DD5LP/P – April 8th. 2017 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

This activation would not earn me any new activator points as I have already activated this summit in 2017. It is however the closest to me at about 35 minutes drive from home. The day before after discussions with Karl M3FEH, who was planning to go out, I decided to go out early this Saturday morning as well. The main aim was to see if indeed a long path contact into VK or ZL was possible on 40 metres as 20 metres has not been performing so well in the last weeks. Also with an SFI of about 118 and K index of 1 – conditions should be good, right? No – in fact from Friday to Saturday the SFI dropped to 66 – the lowest it had been for several years and the K Index rose to 3, sometimes 4. I didn’t know this was going to happen of course and only found out after returning home, making what was achieved even more interesting.

No experiments with equipment – the FT-817ND plus amplifier and the 6m portable mast to support the Aerial-51 OCF dipole were prepared for the early start. The OCF having the advantage of covering both 20 & 40m. My sun umbrella support was also put with the two equipment bags and all was set.

The Location:

As mentioned above Berndorfer Buchet is the closest SOTA summit to my home QTH. It is on a hill above the village of Pähl south of the Ammersee lake in southern Bavaria. As you will see from the photos, the summit is completely wooded, which is not the best situation as they de-tune antennas (especially vertical), but I have made contacts into VK from here before, albeit when radio conditions were somewhat better than they are at present.

The Activation:

An early start – away before 7am local time (now 0500 UTC) and a clear run down the country roads across country to the summit. I was half expecting to see snow as I approach the summit however there was (thankfully) none to be seen. What I did see however was the sun rising through the early morning mist – it looked like a large orange ball. If I hadn’t been driving at the time I would have taken a photo of it – it was impressive.

The weather wasn’t bad but the temperature was down at 0.5°C and stayed that way for a couple of hours until the sun burnt through all of the mist.

The set-up of the mast, as you’ll see from one of the pictures ended up as a combination of a “natural” support and the sun umbrella base. The antenna went up without any major problems and the station got set up on the painters sheet on the ground. I started by tuning around 40 metres and indeed I coul hear some VK fixed stations in conversation as well as some US stations. But in the couple of opportunities I took to call them, I got no response, being flattened by far more powerful stations with larger antenna systems I expect.

After self-spotting, I got some european chasers but they were not as strong as normal. I suspect the skip distance on 40m was long at this time (just after 0600 UTC). I gave 20m a try and was rewarded with a call from John, ZL1BYZ but this was a difficult contact – especially from John’s end. Without John great antenna systems, I don’t think this would have been possible. Certainly an S2S with VK/ZL on 20m would not have been possible today. Later when I found out that the SFI had dropped so far, it was no surprise that contacts were difficult on 20m. The purpose of the activation was to check out 40m for DX so I switched back to that band and did some “search and pounce” operations, getting a few more contacts including the TM100VIMY special event station. Following that there was a run of the usual chasers and the conditions on 40m continued to improve on 40 metres for inter-Europe contacts (so the skip was getting shorter I think), these stations were still not as strong as usual, but better than earlier. One more trip to 20 metres was rewarded with VK1MD calling me along with a few European chasers. At this point I replaced the battery on the amplifier which had drained without the monitoring device saying anything – it showed down to about 90% and then simply stopped working (all 4 cells were actually at 0% as I found out when I got home). One final run on 40m, which was now back to european stations only, no NA or VK DX and then it was time to pack up and head back to the car.

All in all a good test. I could hear the VK stations on 40 metres at between 5-5 and 5-8. One was actually working portable with a dipole but admittedly running 300 watts, while another home station, again with a wire antenna was running just 95 watts. I think given possibly 50-100W and ideally a better antenna than a dipole, arranged S2S contacts between EU – VK and EU-NA early morning (EU time) would be possible. So as we continue down to Solar minimum perhaps we need to look to larger stations with more power on 40 metres for long path contacts to VK/ZL?

Unfortunately, although I saw Karl M3FEH spotted on SOTAWatch, I didn’t manage to hear him from this activation.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Aerial-51 OCF horizontal wire dipole UL-04.

LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.

Modified QAMP amplifier (25W on 20m, 35W on 40m).

Thick plastic painters sheet

umbrella screw-in base.

Log:

Conclusions:

I have replaced the LIPO monitor unit with a second one that I have – unfortunately, this one doesn’t have such a big display but perhaps it will be more accurate! I think 40m EU-VK S2S contacts will be possible if both ends can run more power. As this will involve heavier gear and batteries, this would perhaps need to be an activation with more than one person and larger flatter summits would probably make things easier to install that small high peaks.

