DD5LP/P – June 28th. 2018 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen to test Mag. Loop antenna.

Preparation:

Having set up and calibrated the magnetic loop antenna that I bought at Friedrichshafen (details to be added under equipment/antennas at some point). It was time to try it out for real on a summit rather than just on the antenna analyser or on the balcony. So equipped with a piece of equipment that hopefully later I wont need to take with me (a table). The now standard Xiegu X-108G, with its sunshade (not that it was needed), battery box and other accessories along with the disassembled “DL4KCJ Direct gamma match fed asymmetrical magnetic loop antenna” were packed for the outing. I planned to try to make contacts on 80m (which hasn’t been done from this summit before), 40m and 20m. It would be interesting to put up the normal dipole as well to compare the antennas but I decided just to concentrate on the loop.

The Location:

Rentschen is a one point, flat summit which lends itself well to antenna tests as there is a lot of space with no obstructions. It is about a 50 minutes drive from my home and therefore one of my “local” summits. The actual summit is marked by a trig-point stone which is about 100m away from the road, where I would park my car as usual. The summit is between Rottenbuch and Steingaden villages.

The Activation:

I have driven the route down many times so I did not need my GPS navi or maps. About 15 minutes into the drive a few spots of rain fell and then it stopped. Some rain was forecast but hopefully there would also be some dry intervals, so I kept on driving. Soon the rain was back and as time went on, it got heavier and heavier. It never got to storm level but by the time I arrived at the summit it was a constant soaking drizzle. In fact it continued this way for the rest of the day.

OK so after driving down, I wasn’t going to turn around without at least trying some tests. I didn’t need 4 contacts as I had already activated the summit in 2018, so I would get no points for it, but a few contacts would be nice.

I started on 80m with the antenna set as I had calibrated it at home, SWR looked good tuning around I could hear a couple of stations fairly well, so I chose a free frequency, spotted myself and started calling CQ. Nothing! I called for over 10 minutes without one response. OK I thought, there simply aren’t that many chasers on 80m, I will try the more usual band, 40m. After adjusting the antenna to my settings for 40m, I could see there was something wrong straight away as the SWR was so high that the rig refused to transmit. I played around with the antenna settings, the location of the gamma match and the setting of the variable capacitor, but could not make any improvement to the SWR. It had tested OK at home, so this was a strange problem. In any case, I didn’t want to spend more time in the rain than I must, so I switched to 20m, adjusted the antenna again and this time the SWR was under 2:1 so I spotted myself and called CQ SOTA with the reward of three contacts. 20m was strange though, with a high noise level plus very deep QSB, with the result that stations I would normally be able to work without trouble, I was having to really listen to hear their reports. Not ideal conditions to test an antenna in!

By this time I had, had enough of the rain. I had proved that the antenna works on 20m albeit not brilliantly, I think 80m is fine but 40m would need more investigation. Why do the settings work from home on the other bands but not 40m? I will definitely need to do some further portable tests with the antenna, perhaps not another SOTA summit until I understand better how to tune the antenna.

For now I was happy to get back into the car and drive home.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X-108G.

DL4KCJ Magnetic Loop antenna.

Battery box.

Fold-up table.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Mini-VSWR meter and coax cables.

Log:

Conclusions:

The loop needs to be checked on 40m again, first at home and then at some portable location. – Later tests showed that my Rig Expert AA-30 Antenna Analyser was no longer accurate. It was indicating the wrong frequency for the resonance of the antenna. Strangely – when used attached to a PC, the PC software shows the correct frequency, so I have now re-calibrated the loop using the PC program through the analyser. As yet Rig Expert have been unable to find the reason for this fault in their equipment when used stand-alone.

The mini-VSWR bridge I had with me was not good for some bands as in cal. it wouldn’t go all the way across. However the SWR scan feature in the rig – while rather wide on it’s frequency range does appear to be accurate.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – March 10th. 2018 DL/AM-176 Rentschen (for VK-EU S2S event).

Preparation:

I was involved in organising and publicising the VK-EU S2S event for several weeks before it would happen. At the end we had stations from Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, the UK, Germany, Russia, Austria, The Slovak Republic, Rumania and Canada committed to taking part. My initial plan was to activate from Roemerstein, a 10 point summit over 2 hours drive away from where I live. The weather and radio condition forecast 10 days out was very good but that soon changed. An expected sunspot fizzled and died meaning conditions on the day were probably the worst so far : here is the space weather from later in the morning on the 10th:

SFI of 67 (The formulae given in the June 1996 edition of the IPS Solar Geophysical Summary states 67.0 as the minimum possible value.). K index of 4 means REALLY noisy.

As well as the propagation conditions being expected (and proved) to be bad, the expected 15 degrees and sunshine was moved back by a day by the forecasters (and then never came). These factors along with the fact that I took a pretty hefty tumble on the ice in -15 degrees temperatures a week before the event meant that if I was going to take part at all, I would have to go to a more local summit. All of the 6 point and above summits are accessed via a chair lift or cable car and none of those start service until 9 am local. In fact several are not even running again until the “summer season” which starts at Easter. My next choice was Eisenberg while only a 2 pointer it is relatively close but requires a good 10 minute steep walk. Two days before the event I was in a great deal of pain from my back injury so I decided even that summit might be too much and switched my activation to Rentschen, which is a literal “drive on summit”. Unfortunately as I have already activated this summit this year, I would get no points for it, but at least I would be taking part in the event.

