DD5LP/P – October 19th 2019 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen – UK/EU – VK/ZL S2S event.

Preparation:

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.

The Activation:

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).

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

Leson amplified microphione.

Portable HF amplifier and cables.

Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).

VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).

Surveyors tripod.

10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet.

Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

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!

DD5LP/P – June 18th 2019 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen.

Preparation:

The primary aim of this activation was to give John (VK6NU) a summit-to-summit contact while he was on a summit in Ireland (EI/IE-057) as part of his European trip.

I had planned to go to Wank near Garmisch Partenkirchen as I have not activated that summit this year as yet. Looking at the time involved and the somewhat strenuous last section up to the summit with all the gear, I decided to simply go to the closer Rentschen summit, where one can literally drive on to the summit (it is a plateau).

This would also be another chance to use the new VP2E antenna with its traps fitted, to see how it performs.

I only needed to be on the summit by 11:30am, local time, so I had time to prepare all the gear in the morning. This would be the Xiegu X108G and cable to my Smartphone, so that I can read the display, the 10 metre “mini-mast”, the Surveyors tripod and the 40/20m trapped or linked VP2E wire antenna along with the walking sticks to lift the ends of the antenna.

The Activation:

As I approached Rentschen, I saw a farmer cutting the grass and hoped he hadn’t planned to start on the top field where the actual summit with its trig point stone was. Luckily this did not turn out to be the case.

I set up right at the Trig point marker stone and after some taffling and un-taffling of the antenna wires, I had got the antenna up with the 20 metre traps installed in the antenna – this should make it possible to use the antenna on 40m and 20m without having to lower the antenna to link or unlink sections. I had tried these traps previously using the antenna on 20m and all seemed fine. This time I was going to start on 40m.

Listening around the band, despite all the space weather readings that say it shouldn’t be, the band was nicely active with strong signals coming in up and down the 40m band. I even heard and called GB19DDAY on-board the HMS Belfast ship in the Thames in London, but couldn’t get through all the others calling him. That was a shame as some of the ICQPodcast team volunteer on the HMS Belfast some weekends. But it wasn’t to be.

My first contact after spotting myself on SOTAWatch was Lucas ON3YB and although he was a strong 5-9 signal, his report back to me was only 2-2. I suspected the traps and so I asked him to wait until I removed them. I lowered the antenna, unplugged the traps and plugged the links for 40m through and put everything back up. Unfortunately, by this time Lucas had gone, but most of the following contacts got reports between 5-5 and 5-9 which is more what I would expect, so it does seem the traps degrade the antenna considerably. to be sure, however I’ll need to do more tests.

Mixed into my 17 contacts on this activation, I had 8 Summit-to-summit (S2S) contacts, including the planned one with John VK6NU in Ireland and Mike 2E0YYY/P who was out for the same reason and Luc ON7DQ who is on his way down to Friedrichshafen for the HAM RADIO show at the end of the week. I also talked to a few people who I plan to see at FN in a few days.

After an hours operating I got a problem that I switched the receive filter to the 500Hz CW position and while I could not read the display and the filter setting cannot be changed via the CiV remote control commands from my phone on this rig, I decided to pack up and call it a day with a nice list of contacts in the bag.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).

VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).

Surveyors tripod.

10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet.

Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The propagation was better than was expected and reflected in the number of S2S contacts made. Some of them from stations that I would not normally hear because of skip distance. There was deep QSB on the band, so perhaps this was Sporadic-E ? whatever it was, it was a nice activation, making several nice contacts including the one with John VK6NU, which was the purpose of the activation.

The VP2E antenna performed well once the traps were out of the circuit. The SWR this time showed between 1:1 and 1.1:1 so it looks that raising the ends with the walking poles is a good move.

The problem at the very end of the activation, where I pressed a button in error and switched to the CW filter may be able to be fixed by using a special initialisation string in the remote control software that runs on the smartphone. I will take a look at this.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – March 3rd 2019 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen.

Preparation:

There was little preparation for this activation as it was decided upon when the weather and radio conditions looked a little better, while those in the upcoming days were not looking very good.

For the last few activations I have been trying to make a contact into VK or ZL – something which used to be relatively easy as long as one was on at the right time to use the Long path or short path window. In this case, as the decision to activate was taken after the long path windows was nearly over – the only option was to try during short path window around 1100 UTC.  The closest summit where I could set up my new VP2E antenna up without any problems is Rentschen, the same summit that I couldn’t activate about 2.5 weeks earlier due to 1.5 – 2.0 metres of snow. I was hoping that most of the snow would have melted by now!

Once I had decided to try an activation, I grabbed all the needed gear, in principle my two standard bags, my surveyors tripod, screw-in sun umbrella base and two masts as I planned to put up my 40/20m dipole as well as the VP2E.

