DD5LP/P – March 1st 2021 – DL/AL-170 Zwieselberg.

Preparation:

Following a failed activation attempt at Eisenberg (DL/AL-171) the previous week, I needed to get out to make sure what I had found as the problem was now resolved.

This activation was planned to be Zwieselberg and then on to either Senklekopf or Eisenberg but as you will see, things did not go to plan!

Over the last couple of years, I have managed to put together a fairly reliable set of SOTA activation gear. I have even got it down from two rucksacks to one and for quick activations or those with limited space moved away from large fibreglass poles and large wire antennas to the Komunica Power HF-PRO2 adjustable loaded vertical and an ex-photo tripod that I modified. A real “grab and go” set-up.

The problem that I had on Eisenberg was that no one was hearing my calls, so the first thing to check was that the rig itself was putting out RF – thankfully, it was and when I reduced the power by switching to AM and running the rig through an external SWR bridge first into a dummy load and then into the station antenna, everything continued to work fine. The problem had to be elsewhere and the next thing I looked at was the loaded vertical on the modified photo tripod that I had been using for the last 6 months.

Testing this using the same radial wires and coax that I had been using, the antenna was no longer resonant at the same point on its adjustable shaft as I have on-record for setting the antenna on the summit (without having to take an antenna analyser along). Now, this could be the tripod, the coax, the radials or the antenna itself where something has happened. I checked the connectivity of the radials back to the antenna and outer of the coax – all OK. I checked at least at DC, the coax, all OK. Where is the problem?

I had modified a second photo tripod to mount the vertical on soon after the first as a backup. This one is an even smaller, even lighter tripod and not as mechanically stable but I have it and its calibration details, so I set that up with its radial wires and coax and checked the same Komunica antenna on the tripod in the garden. All settings were close to or exactly the same as when I had last recorded them, so I knew this combination was working. What is wrong with the slightly larger tripod that had served well for the last 18 months, I have no idea.

  Just in-case this new configuration also gave issues on the summit, I packed my short (6-metre) fibreglass pole and the SOTABeams linked-dipole to take along.

The Activation

The trip down to Zwieselberg seemed longer than I remembered, needing to take small country roads but after about an hour and a half, I was at the spot that I park in the “Independent Republic of Vorderzwieselberg” and I loaded myself up with the somewhat heavier than normal rucksack (due to the extra mast and antenna in it) At least I had managed to avoid having to carry two bags. The walk up the track starts off as a concreted path but soon changes to a soil track that has lots of large stones (almost small boulders) on it – these are not helpful to the walker but I think they are there so that the farmer can get his tractor up this very steep track.

The views from the track were amazing on this sunny, but still very cold, day. I had to stop to catch my breath a few times on the way up. Eventually, though, I got to where the summit cross and trig point stone are. This appears visibly to be the highest point, even though some maps show a point in the adjacent forest at another 10 metres higher – we’re in the AZ in any case.

Initially, I set up the Komunica HF-Pro2-PLUS-T on the tripod and ran the coax back to the bench under the holy cross.  As soon as I turned the radio on, I could tell there was a problem – the radio was too quiet (especially considering the K index was up at 5 at the time!). I checked the SWR, the best I could (this rig – the Xiegu X108G is the one that the display is totally invisible in any level of sunshine, and I use an attached SmartPhone to read and change some of the values from the rig).

I started on 20m, spotted myself, put out calls – no answers. I found other activators were out and a couple were on 20m – I took a listen, nothing heard but that was not a surprise as they were most likely too close for 20m skip.

I kept calling, I tried different frequencies and eventually, Ricardo EA1DHB came back to me. But he was only S3 at best and normally he booms in. Something was not right!

After working two more Spanish stations, Jose EA7GV and Miguel EA5K, I thought I would try 40m in the hope of more contacts (I still did not have the needed four). The radio was louder here but the amount of QRM was unbelievable with multiple stations on at the same time but not on the same frequency – and here was the clue as to what had happened. When I switched the rig to AM during the SWR tests at home, it also switched to 6kHz bandwidth rather than the 2.3 kHz used for SSB. Out on the summit, I can’t see the display and I use my SmartPhone and PocketRxTx as a remote control. Here I can change the mode back to USB or LSB as needed BUT the CiV command set implemented by Xiegu doesn’t allow for the filter width to be changed and it also does not allow me to see what it is set to from my SmartPhone. This has happened to me once before and I was able to see just enough on the rig’s display to be able to correct it – this time, this simply wasn’t possible.

While on the summit, I thought this might be the problem but could only check when I got home and indeed that proved to be true. So as I needed whoever called me, to be as strong a signal as possible, I took down the loaded-vertical and put up the linked dipole and mast and managed thankfully two more contacts John CT2GSN in Portugal and Lucas ON3YB in Belgium. If you can imagine trying to listen to amateur stations using an old transistor, broadcast bands receiver, this is what I was effectively doing, so once I had the extra two contacts, it was time to head home. I did consider still activating a second summit but the problems had taken up my available time as had the installation and take-down of two antenna systems instead of one and I still wasn’t sure what the problem was, so I decided the best option was to head home and look at the problem there.

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna.
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • The added problem of the filter width invalidated the test of the loaded vertical on the small tripod. I would like to go back to using the larger tripod in any case as it is more stable. 
  • I am now looking at possibly changing the OLED display out in the rig – it is absolutely crazy that I cannot see what ALL of the rig’s settings are. 
  • A later thought was that I could have used the “filter” key on the multi-function microphone that comes with the X-108G to solve my problem but of course, I didn’t think of that at the time – Doh! 

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – February 18th 2021 – DL/AM-177 Kirnberg & DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

Preparation:

As the weather was in double negative figures (down to -18°C) for over a week, as soon as the weather started to look better, I had two close & easy summits to “knock off” while we are still in the winter bonus period!

I had originally planned these two summits with the last two as a group of four but the access conditions didn’t allow it. As it was this time, it was going to be a balancing act. Warm enough to activate but before the ground thaws out and turns into a bog!

The two summits are Kirnberg and Ammerleite. I have met with farmers on both of these summits, Kirnberg as I managed to get my car bogged a couple of years ago and needed him to tow me out with his tractor. Ammerleite where a farmer had blocked the road without thought for other people wanting to use it!

I was hoping not to meet either farmer this time, although the one at Kirnberg is a really typical older Bavarian, friendly and helpful guy. The one at Ammerleite was a young foreigner (not Bavarian) pain in the proverbial.

The gear would once again be the X108G and battery in my rucksack and HF-PRO2 antenna but I also loaded the old linked dipole and the surveyor’s tripod and 10 metre mini-mast in the car as backup.  

The Activations

As it turned out leaving the activations to Friday, which was considered would have been a bad decision as the ground on both summits had already started to melt and was quite muddy in places but the nice sunshine and no wind on the second summit made up for a bit of a muddy walk-in. So here are my reports on the two summits.