73 ’til the next Summit!

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DD5LP/P – August 7th 2016 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

On the SOTA reflector, there was a suggestion to get out onto SOTA summits and activate on 2 metres and as Sunday 7th. August has the 70cm & 2m sections of the “Bayerisches Bergtag” this seemed a safe option, that would be activity around. This section of the BBT only runs from 09:30 to 12:00 UTC so that pretty well defined my planned operating window. For equipment, I decided to take my 2m Moxon antenna and a short (hand-held) mast along with the FT-817. I would also take along the normal HF kit ( Squid pole, OCF, small amplifier etc) in case I got no contacts on 2m.

My plan was to activate Irschenhausen DL/BE-094 as I hadn’t activated that (local) summit this year yet to get its one point. As you will read below however, plans changed and I ended up back at my most often activated summit Berndorfer Buchet DL/AM-180.

The Location:

Berndorfer Buchet is the hill overlooking the village of Paehl which is at the bottom of the Ammersee (one of five lakes near Munich). It is at worst 45 minutes drive from my home QTH near the town of Landsberg am Lech it was on my route to Irchenhausen, about another 20 minutes drive via Starnberg.

There is a car park on the side road to Kuflatsch and then there is about a ten minutes walk along the forest tracks and up the side of the mount to the summit. The views from the summit are limited as it is a wooded summit, so lots of trees block what would otherwise be some nice views.

The Activation:

It was a sunny day (at last) and the wife asked if I could drop her off at the lake side on the Ammersee and pick her up on the way back. This was basically on my route, so no worries there. After dropping her off, however the problems started. One bottleneck in my route is the town of Diessen and on THIS particular day, they had decided to run a flea market! The combination of the heavier than normal traffic because of the good weather and this flea market with no adequate parking arranged, mean that the town was blocked. There were also trucks trying to get through. Needless to say my available time quickly drained away and I threaded my way through this mess. Then I heard in the radio that a section of the autobahn near Starnberg, which I had planned to use was blocked and to allow an extra 35 minutes for journeys. While I could have taken back roads and avoided the autobahn, others would be doing the same. So the decision was quickly made that once I got to the end of the road up to Berndorfer Buchet, I would not drive past it but rather down it and activate from DL/AM-180 once more.

Once I arrived at the summit, the Moxon got unstrapped from the rucksack, attached to the small pole and set up provisionally in a tree stump while I unpacked the FT817, plastic ground sheet, log book etc. Checking Sotawatch via Rucksack radio Tool, I saw some SOTA activators already spotted but on HF not 2m. I decided to first of all try 2m. I tuned around and indeed there were a couple of BBT contest stations on. Luckily I had foreseen the possibility that I might have to fall back to Berndorfer Buchet and had noted down its Maidenhead locator as well ass that from Irschenhausen, so I had the data I needed for a contest QSO. I worked a very strong contest station, so I knew the equipment was working and then found a free frequency, self-spotted on SOTA and called CQ SOTA on and off for 10 minutes, without a single call. I then saw that Luc ON7DQ was spotted as active in LX – I listened for him, but heard nothing. Going by the contest stations I was hearing in DL, OE, OK & I – the propagation may have been there but only if Luc had been beaming in my direction and I in his. I trid some calls on 2m FM on 145.50, also with no takers.

I then carried on to work a few more SSB contest stations before packing up for my return journey including an extra 10km to avoid the traffic jams in Diessen.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

PAR antennas 2m Moxon beam.

Short aluminium “holding” pole.

Log:

activator log

Conclusions:

The activation showed me how easy it is to set up on 2m compared to HF but from a SOTA point of vew if the BBT contest had not been on, I would have got no contacts at all. The propagation was there – the 2m chasers were not.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – May 18th and 23rd 2016 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation for May 18th:

A week before the first activation, Andrew VK1MBE contacted me to ask if we could set up a Summit-to-Summit contact at some point as he needed a second DL association S2S contact for his Mountain Hunter-S2S award. Of course, I was happy to oblige. I had actually given Andrew his first DL S2S contact from Peissenberg about a year ago. A both weather and radio conditions have been poor of late, I wanted to get out and try for a new Long Path contact into Australia – after all my call sign is DD5 L P  HI. I checked and saw to my surprise, that I hadn’t activated Berndorfer Buchet yet this year (it is the closest summit to my home location) and I had made contacts into VK from there previously, so we agreed a date in the hope that there would be a break in the continuous rain we’d been having and all was set.