The Activation:

As I approached Rentschen, I could still see snow on the upper slopes but luckily when I arrived at the summit, a lot of the snow had gone and I could quickly find a spot to set up and I proceeded to put up the tripod, 6 metre mast and VP2E antenna set to direct its slight gain lobe in the direction of VK/ZL via short path. I was earlier than I expected on site but I decided the best action would be to start calling anyway to pick up the needed 4 contacts  for me to get the activator point plus the three winter bonus points for the summit.

Of interest, is the fact that the high voltage power lines that used to cross exactly over the trig-point / summit marker stone are gone! I presume they have been either buried underground or re-routed in some way.

Although the sun was shining, the temperatures were affected by a very cold wind, which in the end would limit the time I would be on the summit.

I had email contact with Ernie VK3DET and let him know that I was already calling, so he could try to listen for me. Unfortunately he could not hear anything from me – radio conditions were bad again. That being said I did make 8 contacts on what others reported as a “flat” 20m band. I managed two contacts into Finland, one into Norway, one into Portugal, one into Spain, one into the Ukraine and two into Russia. So the antenna does appear to work and the lack of contacts into the direction of the UK suggests some directivity of the antenna.

I had planned to put my second antenna up however a lot of my time was consumed with calming down a dog who came up to the summit on its own from a house down the lane and continually barked at me until she finally got bored and went home. Putting up a second mast with the dog there may have caused more problems with the dog. In any case I decided that as I had got my required 4 contacts fairly quickly I would continue testing with the 20m antenna and trying to get that short path contact into VK. Unfortunately the VK contact wasn’t going to happen, despite 20 watts of SSB and the new antenna, propagation simply did not happen.

To do proper antenna comparisons I think I need a second Op. along so that I can compare and log data and also get a second opinion of what is performing and what not.

Perhaps next time?

Photos:

 

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).

VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).

Surveyors tripod.

6 metre lambdahalbe fibreglass portable mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet.

Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The propagation seemed not to be very good with the noise level raised by yet another solar storm hitting the ionosphere. This was a risk, but at least I managed to activate and qualify the summit.

The display on the X108G was again unreadable so I used the Smart Phone to view and control the rig. With a different cable configuration to last time I had less problems with the program hanging-up and leaving the rig on TX, but it did still happen.

The VP2E antenna does appear to perform well, even though at one point the app on the phone told me that the X108G was seeing a 10:1 SWR but then the next moment it was 1.1 or 1.5:1. A bad connection perhaps? – Something to be looked at.

I am happy that I was able to simply grab my gear and go as the weather for the following week is not looking very good.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – February 5th. 2018 5 summits in a day DL/AL-169 & 179, DL/AM-001,176 & 177.

Preparation:

As it’s now a new year and we still have the winter bonus of three extra points to the activator in force, I decided to put together the well tried and tested gear and head off to five local, easy access summits. Originally I had though of including a sixth – DL/AM-178 Ammerleite however since the easy access road has been made private, there is a long walk of about 2 kilometres from another road and the last part of that route is not on a prepared track, rather across a field up to the summit cross. this last part can be problemsome. I have been up to my knees in snow on this last part of the ascent and even if the snow has cleared the ground will almost certainly be very muddy. Not a good candidate for a “quick” activation.

Equipment would be the “tried and tested” Yaesu FT-817ND plus modified Ramsey HF amplifier, the SotaBeams band-hopper linked dipole and my 6 metre fishing pole plus this time a screw-in Sun umbrella base.

The Locations:

Auerberg is accessed from the church and restaurant’s car park and then a walk of about 50 metres up the side of the church (quite a steep climb but not long). Around the back of the church this is a bench seat to sit on and fence posts to attach the antenna mast to.
Weichberg is accessed from a forest car park and then walking up through the forest about 150 metres to the Chapel with table and bench seats outside.
Rentschen is a drive up summit formed by a plateau. Once there I walk across to the trig-point stone and set up. No bench at this one, take something to sit on.
Kirnberg has no car park so I drive to the farmers gate and then walk up alongside his fence to the cross (this farmer is really cool, he towed me out when I got bogged once – typical country guy). There’s a bench at the cross here as well.
(Hoehen-)Peissenberg is the easiest of all, you drive to the car park and then walk up the concrete steps and path to the other side of the church and set up on the bench there.

My plan was to activate DL/AL-169 Auerberg, DL/AL-179 Weichberg, DL/AM-176 Rentschen, DL/AM-177 Kirnberg and DL/AM-001 Peissenberg in that order. The order seemed reasonable however as I later found out, it would have made more sense to reverse the first two as the route from DL/AL-179 to DL/AM-176 took me back through the village underneath DL/AL-169. Oh well, next time I should know better. In the same way the route from Auerberg to Weichberg could be along main roads but leaving my GPS Navi to do the route planning it took me along single track country roads, in at least two places these went THROUGH farm yards on their route! Oh the fun of GPS-Navis!

The Activations:

The weather at home although cold there was no snow to be seen. Surprise, surprise all summits were still snow covered from snow that came down a couple of weeks ago! Temperatures varied from -9C on Auerberg “up” to -4.5C on the last summit Peissenberg. I was glad of taking my thick winter jacket but despite that, the way I felt when I arrived home, I believe I suffered some Hypothermia.