Equipment: I wanted to use the Xiegu X108G for this activation and as I had repaired the linked dipole after the problems at Attenberg a few weeks earlier, that would be my 40m antenna. I had also bought but not yet used 3 commercially made J-pole antennas from Lambdahalbe. One for 20m, one for 17m and one for 15m. All of this new or repaired equipment was to be tested out on the Wednesday or Thursday in the week prior to the S2S event with an activation of Ammerleite – again a close summit, only 1 point but up until the end of March it earns another 3 winter bonus points and I hadn’t yet activated it in 2018. Well that activation never took place as I was suffering with my back and there’s no way I could have managed the climb up to Ammerleite. Friday allowed a quick test in a local field and I was all prepared with a WSPR beacon program installed on my smart phone, so that I could connect up the antennas in turn, send a transmission and then check later via wspr.net how they performed. We decided to combine this short 30 minute test session with taking the dog for a walk and my wife agreed to come along and take the dog for her walk in the fields while I “did my radio stuff”. Long story short, the tests did not get completed as the 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass support mast caused me several problems. Compared to my shorter (and much lighter and cheaper) 6 metre mast, the DX-wire “Mini-mast” bends far too much even before it is at full height. I have had problems before with this mast collapsing into itself without warning – this time the opposite occurred. When it was obvious I was not going to be able to complete my tests, I wanted to lower the mast but then sections jammed meaning I had to man-handle it down and bring it home in sections not collapsed in the car and totally disassemble and rebuild the mast (again) once I got it home.

One thing was for certain – that DX-wire 10m mini-mast was not going on my Saturday activation! It was replaced with one of my two Lambdahalbe 6 metre masts, which would impact the use of the J-pole antennas due to their length.

So Saturday would be a risk. As well as having to get up early to be in time for the long path window to VK/ZL several parts of the equipment were untested. The activation may not even take place if I felt bad when I got up  – we’d have to see …

The Location:

Rentschen is a drive-on plateau just outside Wildsteig according to Google, 47 minutes drive away from my home. I managed it this time in just under 40 minutes but the return journey took over 50 minutes. The difference a bit of traffic makes. In any case one of my closest summits. I have activated here many times before, so I knew the layout and for that reason packed the screw-in sun umbrella base to support the mast as there is no convenient fence post or small tree around (see photos below).

The Activation:

The run down was uneventful and with relatively clear roads, I was able to get a good run down leaving home at 6:15 am local time. The weather was cool but not cold and it wasn’t raining – the ground was wet from overnight but not muddy, so compared to the last couple of weeks a very good situation. As well as not being any available support for the mast, there’s also no seating, so the plastic painters sheet was put down and my two bags sat on top of it until I sorted out the mast and antennas. My idea was that I would put the SOTABeams Band-hopper linked dipole up as usual for 40 & 20 metres and then from a carabiner under the dipole feed-point hang the end of the J-pole. Initially I put up the 17m J-pole but later tried the 15m one as well. I initially set the links on the dipole to be 20 metres as I could already see some spots for that band.  Once the antennas were up in a relatively stable condition (leaning a little but not as bad as I have had), I turned to unpacking and laying out the station. With the new rig (the XIEGU X-108G) I do not have the convenience of an internal LIPO battery as I have on my FT-817ND, so I have constructed a battery box that holds a hardcase 5AH 4S (16.5v) LIPO and an electronic regulator that reduces the voltage to a constant 13.8v for the rig. What I found on this activation was that if I close the (see through) boxes lid, it can press on one of the regulators buttons, which turns the power off! Not ideal. After I realised that, I left the lid open but the unit did switch off a couple of times later without warning – more investigation needed – I did say this configuration was not tested didn’t I?  On turning on the rig on 20 metres there was immediately a high noise level (around S7) – this did not bode well but when I tunes the band there were spots where it was not as bad and the noise also seemed to move around the band. My first thought was that the voltage regulator was causing this problem however I did not have this problem the last time I used this configuration, so either something is failing in the (new) regulator or the problem was external – possibly something to do with the overhead high voltage lines or some new equipment in the nearby buildings. In any case there was nothing I could do on the summit apart from try to hear stations through the noise. As I would find out after the event from other people’s reports 20m was dead and very noisy at this time and I had arrived just as the band had closed to VK/ZL – the thought is that the last hop into Europe was actually Sporadic-E which would explain the hour earlier time than had been the case earlier in the week and the sudden band turning-off rather than fading.

Here’s my log of attempts to get contacts (after having searched for spotted activators and self-spotted):

  • 20m 0620-0625 UTC – N/C
  • 40m 0635-0640 UTC – N/C
  • 17m 0640-0645 UTC – N/C
  • 20m 0705-0715 UTC – N/C
  • 15m 0725-0730 UTC – N/C

Luckily from 0730 UTC I had a run of contacts on 40 metres including one S2S. Once that run finished, I decided to check 20m again and found Herbert OE9HRV/P booming in talking to another summit so I waited until he had finished and then called him for my 2nd. S2S. Another fruitless 10 minutes spotting and calling on 20m and I decided to call it a day!

Photos:

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Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G HF 20w transceiver.
  • 6 metre Lambdahalbe mast
  • Screw-in umbrella base
  • Plastic painters sheet
  • SOTABeams linked dipole (repaired).
  • Three Lambdahalbe single band J-pole antennas for 20, 17 and 15 metres.
  • Battery box with hardcase 5AH 4S LIPO battery and electronic regulator.

Log:

Conclusions:

After tests at home, I am happy to report the interference did not come from the voltage regulator so it must be something on the summit creating that horrible noise. That added to atmospheric noise being so high and there was inevitably going to be problems.

The regulator did not turn off at home, so I can only think that something managed to press on one of the buttons during the activation. I have now found how to lock the buttons to avoid this happenein.

The Xiegu appears to have worked correctly on this activation, so I can rely on the rig in the future.

The antenna situation needs work. I have looked around and there does not appear to be any good quality 10 metre mini-poles on the market. The only one is the DX-Wire one where the fibreglass sections simply have walls that are too thin to be reliable. My options are therefore to either buy one that is longer to carry (and hence has less sections, each of which with thicker walls) or find an alternative way to support the J-Pole antennas – perhaps I can install them in an Inverted-L format?

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – September 30th. 2017 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen.

