DD5LP/P – November 1st 2018 – DL/AM-058 Hinteres Hoernle – or another success with the HF-PRO-2.

Preparation:

For a few days twenty metres has been performing surprisingly well (at least compared to the last year or so). November 3rd sees the annual NA-EU S2S event now renamed to the transatlantic S2S event as we had hoped some South American activators may join in. I had originally planned this summit for that event, however over the last week, because of high wind the seat lift has not been running one day and OK the next, so this was a risk for the big event and I chose to activate Hesselberg DM/BM-145 instead. As November 1st is a holiday in most of germany, I decided that one last test after changing the power supply box to no longer use the noisy “Buck converter” unit and building a new cardboard shade for the X108G’s – unreadable in sunlight – display, would be a good idea and if the seat lift is running, then why not Hinteres Hoernle?

The equipment would be the X108G and battery box and headphones with the standard 6m mast and two wire dipoles plus my tripod and the Kommunica HF-PRO-2. Also water and all the usual fix it bits. Normally this would go in a small rucksack and a photo bag but this time I decided that as I would be taking the seat lift one rucksack with anything would be a better idea. So I dug out my full-sized rucksack, that I know the photo bag fits exactly in its bottom section and everything else went in the top section. Everything that is apart from the 6m mast and the HF-PRO-2 which even when taken apart is still over a metre long. these went strapped onto the two sides of the rucksack. This has the advantage that the antenna doesn’t stick out “too” far above the rucksack.

Great idea I thought and all was ready for the next day, where I had planned a casual 1pm departure with a 1 hour drive to the valley station of the lift and then, I was thinking a 15 minute ride up the mountain and then a casual 15-20 minute walk to the summit, right ? … wrong! Read further.

The Location:

Hinteres Hoernle is located above the village of Bad Kohlgrub, from where you take the seat lift. Remember to take the small tab from your parking ticket with you when buying a ticket for the lift, as they rebate 50% of the parking fee, so that the lift (up and down) plus my parking cost only €10. The “Hoernle Schwabebahn” built in 1956 (and it shows it), takes you up from Bad Kohlgrub (very slowly – it takes the best part of 30 minutes) to the “Vorderer Hoernle” (front horn). From there you walk past or over the “Mittlere Hoernle” (middle horn) before you get to the highest of the three summits – the Hinteres Hoernle (Rear horn). In my memory this walk would take 15-20 minutes (I had activated this summit in 2015). The actual signposts on the track indicate a 40 minute walk – and that is without obstructions – read on …

The Activation:

Before I set off at 12:40pm I was having second thoughts about the large rucksack. It appears putting the contents of two bags into one bag makes that bag weight 50% more than the combined weight of the two bags alone – too late now, I’ll have to manage. The drive down to Bad Kohlgrub went without incident although a new bridge and some changed road junctions at Bad Kohlgrub may confuse some GPS Navis if they’re not up to date.  I arrived at the Bad Kohlgrub valley station of the lift at 1:30pm and managed to get one of the last free parking spots. it looks like a lot of people had decided to visit the mountains on this public holiday.

Well the journey nearly ended before it started. While getting into the moving seats I nearly fell but luckily the attendant grabbed me from behind, by the collar, and pulled me back into the seat and I then manhandled the very heavy rucksack onto the seat beside me. That rucksack was far too heavy! Later, on the trip down the attendant took the rucksack off me and put it in the seat next to me before the seat reached me for getting on. Getting off this lift at either the top or bottom is very simple – you just stand up and the seat splits in two and goes around you. What a neat system! Anyway, I’m now on the lift catching my breath after the near accident and looking at the time. I had forgotten to ask when the lift stops working – I know the last ride up is at 4pm, but what about coming down – I must ask when I get to the top… I forget to of course! The lift takes ages to get up the mountain but it’s nice saying hello to the people passing you going back down to the village having been at the restaurant at the top of the lift for lunch. It’s cold but sunny and getting warmer all the time – of course I have my thick winter jacket on, something that over time I will regret. Once we reach the top I disembark without any problems, exit the lift station and take a few photos before heading off in the direction of Hinteres Hoernle. I think I’m running late for my schedule and it’s only after walking for about ten minutes that I realise that I forgot to check when the last lift would be going down. Oh well, I’m not going back, I’ll just have to be back their by 4pm to be certain of a ride down – otherwise it’s an up to 4.5 km walk down the mountain depending upon the route taken.  I now see the signpost saying I have a 40 minute walk in front of me, so I press on, that is until I come to a fallen tree that is totally blocking the track. If I didn’t have the rucksack I could have climbed over or through the tree branches as I saw someone else do but with the rucksack with the antenna pointing out of the top of it, no chance. So I had to scramble up the hill a little then cross behind a copse of trees and then get back down to the track. I could see by the number of footprints, this is what many people had already done today.

