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!

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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!

DD5LP/P – May 25th 2016 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Preparation.

Following an unsuccessful attempt to contact the SOTA activators on Norfolk Island two days ago, this was another attempt. In the mean time however there had been constant rain and hence access to my closest summit (Berndorfer Buchet) would certainly be washed out. As I could not have any delays, as this activation again had to be very early (pre 8am local time), to hit the long path window, I decided to head to a drive up summit instead. I have regularly activated Piessenberg, so I would not obtain any activators points for this summit but the purpose of the trip was to try to get another VK9 summit in the log, so activator points were not important.

 I checked the already packed bags the day before the trip. I can now simply “grab and go” with my SOTA gear. Only if I intend to have a long activation or multiple activations, do I need to pack additional hardware (mainly batteries)..

The Location:

Pessenberg (or Hoher Peissenberg to give it its full name) is about 45 minutes drive away from home. It has a beautiful and large church on the top, which was getting its annual outside repaint job when I was there. The location I normally use has the antenna running roughly east-west meaning radiation from the dipole would be going north-south – 90 degrees away from my ideal direction for long path. In fact given that the large church is directly north, the antenna probably only “sees” south perfectly. That said, with the centre of the Inverted V at only 5 metres above ground, most radiation will be going almost vertically in any case (NVIS). Prior to setting up, I did take a look at a track that runs off from the car park in a north-south direction, but this dropped off far to steeply and there was no likely spots to set up at. I also took a look at the end of the church. This location would be fine for a vertical antenna but a dipole would cross two paths, that are well used. So in the end, I was back at my usual location on the south side of the church.

The Activation.

Out of bed at about 5:30am and prepared and off by 6:15. The drive down was fine, the traffic wasn’t too bad and of course, I knew the route. On arrival I found Peissenberg, in the clouds – a fine day was forecast but it seems the clouds were hanging on as long as they could! As discussed under “The location” above, on arrival, I scouted an alternative set-up location but ended up back at my normal spot. I listened for a while and monitored for spots from Ron VK2AFW/9 on Norfolk Island. I decided as Ron was still spotted being on CW on 40m and 20m at 05:30 UTC, I could put out a call and check conditions. I managed a Greek, a Swedish and an Austrian contact but these took some time. It seems that I could not get to most of Europe (I think the skip distance was long at this point). I can normally work Mike 2E0YYY/P in the UK and he was spotted but I could not hear a thing on his frequency. At about 0600 UTC conditions changed though and I had a run of contacts from all around Europe. When I saw Ron spot on 14.310 – which is the frequency I hade been on for the last 40 minutes, I cleared the frequency to give Ron a chance at some EU SSB contacts. I thought I heard something in there, but so weak, I would not be able to work it. I then managed an S2S with Mike 2E0YYY/P in the UK, and found he had also looked for me earlier and heard nothing.

It seems that about 0602 the skip changed for long to short and that was the end of any Long Path chance of a contact with VK9.

Following my short chat with Mike, I took one last listen for Ron (who it seems had been able to work into Japan, but not Europe) and then I packed up and left.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole.

5 metre squid pole.

Homebrew 160m – 15m amplifier (30/20w)

Log:

Activator Log

Conclusions:

No success yet with a contact into VK9 but again the kit worked faultlessly – the problem was the propagation. Perhaps there will be another opportunity for a VK9 S2S contact before the group leave early next week?

I will check out the location at the end of the church, the next time I activate Peissenberg.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – February 5th. 2016 – 5 Summits in a day.

Preparation:

The 10m/6m challenge finishes on February 13th. 2016 and I wanted to pack in some more 10m summit activations before it ended. Without travelling to a different country (e.g. Austria), an activation on 6m is not possible as portable 6m operation is illegal in Germany. I have already tried going to two Austrian summits and was unable to get even one 6m contact on either of them, so I decided to look at any local summits where I have not been able to get a 10m contact from during either of the two halves of the challenge.

I activated DL/AM-001 Peissenberg on January 26th, again with no 10m contacts, so I wanted to try that summit again – it is also one of the closest and easiest summits for me to get to. As propagation on 10 metres was absolutely horrible, I alerted the local amateurs to my activation plans in the hope that I could at least manage one ground wave / line of sight contact on 10m.

The other local summits that I had not activated on 10m in the challenge period so far, were DL/AM-178 Ammerleite (tried in December again without success), DL/AM-177 Kirnberg, DL/AL-169 Auerberg and DL/AL-179 Weichberg. Making five summits in all – with the drives between these summits and the walking times from where I will be parking my car, this will take a complete day.

