DD5LP/P – March 27th 2019 – DL/AL-149 Blender, DL/AL-281 Urserberg & DL/AL-282 Steig.

Preparation:

All equipment was prepared and loaded in the car the previous day even though I wasn’t planning a very early departure. These were not to be DX-seeking activations rather grabbing the last of the easy summits with winter bonus points before those stop at the end of the week.

The Activation (Blender):

Listening to the radio while having my breakfast with the snow falling outside, I head that the B12 (one of the roads I was intending to use), was totally blocked because of an accident. This meant a longer route via two Autobahns but not a lot of difference time wise. In any case I set off at 8:30 am instead of my planned 9am, – it’s always good to have some time in reserve.

I expected some delays around the Kempten ring road but the navi took me from the autobahn across country to avoid the town and its traffic. The downside of this is that I did not know the route and pulled up at a sign on the road which said access for those who live here only. But i could see the TV tower and before making a really long diversion, I decided to trust the Navi and drove down the road it suggested. part of the way down this road, the surface was gone and I was driving on a pot-holed mud track. Hoping not to get bogged I kept going and then as the tarmac returned, I realised where I was. The navi had brought me in from the other side to what I was used to. In any case I now headed to my usual parking spot, took out the gear I wanted to use, loaded myself up and started on the slog up the hill. I had decided to use the Vertically polarised two element (VP2E) 40/20m antenna on this summit as I knew it was fairly flat and I would be able to fit the antenna in. The temperatures were still cold and so I had my thick jacket on.

On arriving near the seat on the summit, I dropped everything down and proceeded to put the surveyors tripod up to support the 10 metre mast and the VP2E. All went well, but I was aware of some threatening cloud in the sky but luckily the rain held off.

I was not expecting any intercontinental DX as I was too late for long path and too early for short path. There was a time at the start when I wondered if I was getting out but after about 4 CQ calls the chasers appeared. Although I had checked and called to make sure the frequency wasn’t in use, as soon as I started to get calls, some station started up about 1 kHz away causing problems both for me and the chasers. This same problem actually occurred on all three summits!

Eleven contacts in 6 minutes and I was happy and packed up to head to the next summit, one that I have not activated for several years and it turns out that Urserberg isn’t that far from Blender especially if you take the narrow farm roads as directed by the navi!

The Activation (Urserberg):

On approaching Urserberg, I recognised where I was and drove straight into the car park, which is signposted as the car park for the Eschacher  Weiher (pond) on the other side of the road. This is a good place to park as there is a track from here up the hill and the car is safely parked. The navi wanted to take me closer, around the other side of the hill, where I suspect the parking would not have been as good.

It is a fair walk up the track until you reach the summit (above the ski lifts), so I decided not to take the tripod this time chosing my screw-in sun umbrella base and 6 metre mast instead. To go with this I would use the Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole. I actually had all antennas in my rucksack, so I could choose a different one if I hit any problems. As had happened the previous week on Senkelekopf.

There’s no seat on this summit, so everything (including myself) was sat on my plastic painters sheet and after putting up the antenna and with some cold winds around, I managed 14 European contacts in 17 minutes, before packing up again to head off to the next summit. The walk up and down from this summit takes about 15 minutes and in my rush to get down I was not as careful as I should have been and slightly strained my ankle. Luckily this wasn’t as bad as it could have been but it underlines that rushing is not good in slippery conditions. I wasn’t going to let this stop me “bagging” summit number three of the day however, so once back at the car, it was time for a bit of lunch, reset the navi for the next summit and set off.

The Activation (Steig):

For some reason, this time the Navi decided to take me back via Kempten and there was some delay getting around the town but not as much as when I approached the summit. Previously I had used notes from Google maps to get to the car park and start of the walking trails in this forest-covered summit. This time I just gave in the summit reference and it directed me to the closed road to the summit – which just happened to end in a farm-yard at the other side of the summit where there are no official tracks to the summit from. To get me to this farm-yard, another length of mud track was included in the route so some interesting driving and some strange looks from the locals. Once I realised what had happened and having no way to tell the navi where the entrance to the forest was that I wanted, I reverted to Google Maps on my phone and was able to pick out two villages where I could tell the navi to bring me to and I knew the road between them and so found my parking spot for Steig with probably 40 minutes delay over a direct route.

This summit also entails a fairly long but not difficult walk, so again I opted for the lighter set-up and left the tripod and 10m mast in the car.

The forest looks a little different to what I remember as an awful lot of the trees have been cut down however the tracks are the same and I soon found my way up to the summit alongside the lookout platform.

Again the painters sheet became the base for operations and the SOTABeams linked dipole went up on the 6m mast and despite the QRM problem again on this summit, I bagged 12 contacts from around Europe in 10 minutes. At this summit the sun actually came out, so I felt like staying longer but as I had lost so much time through mis-navigation and the chance that the weather could change, I decided to pack up and head home, where I was by 15:30.

All in all good day out!