Kirnberg DL/AM-177

On arriving at Kirnberg, I saw a large new farm building, where the path used to start, but the farmer had done the right thing and run a new track into the corner of one of his fields for those visiting the holy cross.

Once I set everything up on the bench by the cross – I had the little tripod and the loaded HF Komunica HF-PRO2 whip a couple of metres away from the seat (see photos).

Well I started on 40m and tuning around there was plenty of activity, so I found a free spot, checked it was free and spotted myself on SOTAWatch. I called and called – no replies I waited a while and then, there was Manuel EA2DT – great – we’re off! Went back to him – no answer … This was not looking good checked all cables, checked the SWR as best I can on this rig – it showed 1.1:1 so it has to be the rig!

I was strongly considering packing up and heading home to continue the fault-finding there but I decided to switch to 20m and give it a try and I’m glad that I did as on 20m, as soon as I spotted myself, there was Lars SA4BLM from Sweden BOOMING in and … yes he heard me strong as well (real 5-9 both ways). Eight further strong contacts followed with a real variety in the last two – one was Klaus DL7KBA who was located about 10 km away as the crow flies and following him was my last contact from this summit – Voldemar UR5QW in the Ukraine! Once I could hear no more callers it was time to pack up and set off for my second summit. One improvement from the last activation – I have now added winding posts on the legs of the small photo-tripod for the radial wires and these worked well in two ways. They were less tangled wires and I didn’t forget to put the radials out (which has happened in the past).

Ammerleite DL/AM-178

On arriving at Ammerleite, the sun had come out and although cold it was a nice change to see true sunshine. I set up at my usual spot behind the (very large) Holy Cross on what is known locally as Schnalz (Ammerleite is the area around this summit). At this summit, there are two bench seats – looking a little worse for wear after the cold winter but still very usable. I had again only brought my small antenna from the car and because of the problems I had had at Kirnberg, on 40m I decided to try 20m first but unfortunately, conditions had changed and I only managed two contacts on 20m. I had to find why 40m had not performed and as I adjusted the tuning coil on the bottom of the HF-Pro-2 it struck me. I had set it to 15 on the scale at Kirnberg, not at 13.5 which my notes say. My previous similar antenna (the model with a solid whip element rather than a telescopic element, had needed the coil set to 15! So that was indeed the problem. Why the rig showed me a 1.1:1 SWR I have no idea but with the antenna tuned off frequency, it would not have radiated well. Feeling a bit stupid that I hadn’t checked the setting at Kirnberg, I spotted myself and put out a call on 40m and was “rewarded” with a wall of noise. A real pile-up so I was definitely radiating now. I worked 27 stations in 30 minutes with no difficulty.

As it approached noon, I decided it was time to shut down the station and enjoy some pack-up lunch in the sunshine and then pack the station up and head home.

What had initially looked like being a complete failure turned out to be two nice activations of two easy summits. Perhaps the next pair will be a little bit more difficult – perhaps two castle ruin summits, we’ll see.

 Photos:

   Kirnberg:

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   Ammerleite:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna.
  • Modified photo tripod with radials on new storage mounts on tripods legs.
  • Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “mini-mast” (not used).
  • SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet (not used).
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Logs:

DL/AM-177 Kirnberg:

DL/AM-178 Ammerleite:

Conclusions:

  • The new wire winding posts on the tripod worked well and are a good upgrade to the system.
  • A double-check of settings no matter what the SWR shows is always a good move, had I re-checked the loading coil setting for 40m on Kirnberg, I expect I would have made several contacts in the first 30 minutes rather than considering calling the day-off.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

DD5LP/P – February 5th 2021 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg & DL/AM-176 Rentschen.

Preparation:

As the pandemic lockdown situation combined with winter weather continuing, I was eager to get out onto a couple of simple summits and bag a few contacts along with some winter bonus points. My original plan was to head to a group of four which are reasonably close together but two of the four can be difficult to access depending upon the ground condition and as we had had multiple days of rain, following 2 weeks of snow, I was not hopeful for those, but depending upon how the first two summits went and what the ground was like on those, I could add one or two of the others into the day.

The gear would be the (now standard) X108G and battery in my rucksack and HF-PRO2 antenna but also taking along the old linked dipole and the surveyors tripod and 10 metre mini-mast as the main two summits are easy to access and have room for the mast.  

The Activations

As it turned out on the first two summits Peissenberg and Rentschen, there were large patches of soft wet ground and so the decision was made early not to attempt the two more susceptible-to-rainwater summits (Ammerleite and Kirnberg) this time, rather leave them as a pair to be activated when the ground dries out somewhat. So here are my reports on the two summits that I did activate.

Peißenberg DL/AM-001

Peissenberg has two good activation point. One on the very summit alongside the church and one in the car park below the graveyard. The first has a nice seat and fence where I can attach the mast and run the wire antenna out to a flagpole in one direction and down around a try to a second bench seat in the other direction. While this was still quite early in the day and we are still in lockdown, I didn’t expect that many people to be around. It seems that since this was the first fine day in some time all the local walkers were out and two had decided to sit at the bench that I normally use. If this wasn’t in the middle of a pandemic, it may have been possible to position myself closeby but mounting the mast would be an issue and being close to this pair who seemed to be going to stay there for some time, forced my decision to head down to the other location (still in the AZ). There I am glad to say was free of the public and indeed gave me lots of room to put up the surveyors tripod, 10m mast and linked dipole antenna.

The activation from Peissenberg was straight forward and I had 26 chasers call me (all at once it seemed) on 40m. With so many in the log, I decided to leave 20m but as I found out only later, I should have tried 20m as communication between portable stations in the UK and Australia was taking place via the long path. I had hoped for some greyline propagation on 40 metres but that did not eventuate, in fact, contacts were somewhat shorter distances than I am used to with only one contact from the UK and nothing from Scandanavia.

I had one member of the public who came by to ask if I had been taking photographs when I explained it was Amateur Radio he showed some interest and so he got a small brochure and my QSL card.

Once I could hear no more callers, I packed up and set off for my second summit.

Rentschen DL/AM-176

On arriving at Rentschen and almost getting stuck with the car at the spot where I always park, it was clear that the other two summits were out of the question with the land here being so boggy the other two would be underwater almost! I did manage to find a little harder ground to set up my station, right next to the Trig point Stone which marks the absolute summit. As Rentschen is a large flat plateau, it was easy to get the linked dipole strung out again, supported by the 10m mast and surveyors tripod.

Again I started on 40m, this time I worked a total of 30 stations before the clouds came over and a cold wind arrived. This was just around noon, so I decided after the calls dried up to pack up and head home as I had some AR podcasts to publish and some other computer-based AR work to complete.

l was happy to have got out away from the house, got some fresh air and make some radio contacts.