With mixed weather, there was the real possibility that one or more of the summits may not be accessible. In this case I would try to activate it/them the following week.

As some of the summits required a fair walk, I took the small radio kit, but also packed the larger kit in the car in case I decided I needed it.

The Locations:

Peissenberg – DL/AM-001

About 45 minutes from home and a logical first summit for the loop of activations. This summit I last activated on January 26th 2016, and hence would not gain any activator or activator bonus points, but perhaps a 10m contact.

Ammerleite – DL/AM-178

About 30 minutes drive from Peissenberg but then with a 20 minute climb to the summit.This summit I last activated on December 31st 2015 and  hence would be able to gain both activator and winter bonus points along with another 10m summit point if all went well.

Kirnberg – DL/AM-177

About 20 minutes drive from Böbing where I park the car for Ammerleite. I have not activated this summit this year so as well as the hoped for 10m multiplier point in the challenge, I should be able to get the summit activator point as well as the 3 winter bonus points.

Auerberg DL/AL-169

The trip over into the Allgäu region takes a while from Kirnberg, around 45-50 minutes. Like Kirnberg as I have not activated this summit this year as well as the hoped for 10m multiplier point in the challenge, I should be able to get two summit activator points as well as the 3 winter bonus points.

Weichberg DL/AL-179.

Just up the road from Auerberg, this is the shortest drive between the summits about 15-20 minutes and again I have not activated this summit this year so as well as the hoped for 10m multiplier point in the challenge, I should be able to get the one summit activator point as well as the 3 winter bonus points if all goes well.

So there’s the plan – 5 summits, all of which I have activated before and hence know the best approach to each of them. A possibility of earning 5 10m challenge summit multiplier points, 5 activator points and 12 winter bonus points.

The Activation:

The planned day was on and then off a couple of times as the weather forecast kept changing. Friday the 5th. of February I set off expecting some rain showers but nothing much and that the snow would have gone from most of the summits. This turned out not to be true. The rain never came, but the snow was still there at all summits making access to Ammerleite, Kirnberg and Weichberg particularly difficult when climbing through snow drifts and sliding on wet, slushy ground.

Peissenberg, the first summit turned out to be horribly cold and after getting just one contact with Robert DJ2MKR (a local station to me here) on 10m using the loaded vertical on a tripod, I packed up while I still had some feeling in my fingers. If the weather was to stay as cold as this, it was going to be a difficult day! I also was not happy with the SWR from the vertical and so decided to use the usual 5m fibreglass pole and Spiderbeams OCF antenna on all following summits, even taking the 40m/20m amplifier and its batteries with me as well (but never using it).

The next summit was Ammerleite or rather Schnalz as the actual summit is called. I used the longer (official) access route following the closure of the road to the easier access point last year. After parking I picked up the two bags that contain the larger radio configuration and set off up the track. This is quite a steep ascent up a forestry track which in parts was like a river and in other parts very slippery. The final approach to the summit is across two fields which were still partly covered by snow drifts, making the ascent “interesting” as I was certainly the first person up this “track” since the snow had fallen. Once on the summit, setting up took a little longer than normal, this time not because of the cold but rather because of high winds. In any case once set-up, I was able again to get a contact with Robert on 10 metres (but with no one else). I then changed to the zoo that is 40m and made another 13 contacts before packing up. Although the short activation at Peissenberg had put me ahead of schedule the extra ascent time through the snow to Ammerleite had lost that time and I knew I would have to take the descent slower than I would like, so I was concerned not to lose any more time.

Once I was back at the car and had warmed up a little, I checked my route to Kirnberg and set off, eating a sandwich en-route. The distance from the parking spot to the summit at Kirnberg is not far but again, it was made difficult by the still laying snow as was the erection of the dipole antenna when I reached the summit. While Peissenberg had been very cold and Ammerleite very windy, Kirnberg turned out to be both very cold and very windy, with the result that I was eager to get the activation done and get on with the long drive over to Auerberg as soon as I could. Once again Robert on 10m was the first in the log but despite several calls I was unable to find anyone else on 10m. Rather than the zoo on 40m, I decided to try 20m this time to pick up the needed extra 3 contacts. In fact I got 8 more contacts before the chasers ran out, so I packed up again and slid my way back down to the car.

