usual two SOTA bags and the Surveyors tripod which was a new addition to the kit. It stands about 1m 80cm high, has spikes on the legs and a hole through the mounting plate where a theodolite would normally be mounted. I have also added a pass-thru SO-239 double socket for use with mobile HF whips but today it would act as a simple support for my fibreglass fishing pole meaning I would not need to seek out a convenient fence post or tree to fasten the mast to and can position it where I want it.

I was set up and calling CQ SOTA by 6:15 AM but unfortunately with no response. Despite putting up spots for 40m and 20m on SOTAWatch, I was getting no calls, so I decided to tune around to see if any “normal” stations would be willing to talk to me. Several I called either couldn’t hear me or simply ignored me as I wasn’t “DX”. I was glad when Fabio II4AMP cheerfully came back to me and gave me a “True 5-9” he was well over 5/9. So it seems the gear was working OK, after some more attempts at calling what turned out to be contest stations and another spot Jan OK2PDT a very active SOTA chaser came back to me but it seems he was the ONLY SOTA chaser who was out of bed that early on a Sunday morning as the other two needed contacts came from a contest station and a friendly Greek station just looking for contacts.

With the delay in getting the minimum 4 contacts (which took me over half an hour), I was now going to be tight on my schedule for the rest of the morning, so it was a quick pack-up (the new tripod being quick to set-up and take down helped somewhat), back to the car and back to the hotel for breakfast which started at 7:30am. I arrived back at the hotel at 7:29am, went up and brought my case down into the car and then went to breakfast. At 8am I was checking out and off to pick up the other guys from near Friedrichshafen.

Gehrenberg.

I arrived a few minutes earlier than planned into Burg and the extra time was not a bad situation as Colin M6BOY and Chris M0TCH (the ICQ Podcast guys) were already just about ready to go. So off we went with the Navi now set to Gehrenberg. All was well until in Markdorf (near to the summit) I missed one small turn off and the Navi said “re-calculating route”. In hindsight it would have been best to turn around and return to the exit as the Navi now took us to a road at the other side of the summit from where access is not possible. I recognised this and after 5 minutes referring to maps on smart phones, we were off again to hopefully go around the end of the hill, to the correct road towards the summit. This was not to be our day as we went past the exit, which I realised as we came to the hotel that I had used last year for the SOTA dinner. Another stop and look at maps to see why we had missed the exit. The key point is that the small road needed is at the very southern end of the village of Harresheim, whereas the maps were showing it as outside of the village.  Another thing to look for is signs for “Sturzhof” this is a building just past the corner where the track goes off up to the summit. While there is no red circle sign, there IS a sign that says only Forestry vehicles are allowed past this point. Last year (and I suspect this year as well) several cars drove up the track all the way to within 50 metres of the summit. I normally set up on some flat land near the bottom of the radio tower but as Luc ON7DQ told me last year that a few more minutes up the road, there was a track up to the actual marked summit, I decided to we’d check that out. It took about 15 minutes from where I parked the car just off the road to the summit. It is quite a steep track but with two extra willing pairs of hands to carry some of the gear, it was a reasonable walk up to the summit. The summit is totally forested, so no interesting views from it and it is also on a favorite track for cyclists, so I had to be careful where I strung the dipole out to! We were at the summit just before 10am.

The new tripod again proved a great advantage as there were no obvious places to strap the mast to and with the tripod I could position the antenna to be out of harms way for the cyclists (and my antenna). The radio and its battery box were placed on the large stone on the summit and the antenna connected. On 40m there was an S7-S9 noise level – I suspect coming from the microwave radio link tower although there were reports of the bands being noisy as a lot of solar debris was hitting the Earth’s atmosphere at the time. In any case after some spots to the SOTAWatch website and tuning around I managed a few contacts on 40m. these would have been enough to get the points for activating the summit but as Chris was recording the activation for a possible feature on ICQ Podcast I thought I should try for some more and switching to 20 metres immediately dropped the noise level. It was at this point however that I saw that the SWR was over 2:1 on the antenna, which normally sits between 1.2 & 1.5:1. I’ll need to investigate that. In any case I managed to get a good run of contacts going and at the end we worked a total of 18 stations across Europe.

This again had taken more time than expected and after packing up we got back to the car at about 11:00 am and then drove back to the guys apartment to pick up their luggage and the 4th. member of the team Conor, Colin’s son. So by the time we got to the show again it was 11:30 and we needed to leave for the airport at the latest at 1pm, so there would not be a lot of time to do anything. As we went into the halls about 25% of the stalls had either already or were starting to pack up in any case. One last interview went into the can and we were ready to leave.

A very busy day but well worth it.

Photos:

   1. DM/BW-854 Hoechsten.

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  2. DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg.

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108-G “outdoor” version.

Laptop tilt stand.

Surveyors tripod.

Aerial-51 OCF dipole.

LambdaHalbe 6m telescopic fishing pole.

Battery box with 2 x 5Ah 4S LIPOs and regulator to reduce voltage to 13.8v.

Logs:

 1. DM/BW-854 Hoechsten.

  2. DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg.

Conclusions & actions:

  1. I may have a problem on the Aerial-51 dipole which I will need to investigate for a bad connection causing that 2:1 SWR.
  2. The surveyors tripod was a real success but I may add a small plug or plate to reduce the size of the hole in its centre.
  3. Shade is definitely what is needed to make the display on the X108-G visible. When Chris stood in the way of the sun, the display was perfectly readable. I ordered a small sunshade for the rig (really meant for a camera LCD screen) which arrived while I was away, so I will try that to see if it gives me a solution.
  4. I’ll try to remember NOT to use the Navi, the next time I am heading to Gehrenberg!

73 ’til the next Summit!