 I packed my bags the day before the trip. In fact it was more an un-pack of what I no longer needed. I was taking my home made amplifier along, however I had made some modifications since last time I had it out. One modification was to install an internal LIPO battery in the case. I did this for two reasons, firstly to avoid having the weight of carrying the external battery bag which has two 5000 mAH 3 cell LIPO batteries (one as a spare) and an inverter to take the 11v from the batteries up to the 16v that I now run the amplifier on and secondly to avoid the RF noise from that inverter, which runs quietly at 13.4v output but not at 16 volts. I had also added an extra relay so that the cooling fan (brushless fan, that also creates HF “hash”) only comes on when we are in transmit mode.

IMG_20160518_182119

The homebrew amplifier with the lid off the case – note the small 1600 maH 4S LIPO battery running across the case in the lower part of the picture.

  I also chose to take the SOTAbeams linked dipole as I only intended to operate on 20 metres, so there would be no need to lower and raise the antenna to change bands and the SOTABeams antenna is lighter than the Spiderbeam OCF dipole that I normally take as it has no need for a Balun.

Preparation for May 23rd:

With the WIA AGM being held on Norfolk Island, a few SOTA activators are present who plan to activate the (relatively easy to get to) VK9/NO-001 Mount Bates SOTA Summit. Indeed both Paul VK5PAS/VK9PAS and Peter VK3PF/9 planned an activation around the time that long path to Europe could be open on the 23rd. of May.

Given the successful activation on the 18th. (read details below), and with the hope that the forecast heavy rain would hold off, I put out my SOTA gear ready, planning the same equipment and location as had worked on the Previous Wednesday.

The Location:

Berndorfer Buchet is the hill overlooking the village of Paehl which is at the bottom of the Ammersee (one of five lakes near Munich). It is at worst 45 minutes drive from my home QTH near the town of Landsberg am Lech.

There is a car park on the side road to Kuflatsch and then there is about a ten minutes walk along the forest tracks and up the side of the mount to the summit. The views from the summit are limited as it is a wooded summit, so lots of trees block what would otherwise be some nice views.

The Activation May 18th:

A fairly early rise to get to the summit for 0630 UTC when we expected radio conditions to be at their best. The weather looked good as well and indeed it turned in to a sunny day, if still cold while I was on the summit. As normal I arrived earlier than planned for the activation but then was delayed by something as silly as the support cord on the end of the dipole tangling itself up while I was trying to find the best place to tie the inveted-v antenna off to.

Once I had the equipment running I put out a call for Andrew on our agreed frequency of 14.310MHz and got no reply – but I was still 30 minutes early at 06:00 UTC. The planned contact time was 06:30 UTC. So I put out a CQ and spotted myself – no answers. I started to wonder if I was getting out or whether there might be a bad connection somewhere. Tuning around I found Paul RZ6BR in Labinsk, Russia. He was calling for DX but after a couple of calls with no response, I called him, apologised that I was not DX but could he please give me a report. No problems he gave me a 5-9 report with deep QSB. We had a short chat and then I left him to his calling and I went back to 14.310 and put out another CQ SOTA. I then heard a quite faint but understandable VK4RF – Rick in Queensland, Australia. Unfortunately when I passed it back, he didn’t come back to me. Well at least I knew now I was really getting out. In fact Rick tried a couple more times over the next 30 minutes, until we finally made the contact – thanks for persevering Rick! On my next CQ SOTA call I heard “summit to summit” and it was indeed Andrew VK1MBE/P on Mount Ainsley VK1/AC-040 and we exchanged 4-2 reports both ways. The contact was possible because we both had low or no, noise level at each end I think. That being said 15 minutes later (at 06:30 UTC) Andrew was up to 5-4 or 5-5 strength, so the original planned time would probably have been the ideal time for the contact, but we made it – which made for a succesful activation. I also had calls from two other Russian, one Bulgarian and one Greek chaser all at 5-9+ strength. My last contact was with Pedro EA2CKX at nothing like his normal strength, so I think the skip distance was long, blocking out most of western europe for me.