Preparation:

Following the uncertainty whether the new Bazoka PRO loaded vertical antenna was working on 20m when tried at Attenberg, I needed another activation to test it and to see whether band conditions (which had now improved a little) had been the reason. The site had to allow me to erect the 20 metre dipole antenna alongside the Bazoka. Rentschen, being a large flat, grass fielded area (with little or no tree cover), not too far from my home QTH, made it a natural choice. As I had already activated it earlier in the year, so would not gain any points for the activation, but this was about testing equipment. At the same time, I wanted to try out the new digital mode (FT-8) from the summit and had prepared a windows tablet and interfaces for both audio and CAT commands to connect it to the FT-817.

The hope was, that if indeed the Bazoka PRO worked fairly well on 20m as well as 40m, it would make a great antenna to use for my trip to Hochgrat the following week where space is limited and tourist traffic is high.

So the full set of equipment would be used: the FT-817ND plus amplifier, the tripod and Bazoka PRO wideband vertical and the SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole with the 6m fishing pole. The screw-in base would also be taken along as there are no easy mast support structures at Rentschen.

On the digital (FT-8) side my windows 10 tablet with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and interface cables would be packed.

The Location:

Rentschen is a one point, low summit. It is about a 50 minutes drive from my home and therefore one of my “local” summits. The actual summit is marked by a trig-point stone which is about 100m away from the road, where I would park my car as usual. The summit is between Rottenbuch and Steingaden villages.

The Activation:

The trip down I could do without any GPS Navigator or maps, I have driven the route many times and indeed after about 45 minutes, I was already parked and unpacking the car. I first set up the tripod with the Bazoka antenna and then followed by putting up the linked dipole and eventually setting out the FT-817 and computer equipment. All completed without issues and by 11:15 local time (45 minutes before my alerted time), I was ready to go. First of all I tuned around 20m on the Bazoka PRO and the dipole and straight away the difference was very obvious. The FT-817 on the dipole was lively as usual and I could hear several loud stations. On the Bazoka the band was very quiet and while I could hear some of the same stations, they were at least 4 S-points down on the dipole. I then repeated these tests on 40 metres and the Bazoka PRO performed a lot better, the band was popping and the difference in signal strengths was  only 1 or possibly 1.5 S-points. With the top of the vertical being about 2.5 metres off the ground and the centre of the dipole around 5 metres up, this difference is reasonable. So on receive at least, it seemed the Bazoka wasn’t going to perform well on 20 metres.

I decided to go back to the 20 metres dipole and put out some calls on 20m to get some SOTA contacts in the log and if the stations were loud asked them to listen for me on the vertical. Although I could still hear a couple of the chasers on the vertical, none of them could her me.

Once I had no more chasers waiting I connected up the tablet to try some FT-8. As soon as I started the software and selected the 20m frequency via the software a stream of decoded signals came in. I did have problems with using the software due to being outside. The sunlight on the screen made it difficult to see and to locate the mouse. I had three ways to move the mouse pointer – the tablet has a touchscreen but my big fingers made this difficult to use accurately. The bluetooth keyboard has a touchpad on it, which while it worked, moved the mouse around too quickly, when I could see where the mouse was. The best, albeit also not good, method was to use the bluetooth mouse. The problem here was once again, not being able to see where the mouse was on the screen in the sunlight but also finding an acceptable flat surface to run the mouse over. I will need to see if I can set the mouse pointer to be a lot bigger and darker and set it to move a lot slower. If I can make the WSJT-x program windows larger as well, this could help. All things learnt…

As regards FT-8 contacts – although I was receiving signals OK, after spotting on SOTAWatch I received no chaser calls, in fact no calls at all. Checking the PSK reporter, when I got home (log below), I was getting out fine with just the 5w running barefoot (no amplifier) from the FT-817, perhaps I needed to keep trying longer, however that was not to be as the farmer who owned the field came along to say he intended to mow the grass to make hay. He kindly offered me another field, still on the summit, but I decided I would pack up and leave as the time to disassemble, remove and reassemble probably wouldn’t warrant any addition contacts. I already had actions to do from my tests in any case. The vertical needs trying with an ATU and with a counterpoise, the tablet needs re-configuring to be more visible when in the open.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABEAMS band hopper linked dipole.

LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.

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

Thick plastic painters sheet

Screw-in mast base

Windows 10 tablet with BT mouse and keyboard and interface to the FT-817.

Log:

PSK reporter Log (stations that heard my FT-8 transmissions):

Conclusions:

The Bazoka PRO is not performing well on 20 metres. An ATU may help (despite the fact that the antenna analyser indicates a reasonable impedance across the band) or perhaps adding my counterpoise wires to the bottom of the antenna could also help it to operate better.

Operating FT-8 from a summit, has the same difficulties as operating any digital mode from a summit operation of the computer (tablet in this case), is difficult in the sunlight and mouse operation was a pain however the Tablet to FT-817 Interface worked perfectly. Some kind of stand and shade would most likely help but then make the solution less portable and hence only possible on simple summits.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – March 11th. 2017 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen (VK-EU S2S Event).

Preparation:

I had planned to activate Bussen BM/BW-484 with it’s 8 activation points plus 3 winter bonus points up until the 15th. March, however as I was suffering a little from the flu, the thought of a 4 hour round-trip drive was not so inviting. With propagation being variable at best and horrible at worst, there was a chance that 17m may be needed rather than 20m. Rentschen has a major advantage that being a drive-up summit, it would be possible to go back to the car and fetch and replace the OCF antenna with the 17m J-Pole antenna if needed (at Bussen, this would have been a major operation). Also Martin DF3MC ccontacted me and said he’d like to come along. I always enjoy operating wth Martin, so the fact that Rentschen ia about the same distance from him as from me, made it a good choice.

Equipment to be used would be the FT-817ND plus amplifier and the Aerial-51 OCF dipole with a 6m pole. The screw-in base, that had worked so well at Berndorfer Buchet, would also be taken along as there are no easy mast support structures at Rentschen. In the car would stay the 10m portbale mast along with the J-Pole antennas for 20, 17 & 15m.