In my usual style I kept pushing on, passing lots of people and only occasionally stopping to catch my breath on some of the steeper parts. The sign on the path says to always stay on the main path but as Hinteres Hoernle came into view it was obvious everyone was simply going straight up the side of it as the route is far shorter than the one I had taken a year ago, so I did the same. I had taken almost exactly 30 minutes from the lift to a flat patch just down from the Holy Cross on the very summit, where there was room to set-up without obstructing anyone as it was quite busy by this time. This was about 2:30PM. I decided initially to set up for 20 metres as that was the band I was hoping would be open and the fact that the tripod and HF-PRO-2 was the quickest antenna to set up and needed the least space. I had them set up and the rest of the gear unpacked in about 15 minutes.

I spotted and started calling CQ SOTA and to my surprise my first chaser was N4EX, Richard in North Carolina. More contacts followed and in the end I had two US contacts, one from Northern Ireland, one from Cornwall (south-west England), one from Sweden, one from Greece and two German station contacts, all in just over 10 minutes. 20m was playing good again. I might have bagged some more contacts but a couple with a dog came along and expressed some interest, so I bent their ears about Ham radio for about 10 minutes. Not the dog – he got bored and went off to explore on his own on the top of the “Hinteres Hoernle” mountain. By the time I finished that conversation, I put out another couple of CQ calls and as there was no reply, I started to pack up as I was running short on time to get back to the lift. I had everything packed by 3:30pm and was heading back to the lift where I arrived as planned right on 4pm to find they were still going to be operating until 10 to 5. Oh well! Time to settle in for a calm 30 minute ride back down the mountain and think about what had been achieved.

I was blessed with sunny weather, which as I had dressed for the cold meant I sweated a lot on the climb up with the heavy back-pack! I had forgotten how far the summit was from the top of the chair lift and that along with the slow lift meant my time on the mountain transmitting was limited but at the end it was a lovely day out.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G and battery box.

Modified HAMA tripod.

Kommunica Power HF-PRO-2 loaded vertical antenna.

Thick plastic painters sheet.

New cardboard sunshade for the X108G display.

Other items taken but not used:

SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole.

6 metre fibreglass “Squid Pole”.

Aerial-51 UL-404 OCF dipole.

Log:

Conclusions:

The Good: With the diodes dropping the voltage in the battery box in place of the buck converter there’s no more RFI from the box. Activation achieved with just the new Komunica HF-PRO-2 antenna – I did not need to put up the mast and dipole to get contacts.

The Bad: The new cardboard sunshade didn’t help at all …. but …. I found that standing the full-sized rucksack behind me (and so blocking the sun) did work and I could read the display. Now I don’t intend carrying the large rucksack to any more summits but perhaps I can work out some other kind of lightweight screen that I could set-up behind me using my hiking sticks (which would also have been useful on this outing but got left at home).

The Ugly: Me stumbling along with that rucksack – two lighter bags are better than one over heavy one!

73 ’til the next Summit!

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DD5LP/P – October 20th 2018 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg – EU-VK S2S event or “Mixing SOTA with JOTA”.

Preparation:

This was the date chosen for the annual EU-VK (actually UK+EU – VK/ZL/JA) S2S event where we would try to get Summit-to-Summit contacts between the two sides of the Earth. With conditions as they were, we were more likely to be happy with a contact with a Chaser “Down Under” if even that was possible. Several tests and contacts with Chasers in VK & ZL had been made over the previous weeks but more on 40 metres than the usual 20 metres band. In any case About 45 activators were expected to head out and if nothing else some S2S contacts should be possible within the regions if not between them – time would tell.

I had planned to head over to Steig a 2 point summit which I have not activated yet this year but twisting my ankle while taking the dog on her walk through the local fields mid-week put paid to that as it’s a long walk up a rough track to Steig. Instead I decided to take the closer option of Peissenberg with its short walk from the car park to the summit by the church. I would not get any activation points for this action as this would be my third visit to the summit this year. Hopefully I’d come away with a few summit-to-summit points though.

Band conditions on the days before the event had improved so hope was high of some good contacts.

I also had a new antenna to test – a Komunica HF-PRO-2 which is a large vertical whip with an adjustable loading coil at the bottom which is designed to be mounted on a car (either a mag. mount or a boot-lip or similar mount). In my case I would be using it on a small Hama photo-tripod that I have added an SO-239, coax and 4 short non-resonant radial wires to. I tested this configuration just in the garden with the antenna analyser and receiving with the rig but this activation would be its first real test. I would of course still be taking my old faithful linked dipole and 6 metre mast and just in case… my Aerial-51 OCF antenna as well (a choice that paid dividends as it turned out).