The Activation May 23rd:

I woke up even earlier for this activation than for the previous one, expecting that Norfolk Island may become accessible earlier than the ACT being somewhat further East. I had a good run down to Berndorfer Buchet taking just 35 minutes to drive there. One more trudge up the hill, all the time hoping that the rain would hold off. The skies were threatening but often that can be the case and no rain comes. I was set up and operational by 05:30 UTC (7:30am local). Although the VK9 stations had been spotted I could not hear anything – it was a little early for long path, only expecting something possibly from 06:00 UTC onwards. So in the meantime I put out a call made a contact or two and then went back to monitoring 14.310MHz where the VK9 stations were operating on. From time to time I could hear “something” in the noise but not at a workable strength. I heard a few VK chasers working Peter VK3PF/9 but I could not hear Peter. Mike 2E0YYY was also out in the UK on this “VK9-hunt” so I had a quick conversation with him and then I went back to listening for Norfolk Island (NI). I even put out a couple of “blind calls” with the hope that the NI guys might be listening and hear me. Unfortunately the radio conditions were not there on the 23rd. and apart from Mike working Ernie VK3DET who was about 3-3 with me and Mike, there were no long path contact to VK this day.The inter-Europe contacts suffered from very deep QSB at times, so it seems the band was really unsettled.

On my drive home, the rain started and continued for over 24 hours solid, si at least in that factor I had been lucky. After this rain, Berndorfer Buchet will be difficult to access. So if I get another chance of an NI S2S contact on another day, it will have to be from a different summit.

Photos 18th. May:

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Photos 23rd. May:

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Equipment (both activations):

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole.

5 metre squid pole.

Homebrew 160m – 15m amplifier (30/20w)

Log 18th. May:

Activation log

Log 23rd. May:

Activator Log

Conclusions:

The first activation was a success. The equipment worked as it should and I managed the contact into VK with about 20 watts. Would it have been possible with just 5 watts? I think so, but it would have been a harder job for Andrew!

The second activation, while not managing the desired contact into Norfolk Island, proved the kit again, having had its batteries charged after the first activation, I could simply grab the bags and go and everything worked. I am getting very close to being able to take ONLY the camera bag on these activations.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – March 13th. 2015 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

Andrew VK1NAM contacted me via email earlier in the week to ask if it would be possible for me to get out on Friday morning my time as he was looking for a second contact into the DL association to count towards his Mountain Hunter award (he already had one DL contact and just needed the second). I had already planned an activation on the Saturday from Peissenberg but gladly agreed to head out on Friday instead. As this had to be an early activation to catch the long path window I decided on my closest summit Berndorfer Buchet. I already knew the summit from activating it in 2014. Being only 30-40 minutes away from home this was the best option (or so I thought). Given the difficulty of access due to the remaining ice and snow, Peissenberg (with it’s winter bonus) would have been a better choice. Heinsight is a fine thing but I chose Berndorfer Buchet. I’ll need to try to “knock off” the easy summits with winter bonuses next week before the period ends, or leave them until December.

I decided to take the 10m squid pole this time instead of the 6m one, but apart from that the usual equipment was packed up ready to go the night before.

The Location:

Berndorfer Buchet is in the middle of a forest on a hill overlooking the village of Paehl, just south of lake Ammersee. Probably an hour’s drive from Munich but only just over 30 minutes from where I live. This is an easy summit and as such only gives 1 point even in winter.

The Activation:

There were a few surprises and not just the band conditions. AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet is a small hill, not very high when compared to the alps, because of this it doesn’t get a winter activator bonus. While most snow and ice has cleared around here (including on many of the lower summits that get the winter bonus points), it hadn’t from the approach (walking) track to AM-180. Luckily the last 30m vertical climb had cleared of snow otherwise I may not have got to the summit at all.

What looks like snow in the pictures below, is snow with a layer of ice on top of it and where the forestry vehicles had been, it’s solid ice and very slippery! Although sunny, I doubt the temperature got over 0 degrees even in the sunshine, while I was there.

As soon as I had set up, I saw a spot for Andrew and could hear him about S2 or S3 and tried calling for 20mins but I was swamped by the stronger chasers. I then spotted myself on 20m and qualified the summit with a bunch of the usual chasers.When I returned to Andrew’s frequency I couldn’t hear Andrew any more. The 20m band was not as good as it has been. I then saw an OE portable station spotted and went to see if I could get an S2S but due to the proximity (skip distance), I couldn’t hear him at all. Still hopeful of catching Andrew I went back to his frequency and thankfully, conditions were back and the wall of chasers calling had gone down in number and we managed the contact!

After this I decided to go onto 40m and give a call. It was crazy – lots of callers most at S9+. 40m was really “popping”.

Just as I was about to pack-up with bitterly cold fingers, I saw a spot on 20m for Mike (2E0YYY) and Dave (G4ASA) so called them and had an easy contact to complete the activation.