Apart from the realisation that I should have done the first two summits in the opposite order, the drives to the summits were uneventful.

Auerberg (my first summit) has a surprise for me when I arrived apart from the horribly cold temperature (-9°C) access to the summit had been closed as renovation work on the church building that sits on the actual summit has started and everything was fenced off. At this summit, even down to the car park is part of the Activation Zone so I set up on the short track up to the church. Of course now I had no bench seat, so I put out my painters sheet which kept sliding down the slope on top of the hard packed but also frosty snow. This was not starting off the day well! After spotting and calling for some time I did manage to get 5 contacts despite at one point, my smart phone being so cold that it stopped working actually “froze up” and then rebooted. This was cold. So as soon as I didn’t hear any more calls I packed everything up and headed back to the warmth of the car. Even folding the painters sheet was difficult in the cold and several items simply got pushed untidily into the rucksack.

After a scenic run along single lane country roads, I got to Weichberg. While there was still the bench seats and table here, a small tree that I used to strap the antenna mast to was no longer there and I had to use a fence post some distance further away. The end result was that the coax from the antenna was not long enough, so I had to put the station on the painters sheet on the ground again. That new antenna location can’t be very good as I had difficulty getting contacts just managing the minimum four required before packing up. Even though the temperature had now risen to -6°C the small rubber reels that I wind the antenna leads onto was really stiff and that combined with the, mandatory in these temperatures, gloves meant winding up the antenna took longer than normal. Everything takes longer than planned in such cold temperatures. To add to the fun, the antenna wire broke when I was taking it down and so got a quick repair so that it could be used on the next summit.

It was while driving to Rentschen, I realised that I was driving back past Auerberg and could have activated the two Algaeu summits in the reverse order. Apart from that the drive was uneventful. On arriving at Rentschen I decided to park just half off the road to avoid getting bogged, took the usual two packs plus my sun umbrella screw-in base as I knew at this location, there is no where to strap the mast to. I set up about half way between the road and the trig point stone (the whole plateau here is in the activation zone). By now the temperature had risen to -5°C and a lot more chasers were active. I managed 15 contacts on this summit in 12 minutes and then started the pack-up again. While I could have tried 20 metres for more contacts, I was already running late on my planned schedule, so I only operated 40m SSB on each summit.

The next summit about 30 minutes drive away was Kirnberg and I here I left the car parked on the road (I learnt my lesson getting bogged once before here). The wind had increased and the temperature had fallen one degree down to -6 again. Once I walked up to the summit cross and put the gear on the bench seat, I again used the screw-in base to support the mast. I have strapped it in the past to the fence posts but it has often tilted over a lot, so while I had the base with me, I decided to use that. This summit brought me eight contacts in five minutes before I packed everything up again and headed back down to the car. Just one more summit to go.

The drive over to Peissenberg was probably the longest and went past the point where I would have turned off to do Ammerleite but the overall direction was heading towards my home now. I grabbed a little lunch (I had brought a pack-up with me) before setting up at my normal spot on the bench overlooking the valley from the side of the church. This time 15 minutes brought 12 contacts and an interested visitor who I talked to for five minutes. Now that I had enough contacts on 40m, any thoughts of perhaps activating 20m were curtailed by the fact that my Smart Phone (which had been running 4G comms for watching and spotting all day and Bluetooth for hands-free while in the car) had 100% drained its battery. Without being able to self spot, no one would know that I was on 20m looking for contacts. So it was definitely time to pack up and while packing away one of the link connectors in the antenna broke away from the wire  – another thing to fix at home (along with the broken wire, which was now wound together and taped). Peissenberg was a “warm” -4.5°C by the time I left for the well used by me, country back roads route to my home.

Photos:

   1. DL/AL-169 Auerberg.

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  2. DL/AL-179 Weichberg.

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  3. DL/AM-176 Rentschen.

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  4. DL/AM-177 Kirnberg.

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  5. DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams “Band-Hopper” linked Dipole.

LambdaHalbe 6m telescopic fishing pole.

Screw-in Sun Umbrella base.

Modified Ramsey QAMP amplifier (30-35W on 40m).

Logs:

   1. DL/AL-169 Auerberg.  2. DL/AL-179 Weichberg.  3. DL/AM-176 Rentschen.  4. DL/AM-177 Kirnberg.  5. DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.Conclusions:

I was surprised by the fact that there was still snow on these low summits (at home it had melted 10 days earlier) and especially the wind that I found made the low temperatures even worse. It took longer than normal to get anything done.

I am glad I didn’t try for the sixth summit, it could have ended with me being very ill by the end of the day. Do not under-estimate the effect of cold on the human body.

I decided to stay with the same equipment on each summit. Had I used my Aerial-51 OCF dipole instead of the SOTABeams band hopper, I could have switched to 20m without having to take the aerial down but it probably was wise to stay just on 40 metres when I had limited time available for each summit.

73 ’til the next Summit!