I had planned to be on Attenberg in southern Allgau for the bi-annual UK/EU – VK/ZL/JA S2S QSO party however as the wife caught a rather nasty strain of Flu, she was told by her doctor not to travel. The plan had been to stay with wife and dog in the hotel that has Attenberg in its back field. We have done this before and I have worked both ZL and VK from there. OK radio conditions are not as good as they were last year, so the chances of a contact into Australasia were reduced and indeed that was to be the story of the activation. I had hopes that with a lot of luck and some ‘Pre-Auroral-Enhancement” created by ionised solar winds ahead of plasma from a CME from a coronal hole on the sun, I might just be able to get at least a contact with an Australian or New Zealand chaser.
In place of Attenberg, I had to look for another summit, which I could get to by 0530 UTC (0730 local) if not earlier, which ruled out a lot of the better summits as they require the cable car or seat lift to be running and they don’t start until 9 am local. As I intended using the 40/20m VP2E the summit also needed some space and the ability to put the antenna up in the correct direction. Rentschen is a drive-on plateau with plenty of space and only 45 minutes from home, so rather than not take part in the event, I decided to go back to Rentschen for my third time this year (which of course means I would get no activator points for it).
Knowing a summit, allows you to try out new things and as well as the VP2E antenna (which two others in the event had also built on my recommendation and would be testing), I also had a new HF portable amplifier which should give out up to 100 watts PEP on 40 metres. This might help a little in the bad radio conditions but brings with it, extra power supply and cabling needs, all of which I had tested at a local GMA summit Kramerberg, a couple of weeks earlier.
As I would need an early start, all the gear was loaded into the new car, the night before so that I could just get up, get ready and go.
As planned I was up early – in fact even earlier than I thought I needed to be but in the end, it worked out about right as setting up the antenna in half-light just after dawn took longer than I expected.
The run down to Rentschen was uneventful and I was happy to see that the field where the summit marker trig point stone is located had been recently cut so the farmer hopefully wouldn’t be coming up and moving me on. (The guy is really quite nice and understanding about what I am doing – his wife, not so).
Despite the weight, part of my standard gear to take to a summit is now the surveyor’s tripod and the 10m DX-Wire “Mini-mast”. This allows me to set up where it is best for the antenna rather than only where I might find a mast support. I decided to set up the tripod and mast right next to the trig point stone (i.e. on the absolute summit). I also noticed a nice looking hut at the edge of the woods that might be worth checking out next time as it open, it would give nice protection from rain and wind.
I was lucky with the weather despite some dark cloud overhead during the whole of the activation, the first rain I saw was just a few drops on the windscreen on the drive home. It was still cold though.
Setting up the VP2E antenna in the required direction took a little longer than expected as I misjudged the distance out to where I would put the walking stick posts and guy rope pegs meaning I had to do a couple of changes until the antenna was up as I required. In order to keep the ends of the antenna at the correct distance off the ground, I run the guy cords that are on the end of the antenna through a hole that I drilled in the tops of my telescopic walking poles. This simple solution seems to work quite well.
Once I had the mast and antenna up, I went back to my operating position and my painter’s sheet to set up the gear. Although the farmer had cut the grass he hadn’t yet collected it all and with the morning dew, the grass stuck to my boots and stayed there all the way home.
With the addition of the amplifier setting up the station was made more complex than usual but I decided to have it in-circuit ready for use although my first couple of contacts were made using the X108G “barefoot” at “only” 20 watts output but as I realised what a rat race 40 metres was going to be, I put the amplifier on full time on 40m. As 20m conditions were not good everyone was on 40m – including many of the contest stations who were getting ready for the “Worked All Germany” which only started in the afternoon, but it seems individual operators were running these QRO stations under their non-contest call signs to check out the equipment. This was also JOTA weekend and so there were also additional stations on the air for that. Normally I would be very happy with extra activity on the band but the problem turned out to be two-fold. One problem was that even with my extra power, within minutes of finding a free frequency, checking it was free and then spotting myself on the SOTAWatch cluster – some other station would fire up 1kHz above or below me and splatter all over the frequency. The second point was that when ZL and VK stations spotted their frequencies these would always be where a QRO European station was (correctly) operating – so I had no way of seeing if I could hear the DX station.
These are normal problems on 40m in Europe on a weekend. I believe it would be better to have our S2S event on a weekday when less is happening on the bands.
So how did I do? In just under2 hours of operating, I only worked 27 stations with a big part of the time being wasted on 20 metres. While activity was less and so more free frequencies were available – there was no propagation to speak of. 40 metres, on the other hand, had propagation and I actually heard a VK4 home station but could not call him as he was in a net. He was about 5-5. Mike 2E0YYY/P on G/SP-004 managed a short contact to Ernie VK3DET but the majority of stations didn’t manage any intercontinental QSOs and had to make do with intra-regional S2S and chaser contacts.
As you’ll see from the log below, I managed six S2S contacts and 2 JOTA contacts within my overall 27 contacts. That isn’t bad.
As is normal on my activations, I came back with some tasks to complete before the next outing, which is likely to be the North America – Europe S2S QSO Party on November 2nd. These are – it appears that the amplifier has stopped working on 20m – it’s fine on 40m so I suspect this could be a problem in the relay switched low pass filter module. The HB9SL Vertically Polarised two element (VP2E) antenna has an SWR of 2.2:1 which is higher than I would like and I suspect adding the links may be part of the reason for this, so I will need to get out in a large enough area (local farmers field) and run the analyser on the antenna and try to improve the SWR ratio by either shortening or lengthening both elements of the antenna. The old problem of the X108G display becoming invisible once there is any sunshine around, was less of a problem on this activation with the dark overhead clouds but towards the end I did have to plug in my smartphone to check settings, so this is still a problem with only one phone that supports the needed OTG feature.
I was fairly sure that the long path window to VK/ZL had passed by 07:45 UTC and I was not getting the flow of calls that I had previously so I decided to pack up and head home after watching a black hot air balloon travel down the valley (I would think they would not be travelling so well in the cold air).
Leson amplified microphione.
Portable HF amplifier and cables.
Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).
10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
Thick plastic painters sheet.
Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.
The propagation was not as good as I had hoped for. The problems with operating portable on 40 metres in Europe, especially when a contest or special event is also planned makes operating unnecessarily difficult.
The 20m performance of the amplifier will need to be investigated as will the reason that the VP2E now has an SWR of 2.2:1 rather than the previous 1.1:1.
The Leson microphone is better that the standard (ICOM) Xiegu microphone but the internal audio compressor in the X108G should not be turned up to 3 (out of 10) – it’s OK at setting number 2.
73 ’til the next summit!