I knew the route down to Peissenberg very well and so to be operational by 8:30 local time (0630 UTC), I set my alarm for 6 am with a planned departure time of 7 am. All the gear was packed and ready to go.

Getting to the Location:

Although I know the route very well, what I hadn’t reckoned on when I woke up was a pe-souper fog with visibility down to about 10 metres. As I set off from home, I decided that if it didn’t get any better, I would need to stop and turn around and give up the activation. Luckily as I drove further I found that on the roads between the villages the visibility was a lot better but driving through the villages with their limited street lighting and in some other cases to bright street lighting, the drive down was difficult to say the least. Eventually I reached the summit car park and it had only taken me about 15 minutes more than normal. I was glad to have arrived safely. as I got out of the car the damp cold hit me and I was so happy that I had decided to take my thick winter anorak instead of the lighter jacket!

The Activation:

As I got to the usual set-up point and looked out across the valley all I could see was white. as if the summit was in the middle of a cloud – but this was definitely fog. I decided to set up the new antenna on the tripod first and while I had planned a spot for it to stand on the ground, I decided to simply set it up on the seat bank that I always activate from. It was at this point that mechanical failure number one occurred – the adjusting bolt that is used to make the top pad that has the SO-239 on it level broke where I had repaired it a few weeks earlier from a similar problem. So for the duration of the activation the antenna would be sloping a little off vertical – but it was up and I adjusted the coil close to the setting I had recorded at home for 20m.

OK with that antenna up for 20m, I started to put up the old reliable linked dipole – mechanical failure number two now occurred. I had the mast strapped to the railing corner as usual and started to unwind one of the dipoles elements – all of a sudden I had two wires in my hand when there should only be one! The wire had broken exactly as it went into the 20m link piece. So I took the wire stripped a little insulation off the end with my teeth – re-threaded it into the link plastic and wound it around the metal connector and taped it up. That should be it, that’ll work now until I get home and get it soldered properly…

As I had planned to test the new Komunica antenna, this would be its “baptism of fire”. I tuned to a clear frequency on 20m, switched on the SWR trace function of the Xiegu X108G and fine tuned the antennas coil setting. Once I was happy I spotted my self on the SOTA Cluster and back came two calls – OE9TKH portable in Austria – which could have been ground wave and we exchanged 5-5 reports and then a surprise a call from RW3XZ in Russia who was a booming 5-9 signal and he gave me a 5-9 report as well. The new antenna was working! For a while there were no more calls but then I saw Mike 2E0YYY/P had spotted as being on 40m so I swapped antenna cables and worked Mike.

Unfortunately the contact with Mike showed another problem on the linked dipole. On my last activation, I had a bad connection to the rig from the antenna – I checked the BNC plug on the antenna cable and could not re-produce the break so I replaced the BNC to PL-259 adapter but with the new (known good) adapter, I once again had problems with the connection. This got so bad after just one contact that I declared this as mechanical failure number three and took down and packed away the linked dipole antenna. Do you remember I said I had also packed my Aerial-51 off centre fed antenna “Just in case” – well this was the case, so my wire horizontal antenna now became the Aerial-51 404-UL antenna.

All of this repair and replacement work took time and I was losing the chance to work other summits!

As the Aerial-51 antenna works on 40m & 20m without any switching, I then tuned around 20m and 40m to see what I could hear. what I could hear was a loud background noise that got louder if I moved my hand towards the battery box that has a voltage regulator to drop the up to 16.5v from the 4S LIPO batteries to 13.5v for the rig. Electrical failure number one – the regulator is creating RF noise – this will also have to be looked into.

I then heard a station on 14.298MHz with a loud signal, so i decided this would be a good contact to test that the Aeril-51 OCF antenna was working – plus the call was SU8JOTA, so I thought I might be able to help by speaking with some scouts. Unfortunately there were no scouts there at the time and Yaser was trying to contact other scout stations, so I left him to it, happy that the antenna was working as I got a 5-8 report from him. I thought the “SU” call sign was possibly a special call from Poland or Greece, in fact SU8JOTA was the Scout Centre in Cairo, Egypt. So at least I got one, outside of Europe contact. After a contact with a local chaser who returned to my CQ call on 20 metres, my next contact was another Scout (JOTA) station with the call sign II5BP/J or I-I-Five-Baden-Powell slash JOTA as I referred to it – again no scouts were present or perhaps simply not eager to speak English on the radio?