The trip from Kirnberg to Auerberg took a little longer than planned as I missed a turn off and only when I realised this when I saw I was approaching a different SOTA summit (DL/AL-170 Zweisselberg). So I had to turn around and back-track until I found a way through to the road that I should have been on. I had hoped that the Panorama Restaurant at Auerberg may have been open, so I could have got a warm drink, but unfortunately it wasn’t. It’s probably not worth them opening except at weekends at this time of year. Once I was set up behind the church on the summit, reliable Robert was there again on 10m for me but this time I also managed a contact with Michael DJ5AV near Lake Constance on 10m aswell. I saw that there were a few other activators on while I was at Auerberg and managed an S2S contact with Hans DL/PA3FYG/P but with the other three activators I called, I simply could not get through the pile-ups to them with just my 5w (with cold fingers, I didn’t try to install the amplifier to give me 25w instead of 5w and even with that boost I may not have been able to “break the pile-up”). I worked a total of 25 other 40m contacts from Auerberg in about 50 minutes. At this point, I was running behind schedule, so it was time to shut down and pack up again and see if indeed I could manage all 5 planned summits in the day and get home at a reasonable time.

Auerberg to Weichberg was probably the shortest drive of the day at about 15 minutes. The parking spot for Weichberg is not normally a long walk from the summit, but in this case no one had used the track up the hillside and I had to “break the track” through the snow to mark the way up to the chapel on the summit. The 4 or 5 people who came up while I was operating probably appreciated my marking the track – on the way down it was a lot clearer and easier to negotiate as it had been used more. Weichberg would have been a good summit to use the vertical on a tripod from as there is only limited places to install the fibreglass squidpole but as I had left the vertical in the car, I was not going to go down to get it and so the dipole went up as best it could. One call on 10m and there was Robert, reporting this was the weakest he had heard me but I still broke over the top of some S5-S7 noise he was having on 10m from some local installation. Apart from Robert, I worked a further 7 stations on 20m, with some weak reports. It was only after getting home that I realised that the FT-817 had switched down to 2.5w output from its maximum 5w due to the battery voltage dropping. I had a spare (charged) battery with me however on Weichberg, I just wanted to bag as many chasers as could hear me and then pack up and head home to a warm bath tub! So it was after 25 minutes of operating on Weichberg, I packed up for a last time, happy with the fact that I had managed to activate all 5 summits but glad it was over. The state of the paths and the fact that there was still quite a lot of snow around had surprised me as all snow at home had gone some days before.

Photos:

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

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DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

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DL/AM-177 Kirnberg.

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DL/AL-169 Auerberg.

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DL/AL-179 Weichberg.

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Diamond RHM-8B on tripod (used on Peissenberg only)

Spiderbeam Aerial-51 UL-404 off centre fed dipole on 5 metre squid pole (all other locations).

Log:

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Activator Log  DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

Activator Log  DL/AM-177 Kirnberg.

Activator Log  DL/AL-169 Auerberg.

Activator Log  DL/AL-179 Weichberg.

Activator LogConclusions:

At this time of year, fives summits in one day is probably the most I could have achieved. In summer 7 may be possible as I drove past one summit (Rentschen) which I had already activated on 10m and activated this year and so would get no points for it and the DL/AL-170 Zweisselberg summit that I almost reached by mistake would probably also be a possible seventh candidate!

73 ’til the next summit! ….. or summits?

DD5LP/P – January 26th. 2016 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Preparation:

January 26th. is Australia Day. One of the three days in the year when VK stations can change their calls to start with AX rather than VK (the other two days are Anzac day and International telecommunications day). As John VK6NU had said he would be out late enough VK-Time (late afternoon) to hopefully catch some long-path contacts into Europe, I decided to go out to a local summit (early morning here in Germany) to try for an S2S contact back to Australia.

I managed to complete the move of my Ramsey QAMP from it’s flimsey plastic case into a die-cast aluminium case the day before and testing it, it actually still worked apart from the fact that the power LED that I had added didn’t light up (swapped its leads around and even that then worked!).

I had made contacts both to chasers and activators via long path from DL/AM-001 before, but not at this time of year. In any case, if you don’t try you’ll never know.

I also hoped to get some 10 metre contacts for the current challenge as no one has activated this summit on 10m before.