The Location:

Rentschen is a one point, low summit that still has a 3 point winter bonus. It si about 50 minutes drive from my home and therefore one of my “local” summits. The actual summit is marked by a trig-point stone which is about 100m away from the road, where I would park my car as usual. The summit is between Rottenbuch and Steingaden villages.

The Activation:

Considering the propagation conditions, I think things went quite well. 2 x VK S2S contacts (I think my first DL-VK6 – thanks John VK6NU). I heard my first Japanese summit but got no response when I called several times. I thought I would have to re-cone the speaker after VK3MO called me, he was so strong! I also heard Matt VK1MA call me but he couldn’t hear me I think.

After about 0800 UTC, the usual QRO stations appeared on band and simply called CQ over the top of activators.
Conditions seemed to go up and down somewhat and at one point we had at least three summits on the same frequency!
A surprise on 14.280 was Elvira XT2SE from Burkina Faso, West Africa, (non SOTA) who I tried calling but of course with the pile-up I didn’t get through.
It was nice to operate with Martin DF3MC – he on CW and I on SSB, about 20m apart from each other – there was some interference but it didn’t stop us making contacts.
I thought I’d “pick up a few contacts” on 40m before packing up. Thirteen contacts in seven minutes was the result and then even managed an S2S into the UK (thanks for your perseverence Tom M1EYP). All in all a good activation.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Aerial-51 OCF inverted-V dipole.

LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.

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

Thick plastic painters sheet

Screw-in mast base

Mini Seat.

Log:

Conclusions:

Never base a decision on whether to activate on propagation predictions or even the conditions the previous day – Band conditions can improve (or get worse) without warning and the only way to know iff you are going to be able to make contacts is to activate and hope!

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – April 21st. 2016 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen.

Preparation:

As part of my attempt to get a station together that could operate on 80m from a SOTA summit. I had built a drastically shortened 80m dipole by including coils in its length. This was created at home based to a similar design that I have already installed at the home QTH only without a balun and of lighter materials but of course until I tested it out in the open on a summit, I did not know whether it really works or not. The problem with portable antennas for 80m is their size and very few summits have the space to put up a full sized 80m dipole, so a smaller antenna was needed. I had originally intended going to Ammerleite however Rentschen gives a lot more space and the distance from the car to the summit is a lot less, allowing me to pack more test equipment in the car in case I needed it. My wife also agreed to come along and as we then take our dog, Rentschen was a better choice. It also would earn me 1 activator point as the last time I activated it was in 2015 whereas Ammerleite would not.

I had also expanded my Ramsey QAMP to operate between 80m and 15m using switched low pass filters in its output and while this had been tested on the bench, it had also not been tested in the field with the changes. As I did not expect many contacts on 80m, I decided running 30w from the amplifier rather thn just the 5w from the FT817 might be essential, so the QAMP would be taken long.

The Location:

Rentschen is about 45 minutes drive from my home. A drive I had done several times before and so no maps or navigation equipment was needed to get to site. Rentschen is a large grassed plateau sitting above the surrounding area. The actual summit is marked by a small trig-point stone, where there is also a small post, which while fimsey, can act as a mast support. The summit location is only about a 100 metres from the road, where I parked the car.

The Activation:

Once I had put the new antenna up, and laid out and connected the rig and amplifier, I took a tune around 80m and hearing nothing I went bck to my alerted operating frequency, 3670 KHz and started calling CQ SOTA while also sending a spot. I don’t know why but cell phone coverge from this summit was marginal and I had to place my phone in a particular position before it would send and receive SOTA spot data. This was actually 30 minutes ahead of my planned activation time, but after a couple of calls I heard a very faint signal, it was Herbert OE9HRV but why was he so weak? I thought I might have a cable break, so I disconnected the amplifier and connected the new antenna directly into the FT817 and then Herbert was full strength, so I tried calling him just with the 5w from the FT817 but it seems he had given up by this point. I got a report from Mike G6TUH that he had heard me at 5-3 but then I droped into the noise. I suppose this might have been first of all the 30w and then dropping to 5w but at that time of day a signal on 80m shouldn’t be able to get to the UK, about 500Km is the normal limit, which is mid France from where I was located. In any case, something was wrong with the amplifier. On receive the antenna connection should switch straight through, so the new low pass filters couldn’t be the problem, but a broken internal cable could be. In any case it was not something I could find and fix while out portable, so unfortunately the 80m antenna test was inconclusive and I’ll have to try again on another day. So down came the 80m antenna and up went the Aerial-51 OCF dipole and I ran off a few contacts on 40m to qualify the summit, so the afternoon was not a total waste of time. In fact it wasn’t anyway as it had been a nice sunny, warm, but not too warm, afternoon out.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Drastically shortened 80m dipole.

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

5 metre squid pole.

Ramsey QAMP 80 through 15m amplifier and batteries

Log:

Activator Log

Conclusions:

Although the test was inconclusive, the fact that a signal was received into the UK, looks hopeful.

I fell fowl of the problem of changing two items at the same time. The QAMP must have a strange problem specific to the 80m wiring as it worked OK on 40m. Perhaps on my next test, I should simply try with just the FT-817 and if that works fine, then added the repaired amplifier into the circuit?

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – June 4th. 2015 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen

Preparation/Location/Activation:

This activation was planned to be of DL/AM-178 Ammerleite but when we approached, the single track road up to the summit was closed and full with tractors harvesting the field and this on a public holiday. Apparenly this road in now pemanently closed to motorised vehicles (so much for rights of way it seems). There may be an alternate access including  little more walking but as I had my wife and our dog with me for this activation, I decided it was better to experiment on my own, some other time.

So although I have already activated Rentschen, this year (I nearly got blown away from it back in  March this year) I decided it would have no issues with access and the flat area on it’s top would be fine for the dog to go for a walk on. (Rentschen is very much an easy summit).