All of this time I was listening for and checking the cluster for any SOTA stations from VK or ZL but without success. My next two stations I worked on 20m using the dipole were Ralf on a summit in Switzerland and Herbert on a summit in Liechtenstein. As time was getting on, I took down the dipole and mast but then decided to put out one last call on the new loaded vertical and I was rewarded with a call from Santiago in north-west Spain on the atlantic coast.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G (20w).

Komunica HF-PRO-2 vertical antenna and modified Hama photographic tripod.

SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole.

Aerial-51 Off Centre Fed dipole 404-UL.

6 metre fibreglass “Squid Pole”.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

Conclusions:

The number of failures that occurred were a challenge but despite this and terrible radio conditions, I believe the activation was a success with 4 x S2S contacts, 2 JOTA contacts (one into Egypt where I don’t think I’ve had a contact before), a new small portable antenna tested as suitable for difficult to get to, or crowded summits and being able to deal with the weather conditions. The weather was something that a lot of the activators in VK2 & VK3 could not fight against and had to cancel as their summits would have been too dangerous in the heavy storms.

I have a lot of repairs to complete before my next activation.

November 3rd sees the annual EU-NA S2S event (now renamed to the Transatlantic SOTA S2S event as there are now South American SOTA countries who will take part). At least in that event, it’s afternoon in Europe, not really early morning!

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – September 26th 2018 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg – trying for VK on 40m.

Preparation:

For some time now twenty metres has been in the doldrums and not providing contacts into VK/ZL on the morning grey line via Long Path. After hearing some stations on 40m from home during the previous few days Mike 2E0YYY from the UK and I decided to try to get out and see if indeed we could manage contacts into VK on 7MHz from a SOTA summit. All looked good the two days before and we lined up Ernie VK3DET and John VK6NU to be listening for both of us.

Unfortunately my normal rig – the X108G was out of service awaiting a replacement CMOS battery for its memory. So this activation would double as a check that the “old gear” still works, I carefully re-packed my SOTA bags with the FT817ND, my vastly modified Ramsey amplifier and (hopefully) all cables and batteries needed to run the old system.

The Location:

As is often the case, the need to be on the summit relatively early meant that the higher scoring summits were out and I had planned to activate Irschenhausen, a one point summit that I have not yet activated in 2018. It’s just over an hours drive away and then 15-20 minutes walk from the parking spot to the summit. Although in the middle of a forest, I have had contacts into VK from this summit in the past. A couple of days before however, I  decided, given the chance that the equipment may not work for some reason, the “drive-up” Peissenberg summit would be a better choice even though I have already activated it in 2018 and hence would not get any points for activating it.

Peissenberg is also closer and simpler to drive to – although not my closest summit, it is the easiest drive which is about 40-45 minutes at most down well driven (by me) country roads.

The Activation:

As I said above I have driven the route down many times and this time as well, everything went without problems. As I was setting up the station around 0615 UTC almost an hour earlier than I had alerted (always better to be early rather than late!) – just as I finished setting up the antenna and station on my usual bench with all required cables, fuses and connectors in place,  I saw an alert for Mike 2E0YYY/P on GW/NW-070 Great Orme and so this first contact was also an S2S contact, so I did get one point for my outing. Despite listening specifically for VK/ZL on several occasions, none were to be had. Mike also was unsuccessful, however his attempt was hindered by high winds meaning he had to set up down the hill a little to get some protection from the winds which would also affect his antenna.

Although I made no VK/ZL contacts, as you can see from the log below, I made plenty of contacts around Europe and that with a limited transmission “punch” as I realised after the activation that the, in microphone, RF-Speech-Clipper had been turned off and this does make a difference. Generally an apparent S-point over having no compression. I have switched that switch back on already for next time.

Checking with Ernie and John afterwards they heard neither me nor Mike on the band. It appears we were just one day late as there had been VK-EU QSOs on 7MHz the day before.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Ramsey HF amplified (30w on 40m).

SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole.

6 metre fibreglass “Squid Pole”.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

Conclusions:

The VK contacts were not to be, but I still think they are possible and will try again. as we have now passed the equinox and are moving into Autumn, radio conditions will change – hopefully for the better.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – October 28th. 2017 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg (antenna comparison action).

Preparation:

Following the previous weeks participation in the VK-EU S2S event where I made no contacts into VK/ZL at all, I wanted to compare my J-Pole vertical antenna that I was planning to use for the EU-NA S2S event in a few weeks time against my standard linked dipole antenna. So as to have band conditions not affect the test too much, it was important to do these tests quickly and from the same summit.

The predicted weather forecast for the summit said that up to lunch time the weather would be cold but no rain or high winds, with the start of Hurricane Herbert arriving around noon (local time). The bigger problem might be the CQWW SSB contest which was on at the same time and as you’ll see from my report, this indeed turn out to be an issue.