The Location:

Peissenberg is a drive-up summit with about 300 metres from the car park to walk to my comfortable operating position. I have been to the summit on several occasions before so I needed no map to find it. The views are fantastic, especially early morning and with the luxury of toilets on-site this would be an ideal summit for someone new to SOTA to have as their first summit activation. In my case it’s one of a few summits that are less than an hours drive away from home and as such suitable for early morning activations.

The Activation:

After a non-eventful drive down, I started to set-up my gear on the usual bench and strapped the 5m fibreglass mast to the railings as normal using “Bongo-ties” (these are great things – rubber bands with a small wooden toggle on them (that looks like a miniature bongo drum, hence the name)) so that you simply wrap them around objects and clip the ends back into each other. You can of course tie two together to get extra length, which I have done. While sorting out the rig and log book I suddenly saw the mast tipping over as one of the ties had released itself and fired off down the mountain, never to be seen again. I normally have a spare with me but could not find it, so I then had to re-arrange the base of the mast so that it would be held sufficiently well with just one double bongo-tie. With that problem sorted I started to unwind the dipole sides and the small spool that I use to wind the wires on fell apart and in the process knotted up the wire and cord. This of course took a little while to untangle sufficiently for me to be able to install the antenna. The day was not starting well and all of this in under zero degrees temperatures my fingers were already feeling frozen.

Despite these  couple of problems, I got on air at my alerted time and started putting out a CQ on 10 metres and self-spotted. Nothing! I tried for 15 minutes, still nothing, so I moved to 20m put the amp in circuit and started calling there – again no replies. I wondered if the antenna was simply not working, but the SWR looked OK. I tuned around and found a Swedish station activating a WWFF park, so gave him a call, got through and got a report – so I was getting out! Some more tries and spotting on both 10m and 20m resulted in one chaser call on 20m. I then saw the spot for John VK6NU in Australia but couldn’t hear a thing from him. The conditions on both 20m and 10m were horrible. So in order to at least qualify the summit, I moved to 40m and the difference was immediate – pile-ups despite the fact that Peissenberg is only a 1 point summit, it seemed the whole world (or at least all of Europe) wanted a contact with it!

So at the end of the day a successful normal activation, unfortunately with no VK or 10m contacts though. Better luck next time?

At least the QAMP worked without issues in the field!

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Spiderbeam Aerial-51 UL-404 off centre fed dipole.

5 metre squid pole.

Ramsey QAMP 20/40m amplifier

Log:

Activator log

Conclusions:

Unlucky with the 10m and 20m band conditions (10m improved later in the day).

January is not the month to try for Long Path SSB contacts into VK.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – November 8th. 2015 – DL/AM-001 Peißenberg.

Preparation:

Andrew VK1NAM/P posted on the SOTA reflector that he wanted some S2S contacts into Europe, including one into DL, so as I was happy that the small kit was working having used it a few days before on Zweisselberg, I offered to put the full kit together and head up to Peißenberg. I had already activated this summit earlier in the year so I wouldn’t get it’s 1 point added to my activators total however it is an easy access summit, where I know how I will install my gear. It’s also only about 40 mi nutes drive away from my home.

The last time I had used the “full pack” with my home built Ramsey QAMP, it had given me problems so before relying on it again, I decided to test it out and what do you think I found? It failed to work again. At least this time it was only two wires that had broken their solder joints from the switch I use to select the appropraite Low Pass Filter on the amplifiers output. The transistors seemed to be OK. After resoldering the wires to the switch, the second test showed the amplifier working fine on both 20 and 40 metres. So after checking all I need was packed and removing the items only used in the “small pack”, my camera bag and small rucksack were ready for a very early departure on Sunday morning.

Top row left to right: Tripod with SO239 mount, spare 2500 maH battery below it, FT-817 and Nikon camera sitting on top of painters sheet (thick plastic).

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.

Checking on Google Maps I found that I would probably be able to cut about 15 minutes off my trip if I took some country roads to avoid going through Weilheim. This I did and the route was very clearly marked. I was nice to drive the small open roads across country and they actually let to the back of the mountain compared to my usual approach. In fact Google suggested I take some even smaller roads and approach the site from the rear, however I decided to follow the country road around to where it met the B472 and then access the mountain using Berg Strasse as I usually do from Höhen Peißenberg village. Perhaps I’ll try the really small roads next time.