Photos:

 

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND,

Aerial-51 model 404-UL asymmetric dipole.

10 metre squid pole.

Ramsey QAMP, modified to cover 40m & 20m.

Green plastic sheet.

Log:

activator-log

Conclusions:

Just beacuse most of the area is cleared of snow, do not assume that the summit you want to activate is! I raved in the last activation report about the clip-on spikes for my boots and how valuable they are. I needed themon this activation but left them at home!

73 ’til the next Summit!

DL/VK2JI – SOTA Europe – April 10th. 2014 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet

Convenient parking just down the road from the start of the track.

Convenient parking just down the road from the start of the track.

DSCN1666-640

Animal feeding point just before final climb.

For my second SOTA activation after moving to Germany, I decided on a very local summit (only 20 mins drive from where we are staying). Berndorfer Buchet (DL/AM-180) is a small hill in a forest between the Ammersee and Starnbergersee lakes about 30 km SSW of Munich in Bavaria.

I had managed a quick “reccie” the preceding Sunday and access was reasonably straight forward with about a 10minute walk from the road (the track is forestry services only) and then a steep climb of about 5 minutes to reach the summit. Being a forest, one issue I realised was that there were very few small trees where I could strap the “squiddy” pole. Most trees were very tall meaning the dipole wires would be touching the wood (not a good idea).

Initially I planned the activation for Tuesday the 8th. of April however as the weather forecast was not good for Tuesday or Wednesday, I decided to go with Thursday again, when a beautiful, sunny, dry day was forecast…..

Although I have a small amplifier that works well on 40m and helps a little on 20m, for simplicity, I decided to run just the FT-817 with the internal 2200maH LIPO, which I used on Peissenberg the week before.

So all was charged up and packed ready by Wednesday evening. When I woke up on Thursday expecting a nice sunny morning the sky was grey and it had rained overnight. Not deterred as it wasn’t “actually” raining I set off as planned.

On reaching Berndorfer Buchet, it was still grey and cold, but no rain although the track and especially the climb up the hill (now carrying several kilos of gear), was slippery so it took a little longer to ascend than on Sunday.

Climb up to summit - lots of slippery leaves!

Climb up to summit – lots of slippery leaves!

I had found just one small tree on my Sunday and checking around I concluded this one was the only option. Unfortunately this small tree had several branches and twigs at a height I could not reach but blocked the direction that I wanted to run the dipole in. In trying to get the dipole wire over some of these branches, I managed to get the antenna stuck and in trying to clear it, the wire broke. I then still had part of the dipole stuck and one final tug resulted in the wire coming down but also me catching and scrubbing skin off my fingers on the side of the tree. Not a good start to the activation!

After applying some plasters and stripping and winding together the broken wire, I had a second go at getting the antenna up. On the basis that any antenna is better than no antenna, I decided to run the antenna at a slightly lower height, so as to miss most of the branches.

Station set-up.

Station set-up.

The start of the activation at 07:00 UTC was not encouraging, despite the band being full of stations (several very strong indeed) I could not get a contact. I thought perhaps the antenna was now faulty (even though I checked the SWR after the temporary fix and all seemed OK), I was happy to get my first call from RV3DSA – Serg near Moscow in Russia. It did take a while to even get the minimum 4 contacts to qualify the summit as being activated and get the 1 activator point. After several self spots on SOTAWatch and moving frequency when other stations simply started transmitting on the frequency I had been calling on for several minutes, I did start to get a few calls and the final log looked like this:

RV3DSA   EA1LQ   LZ1ZC   VK3DET   EA2BSB    MW3PZO   EA7PY   SV2OXS   F4FWO

(Ernie VK3DET was a good 5-7 signal but I know he had to really fight the QRM and QSB to make the contact – Thanks Ernie).

By UTC 08:00 the (20m) band had closed and as I finished the contact with F4FWO, the rain started, so I decided to call it a day.

What did I learn from this activation?

  1. It appears the best window from long patch EU-VK contacts at the moment is 06:00-08:00 UTC.

  2. Don’t pull so hard on the antenna if it gets stuck in the branches.

  3. More power is needed, 5W is really on the border line for contacts, 20W is more likely to get through.

  4. The LIPO battery installation within the FT-817 works very well.

On returning home my new German Amateur Radio licence (which I had applied for just two days earlier) was in the post box. So from now on the activations will take place as DD5LP – a reciprocal call that I had 20 years ago ! DD calls are usually only allocated to clubs nowadays, but as I had had it previously and it was not taken, I was re-issued it.

73 until the next activation.