It’s interesting that I am now noticing some “new regulars” in the chasers calling me. I can only presume these are either people working from home or others that have returned to the hobby because of the lockdown. In any case, welcome! It’s good to have more join the party of SOTA.

 Photos:

   Peissenberg:

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   Rentschen:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “mini-mast”.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Logs:

DL/AM-001 Piessenberg:

DL/AM-176 Rentschen:

Conclusions:

  • The grab-and-go approach works well combined with bigger antennas as well – this time I had more time and so decided to put up the big mast and dipole antenna, which takes longer but the simplicity of laying the rucksack on the bench or floor and simply opening the side and plugging in the antenna cable makes life really easy!

73 ’til the next summit.

 

DD5LP/P – January 22nd 2021 – DL/AL-179 Weichberg & DL/AL-169 Auerberg.

Preparation:

As the situation with a possible stronger COVID-19 lockdown has still not been clarified, I decided that I needed to get out and at least activate a couple of Summits in January. The weather, however, had other ideas, so between possibly travel restrictions coming in and bad weather I had been limited for the whole of January.

My preference would, of course, be a couple of higher height and higher scoring summits as these will again bring me more points as we are in a new year. Unfortunately, these summits need a ski lift for any practical activation and the ski-lifts are now closed because of COVID until at least February 14th (most likely until Easter). 

I decided that I would pick just two local easy summits that I could literally decide on the same day to go and activate. Weichberg and Auerberg fit this “half-day activation” model very well.

I always keep my equipment charged and packed ready to go. In fact, I now have one rucksack using the loaded vertical and tripod, battery box and rig in fact everything I need for an activation and a second rucksack with all possible optional additions such as an amplifier, Dipole antennas and even the VP2E antennas and a “short” 6-metre mast. Both packs go in the car but normally only the first one gets pulled out.

After several days of snow and ice an opportunity came up on Friday the 22nd of January and I took it before the expected new snow came in that night.

The Activations

Weichberg

The first summit (DL/AL-179 Weichberg), is one of my favourite summits, it’s not a long drive to get there and is not a busy summit. This time I only met a farmer who drove up a “no public access” track in his tractor, to replace a broken bulb in a spotlight that shines on the little chapel on this summit. Access for walkers is up from the car park just past the farm and before the “restricted road” sign using a track through the woods. I know this can be tricky in winter, so I added spikes to my hiking boots before setting off on the steep walk.

This summit has now got a second bench looking out over the valley, next to the information board and trig stone in addition to the wooden bench/table system that has been there next to the chapel for years and is where I always set-up. This is a larger summit and (in summer) is fine for setting up a larger antenna such as a mast with a wire dipole but in winter it has over two foot of snow on the chapel’s “lawn” so it was still a good idea to go with the simple and small, loaded dipole and photo-tripod option.

After setting up the antenna and radials I operated from the bench with my rig still in the bottom of my rucksack and just my “external control display” (an old smartphone) outside of the bag. I made 18 contacts in a fairly short time and when the calls that I could hear dried-up, I packed up ready to head to my next summit for the day.

Auerberg

The second summit (DL/AL-169 Auerberg) is another easy summit, where there is a car park almost at the summit and a shorter walk than at Weichberg, up to the church on the summit is all that is needed. This was steep and icy but several people had gone before me and kicked out steps in the snow and ice. (when there is no snow, there are proper steps in the ground).

At the rear of the church, there are two wooden benches which I used one of, setting up the tripod, radials and antenna just a little away from the Church walls.

The take-off from this summit would be great for a VHF activation with a good drop-off in all directions. It also seemed at the start to be a better summit than Weichberg with 59/59 reports being exchanged. After 10 minutes or so, signals seemed to drop off. I initially thought this could be band conditions varying but I now think more likely was a high powered station only a few kHz away that was de-sensing my receiver! On both summits, I heard the very loud (probably military) signal moving up and down the 40m band and when that comes, you have no choice but to wait until it passes your frequency. For a band where Amateur radio is supposed to be the primary user, this shouldn’t happen but the regulator isn’t going to argue with the military – most likely it wasn’t the German military rather an ex-eastern bloc EU member state’s military in any case!

I worked fewer chasers from this summit, despite it being a better location but once the chasers calling dried up, I decided to pack up as I was starting to get cold. I wondered whether I might fit in another “easy summit”, the problem was that the others are quite a drive away and I would have had to have started much earlier if I had wanted to include more summits. 

With snow forecast for the weekend, perhaps, just perhaps, there may be an opportunity to activate a group of 4 semi-local summits next week? 

 Photos:

   Weichberg:

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   Auerberg:

 

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • HAMA Photo Tripod.
  • Komunica Power HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Logs:

DL/AL-179 Weichberg:

DL/AL-169 Auerberg:

Conclusions:

  • The grab-and-go approached after several planned activations having to be cancelled because of weather or possible travel restrictions. I did these two without any alerts as I was not sure all would go to plan.
  • Using the small tripod and Komunica Power HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T antenna is a very practical solution. With a set-up in 10 minutes from arriving on the summit being the “norm” putting up a mast and dipole in comparison can take up to 30 minutes depending upon the summit (and it’s more to carry).
  • The loaded vertical when compared to the dipole is an inferior antenna in some ways. If the critical frequency gets up to say 7MHz the vertical will not work as a good NVIS antenna but it’s a case of convenience versus performance. If I am going out trying for a VK/ZL contact for example I would take the linked dipole or even the VP2E, which take longer to put up but are better DX antennas. If I have to activate from a wooded summit, then again, it has to be a horizontal antenna.

73 ’til the next summit.

DD5LP/P – December 14th 2020 – DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg – last 2020 activation before lockdown.

Preparation:

With the announcement that Germany was going again into a full COVID-19 lockdown from the light version that we had, had for 2 months, I decided I’d like to get out to a SOTA summit before I would not be able to. The initial plan was that the lockdown would run from December 16th 2020 until January 10th 2021 – but who knows how often it will be extended?

All ski lifts have been stopped for some time now and they will now not start operation again at Christmas as they usually do. So I was limited to summits that didn’t need a cable car or seat lift and one that I knew I hadn’t activated this year, which is a drive-up summit is Schwarzer Berg DL/MF-082. It’s a 90-minute driver from here but then a very straight forward summit to activate. I had activated it twice before.

The weather forecast had a chance of rain, so I decided to go with the quick “grab & go” equipment set-up in my medium-sized rucksack, with the X108G providing 20 watts to the tripod-mounted loaded vertical from Komunica Power.

I didn’t even have to pre-pack the car the day before as this was to be just an afternoon activation. I just put the bag by the door!