Rather than put up two masts (I packed a second just in case), I decided to run the J-Pole in a sloper configuration from the top of the same mast that would hold up the Inverted-V dipole. During the week before the activation, I tested out this configuration in my garden and found no issues shown on my antenna analyser either by having the J-pole in a sloper configuration rather than helically wound around the mast and there appeared to be no interaction between the two antennas. In fact I hoped that perhaps the dipole might act as a sort of reflector for the J-Pole. To be sure I didn’t have any “live” cables on the unused antenna, I packed a BNC 50 ohm dummy load which would be connected to the end of the antenna cable that was not in use.

The Location:

Same location as the previous weekend – that meant the seating banks alongside the church on the top of Peissenberg. I wonder if the fact that the Church is roughly in the direction needed for long path to Australia would affect the J-Pole – it certainly doesn’t affect the dipole as I have worked VK & ZL from here before using that antenna.

The Activation:

The drive down was in mist or low cloud all the way and it certainly was COLD on arrival and during the complete activation!

My first contact was with John, ZL1BYZ in New Zealand but after that there were no more VK/ZL contacts – most likely due to all the QRM from the CQWW contest stations. There was literally NO room left on the whole of the 20 metre band. Why these animals can’t be caged into just 3/4 of the band (or less as is done in the WAG contest) I don’t understand. I do realise the CQWW is the biggest contest of the year however smaller contests have the same lack of respect for other users. Even emergency frequencies were being used by contest stations, not to mention frequencies reserved for QRP and digital stations. Being in breach of the IARU band plan should get a station excluded from the contest and with SDR radios with recording capabilities it’s VERY EASY to prove the offense.

One UAE based (but not listed in qrz.com so perhaps a pirate) amateur took some kind of pleasure of calling CQ on my frequency (I had checked it was clear before starting and have been there a while) just as I ended my CQ calls, so blocking anyone calling me. He must have been able to hear me or the timing would not have been so exact.

With long skip within Europe however I was able to manage 5-9+ signals both ways between myself and stations in Sweden, Finland, Northern Ireland and Greece, despite DQRM from contest stations!! Some of these SOTA chaser stations helped me test my two antennas which is why I went out – the J-pole vertical is 3 to 4 S points down on the simple linked Dipole. I now need to investigate why that is. It could be that the location was not conducive to good operation of the vertical antenna (church building too close and hence in the way) or the antenna doesn’t work well as a sloper and would be better back as a helical vertical. For the time being, the linked dipole will remain the “safe option” for activations and probably the antenna I will take out for the EU-NA S2S event in November.
I rounded out this activation with two S2S contacts on 40 metres, which was a nice bonus.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams Bandhopper linked dipole plus home made loaded J-Pole for 20m.

Lambdahalbe 6m fibreglass mast.

Modified QAMP amplifier (30-35W on 40m, 20-25W on 20m).

Log:

Conclusions:

I HATE UNRULY UNTHINKING CONTEST OPERATORS – Those animals need putting back in their cages! To be clear not all contest operators are idiots but it seems the CQWW brings out the worst of them. Seeing a positive side to the activity, I suppose it also proves that the Amateur radio hobby is NOT short of operators but where are these people when there’s no contest on and when did they last read their licence about using only as much power as needed to make the contact??

On the positive side, I DID complete my antenna comparison with several stations and getting a contact into New Zealand – especially as the first contact of the day may the trip worthwhile.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – October 21st. 2017 VK-EU S2S event – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Preparation:

The now becoming annual, VK/ZL/JA – EU/UK S2S event, was set for this date a couple of months ago before we could know how either weather or radio conditions would be. My initial plan was to make this interesting for chasers by activating DM/BW-002 Proeller in the Bavarian Forest region. As this can be a 3 hour drive from where I live there was no way that I could get there in time for the long path, Grey line window So my plan was to travel over on Friday afternoon and stay overnight in the “Gasthaus Hochproeller” that sits about 100 vertical metres below the summit and then walk up in about 30 minutes to the summit on Saturday morning.

Unfortunately the week before this activation, I wasn’t feeling so great and then I got the predicted weather forecast for the summit – rain and gusty winds of up to 53 Km/h were expected exactly at the time I would be trying to activate. So I had to make the decision to either cancel completely, as some other stations did based on the weather across Europe, or to head for a closer summit with some protection from the winds. I decided to take the latter option and to head to a summit that I know very well – Peissenberg. As well as only being 45 minutes drive from home it is a “drive’on”summit. The the car park is located on the summit from where I have a 5 minute walk to the seating banks near the Church, where I always set-up.

