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!

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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!