The Activation:

This was SOTA 2020 over for me. With the lock-down, running well into January this was the last trip out for 2020. So I wanted to keep things simple. DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg is only a 1 pointer, a drive-up, up a mud track (but an official road, not private, not forestry workers only). The reason for the public access is that there’s a restaurant at the top of the track but with the COVID-19 pandemic that’s been closed for a couple of months now and is still closed. The track is a favourite route for trail bike riders and I guess that’s why on the way up, I unexpectedly came up behind a police car! I think they were up there making sure no one was doing something stupid. I did think for a moment – “there wasn’t a restricted access sign at the bottom was there?” – there wasn’t so I was fine and the police kept going their merry way.

The walk from the small parking area to the lookout/water tower is only about 300 metres and at a slight climb. As I was only carrying the medium-sized rucksack, this may have been one of the easiest summits for some time but the point was to get out and activate one last time and I was rewarded with sunshine. It was still only about 5 or 6 degrees centigrade when I arrived but the sunshine was nice and most importantly, it didn’t rain.

The set-up was very straight forward and this time I remembered to add the radial wires to the tripod otherwise I may not have got any contacts, as with trees surrounding the site, a vertical is not the best antenna. A dipole would have been a lot better but the ease of carrying and putting up the Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical and tripod is making this my favourite configuration.

I started on 40 metres, which was a little noisy but it didn’t take long to get a few chasers in the log. Seeing there were some other activators out, I listened for them and despite hear and calling a couple, I wasn’t to get an S2S contact this day. I finished off by switching to 20 metres and indeed got another couple of calls there.

I could have stayed longer but as the calls had dried up, I decided to pack-up and head home. An uneventful trip with a bonus of going by a petrol station with a good discount on fuel, where I filled the tank of the car.

Photos:

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Equipment:

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

Log:

Conclusions:

The radio conditions were not good but good enough to execute the activation and get out before the lockdown. The fact that I can easily activate and work around Europe with my medium-sized rucksack only half full when compared to what I used to carry to summits is a real luxury.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – December 4th 2020 – DL/AL-282 Steig, DL/AL-181 Burgkranzegger Horn & DL/AL-271 “Auf Dem Falken” (Falkenstein).

Preparation:

As the situation with a possible stronger COVID-19 lockdown has still not been clarified, I decided that once December 1st. came along I would try to get out and activate some summits that have a winter bonus that will run out at the end of December (or rather will be reset as it will then be the 2021 winter bonus). My preference would be a couple of higher height and higher scoring summits which I have not activated at the start of the year before the early year bonuses stopped. Unfortunately, these summits need a ski lift for any practical activation and the ski-lifts are now cancelled until at least January 10th. Not that the lifts themselves are dangerous but the government is doing everything that it can, short of announcing and official “stay home” order, to stop people going on winter holidays and creating “super-spreader” centres for the COVID-19 virus.

I had had Steig on my list as outstanding for some time, but it’s hardly a “local” summit with at least a 90-minute drive there. I looked at other summits that I already knew that I could perhaps team it up with but all were too far away, more looking at other summits within 30 minutes drive of the car park for Steig I found these two, which I had never activated before. One had a write-up that suggested it was a straight forward walk to the summit (it wasn’t and I wonder if the other activator actually mistook where the summit was? Either that or a walk-in summer is somewhat easier than in sub-zero temperatures through snow). Bet that is it may, these were the three summits I chose and the plan was to be on Falkenstein at the right time for an S2S into Arizona, USA (something, that with the state of the bands was not to come to fruition). 

Given the unknown nature of two of the summits and the long walk into the first summit, I decided to plan to use my smaller configuration – one medium-sized rucksack with everything (rig, antenna, tripod) packed inside it. I also put a second rucksack in the car containing the portable 100W amplifier, 6 metre FG mast and 4 different wire antennas in case the bands were looking good on the first two summits and having the extra gain on the third summit may make the S2S into the US a possibility. In fact, the bands were not good, so the extra equipment stayed in the back of the car the whole time and in fact, on Falkenstein (“Auf Dem Falken”) there is no space for any antenna other than the tripod-mounted vertical antenna.

With all equipment pre-packed in the car the previous evening, I was ready for an 8 am departure on Friday.

The Activations

Temps varied I guess from -3 to +3°C over the day.

Steig

The first summit (DL/AL-282 Steig), is in the middle of a forest and the final climb changes each time as it depends how the foresters have taken their tractor in to harvest the trees. This time compared to last time it was a diagonal route that brought me to the summit. After setting up the first call was from DK4EI who said the audio was breaking up and he thought it was RF getting into it. He spent 15 minutes with me trying to find it without any change. He even made and played a recording back. I decided to try to work another 3 stations to at least claim one summit and then head home. Strangely even when asked none of the following 10 contacts complained about my audio,  but several commented on the QRM from another station a couple of kHz off – I wonder if that was the problem all the time? It sounded a bit like OTHR radar or something industrial like that.

Needless to say, I was unsure whether there was a real problem or not, however, after driving down over 90 minutes from home, I decided to head to the next summit and see how I go.

Burgkranzegger Horn

The second summit (DL/AL-181 Burgkranzeggerhorn) was OK but a lot longer climb than I had expected from the write-up that I read (or perhaps that op had never got to the real summit? (there are three summit crosses on the route! I checked with a local that I was in the right place before setting up, to be sure).

The summit is west from Oy-Mittleberg and the easiest way to find the path is to park at the rehabilitation clinic. By the way, this small town is a little way away from the normal routes and is certainly a hill walking centre with several nice hotels and cafes in the town (all closed because of Corona) and some sports clothing and other “touristy” shops.

Looking at a hiking map, there are clear tracks shown up to the summit – unfortunately apart from the first one, the others are all covered in snow and not visible however there are a few points to follow – a small holy cross near to a large wooden hut across and up a meadow is the start. There is also a signpost at this point. From there a larger holy cross can be seen – that’s the next point to reach up the hill. from there, the really large (telegraph pole sized) holy cross at the top of the hill is visible and this part of the climb has the best views back over the valley – really amazing views – there’s a reason this is a recreation area. The hard work to get up the hill is worth it for the views. A local couple was ahead of me and took the bench seat at the bottom of the cross, so I laid out once more, my painters sheet on a flat piece of ground a few metres away. This couple confirmed that this was indeed the Burgkranzegger Horn.

After setting up the equipment and taking a few minutes to explain what I was doing .. the contacts came in without problems and without any mention of corrupted audio. So indeed it looks like the problem at the previous summit came from QRM, not from my system! OK, as I was starting to get cold, it was time to pack-up and head back down the way I came, back to the “Reha” (re-habilitation) clinic, not down the main track which leads back into the town of Oy-Mettleberg itself. Climbing down the steep fields while not seeing what was under the snow was more of a challenge than coming up. I suspect this summit will be easier to access when the actual track can be seen!  

Auf Dem Falken (Falkenstein)

Another thirty minutes should have got me to the car park for the third summit (DL/AL-271 Auf Der Falken) which should be called Falkenstein in the SOTA database, there is no reason that it should be named as it is, as far as I can see!