Photos (Blender):

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Photos (Urserberg):

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Photos (Steig):

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Equipment used:

Blender:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs)
  • Linked (40m/20m) VP2E antenna
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Urserberg:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • Aerial-51 OCF dipole antenna
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Steig:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs)
  • 6 metre lambdahalbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet
  • SOTABeams Linked dipole
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable

Log (Blender):

Log (Urserberg):

Log (Steig):

Conclusions:

Don’t trust your Navi (GPS) to take you where you expect it to. I took the summit locations as a KML file from the SOTAMaps website. The Navi will try to get you as close as possible on a normal road but that isn’t always where the parking is or where the tracks go from.

I used different antennas on each of the three summits and all worked fine. I have the feeling that the VP2E was the best of the three and I will most likely use that one for the UK/EU – VK/JA/ZL S2S event on April 6th once I replace the centre mount which broke when I was taking it down at Blender.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – April 25th. 2018 – DL/AL-149 Blender.

Preparation:

As the conditions seemed to be improving with the SFI up to 75 and K down to 1, on Monday Mike 2E0YYY suggested an early morning activation on Wednesday, looking for some long path grey line contacts into VK/ZL on 40m or 20m. As no rain was forecast until Thursday, I said I’d get out as well. The target time was 0700 UTC as it was expected that at this time there may be some chance of contacts. Equipment would be the X-108G, the 10m mini-mast, the Aerial-51 dipole and the LambdaHalbe 20m j-pole vertical (hence the need for the 10m mast instead of the normal 6m one). I would take the 6m mast as well, just in case there were problems with the DX-Wire mast again. As the lightweight Decathlon base had broken on the last activation, I planned to take the old sun umbrella base again and put it ready.

The Location:

I have been to this summit twice before, so I knew where I was going to park. After that there would be a steep climb up to the seat bank that Thomas DK1TK found for us on the last activation. At least the field shouldn’t be as wet this time.

The Activation:

I picked up my two “SOTA bags” and set off from home at around 0500 UTC leaving the sun umbrella base as I went past it half asleep. Luckily I didn’t need it later as I could strap the mast to the side of the bench seat. What stuck me was that at 7am local, it was already light, no sign of dawn at all. Thinking about this later, 2 and 3 years ago when I was regularly getting long path contacts into VK/ZL, I would be on the summit setting up at dawn as the sun came up. I have the feeling we are going out too late for the grey line propagation these days, even though the times are similar. The drive down was supposed to take about an hour and ten minutes. It took 20 minutes longer due to morning rush hour traffic around Kempton. Unfortunately there’s no obvious way to avoid this town to get to Blender from my home location, without taking a far longer route.

Once I had parked and grabbed my bags (still not realising I had forgotten the mast base) I set off across the fields to my planned location. The fields were indeed dry, so no problems there and on arriving at the bench, there was no one around. In fact I only had two groups come by during the time I was there – both times with dogs. It was already sunny but still cold with a little breeze.

As soon as I put the antenna up and got the rig on, I could tell this was going to be a difficult activation. The noise level on 40m was sat at S9! and on 20m it was S7. Unfortunately overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday the SFI had dropped from 74 to 71 and the K index had gone up from 1 to 3.

The first antenna up was the off centre fed dipole as I would need that for 40 metres (but it works on 20m as well). I started calling and looking for contacts on 20 metres after about 15 minutes and no contacts on 20m, I switched to 40 metres and bagged 6 difficult contacts in 5 minutes. Then when the calls stopped I decided to take down the OCF and put up the 20m vertical (J-pole) to see if that allowed me to hear any of the spotted stations on 20m. I couldn’t and getting any more contacts took some effort. I got a very good report on the antenna from Luk YO8SSB in Rumania. As well as Luk, who responded to my CQ SOTA, I also worked two Italian stations who I simply found on the 20m band. During these contacts, even though the mast was only supporting the vertical, the winds had built up so much that the mast was leaning over dangerously. As all amateurs do, I found a simple solution, by using three guy pegs pushed in around the base of the mast, I was able to stop the bottom moving. Of course if I had remembered to bring the sun umbrella base I wouldn’t have had this issue!

With the UK, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Poland and Rumania in the log, I decided to call it a day and packed up and headed back home.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G HF 20w transceiver.

Battery box containing two (selectable) 4S (16v) 5Ah LIPO batteries and automatic voltage regulator.

20m J-Pole antenna from LambdaHalbe.

DX-Wire 10m mini-mast.

LambdaHalbe 6m mini-mast.

Spiderbeam Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole.

Log:

Conclusions:

A day earlier would have had better radio conditions however I don’t believe I would have made any VK/ZL contacts then either. Band conditions are as bad as they can be at the moment.

I was surprised that I didn’t manager an S2S contact with Mike 2E0YYY/P in the UK during this activation but as the chaser contacts that I did make into the UK were 4-6 S-points down on what I would normally expect, I suppose it’s not surprising!

I’m wondering whether being out at sun rise would produce better results. WSPR doesn’t appear to suggest this but I have the feeling we are going out too late for the grey line.

I still have the visibility problem with the X108G display and have heard NOTHING more back from Xiegu, so my only hope is that the tilt mounts and magnifiers that I have ordered will come and be the solution for me.

I will need to recheck the J-Pole antenna on my analyser for its resonant frequency as, while the SWR trace on the X108G showed a dip when in use on the summit, the scale was too small to see if that dip was where it should have been. – NOTE: completed test at home – 1.3:1 at 14.285 and under 2:1 across the band – so that’s fine.

73 ’til the next Summit !