The Activation:

I had arrived and set up all of my gear by 0640 UTC. The sun had risen and the views were amazing. The trip would have been worth it just for the views but I was there to try and get a contact with Andrew VK1NAM/P on 20m and soon after my arrival he spotted that he was calling CQ on 20m. When I tuned to the frequency I could hear nothing, but then after a while two weak Russian stations came up on frequency. I don’t know if Andrew could also hear them, but he changed frequency and spotted again. I listened again – still nothing. Then I heard Marek 4X4JU try a call to Andrew with no response (Marek was looking for the WWFF points rather than SOTA). Over the next hour between putting out my own CQ calls I kept listening for Andrew without success. I believe Marek heard something from Andrew at one point but the propagation was certainly not with us today. Added to the bad long path propagation, lots of stations came on both 20m and 40m around 0730 UTC taking part in some contest, so it became very difficult to find a free frequency to call on without having heavy QRM from adjacent frequencies or in some cases have a contest station simply grab your frequency without checking if it was in use or not.

In any case, I managed 15 contacts during the activation and got to test out the “full pack” set-up again, with the QAMP behaving itself this time.

Photos:

 

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams bandhopper linked dipole on a 6 m squidpole.

QAMP 40/20m amplifier (25W 40m, 15W 20m).

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

Activators Log

Conclusions:

The propagation following the recent solar CME “glancing blow” are not yet back to normal but the late Autumn sunny weather made the activation a pleasure, even if an S2S contact with Andrew VK1NAM/P was not achieved.

The QAMP is working again and is probably due to be built into a better case (lets hope it still works afterwards!).

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – March 21st. 2015 – DL/AM-001 Pießenberg & DL/AL-179 Weichberg.

Preparation:

In the hope of bagging a couple of VK contacts and taking advantage of the fact that most of the snow had cleared, I planned these two activation of 1 point summits before the end of their winter bonus period. After the previous problems with activating Burndorfer Buchet a couple of weeks earlier (this is a simple, no winter bonus, summit) becuase of a fully iced over track, I was hoping not to meet similar conditions on Auerberg and Weichberg. These activations would have to be strictly time controlled as I had to be back home for an appointment at noon.

The Locations:

I have already activated these summits a couple of times. They are easy to access, with just the last section needing to be walked in. For fuller detail on the summits and access, please check my reports on this website from last years activations.

The Activation:

I’m glad to report no snow or ice related issues in getting to Peißenberg. The traffic was heavier than expected however I still arrived and set-up ahead of my planned activation time. I started on 20m hoping for long path into VK as I had managed from Peißenberg before, but no luck. Even other European summits that had been spotted, I could not hear. I spotted myself and started calling. It took a little while but I managed two contacts into Finland and Bulgaria with good signals in both directions. When I switched to 40m however, it was a completely different story. A “wall of noise” of chasers that went on for a solid 15 minutes, by which time, with my tight schedule, I had to pack up in any case to move on to Weichberg.

On arriving at Weichberg, the access track was a little muddy but apart from that no ice or snow problems. I tried to quickly set-up however I was joined by some inquisitive walkers, an 85 year old with his 80 year old wife, so once I had explained what Amateur Radio is about, I was getting to my planned activation time before I finally go on. Given my experience on Peißenberg, I decided to start on 40m and again ran straight into a pile up that lasted again 15 minutes. I then decided to try 20m quickly before packing up. Conditions on 20m were no better than earlier and I only managed 3 contacts on 20m this time.Marko from Finland again and two Spanish stations.

So it was only a matter of untangling the antenna after taking it down and packing up as quickly as I could with frozen fingers (yes it was still very cold on both of these summits) and then head home and out to my appointment, which I “just” made on time.

Photos:

 

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND,

Aerial-51 model 404-UL asymmetric dipole.

6 metre squid pole.

Ramsey QAMP, modified to cover 40m & 20m.

Green plastic sheet.

Logs:

Peißenberg

Peissenberg-log Weichberg.Weichberg-log

Conclusions:

Propagation is a fickle partner, especially a couple of days after a major CME has hit the earths atmosphere, one should always be prepared for more than one band. The Aerial-51 is fast becoming my “go to” antenna for SOTA operations replacing the SOTABeams linked dipole as it appears to perform just as well but it is a multi-band antenna that doesn’t need to be taken down to change bands. The Ramsey amplifier also now appears to be operating reliably, it’s a shame that it only gives me 15W output on 20m (25W on 40m is a nice level). This is probably due to the design running the transistors under their preffered voltage.

Try not to plan SOTA activations into a tight schedule. I was lucky this time, but it could have been that a delay on the summit could have caused me to be late for my appointment.

73 ’til the next Summit!