The trip from Steig here went fine except for the last 10 kilometres where the Navi (GPS) took me up some really small and windy back roads until I was instructed to take one that was clearly signposted as only accessible for the Forestry Commission so I parked up and tried to find where I was. I walked up the road to see how far the car park for the summit might be without success. I decided to try further along the “main” road where I saw a young gentleman cleaning his car, so I drove up to him to check I was in the village that I thought I was – I wasn’t! In principle, the GPS had taken me out of the previous large town (Rettenberg) on completely the wrong road! However, the local lad said, rather than driving all the way back into town, do as the locals do and use the forestry road, which comes out right at the car park for the hiking trails. He didn’t have to tell me twice!

Having parked up in the correct car park, I grabbed the gear and set off, what on the map looks like an easy climb. It is not, it’s through a forest up to the top of a long ridge and then along there for a good 15 minutes. The route reminds me of the hard climb up and along to Zwolferkopf near the other Falkenstein (castle ruins). The views when you get to this holy cross and trig stone at this summit are amazing though.

But, with several people around – including a small family with two small boys who were very interested in what I was doing (and got the mandatory brochures), I got distracted and forgot to attach the radials to the bottom of the vertical, again (there’s no way I could have put up an Inverted-V dipole on this summit). No wonder the signals from this summit were not as good as from the other two, I’m surprised that I made contacts so easily – I wonder how much stronger they would have been with the other “half” of the antenna attached?

I didn’t even bother trying 20 metres for the guy in Phoenix USA who was out looking for an S2S contact as I didn’t have time and the bands from the previous summits were not in as good a condition as they were a week ago.

Well, at least that was 1+3, 2+3 and 2+3 activator points earned for a days work.

 Photos:

   Steig:

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   Burgkranzegger Horn:

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   Auf Dem Falken:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • HAMA Photo Tripod.
  • Komunica Power HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Logs:

DL/AL-282 Steig:

DL/AL-181 Burgkranzegger Horn:

DL/AL-271 Auf Dem Falken:

Conclusions:

  • All told, it was a long long day but worthwhile. Going to these summits in future years will be easier. The views from Burgkranzegger Horn are really worth the climb!
  • Why must every Navi (GPS) ignore when a road is not allowed to be used? Luckily this time it was not a big problem, it could have ended with me dropping the last summit.
  • The simplified “Rapid deployment kit” works very well (but only when I remember to connect the radial wires) – I can’t believe I forgot this AGAIN.
  • The Komunica Power HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T antenna is now my favourite. A good portable antenna which gives a good balance between performance and ease of transport and assembly along with not needing very much space to put up.
  • Interference on 40 metres is becoming worse, but from military/commercial installations and from other amateurs. It won’t be long before we will no longer be able to operate portable on the band! This is not a good demonstration of Amateur Radio for those who come by and ask me what I am doing!

73 ’til the next summit.

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!

DD5LP/P – November 18th 2020 – DM/BM-374 Wülzburg, DM/BM-226 Dürrenberg & DM/BM-135 Hesselberg.

Preparation:

After far too long not getting out to a summit, caused by bad weather and the COVID-19 lockdowns/restrictions and with the promise of imminent stronger lockdown restrictions, I wanted to get out to some simple (not dangerous) summits to get at least a few more activator points. The easy but reasonable scoring alpine summits in DL, that need chair or cabin lifts to access have those facilities stopped because of COVID-19 change requirements or simply for the annual maintenance period that happens from early November through to Christmas. So I had to look at summits in the DM association and while I wanted summits that I had activated before (so there should be no surprises getting to the summit) I found three summits still in Bavaria but near to the NW border to Baden Wurtemberg, which should be easy to activate in a day. Each comes with six activator points, so eighteen new points for my activator total. The first and the last summits are literal drive-up summits, while the middle one not only has a longish walk to it (but no climbing), it is also difficult to find unless you have been there before. As it turned out, this was going to be difficult to find, despite the fact that I have been there before. More of that later…

Although I had repaired my portable 70 watt HF amplifier, I decided that I would do these three summits “barefoot” which, with the Xiegu is 20 watts output in any case. The other decision regarding equipment was that I would only use my new Kommunica Power HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T HF/VHF loaded vertical antenna on my converted tripod. (See the article here for more information on this antenna). All of this equipment – Battery box, rig, smartphone (which acts as the rig’s display), the antenna and tripod would fit easily inside my medium-sized rucksack and leave more than enough space for food and water as well. This is my “rapid deployment” set-up which also does not take much space on a summit but still performs rather well.

For once the weather forecast was good with a cool but sunny and dry day predicted. So everything was packed into the car the night before, ready for an early start as the first summit is a good 1 hr & 45 minutes drive from home without any traffic jams.

The Activations

Wülzburg

This summit is a little special to me as I was the first to activate it when it was added to the SOTA association a few years ago. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back recently. It is an ideal summit for any disabled operator as the free public car park is directly on the summit and there are several easily accessed grassy areas where gear can be set-up.

Unfortunately, the ease of access to the fortress is reflected in graffiti sprayed on some of the walls. 

In any case, my drive up to the site went without problems and as I set off at 7:20 am local time rather than the planned 8:15 am, I was on the summit and set up an hour earlier than I had alerted. I had hoped for a contact with Mike 2E0YYY in the UK and if I had known I was going to be on-site so early, I would have set up some skeds into VK. As it was there were actually two VK activators spotted as being out and active on 40 metres. I checked the first frequency and could hear nothing. I checked the second stations posted frequency and there was a local “natter-net” going on between two Italian stations, so if that VK2’s signal had been getting through, I would not have any chance of hearing him. 

I decided to get busy and get 5 or 6 contacts into the log and then not to squander my extra time but rather set off to my next summit, which I realised may take longer to get to as there was a long walk. Well, once I spotted myself, I had a pile-up going and managed to work a total of fourteen chasers in seven minutes from around Europe, but no DX from outside of Europe. I probably should have given 20 metres a try as well but I was concerned to get the next two summits in, so at this point, I decided to pack up and leave. By limiting myself to my reduced kit, set-up and takedown times are greatly reduced and despite the limited antenna, it appears I was able to put a strong signal out across Europe. I doubt I would have been any better off if I had put up my usual dipole antenna.

