As the weather forecasts said that this activation would be a nice sunny one with being scheduled to start late morning and run over noon, what could be better?
Tests being carried out by Mike 2E0YYY, Ernie VK3DET and I seem to prove there is a short path window from UK/EU to VK around 1100 UTC (noon with me here in Germany).
To increase my chance of a contact into VK using this window, I would take along my portable 50/70 watt amplifier and my new dynamic speech compressor – normally I would also include the directional VP2E antenna in the equation as well however as I was already including two “unknowns” I decided that I’d stick with the known linked dipole. As for a summit for the tests, most of my local summits I have already activated several times this year and those that I know and I haven’t yet activated this year need a cable car or seat lift to access them and all of those lifts are stopped for maintenance before the ski season starts just before Christmas. Schwarzenberg however, is a drive-up summit and although I had activated it only six weeks ago, that was before the start of the winter bonus points for activators, so by re-activating this summit, I would gain 3 activator points for what is normally only a 1 point summit. If I activate it again in the new year before the winter bonus stops, it’ll be worth 4 points then. I for normal activation plus three winter bonus points. This summit is also close to another amateurs QTH who I wanted to invite along but unfortunately, as it turned out, he wasn’t well enough.
As usual, all gear was prepared the day before and put ready to take near the main house door.
I set off from home at 9:30am local time expecting to arrive at the parking spot at 11 am local, as it turned out the 90-minute trip didn’t take that long and I was there by 10:45 local.
I carried all the gear up to the same spot as I used last time and was set up within 30 minutes. As I was setting up I got an email from Ernie in Australia to say he had already worked Mike with 4-4 reports both ways.
As soon as I was set-up I took a listen for Mike 2E0YYY/P on a HEMA summit – “Mow Cop” – I could hear him strong enough to work him but call as I did several times he just kept calling CQ, so as he confirmed later he wasn’t hearing me. As we were both running 50 watts to inverted-V dipoles, this would perhaps point to the X-108G receiver being more sensitive than Mikes FT-857D but, more likely, his local noise level could have been higher than mine. I emailed Ernie back to say I couldn’t get Mikes attention but that I would call him down 10 kHz on 14.310MHz. Ernie didn’t hear me but I could hear something in the noise on the frequency, which I believe was Ernie calling me. But he was too weak to work, even if he could have heard me. Ernie was running 400 watts into a 3 element beam I believe.
When I went back to Mike on 14.320MHz he had sunk into the noise – I could tell he was there but not make out what he was saying. Twenty metres had taken a dive and it stayed that way until 1100 UTC when it opened up as if someone had turned the light switch on! By that time, unfortunately, both Mike and Ernie were gone.
In any case, I now had another problem. My cell phone signal was never great on this summit on either of the two main networks but I was receiving and sending emails, so it was at least working giving an Internet connection. The problem was that the SOTA spots that I sent whether via data or via SMS were not appearing on SOTAWatch so I couldn’t attract the chasers attention to work me on 40 metres, where I had now switched to. I tried calling non-SOTA stations on 40m with no success for a good 20 minutes. This was crazy – I must get 4 in the log or I wouldn’t get the winter points. Luckily then, Jon, EA5INS/P had spotted his activation and I could hear him and we managed a summit-to-summit contact.
After this though … nothing. As we were approaching noon local time (1100 UTC) when I was hoping for the short path window to VK to open I re-set the linked antenna for 20 metres again and switched back. As I was still unable to spot myself, I was lucky that Lars SA4BLM heard my CQ calls and came back to me. He was an armchair copy and not only became my third contact in the log but also helped me with testing the amplifier and speech compressor. He then spotted me. Upon completing my QSO with Lars, I had a run of VERY strong chaser calls on 20m (the band had opened up but just around Europe, it seems).
To finish off the activation, I saw that Rudi OE7RDI had spotted he was on 40 metres on a DL summit so I once again switched back to 40m and we had a nice S2S contact to close out my activation before packing up. Unfortunately during pack-up, I managed to stand on the antenna wire and it broke at one of the links.
Without being able to self-spot it’s difficult to work anyone and hence continuing on would have been difficult. I also needed 30 minutes to pack up and get back to the car and then a possible 90 minutes or more drive home (actually it was another good run only needing 75 minutes). In any case, once I got home I looked into why my spots were not getting through and it appears it was a password issue in my SOTA Spotter App configuration. I reset the password and re-tested and everything worked fine (at least from home).
- Xiegu X108G.
- Leson amplified microphone & FA DYC-817 Dynamic Speech compressor.
- Portable 50/70W HF amplifier and cables.
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
- SOTA Beams linked Dipole at 8 metres AGL.
- Surveyors tripod.
- 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
- Plastic tablecloth as ground cover.
- 2 Smartphones one running PocketRxTx App and USB cable as an external display for X108G and one used for spotting (or trying to) and taking pictures.
I managed enough contacts to grab the 3 winter bonus points that would otherwise have gone to waste but it would have been a LOT easier had I been able to self-spot. Hopefully, that problem is now fixed.
The broken antenna wire is already soldered up and ready for the next activation.
I am still not convinced that the portable amplifier is giving me the boost that it should do.
Lars’ comments around the audio punch seemed to infer that I might be getting RF into the audio path or that some audio stage is being overdriven – I will need to investigate this further.
73 ’til the next summit!