The sumit is even signposted off the main ST2059 road! .

DL-AM-176 satelliteOn arrival the pile of logs that were useful as support for the mast last time had grown considerably and again provided an easy mast support with the ends of the OCF (Aerial-51) antenna pinned out into the field. Despite the cancellation of the planned summit, I managed to get on 10 minutes before my alerted time on the replacement one. After about 40 minutes operations I had made 31 contacts. Mostly on 40m SSB but with a few on 20m. Interestingly UK stations that I would normally hear on 40m only managed the skip on 20m this time. There were a few other activators alerted and spotted as on when I was active but apart from one S2S contact, I could not hear the other activators. So this activation brought no activation points (as I had already activated this summit) and only the chaser points from one S2S but it was a nice day out with the wife and dog. The first SOTA activation for B 0 N N Y.

Here are some photos from the activation –

DSCN2895 DSCN2896 DSCN2897

Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND

Ramsey QRP amp (25w 40m, 15w 20m)

Aerial-51 404-UL asymmetric dipole

6m squid pole.

Log:

activator-log

Conclusions:

Don’t exepect sites to stay accessible, they can be closed off at any time – always have a reserve activation site.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – March 29th. 2015 – Two Ammergauer summits in half a day – DL/AM-176 & 177

Preparation:

Originally planned to be three summits to catch the last possible weekend for 2015 SOTA winter bonus points (the period finishes om March 31st.). After the second being very difficult due to hurricane force winds, I cancelled the third summit which was to be DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

Preparation was only planning the activations to fit into my very tight weekend schedule, that I now have as I have a full time job again. Equipment used was the usual FT817, Ramsey QAMP amplifier, the Aerial-51 antenna and the 6m mast – all of which had had their batteries recharged and the tangles taken out of the antenna wire following the previous activation, so I was all set to go.

The Location:

The locations had already been activated and report from those activvations can be found here:

DL/AM-176 Rentschen

DL/AM-177 Kernberg

The Activation:

Although the weather forecast was for some showers, the winds were the surprise. At my first summit DL/AM-176 Rentschen, although a little cold, it didn’t start windy but by the time I packed up the winds were extreme. The other problem for both of these activations, was that there was some contest on, on both 20 & 40m covering all of the band with S9+++ splatter. I had hoped to possibly get an S2S with Gerard VK2IO who was planning to be on Mt. Elliot (my old local summit) in NSW Australia. Whether we could have made a contact without all the QRM, I suspect not as the conditions were probably not good enough but by the contest stations destroying the band we will never know if we might have been able to make contact.

 

Despite the winds at Rentschen, I decided to try for the next summit, Kernberg, anyway in the hope that the winds might die down, When I arrived it was not too windy however it didn’t take long for them to build up. Blowing my ruck sack off the bench at one point (and it is quite heavy). I struggled to even get the required 4 contacts at this summit. After the third contact the squid pole decided to drop down from 6 metres to about 3 metres but I didn’t think it worth fighting my way to the mast to put it up again, given that it probably would come straight back down again. Hence that Swedish contest station that was my forth contact had to realky work to hear me (despite that he still gave the contest standard 5-9 report!). Along with the winds and the contest QRM, I also had major problems with Rucksack Radio Tool, the application on my phone that I use to spot myself with and see which other activators are out. By calling and giving a contest station a point, I eventually managed the required 4 contacts. I may have done better if I had connected up the Ramsey amp on Kirnberg as I had on Rentschen but that would have been more equipment out to be blown away, never to be seen again!

Photos:

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It’s hard to tell from the short film however it was really windy on Kirnberg, so much so that if I did not fasten or hold everything down, it would have blown away!

Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND,

Aerial-51 model 404-UL asymetric dipole.

6 metre squid pole.

Ramsey QAMP (only used on Rentschen).

Logs:

Rentschen_activator_logkirnberg_activator_log

Conclusions:

It is always best to air on the side of caution. There were times on Kirnberg when the winds were so strong that it was dangerous. Going on to Ammerleite would probably, at the least, ended up with some broken antenna equipment.

The use of the Ramsey Amp does help getting through, especially when there are contests on.

Never assume everything will work properly. After working perfectly for many activations, RRT kept aborting meaning I had to try up to 10 times before I could get a spot out as the program kept failing. I think this was due to lack on 3G signal, but the program shouldn’t abort for that reason.

,73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – December 14th. 2014 – Four Ammergauer summits in half a day – DL/AM-176,177,178 & AM-001

Preparation:

After re-activating Weichberg about 10 days earlier, when I could not get access to Eisenberg, I realised that even though I did not get the points for the summit, I did get the bonus points for activating while in the winter period. Weichberg was successful in bagging my first summit contact into the US with Eric W4EON in the W4V association. Eric has been kind enough to try to put on activations at his end when I have been able to get out to a summit here (we have had no success with me chasing from home – I simply cannot hear the US stations over the local RF noise with my not-ideal antenna on the bands where the contacts can be successful. So I have been trying to set up a second contact with Eric on a different W4V summit, so that I can get my required 3rd. continent for platinum level in the Maountain Hunter award. The forth of these summits (DL/AM-001 Peissenberg) was the one where I could be at, for the arranged time to try for the contact. The first three summits were three that are easy to activate and I could build into the loop route to pick-up the winter bonus points from all four summits by re-activating them.

I have done some work with my Diamond RHM-8B vertical mounted on a photo tripod and the antenna analyser gave me a good report for its use in this fashion, on 40, 30 and 20m – all with an SWR of 1.3:1 or better. So my plan was to take advantage of the quick set-up and take down of this antenna and bag 4+ contacts on each of the first three summits and then concentrate on setting things up on the forth summit for the trans-atlantic attempt.

The Location:

The locations were:

DL/AM-176 Rentschen

DL/AM-177 Kernberg

DL/AM-178 Ammerleite

and

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg and 2nd activation.