Dürrenberg

The drive to Dürrenberg should have taken about 20 minutes, it took over 45. The problems started when in one village in the middle of nowhere (where my car’s navigation system had calculated would have been the shortest route) I came to barriers blocking the road and no diversion indicated. I guess the locals would know the way around the closed road but it seems any strangers are on their own! In any case, I knew roughly which direction west was and that was the general direction from Wülzburg to Dürrenberg was. I headed back to the larger road (I wouldn’t call it a “main” road and after ignoring several instructions that would have routed me back to the same blocked road, the system recalculated the route and we were on our way again. This new route took me down some single lane tracks which were no looking good but eventually I got back onto small and then slowly wider tarmacked roads and once I saw signs indicating distances to the town of Heidenheim, I was somewhat relieved! It should be noted however that there are at least two Heidenheim towns in the area, so I was lucky that I was heading for the correct one. What I found in Heidenheim was more delays as several main roads within the village were closed because they were dug up for the laying of new cables or pipes while other roads were blocked with the material being used to either renovate existing or build new, houses! This was not looking good! I knew I wasn’t that far away from Dürrenberg but it is not signposted (probably as it used to be an old army base and exercise area. Eventually, after parking up twice and referring to Google Maps on my phone, I found the way out of the village and onto the road to Degersheim, which has a track up from a corner where I would park – except a courier van was parked there while the driver was having his pack-up lunch. No matter, I managed to squeeze the car in just off the road and grabbed my rucksack out of the back of my car and headed up the track. This is actually a roadway but with a barrier across it about 20 metres up, so as to stop local hoons from using it as a car racing track or the like. The Google maps app was still in car-mode and told me I was only 3 minutes from the summit. With the incline of the road and the distance, walking up towards the highly visible radio mast on the summit, it took about 15 minutes to walk there. Thankfully the weather was still dry and sunny – probably about 8°C. What had changed here from my last visit was the installation of about a dozen wind power generators about a kilometre to the east. Thankfully, these don’t appear to make any RF Interference on our HF bands. On arriving at the summit, there is a small wood in front of the metal fence surrounding the ex-army installation. Previously I have set up in this wood, using some of the vents from the underground facility to support my antenna mast. This time I decided to set up on the grassland before the wood. The height is within a metre or two of the actual summit, so well within the activation zone and for my vertical antenna (which of course withing a wooded area would not work very well).

I had planned to just work a few stations. Enough to qualify this summit and then once again pack up and head-off to summit number three. This did not happen though as there were so many chasers calling that I ended up with two pages of contacts before I left. By the way, something else that I was testing out was using photographic glossy paper as my log sheets with write-in-the-wet-pens. While I did not (thankfully) have any rain, this was not a complete test however the paper and the pens worked fine together on these summits and did not smudge. If they work as well in the wet, I’ll be very happy.

In any case, I started with 20 metres on this summit, where I worked fifteen chasers in twelve minutes. The best DX may have been Serge UI7T in the Northern Russian Caucasus at just over 2,500 km away. The chaos that met me when I went to 40 metres was crazy I managed to give a total of eighteen chasers a contact in forty minutes. Forty metres in Europe has always been a busy band but when on a midweek activation it is strange that there are almost no free frequencies across the band. At the weekend with contests, we are used to the main bands being totally unusable by low powered portable stations, but now with lockdown even midweek there is a problem there.

The reason that my working rate on 40 metres was half of that on 20 metres, was, very sad to say caused by bad behaviour by chasers, talking over the top of others and of the activator – if you can’t hear the activator, why on earth are you calling him or her? There used to be a rule in SOTA that if one activator tries to call another, the home station chasers wait until that conversation is over. That was not the case either from Dürrenberg or Hesselberg, where my attempts to call other activators were ignored by stations that I know could hear me but their getting through to get the chaser points was obviously more important than the two activators working each other. Often, because of skip distance, it can be difficult for two activators to work each other.  

Hesselberg

I’m glad to report that the trip across to Hesselberg was uneventful, but when I arrived at the summit car park, it was very busy with people everywhere. This was “Buß- und Bettag” for the protestants but it is no longer a public holiday (except in Saxony). It is meant to be a day of calm consideration, praying and going and tidying up the graves of your family but it seems this year a trip out to nature, or in several cases, an excuse to go and fly their paragliders off the top of the mountain. 

Luckily most of this activity was happening in a small wide raised piece of land away from the actual summit with its summit cross and TV transmitting station and as I approached the summit, I saw the only wooden table and benches, there was free and there were a couple of people signing the visitor’s book on the holy cross. So I set up on one end of the table but it wasn’t long before a family with a small bay arrived and took over the other end of the table, keeping their distance because of COVID. The baby who was probably only a few months old was then fed some mashed up carrot mixture and I was happy there was COVID spacing in place as I could see the chance was large that the baby might throw up all over my radio gear had they not seated far enough away. All was fine from these visitors and two later visiting couples expressed interest with what I was doing and were each give a pre-printer brochure. All of this takes time of course and is a distraction and the arrival of the family with the young baby is my excuse for a silly mistake, in that after setting up the tripod and setting and mounting the loaded vertical on top of it – I forgot to connect and run out the radial wires. My first three attempts at calling other activator stations on 20 metres had no response as did my CQ calls. Then, luckily I saw my error and corrected it and Lars SA4BLM was the first in the log. He told me he had heard something really down in the noise but not understandable but now I was a very clear 5-7 signal. After working 4 stations on 20 metres, I decided to switch to 40 metres as several activators were indicated as being there. I found the same bad behaviour from chasers from this summit as I had on the last (no surprise there I guess). I only managed 18 contacts in half an hour. To be honest though, in this location, I could not put the low number down just to bad chasers, there was also the local distractions and two brief lectures on ham radio to those who showed an interest.   

 Photos:

   Wülzburg:

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   Dürrenberg:

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   Hesselberg:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • HAMA Photo Tripod.
  • Komunica Power HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Logs:

DM/BM-374 Wülzburg:

DM/BM-226 Dürrenberg:

DM/BM-135 Hesselberg:

Conclusions:

  • For once the weather forecast was correct!
  • There MUST be some enormous investment going on in Heidenheim with so much construction work and closed roads.
  • The simplified “Rapid deployment kit” works very well (but only when I remember to connect the radial wires).
  • The Komunica Power HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T antenna is fast becoming my favourite. A good portable antenna which gives a good balance between performance and ease of transport and assembly.
  • As many inactive hams are starting to wake up that the HF bands are opening up, 40 metres is becoming un-bearable – this was a mid-week activation and there were literally NO free gaps on the band where there was no QRM. When a frequency was found, the behaviour of some of the chasers was less than impressive.

73 ’til the next summit.

Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T HF loaded vertical.

A New antenna under review–the Komunica Power HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T

It is a constant search in amateur radio to find the “best” antenna.

But what does “BEST” really mean?

Yes, it could mean the highest gain, lowest noise antenna and for that, the amateur spends thousands of dollars on a tall tower and enormous beam antenna or multiple phased beams.

But what about the rest of us that don’t have either the land or the money to set up such a great antenna. “BEST” to us means the best we can manage within our budget.

What if we are in a home location where there’s no chance to put up a HF antenna at all and we have to go out portable – or we prefer to operate portable, from a park, from a summit or from an island. Now other things come into consideration, such as size and weight and if operating alone, can the antenna be put up by one person? If it is an antenna using a mast, how will the mast be supported? Is there enough room for guy ropes?  If we want to keep things really light – we just want to throw a wire in a tree – what if there are no trees or the park warden doesn’t allow that?