After my tests with new antennas over the last few activations, I decided to go with my known configuration of my FT-817, home-modified 25w amplifier, the SOTABeams band-hopper linked dipole and my short 6 metre portable squid pole. Given the ease of access to the site, I considered taking my ICOM IC-7300 rig but given the likelihood of rain, I decided against that.

The Location:

As mentioned above Peissenberg is an easy access summit about 45 minutes drive from home. It is the location of the local TV transmitter and also the local 10 metre amateur radio beacon. There is a good restaurant on the summit along with a large church. The complete name of the location is HohenPeissenberg and is well signposted. I have activated from this summit many times before and indeed made contacts into Australia from here.

The Activation:

The drive down was in rain until I got to about 10 Km from the summit where the roads where dry as they had not got any rain (yet). After setting up the station, the wind increased and the rain started. Luckily it only lasted 10 minutes. It stayed cold though for the whole of the 2 hour activation. To start with only a few stations were on the 20m band and several of those were too close for me to hear because of skip distance. Later with standard Nets, the scouts JOTA event and the number of SOTA activators out, the usual frequencies on the band became very busy.  I heard Andrew VK1AD/2 just above the noise level – whether I could have worked him, I’m not sure but I didn’t get the chance as another European SOTA activator started working stations on the same frequency!

At one point I had S5 QRN and it sounded like a storm was heading my way but luckily that never arrived.

A couple more points on the SFI and a point or 2 less on the K index (although that wasn’t that bad at about 3 I think) may have made some VK/ZL portable stations workable for me. Perhaps a better antenna (one with some gain) could have made some difference?

I don’t think anything would have been different if  I had taken my IC-7300 to the summit given that I was getting 5-9+ reports towards the end of the activation with my 817 and 25w amp (which had 0% charge in its battery when I went QRT – lucky timing!). As we all know – “it’s all about the radio conditions” and they were not with us today.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams Bandhopper linked dipole.

Lambdahalbe 6m fibreglass mast.

Modified QAMP amplifier (30-35W on 40m, 20-25W on 20m).

Log:

Conclusions:

Although I had a great time with seven S2S contacts unfortunately because of the radio conditions I managed no S2S contacts into VK/ZL and the only JA activators (who went out despite an oncoming cyclone!) were operating CW not SSB. I was surprised not to make any contacts with VK or ZL home station chasers as normally they seem to get though in all conditions

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – February 20th. 2017 – DL/AM-001 Peißenberg.

Preparation:

The purpose of this activation was to test out the extension I had made to my linked dipole to cover the Sixty Metre Band (5.3MHz) that Germany gained in late december as a result of the World Radio Conference in 2015 (WRC15). This band is only 1KHz wide (5.3515MHz – 5.3665MHz. At the moment some countries have this new band while others (such as the UK) have other odd blocks of frequencies or channels. In the hope of a contact into the UK and to simplify things (and make sure I don’t operate out of band) I chose a few “channels” within the band and programmed these into my FT-817.

With everything ready antenna, rig and food, I decided it was tie to do an activation and while this was an experiment, I decided on DL/AM-001 Peissenberg, being a summit I know and only 45 minutes drive away from home. The weather forecast for Monday the 20th. was good, so I decided with an early start I should be on the summit at about the right time for propagation on 5MHz into the UK and with a little luck I might catch the tail end of the Long Path window down into Australia and New Zealand.

The Location:

Peißenberg, or Hohe Peißsenberg to give it, its full name, sits above the village of Höhen Peißsenberg about half way between Weilheim and Schongau in upper Bavaria.

The Activation:

I had arrived and set up all of my gear by 0830 UTC. The drizzle had stopped but it was still quite cold with snow still in places on the ground (not what the forecast has said). In any case after manoeuvering the 10 metre mast around a little I managed to tie off both ends of the linked Inverted-V dipole to some handy points. Previously I would use the lower 6 metre mast but with the extra length, I need to get the centre up higher so that I could get the two ends of the dipole out in the restricted space that I had. I had had problems with the 10m mast collapsing into itself without warning on other occasions, so I was a little concerned that this might happen again, but I had to try. It was cold and the winds were getting stronger, so I needed to get a move on. I decided to start on 20 metres and had luck, my first contact was John ZL1BYZ in New Zealand. I was hoping for some more contacts from down under but as it turned out John was the only one. after another couple of CQs, with no successful responses I decided it was time to try out 60 metres. To do this I had to lower the mast and connect together again the 20m links so that the complete length of the wires were now in place as a 60 metre dipole. I switch to memory mode and quickly went through the channels I had programmed. Only hearing a couple of locals chatting on one frequency I went to one of my “international” frequencies of 5363.5 checked that no one was using the frequency by putting out a call asking if the frequency was in use – twice – no reply, so I spotted myself and called CQ. My first ever portable 60m contact was with Ingolf DG4FCN. Although he was about 5-4 the contact was difficult as there was QRM from another station just off my frequency. Later this station came and complained that he couldn’t hear his mate as I was “off-frequency” (i.e. not on a round number of KHz I guess and my little 5w from the FT-817 was flattening them). This will I’m sure remain a problem on this very narrow band as it appears some “channels” have been adopted for local natters in Germany. In my case, I realised that I could not simply tune the band while in memory mode and so I will need to look at somehow actually defining the 60m band in the FT-817. I moved to my other “International” frequency of 5.362MHz and put out another spot and call, this time I was called by Boyan S57AC and in this case band conditions did not make the contact very easy with his signal dropping into the noise, but we managed the contact and after getting no more calls I decided my experiment on this band was completed for the day but I’d try to grab a few more contacts on 20m before packing up. after seven more contacts on 20m, it also dried up and the winds by this time were whipping the antenna mast around somewhat, so I decided to pack up and head home. While pacing up the equipment and talking to a local walker explaining what I was doing, the mast self lowered (i.e. dropped into itself). This DX-Wire 10m mini-mast is not anywhere near the quality of the far cheaper Lambda Halbe 6 metre masts. I was lucky this time that the mast stayed up as long as it did. I may need to find a different location the next time I want to run 60m from Peissenberg, so that I can use the 6 metre mast instead.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams bandhopper linked dipole modified for 60 metres.

DX-Wire 10m Mini-mast.

Modified QAMP amplifier (20W on 20m).

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

activator-logConclusions:

I am going to have to rethink operating frequencies on 60 metres to avoid QRM to and from other stations, while still being on a frequency that non WRC15 allocated countries can come onto.

The 60 metre modifications to the SOTABeams Band Hopper have worked VERY well and it seems just 5W from a good location puts out a strong signal on 60 metres.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – October 22nd 2016 DL/AM-001 Pießenberg for VK-EU SOTA S2S event.

Preparation:

The planned EU-VK S2S SOTA event was set for Saturday October 22nd, here’s my piece on ARNewsline:

“You don’t need power when you have altitude”

October 22nd. 2016 will see an increase in Summits on the Air activity between Europe and Australasia.
As has been the case for the last few years, a special event is being organised by Andrew VK1AD and Mike 2E0YYY to coincide with the improving radio propagation conditions.

 

 This “S2S” (Summit to Summit) ‘all mode’ CW, SSB, Data, and even FM, event already has commitments from VK, ZL, G, GM, DL, and OE stations with other European stations expected to join in the climb to the top of mountains in each region. These “activators” aim to make as many “S2S” contacts as possible with other hams on SOTA summits in Europe and Australasia.

The timing will be from 06:30 UTC for about two hours and is planned to coincide with long path propagation between Europe and “down under.” Around the same time, short path communications between Europe and North America is often possible. So if some SOTA activators in North America could listen out from a SOTA summit, this activity has the chance to create a World-Wide Summit to Summit event this year.

Most stations will be running low power with simple omni-directional antennas, so this event also aims to show just what can be achieved with limited equipment from a location with a low noise floor.

Although I had originally planned to use my new EFHW vertical on the 10m mast, at the last minute I decided it was better to go with the tried and tested linked dipole as risk the antenna collapsing on me again. I need to build some more confidence in the new antenna/mast before it can be used reliably. In fact I plan to create a lightweight version of the antenna using RG-174 co-ax in place of the RG-58 reducing its weight considerably.

Equipment would therefore be the 817, the 20W amplifier, the 6m mast and the linked dipole antenna.

The Location:

Pießenberg is about 45 minutes drive from where I live and a drive-up summit, making an early start as required for the long path propagation to VK a possible option. There is plenty of parking and a short walk to seating at the far end of the path around the church with railings to attach the mast to. As I have already activated this summit twice this year, I would not get any activator points for this extra activation but it is the most practical for an early morning activation and my S2S points are fast approaching 1000 – perhaps I could break the magic number on this outing? (the answer was NO – not quite).

The Activation:

The trip down to Pießenberg almost was a problem with a major accident closing the main road between Pießenberg and Hohen Pießsenberg where I needed to go. Luckily I was approaching on the back roads and when I was stopped by a young fire brigade officer he said I was fine to get through the village as far as the road up to the summit and take it up to the church.