By clicking on the names above, you can find information about all of these summits from my earlier activation(s) of them.

The Activation:

Although I managed all four summits DL/AM-176 Rentschen, DL/AM-177 Kirnberg, DL/AM-178 Ammerleite and DL/AM-001 Peissenberg, it was not without some “Challenges”…….

I had hoped to keep the first three very easy and fast just operating on 40m with the vertical on a tripod. It was not to be. I found out at my first summit (Rentschen), that there was an Italian SSB contest on 40m – so there were NO free frequencies and any that seemed like a free frequency were splattered across by the over modulated 3KW+ station 5 KHz away! So I decided to switch to 20m on the vertical only to find the SWR on 20m was horrible (it had been 1.3:1 when I tested it on the antenna analyser two days previously). So I had to unpack the mast and linked dipole, which I had luckily with me as a backup. All of this added to the time on the first summit meaning I lost the time that I thought I had spare as I had set off 30 minutes earlier than planned from home.

At the next summit, Kernberg, I managed to bog my car while parking before even getting to the summit. Luckily the summit is next to a farm and the farmer (a real Bavarian gentleman) pulled me out with his tractor. So summit number two ran over my time scheduled.

By the time I got to my third summit, Ammerleite, time was still slipping away and on this summit apart from the fibreglass pole repeatedly coming down when I was trying to put the OCF dipole up everything went OK. Once I finished and packed up however I was very short on time to get to summit number four, Peissenberg.

When I arrived I found that a large piece of the forest where I used to fasten one end of the dipole into, had been cut down. There were also far more people at this (easy to get to) summit that I have seen here before. I found an alternate anchorage point for the dipole and then set-up fairly smoothly however the extra people around, several wanting to know what I was doing, also took some time out of the schedule. Some how I managed to get on air just 5 minutes late. Unfortunately conditions on 10m and 15m were not as good as they have been and the 10m ARRL contest did not make things easier. Although I managed a contact into Virginia, it was not with Eric W4EON/P on his summit, rather Arno W4AKO who was able to hear Eric and me but I could not hear Eric and he could not hear me. Perhaps next time ….

All in all a trying day of SOTA activations but enjoyable as well.

Some chasers worked hard to work me on as many of the summits as possible, Manuel EA2BT (one of the few calls where I rember the name) and Mick M0MDA both managed to contact me on all but the first summit, where the QRM on 40m was horrible from the Italian contest, Carolyn G6WRW had a remarkable signal from her mobile and contacted me on two of the summits as did Don G0RQL, Robert SP8RHP, Bill G4WSB and Leonel CU3EJ. It’s really nice to have contacts with the same chasers from multiple summits. It’s also nice to hear the regular chasers each time I go out. It really makes one feel part of the SOTA “family”.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND,

Diamond RHM-8B loaded vertical, SOTABeams linked dipole & Aerial-51 model 404-UL asymetric dipole.

6 metre squid pole.

Logs:

am-176_log am-177_log am-178_log am-001_log

Conclusions:

Do NOT assume the ground is solid when parking a car and then when bogged, do not try to get out yourself (it only makes it worse).

Try to avoid weekends when contests are on – mid week activations have a better chance of long distance contacts especially when only running 5W of SSB.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – July 15th. 2014 – DL/AL-282 Steig, DL/AL-149 Blender, DL/AL-281 Ursersberg and DM/BW-088 Rangenberg.

Preparation:

As you will see from the title, this was a multi-summit activation. I initially was looking for the next summit that I had not yet activated and looked at Blender, when I saw that Urserberg was just across the valley from it and given the fact that the summit was over 2 hours drive away from my current home I thought I’d activate the two summits on the same excursion. When looking at my route, I also realised that Steig was also not too far off my route and made that the third planned SOTA summit in the Allgäu district of Bavaria that I would try to activate. As I had never been anywhere near these summits, there was always a chance that I would not be able to get access to one or other of the summits, so as a reserve, I decided to add a summit over the border in Baden Württemberg – a summit which gets activated a lot, mostly around the time of the Ham Radio event in Friedrichshafen as activators often fit this summit, DM/BW-088 Rangeberg, in their route to or from Friedrichshafen. I had planned to activate it on my way back from Ham Radio at the end of last month however with a torrential storm on the Sunday, I ruled this out. As it turned out the first three (DL/AL) summit activations went so well, that I managed to fit in Rangeberg as well. This was a bonus as this DM summit gives 8 points whereas the other three summits, in the same general area and at around the same height only give 1 or 2 points.

I also wanted to give my new mast and antenna a further test and compare it with my old equipment. With the limited time I could not set up both antennas and masts on any of the sites, so although I used each set-up on two summits, the time of day and locations were different and so I cannot draw any conclusions apart from that both configurations work well and the new one is heavier to carry to the site, mainly due to the 10m vs. the 6m mast.

I still have been unable to repair my Ramsey QRP amplifier so these activations were “barefoot” with just the 5w from the FT-817.

region

The Locations:

Three of the sites are in DL/AL (Allgäuer Alpen) and the “extra” one is in DM/BW (Bathe Württemberg). The closest location is probably accessible in under 2 hours, the other three a little over 2 hours, from where I am currently staying. As I hoped for a possible long path contact into VK from the first summit, an early (pre 7am) start was planned.

Apart from a couple of “whoops missed the turn-off” moments (I was navigating using a printout from Google Maps), the sites were not too hard to find. Steig has a nice car park at the edge of the forest from where a 10-15 minutes walk is needed to get to the summit. None of the summits chosen this time have any marker (Cross, Trig point etc.) at their summit, but two, the first one (Steig) and the third one (Ursersberg) have small wildlife look-out towers on the top of them, which serve well as antenna mast supports! Ursersberg is some distance from the car park near the lake – far too far for my timeframe, so it was a matter of driving up the well maintained track, which was labelled as forestry access only, while not 100% correct, it appears when one asks locals, they pay no attention to these signs and don’t expect others to either. For future activators, who prefer to walk, 25 minutes should be enough to walk along the track to the summit. The second summit Blender, is up a series of roads which are marked for local access only. Again while not 100% correct, use of these sealed roads by none residents does not appear to be policed in any way. As there is a residential care home near the summit, none locals do regularly use the roads to visit patients. For future activators – your choice. Perhaps take a push bike along for the final sections of these two summits as the signs relate to motor vehicles only.