The “Best” antenna depends upon the situation and if we are talking portable operation going somewhere we haven’t been before, we have to have an adaptive answer that doesn’t rely on a fence post or trees to be available to support a mast or wire antenna.

At best the antenna should work on more than one band as we never know how radio conditions will be and switching bands may make the difference between making contacts and not.

Talking of conditions, weather can change quickly when you are miles from anywhere in the countryside or up a mountain, so an antenna that can be taken down and packed away quickly would be a good idea.

So, let’s define our needs for a portable antenna,

  1. Small to carry,
  2. Light,
  3. Self-supporting,
  4. Multi-band without needing an ATU,
  5. Reasonably priced,
  6. Quick to put up and takedown.

If you ask 5 portable operators, you will get at least 7 different answers between them – but does any one answer fulfil all of our needs?

 Here’s a brand new one that does – the Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T HF & VHF loaded vertical which I have purchased based on my good experiences with its predecessor. This is my review and my experiences – as always YMMV.

Some of you may have heard of the basic HF-PRO-2 model which I have used for a couple of years. This new  “-PLUS-T” model has the solid radiating element replaced with a telescopic one. This improves on our points 1 & 6.

The antenna itself is designed to fit a SO-239 socket and so can be used “static-mobile” on a magnetic mount on top of a car, if that’s the way you go portable or it can be used with a small tripod and radial wires – which is also available from Komunica or you can do as I did and took an unused photographic tripod and converted it by adding an SO239 socket and 8 3 metre long radial wires. (adapting your own tripod, of course, helps our aim number 5.).

Another difference with this new model over the basic HF-PRO-2 is that the parts are simply screwed together by hand rather than using an Allen key – this fact alone will pay for itself when out on a mountain top in driving snow with gloves on – trying to find a dropped Allen key in the snow is not fun! 

The HF-Pro-2 covers 40m – 10m plus 6m.

The HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T is sold as covering 80m & 40m through 10m plus 6m and 2m. In fact, it will also cover 8m (40-44MHz) and 4m (70-71 MHz) as well. It gains coverage of 80m and to some extent 60m by using an add-in coil, that again is screwed into the antenna by hand. The bands above 30MHz are obtained by adjusting the length of the telescopic antenna element.

The amazing thing about this antenna is how small the components are when taken apart. You can lay the main loading coil body, the 80m coil and the telescopic element alongside each other easily on a piece of A4 paper.

When assembled and extended though – as you can see, there is very little difference in size between the HF-PRO-2 and the “PLUS-T”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Komunica HF-PRO-2 is on the left in all of these three pictures, the PLUS-T on the right.

Which of these sets will fit inside your small backpack??

While the HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T covers VHF as well as HF. The use on VHF (8m, 6m, 4m & 2m) is purely by using the telescopic sections adjusted to be a ¼ λ (8 metres and 6 metres) or a 5/8 λ (4 metres and 2 metres) whip and you can expect an SWR between 2 and 2.5:1. Still usable and it does avoid taking another antenna to the summit for these bands but the antenna’s primary bands are the HF ones where an SWR around 1.5:1 can be expected. The exception to this is 60 metres where again an SWR over 2:1 can be expected. To be fair to Komunica, they do not sell this antenna as a 60-metre antenna, rather a 40 metre to 10 metre one with 80 metres supported by adding the extra loading coil. With 60 metres, it’s a case of, if you don’t have a better 60-metre antenna with you and you need to operate on the band, this antenna will work.

Generally, for its small assembled size, the antenna performs well, making contacts around continental Europe (east & west), and into the UK and Scandinavia. Reception of stations from the US and Australasia is possible on 40m at present (October 2020) but so far, I haven’t made contacts with these DX locations using this antenna. Perhaps as conditions improve as we move into solar cycle 25 and 20, 17 & 15m open up again, such contacts will be possible. 

To meet all of our listed requirements for a portable antenna, there has to be compromises and only you will know whether the performance of this antenna is good enough for you or whether you prefer to have the better performance of a full-sized single band or linked dipole and are happy to carry the needed support mast. One thing is for sure, this antenna is small enough to have inside your backpack with a small tripod and radial wires teamed up with one of the small portable rigs with their internal battery like the Yaesu FT-818, Elecraft KX-2 or ICOM IC-705 and you have a portable solution with you “just-in-case” you have time, or need it unexpectedly that will perform well.   

Is this the “BEST” portable antenna solution? As always it depends on your personal needs but for me, for weight, size, price and performance, it’s the best I know of at the moment.

73 & work you on the bands!  Ed DD5LP.

Antenna in use:

  1. On car (using a magnetic roof mount):
  • Testing and recording settings on a tripod in the garden:

DD5LP/P – June 23rd 2020 – DM/BW-854 Höchsten & DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg.

Preparation:

After multiple cancellations on a weather basis with incorrect forecasts, I was determined that two days after the official start of summer, I was going to get to these two eight pointer summits and get them activated! These two summits are the two nearest to Friedrichshafen that most SOTA activators visiting Ham Radio Friedrichshafen will somehow manage to fit into their trips. This year with COVID-19 restrictions the government ordered the cancellation of all large venue events until at least the end of August. Ham Radio was scheduled for June 26-28th and so was cancelled for this year. I was actually going to activate the summits in what would have been the week before Ham Radio Friedrichshafen.

The first of the two Summits – Höchsten DM/BW-854 is a fairly recent addition to the SOTA summits list and was added a little while after two lower summits were removed. It is the location for several TV, radio and microwave towers and is a true “drive-on” summit, with its own car park on the top from where you can walk into open grassed areas to set-up the gear or walk over and visit the Rondell which marks the exact summit.

As this is an open summit with no trees I could plan to simply use the light kit, with the X108G driving the Komunica HF-PRO2 loaded vertical on a photo tripod. This could also be an opportunity to try out a new, lighter and smaller tripod for which I have re-calibrated my table of HF-PRO2 settings. However, this wide-open grassed area also invites the use of the large surveyor’s tripod, 10m mast and either the Aerial-51 OCF dipole or the SOTABeam’s band hopper linked dipole. On my last visit here, I actually set-up the VP2E antenna, so you can see Höchsten has plenty of room for antennas! Given the drive-up nature of the summit, it lends itself to packing all options into the car and then to decide when I arrive what I will use.

The second planned summit – DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg is a summit in a forest with lots of trees, so using a vertical in this environment would be a waste of time. So in this case, despite the relatively long walk in from my parking spot on the side of the road before the “forestry access only” sign, I would have to take the heavier equipment set-up including the large tripod and 10 metre mast.

The car was packed the day before for a pre-8am start for what was expected to be a 2-hour drive to the first summit.