 While setting up, in the dark, I found a broken link connector on the linked dipole, which would not affect 20 metre operation but would stop me from being able to move to 40m to catch local summits, and what I thought was a broken bongo-strap (turned out it was ok when I could see it in the light later). I was set-up and started operation at 0530 UTC (too early – also too dark and too cold!).

I was happy with one good contact with Jason ZL3JAS in Christchurch at 06:31 UTC. While tuning the band I heard his 5-9 signal, called him and he came back to me, giving me a report of between 4-4 and 5-5 – considering I was running 20 watts to a dipole and he was running 1KW to a cobweb antenna, I’m happy with that report. It seems that the grey line long path window at the moment from ZL to DL is around 0630 UTC. I also bagged 5 x S2S contacts within Continental Europe summits but could not hear the UK activators on 20m.

It was very annoying to find that whichever frequency a VK activator was spotted as being on had either a Russian or Italian 2KW+ station chatting to his mates – how do they manage this? Probably the same way as the Italian and Russian stations would come up on my (checked free before calling) CQ frequency meaning I was constantly having to move. I found out later that my signal was getting through the VK2 but I was not hearing the reply because of this QRM – that’s annoying.

By 0715 UTC I was hearing less on the band and the battery in my amplifier had run flat so I packed up at 07:40. Later I heard that VK6 was coming through at around 0800 UTC but without the amplifier, I suspect my signal would not have made the trip.  I also had a family trip I had to be back for. I’m kicking myself for forgetting the spare battery for the amplifier and for having two conflicting requirements on the same day, but I couldn’t do much about the latter.

Here is my report publshed on ARNewsline and WIA NEWS:

Summits on the air Summit to summit international event 22nd. October 2016.

October 22nd saw the Summits On The Air, Australia to Europe Summit to Summit event. Fifty one summits across Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan were registered by their activators as intending to take part in this 2 hour “super-activation”.

When 0630 UTC arrived with weather varying from freezing cold to pouring with rain in Europe and not a lot better in Australia, the SOTA activators started their calls. Between 6:30 and 8:30 UTC seventy three summits were activated – twenty two more than expected.

Mother nature and propagation were “variable” to say the least but contacts were made between continents as well as within each of the regions.

At times the number of active summits made it difficult to find a free frequency on 20 metres to call CQ on.

Thanks to Gerard VK2IO for the following audio clip of my signal making it through the “ether” from Southern Bavaria to New South Wales Australia. Unfortunately no contact was made due to QRM from QRO stations in Europe who often started up transmissions on top of the QRP SOTA stations.

< the audio clip was played here >

The organisers Andrew VK1AD and Mike 2E0YYY declared the event a success and planning is under way for future Australia to Europe SOTA events, most likely twice a year around the dates that we change the clocks in Spring and Autumn.

A similar event is being discussed between European and North American activators. Once details are confirmed, you’ll here about it here on ARNewsline. In the meantime checkout sota.org.uk to find out about Summits on the Air.

For AR Newsline this has been Ed Durrant DD5LP from Bavaria in Southern Germany.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Modified Ramsey power amplifier.

SOTAbeams linked dipole.

6 metre “lambdahalbe” fibreglass mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

activator-logChart of all stations talking part:

chart-of-stations-taking-partConclusions:

I had a few “OOPS” moments and wrong decisions:

  1. I was on site FAR too early, it was cold (but thankfully there was no rain), dark – I almost needed a torch to set-up but managed without and because I started so early I ran my rig’s (and more importantly, the amp’s) battery down.
  2. Rather than risk the newly built vertical, I decided to go with the tried and tested linked dipole. On putting it up I found one of the link connectors had broken off the wire – not an issue for 20m but this meant I couldn’t switch to 40m to pick up EU S2S contacts.
  3. I forgot to take the spare battery for the amplifier. In fact when I saw the amp was no longer turning on, the Internal LIPO had hit zero percent on all 4 cells. Later I managed to recharge the battery and it “seems” no worse for wear. Time will tell. Normally I avoid taking LIPOs below 25% charge.
  4. Timing – not only was I set up too early, I also shut down too soon (partially due to the amp battery but also as I needed to get home for a family outing). If I had stayed another 30 minutes, I might have bagged John VK6NU in WA.

Even with these errors I managed 5 x S2S contacts but only within Europe. I’m rather proud however that I managed a good contact with Jason ZL3JAS in Christchurch.

What I found REALLY annoying was the fact that I was not able to even listen for spotted VK & ZL SOTA activators as in EVERY case when I went to the spotted frequency a local high powered Russian or Italian station was chatting away to his friend down the road on exactly the frequency the DX SOTA station was spotted on. I also had to move several times when calling CQ when an EU QRO station simply decided they would use the frequency to natter on, without first checking it was free!

73 ’til the next Summit!