The final summit of the day (Rangenberg) also had a car park at the entry of the forested area. I had considered driving into this site as well, however as I had time, I decided to walk from the car park the sign posted 1km (I think it was more!) steep and in places muddy climb to the summit. It took me about 20 minutes. When I got to the summit, I could see down the track going down the other side what looked like a copper building about large enough to be toilets but more important alongside it a table and benches – luxury for a SOTA activation. Checking the map this was less than 25 vertical metres down from the summit and hence still in the permitted SOTA activation zone. As I got closer I saw a small bell on the roof and realised this was in fact a very small chapel. The roof was copper and the sides covered with light brown wooden tiles. This looks to be a very new addition to the summit (see pictures later). Reading the sign on the door, It is only planned to be blessed in September 2014, to be called the “Alphornkappelle zur heiligen Cäcilia”. So this is a very new addition to the summit. This last summit was the physically hardest summit to get to with the long steep walk but with the best facilities for SOTA and of course, being in DM/BW 8 points for activator and chasers rather than the 1 or 2 points of the previous summits.

The Activations:

Steig DL/AL-282

I was hoping to manage a long path contact back into VK with this summit however band conditions weren’t good on 20m. It was quite hard going to get the minimum 4 contacts that I was eager to get in the log so that I could pack up and head off to the next (hopefully better) summit and perhaps, just perhaps manage to get all four summits activated in one day. It took about 10 minutes before I could get even one contact. I was just about to start checking all the equipment (this activation was using my new antenna), when Colin G4UXH came back. Over the next 10 minutes I bagged another 5 contacts, so I quickly packed up and headed back down the forest track to the car. Hopefully the next site would be better…

Blender DL/AL-149

  This was a bit of a drive from Steig, going part way around Kempten and then heading off on several small roads. As I approached the area however it became very obvious where I was heading. The Television/Telekom tower is visible for miles around (in fact it was also still visible at my next summit). As mentioned earlier, access roads to Blender are marked as local access only. Until someone points this out to me though, I was happy to drive up the roads. I met one elderly lady out on her bike, who had cycled to the top to take in the view (I wish I could cycle up that hill as she did!). We had a short chat and I said that I was an Amateur Radio enthusiast and she knew what I was talking about. It seems AR in Germany is much better publicised that in other countries in which I have lived! After setting up I tuned around 40m and found Bill 9A/ON5JE/P operating a station for the Youth On The Air (YOTA) week. I then found a free frequency, spotted myself and put out a call. I bagged a further nine stations in just under 10 minutes. All signals from this summit were stronger than at the previous although reports given to me were not better. Was this the antenna? I had switched back to my linked dipole for this summit. Without also putting up the new antenna and doing a direct comparison, I can’t say. I think the location was simply better, I was also on 40m rather than 20m and of course this was now later in the day. Time to try summit number three…

Ursersberg DL/AL-281

  This was a far shorter drive, back down the valley across and up the other side. Ursersberg is again in a forest above the top of some small ski lifts. Access is via a road marked as for only forestry vehicles. Never mind, after checking my map in the car park at the main road, I drove up the track, hoping not to meet a forestry vehicle coming the other way. The track is walkable and in fact on packing up I met a family who had walked up and amazingly again, the father knew all about Amateur Radio through a father at the monastery school where he was as a child having a station within the school and several large antennas outside! On arriving I had to walk a distance from the only place to park off the track, to find some way to get through all of the brambles and nettles that have taken over this forest. I eventually found a track and it led to a lookout tower similar to the one on Steig but in a somewhat worse condition. I decided to use the linked dipole again from here this time on 20m as en-route I had seen spots for three other summit activations on 20m. I didn’t manage to catch even one – either they had moved on or they were far too weak for me to hear (In one case I could hear chasers calling, but not the activating station). I did manage seven contacts in about 10 minutes. I considered switching to 40m to perhaps capture some more but decided rather to pack up and squeeze in the fourth summit activation for the day.

Rangenberg DM/BW-088

  While not as close as the last two summits, the trip to the last summit of the day took only around 20 minutes. That was to the car park. The walk up the hill with both sets of gear, took a further 20 minutes. I decided to give the 404-UL antenna another try along with the new 10m mast, admitedly probably only at about 8 metres as the support I was using (a fence post) was not totally secure! The luxury of being able to set up and operate from a table and seating bank at the end of a long day cannot be beaten. This is the site I made the most contacts from with twenty in all and three of those Summit-to-Summit contacts. I only used 40m as it seemed to be the better band on the day. This also meant that I had run both my old antenna configuration (6m mast and linked dipole) and my new antenna configuration (10m mast and Aerial-51 404-UL asymmetric dipole) on both 20m and 40m. I had thought of putting both configurations up at this last site and had carried both up the hill, however I was getting tired and there was still a long drive home, so I decided that I will plan an activation just to compare the antennas another time.

Here are some photos from each activation –

1. Steig.

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2. Blender.

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3. Ursersberg.

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4. Rangenberg.

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Equipment:

Steig & Rangenberg

Yaesu FT817ND

Aerial-51 404-UL asymmetric dipole

DX-Wire 10m “mini-mast”.

Blender & Ursersberg

Yaesu FT817ND

SOTABeams linked dipole

6m “mini-mast”.