The Activations:

I awoke to sunshine and no rain. After the preceding couple of weeks, this was a change. I hoped the weather would stay fine as I left at 7:50am with the car Navi(GPS) saying to expect a 1hr 40-minute drive, so a little time possibly won as there were no traffic problems en-route, even the standard roadworks on the autobahn around Memmingen didn’t cause an excessive delay and I was soon off the autobahn onto the country roads that would form over half of my journey. This was not to be the section of the journey which caused me problems and I arrived at Höchsten around a quarter to 10am and was set-up and operational by 10am (0800 UTC).

DM/BW-854 Höchsten:

On arriving at the summit, I sent Ernie VK3DET in Australia a note in the hope that we might just still have a chance of a contact however the sun had already set in Victoria, Australia and the HF bands gone to sleep. Despite a couple of hopeful calls, there was no DX contact this time. This was not a surprise – I would have needed to be at the summit an hour earlier for any real chance and at the moment, late evening European time rather than early morning is when the EU-VK contacts are being made.

Given the closeness to the car and the open flat location, I decided to use the Aerial-51 OCF antenna atop the 10m mast supported by my surveyor’s tripod. Although I took the amplifier with me to my operation spot, I never bothered connecting it in and just ran with the 20w from the X108G. As it was sunny, I was happy that my solution using a SmartPhone as an external display works so reliably as the display on the X108G itself would have been totally invisible in this light.

Using the X108G on 20 watts output, the 10m mast and the Aerial-51 OCF dipole, I managed 17 contacts on 40m SSB including 3 S2S contacts and 8 contacts on 20m SSB. I shut down and started packing away three times, only to see other activators on, who I might get an S2S with. This activation was exactly 45 minutes long and when the calls dried up, I decided to pack-up as some winds had arrived on the summit and I’d also rather have some time in hand for getting to the next summit.

DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg: The trip to this summit ALWAYS seems to cause me problems! I had not approached this summit from Höchsten before, so the roads were a little different and the most direct route was closed because of the total re-building of one road (this was to provide an even bigger problem later). My Navi(GPS) does not understand when I don’t follow the given route and keeps trying to take me back towards the blockage. This is the standard GPS installed by the car manufacturer, in previous cars, where I had added cheap Chinese aftermarket Navis/Car multimedia devices, they realised when I took a different route and recalculated the guidance – not so with this Peugeot unit! In any case, I knew how to get to Gehrenberg from Markdorf and a route to Markdorf was still signposted, so I followed that and headed to Gehrenberg from there. This probably added 30 minutes to the direct route, but I got there and found my usual parking spot.

I now did a little selective packing into my rucksack. As I hadn’t needed the amplifier on the last summit, it and its box of cables/controller got left in the car as did the photo-tripod and the HF-PRO2 antenna but everything else was to come with me. It was now getting warm, so I packed my waterproof jacket into the rucksack rather than wearing it and with my rucksack on my back and the surveyor’s tripod containing the 10m mast, over my shoulder, I set off up the track into the forest where the Gehrenberg summit is located. (I have posted a short video of this walk on YouTube – link is below).

On arriving on the summit and catching my breath, I put up the tripod and mast and while the Aerial-51 OCF had worked fine at Höchsten, I decided to put that up again. As you’ll see at the very end of the video – this didn’t end up being the antenna that I used from Gehrenberg as it broke, right at the balun/feed point. Luckily I had brought my SOTABeams Band hopper antenna along as a backup and after taking down and packing away the broken antenna, I put this other one up, with it set initially for 20m as it looked like there was more activity on that band over 40m. Unfortunately while taking the first antenna down, the DX-Wire 10m mini-mast decided to collapse rather than lower smoothly, jamming some sections inside it a further cracking an already cracked section.

After the delays of both getting lost driving here and the first antenna breaking, I was eager to get some calls in the log. To add to this the sky had started to turn grey (nothing actually came- it just threatened in the end). From this summit using the X108G and SOTABeams band-hopper at about 8.5 metres. I worked 12 stations on 20m and then switched over to 40m to add another six – two of which were Summit-to-Summit contacts.

Once the contacts dried up again, I decided to call it a day, took the mast first down as far as I could and then took it apart to un-jam, the jammed section inside and empty out the pieces of broken fibreglass. Then it was time to head back to the car – here is the APRS track that I made from the car to the summit – actually it’s two tracks as I turned on tracking in both directions.

Once back at the car, and everything packed, it should just be an easy trip home, right? Wrong? I set the Navi(GPS) for my home address and followed its directions. Unfortunately, that same total road closure that had meant I had to divert on the way to Gehrenberg, was an integral part of the route home and as this Navi doesn’t like you not to follow directions and will not re-calculate a route, but rather re-routes you constantly back to the same closed road and … I had joined this important road AFTER where the diversion had been signposted, so I was on my own and my only option was to head back, past Gehrenberg again to Markdorf, where I knew I could pick up another major road and from there head back onto my home route. So 30 minutes wasted and being a little later, the traffic was now busier. So I had a 1-hour 40-minute journey to the region and a 2-hour 20-minute journey home. I suppose this averages to the 2 x 2-hour trips that I had planned overall …

 Photos:

   Höchsten:

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   Gehrenberg:

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Link to video of the walk up to Gehrenberg summit: https://youtu.be/Jn8F2sxBQb4

Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Portable 70w amplifier and switching cables (not used).
  • Surveyors tripod and 10m mast.
  • HAMA Photo Tripod (not used).
  • Komunica Power HF-PRO2 loaded vertical (not used).
  • Aerial-51 OCF dipole (used at Höchsten).
  • SOTABeams Band-hopper (used at Gehrenberg).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Thick Painters plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Logs:

DM/BW-854 Höchsten:

DM/BW-348 Gehrenberg:

Conclusions:

  • From the weather forecasts over the last two weeks, 80% were inaccurate – one has to simply go and hope the weather will be OK. This time it was, there was some wind on Höchsten and some dark clouds approaching on Genrenberg but overall the weather was wonderful for a change!
  • The fact that I carried a “reserve” antenna to Gehrenberg paid off when the planned antenna broke (now repaired). Had I not had the spare with me, I ‘might’ have been able to do a temporary fix on the Aerial-51 antenna, but whether it would have held…
  • The filter setting changing problem now seems to be fixed after replacing the CMOS battery again in the X108G.
  • The 1:1 balun at the feed point on the SOTABeams band hopper linked dipole feels fragile and since returning home, I have now fastened this to a far more solid “T-piece”, so I think it will now be strong enough.
  • I took the amplifier along in case there was a chance of a contact into VK but decided not to use it. The additional cables and switch unit, make it cumbersome to set-up unless really needed. The 20w from the X108G even without a speech compressor or amplifier was getting good reports. (I have yet to test the DYC-817 external speech processor from a summit, but again, it is more cables and another device that can go wrong, so except for a situation where I want to drag the last small piece of signal out of the station, it probably isn’t worth the extra complexity).

73 ’til the next summit.