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

Preparation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Location:

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

The Activation:

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

I experienced the following problems:

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

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

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment:

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

Log:

Conclusions:

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

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

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

73 ’til the next Summit!

Advertisements

DD5LP/P – March 4th. 2017 – DL/AM-180 Burndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

The purpose of this activation was to find out what the current time for the Long Path propagation opening was so that it would help my planning for the VK-EU S2S event on March 11th. Propagation conditions of late had been horrible and the chance of a contact into VK/ZL/JA on this activation would be rare but I might hear some of the QRO stations from VK or ZL and that would tell me what time I “might” get a contact the following weekend.Based on that information, I could calculate what time I would need to leave home to get to my chosen summit DM/BW-484 Bussen which is just less than 2 hours drive away.

In principle I would take exactly the same equipment that has got me contacts into VK from AM-180 previously, with one addition… Normally I strap the fibreglass mast to the side of a tree as there are no other supports available at Berndrfer Buchet however this means the antenna wires are close to the tree branches and probably de-tune because of this. Some years ago I bought a plastic, screw in the ground sun umbrella base. This I used with my aluminium mast when operating in VHF/UHF contests in Australia. I had never tried to use it as a base for the SOTA mast. If it worked, it would enable me to install the antenna away from direct contact with the trees. So another 2 kilograms was added to the equipment to be carried.

The Location:

Berndorfer Buchet is a one point, low summit but it is the closest to my home location, needing 30 to 45 minutes to get to the parking spot and about 15 minutes walk along a forest track and then up the reasonably steep final ascent to the summit. The summit overlooks Pähl and the Ammersee valley.

The Activation:

I had a good run down arriving at the car park about 35 minutes after leaving home. For the first hour there was nothing but I mean NOTHING on 20m – just noise. 40m was packed full with contest stations but I popped down there and grabbed 4 contacts that I need to have to get points for the activation – interestingly two of the four contacts on 40m were not SOTA chasers, just people who were tuning around and gave me a call. Thumping great signals out of (and into) the UK from here on 40m this morning – almost all 5-9 or 5-9+ both way contacts! As well as 20m & 40m I tried 15m – NOTHING – a waste of time … up to 0800 UTC at least…

Although conditions were not good enough to get a response from them, VK3YFD came out of the noise to a good signal from 08:10UTC and VK3MO was 5-9+ at about 08:35 – both were still there at 0900 UTC – so from that rough estimate, I would say the Long Path window here is only opening at about 0800 UTC at the moment – which is good for me for next Saturday’s activation as I’ll have time for the long drive to the summit I want to use. The two VK3 stations are “super stations” with enormous antennas and lots of power, so they get through on marginal conditions, but are still using the long path propagation.

As I transmitted for so long (calling CQ to no response on 20m mostly) I also had to test both of my back-up LIPO batteries for the FT-817 (internal 2500maH) and the amplifier (1700 mAH internal and 5000mAH external). All worked fine, however I managed to run down the Internal 1.6Ah LIPO in the amplifier too far (see conclusions section below).

The screw-in the ground plastic mast base worked perfectly. I’ve had it for some time (bought in Australia) but never tried it on a SOTA activation before – it’s going to get some kind of bag – as it gets dirty – and then will be a standard part of future activations. It’s really meant to hold up a sun umbrella but works fine as a mast base and avoids having to look for some other support on the summit.

I think I got the best of the weather, there was actually some SUNSHINE! On returning home the temperature has dropped and there are grey clouds around.

Photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Aerial-51 OCF inverted-V dipole.

LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.

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

Thick plastic painters sheet

Screw-in mast base

Log:

activator-log

Conclusions:

One should watch the voltage on LIPO batteries. The internal amplifier battery could not be recharged after returning home, however a replacement was only €18, so it’s not the end of the world.

The screw-in base was a success and I will take it to Bussen next week.

Although (as expected) I made no contacts into VK/ZL/JA, it was obvious (almost like a light switch) that 0800 UTC is the current time that Long Path propagation becomes available and it is lasting about an hour. This was the purpose of the activation, to find this out, so with the (one) activation point, this was a successful activation!

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – August 14th. 2015 – DL/AM-180 Burndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

  Following my activation of Buchberg the previous day where there were many 10m contacts, all easy to hear and work, I decided to fit in another activation before the 10m challenge finished. I would only need one 10m contact from this summit to increase my multiplier and overtake my friend  Martin DF3MC, who was currently at the top of the DL activators table in the challenge. At the start of the day, I had more 10m contacts than Martin but as he had made his contacts from more summits, he has a higher multiplier and hence more overall points.