Logs:

Steig:

Activator-log

Blender:

Activator-log

Ursersberg:

Activator-log

Rangenberg:

Activator-log

 

Conclusions:

No true comparisons of the antenna systems could be made. It was interesting that after 4 activations using the internal LIPO in the FT817 it still had 25% of it’s charge left at the end of the day. So I didn’t need to carry the extra weight of the two external 5000mAH LIPOs to each site.

I need to plan an activation, just to compare antenna systems from a known good location – I may combine this with the upcoming VK1 SOTA activation day on Sunday 27th. July.

A little extra power, especially on 20m would be an advantage, even if only the 10-14w that the Ramsey amp used to give out.

Lessons learned –

The idea of multiple activations in one day, while operating alone, is no fun and I will probably not do it again for a while.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – July 2nd. 2014 – DL/AM-176 Rentschen

Preparation:

This activation was planned to test out some of the new equipment purchased the previous weekend at Friedrichshafen. Specifically the new mechanical IF filter in the FT-817, the new Aerial-51 404 Ultra-light wire antenna and my new DX-Wire 10m Mini-mast. As this was to be a test run, I did not “need” to go to a SOTA summit, however when the opportunity is there … Rentschen is one of the last two summits within 1 hr drive of where I’m living that I had not activated. When I took a look at the site via the SOTA mapping project, I was amazed to find that the summit is right on a roadway so I could drive-up park and then find a location a suitable distance away from the car to activate. I was only able to put up an alert the night before as the car became available when my wife changed her plans. I also posted a note to the SOTA Australia list, just in case I might be early enough to catch the end of the early morning long path window to VK on 20m (unfortunately this wasn’t to be, the conditions simply weren’t there but thanks to Paul VK5PAS and John VK6NU for listening).

As I could not locate and correct the failure in my Ramsey QRP amplifier that had occurred on Pfaender, I would have to do this activation “barefoot” with just the 5w from the FT-817.

The antenna and mast were exactly as bought, so I needed to add some cord to the antenna attaching it to the insulators at the ends of the dipole and on the balun case so that it could be tied to the mast. I first tried tying it to the top and second to top sections while still at home, however even extending the mast a metre showed that this would not work. Rick DJ0IP advised me on this mast to tie the balun to the fourth section down and indeed this is the point that the mast is able to carry the weight of the antenna without bending over. The new Yaesu (Collins) mechanical filter had already been installed and enabled, so all was ready for the following day.

DL-AM-176 satellite

The Location:

As it turned out the route to Rentschen is an extension to the route I had previously taken to Kernberg and Ammerleite, so I only needed to concentrate on the last 10km or so of the route to make sure I took the correct turns. During the drive, the rain started and when I arrived at Rentschen a constant drizzle was coming down. I decided to hope for the best and do what I could in the rain. As it turned out, the rain only got heavy after I had packed up and left. I took a walk around the area and unfortunately there are only limited possibilities to support a mast. One area of open ground was so waterlogged that when one stepped on it, water came up about 2cm! If the ground was drier, it might have been possible to get to the edge of the forest but I had to make do with the telegraph or power poles that cross the area. Thinking of electrical safety I went with a Telegraph pole however this limited the height I could extend the new mast to 6m. Any way this would have to do. I found some large logs that served as a table and set up my equipment.

The Activation:

I decided to start on 20m in the hope that I might just manage a contact into VK. It was not to be the case however instead, it seems that the skip into the UK was just about right as I worked a stream of very loud UK stations one after the other. The FT817 audio was definitely easier to hear and close by strong stations did not give me the problems I have been having previously so I can say the money spent on the Yaesu 2.3KHz SSB IF filter appears to have been a good action. Before starting up on 20m I checked the reflected power on the FT-817 meter – nothing reflected and full power indicated as going out. This with the Aerial-51 antenna only at 6m (10m or more is recommended). Once the flow of calls on 20m dried up I decided to test the other reason I bought the 404-UL from Aerial-51, switching bands without having to lower the antenna, adjust the links and put it back up. As I have to do with my linked dipole.  On checking the SWR on 40m, there was a little reflected power but nothing to worry about. It’ll be interesting to see if this also goes away on my next activation if I can get the mast erected to its full height.

At this point the rain was getting somewhat heavier, so I kept the contacts on 40m to a minimum and worked just 4 more contacts before packing up. One of these contacts was with Rick DJ0IP, the designer of the Aerial-51 404-UL antenna.

Here are some photos from the activation –

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND

Aerial-51 404-UL asymmetric dipole

DX-Wire 10m “mini-mast”.

Log:

Activator-log

Conclusions:

My opinion on the Aerial-51 antenna? The quality of build is very good and the wire used for the dipole legs is light but strong and does not appear to tangle easily (more than what can be said for the co-ax but this is the same issue on all antennas using mini co-ax). From the few contacts I had the 404-UL does not appear to be significantly different on receive or transmit to the linked dipole but without having both antennas up at the same time and switching between them (which I didn’t want to do in the rain) I can’t say which is the better antenna at the moment. Both the SOTABeams and the Aerial-51 antennas are light weight. The SOTABeams linked dipole is lighter as it has no balun but the Aerial-51 antenna has the advantage of being able to put it up and left up and bands switched simply by changing them on the transceiver.  From a price point of view, the 4 band SOTABeams (80 – 20m) linked dipole is €66 whereas the 5 band (40m – 6m) Aerial-51 is €99 (with the addition of an ATU the Aerial-51 can also cover 12 & 17m). So the Aerial-51 is more expensive, but there’s more in it – the main cost is the balun and the SOTABeams linked dipole doesn’t have one. At the moment, I think it’s a “take your choice” situation, depending upon what you specifically need. Prices are without shipping costs in both cases.

The €110 2.3KHz IF filter addition to the FT-817 was indeed a valuable addition.

The DX-Wire 10m mini-mast will need more activations to see if it was worth it’s €55 price.

Lessons learned –

Nothing particularly from this activation, everything went as planned.

73 ’til the next Summit!