For HF contests if you don’t run a system around the various multipliers you can get you will never be in the top 100 in the contest! I’d prefer contests (and challenges) to be scored on the number of contacts and possibly the distance of the contact (if VHF/UHF/SHF) and not have the tricks that come with scoring multipliers.

As this was going to be a known summit, I did not have to set up a cut-down pack – rather I decided to take my two standard bags (one photo bag & one small rucksack). I would also take both squid poles and decide when I arrive at the car park which to take up the hill.

The Location:

Berndorfer Buchet is located above the village of Pähl, about 30-45 minutes away from where I currently live – the closest SOTA summit to my home QTH. I had already activated the summit, in the snow earlier in the year, so I would get no activator points for it, but this was just to get a point increment on my challenge multiplier so the one activator point was not so important for me.

The Activation:

The activation this morning wasn’t as simple as I expected it to be. I arrived at the car park probably 15 minutes earlier than I expected and started the walk up the track into the forest. What I didn’t realise was that the relatively large track that I have taken three times before, is now somewhat overgrown and I missed it! No matter I thought as I kept heading higher – this track will take me up the back side of the hill – it did to a certain extent but then there was no way through to the summit and the path started to go down the other side of the hill. I didn’t want to go all the way back down and start the climb again so I headed back to an area where it looked like I might be able to “bush bash” a way through to the summit. There I was, not in boots, rather just in training shoes, and in shorts with bare legs, fighting my way through brambles and nettles. Part of the way in, I wasn’t sure of direction, but always to head upwards was the best idea and eventually I came to the track that I had used on previous activations.

My intent was to get some contacts on 10m so I set up the same modified linked dipole, with the short extension on the 30m section. I self spotted and then called CQ. No response, then I saw Matt was spotted in VK1 on 20m, so I  took a listen with the antenna still set up for 10m and I could hear him quite well, so down came the mast, links were changed in the antenna and the mast put up again. I installed the Ramsey amp in circuit to get me up to about 15W output instead of the 5W from the 817 and called and called and called and eventually after all the super strong Italian, Russian and other European chasers finished Matt heard me and we had a short contact.  Then it was time to head back to 10m. Down came the mast, out of circuit came the amp, spotted again and started calling CQ with no response until Martin DF3MC called me. Martin is the amateur who is currently in first place in the DL 10m activating section of the Challenge. I felt a little bad that it would be the contact with Martin that would mean that I would go into the lead in the challenge before the break until November when it starts again however Martin said he was going out in the afternoon, which he did and bagged five new 10m contacts in bad conditions and ended up deservedly in the lead in the challenge as we go into the break.

After Martin I heard Jorge EA2LU call me but unfortunately we didn’t make the contact – I thought it was simply that my 5W wouldn’t make the distance, but later in a contact on 20m he told me that there was heavy QSB plus other stations from Italy and Russia (them again!) on the same 10m frequency that I was on, so a contact may have been possible had I switched to another frequency. After calling and calling and getting no response I decided to rotate the dipole from it’s N-S orientation to E-W and tried again. Still no calls and I was running out of time. I then decided to go onto 20m and spotted myself and picked up calls from Jorge EA2LU and Vladimir EU2MM before having to pack up to leave.

During the last session on 20m, I realised that the fan in the QAMP was not running and I could not hear the relays going over. I had also started to get some receive noise when I power the amp on – which on low signals can be annoying, although I can turn off the amp by hand when on receive. The signal level on receive even with the amp turned off has also started “crackling”, so I suspect the Phono-BNC adapter connection on the input to the QAMP has gone faulty. So all in all, I need to do some investigation and repair work on the small portable amplifier.

I took my normal path back down the hill and then saw why I had not seen the track on the way up – while passable on foot, it was nothing like it was last year when I suspect it was regularly used by the forestry people with their trucks

Photos:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SotaBeams Linked dipole, modified for 3rd harmonic use on 10m.

Ramsey QAMP linear amplifier.

6 metre squid pole.

Plastic painters sheet.

Log: activator log

Conclusions:

The aim to take over the lead from Martin in the DL section of the 10m activator challenge was not met, but without the contact from Martin, I would not have been in the lead for the few hours that I was – it’s all in fun in any case!

I shouldn’t complain – although I only had 4 contacts, one of those was an S2S with Australia, one a contact on a totally dead at the time, 10m band and two good contacts on 20m with Spain and Belarus!

One can forget how amazing it is to work around the world on just 5W and a wire antenna and that on SSB.

The Ramsey amplifier will need a major service before it’s next outing and I am still seeking that lighter, simpler set of equipment that I can take to more difficult summits than this one.

73 ’til the next Summit!