DD5LP/P – November 3rd 2018 – DM/BM-135 Hesselberg (NA-EU S2S) an activation that was more of a demonstration.

Preparation:

I decided that Hesselberg would be my summit for the big EU-NA “Transatlantic” S2S event. After the activation on the previous Thursday, this one is a “walk in the park” to get to from the car park.

Having had some success with two NA contacts from Hinteres Hornele, I was hoping conditions would hold up not realising the “small” contest that was on was actually the Ukrainian DX contest and it would cause problems.

I had decided that the new Komunica HF-PRO-2 plus tripod would be my primary antenna for 20m with the standard SOTABeams linked dipole covering 40 metres for me, as well as being a back-up for 20m. The rig would be the X108G again and I was not expecting any sunshine from the forecast, so maybe the difficulty of reading the display on this (marketed as an “outdoor” transceiver) rig would not be a problem (wrong!). After my experiences on Hinteres Hornele, I was back with the two backpacks. The camera case with the rig, battery box and headphones in it and my small rucksack with the wire antennas, to which I added my three J-pole antennas from Lambdahalbe (20m, 17m and 15m) – well you never know! I also put the 10m DX-Wire portable mini-mast in the car as I would need that if I decided to use the 20m J-pole. So again, I’d be taking more than I need but I could leave the heavy things in the car and pop back for them if I needed them at this summit.

Hesselberg is a 6 point summit, so I hoped it would be attractive to the chasers and especially other activators looking for an S2S contact. Timing-wise, given the 2 hour drive each way, I’d need to be leaving by 3:30pm local to head back home before it gets too dark. Based on this, a departure from home at 10:30am local would give me sufficient time on the summit, if a little earlier than ideal for EU-NA contacts.

The Location:

Hesselberg is located north of Augsberg and about half way between Ingolstadt and Stuttgart. It has the advantage that having a Radio transmitter mast on top of it, there’s a road almost all the way to the top. It is also in an area where access to the summit for walkers is well-defined. There are even disabled persons spots in the car park, making this summit a possible for disabled operators although some help getting up the last few metres to the summit would be needed as it’s a rough track.

At the summit, as well as the standard cross, there is also a mini-cross and a trig point stone along with two information boards and a table with bench seats at each side of it.

The Activation:

The drive was uneventful and the weather clear and it stayed that way on arrival for a change. I was actually able to take some shots from the summit that weren’t just clouds and fog as they had been in the last two visits.

After leaving the car park and heading up to the summit, I could see this was going to be a busy summit. The table and benches were occupied but as I approached, I was lucky, they were just leaving. There were also some other people standing around enjoying the view but they indicated they didn’t want the table, so I unloaded both packs, mast and HF-PRO-2 onto the table and set to putting the vertical antenna together. At this point I got asked what I was doing and I stopped to explain something about Ham Radio and gave out a brochure. This was going to be the pattern all through the activation. I spent more time explaining the hobby thank being on the air.

The HF loaded whip was set up quite close to the end of the picnic table and the 6m mast got fastened to one of the information signs and the linked dipole put up. One end of the dipole ran out nicely into some bush land. The other end unfortunately ran out into the open area. Later one woman tripped on it (despite it being bright yellow). She didn’t hurt herself, apologised and asked what it was all about … I put the peg back in and went through my explanation again. The worst visitor was one unruly young girl who despite being told by her teacher or parent (it was a big group) continually kicked at the antenna guy peg until it came out (bent). I was not happy but there was little I could do! To their merit another family group had three young ladies probably between 9 and 12 years old and they politely asked if they could sit at the table and asked polite questions and they were a pleasure to talk with. They were learning English at school but didn’t try any with me, the conversation was in German – but I think they’ll have a story to take back to school about meeting the crazy English man with his radio talking to people in other countries. Their parents also got one of the DARC brochures that I had luckily thought to print out on Friday.

Somewhere in between all the explanations, I did manage to get on the air. First I tried the HF whip on 20m – I could hear lots of stations as there was the contest in full swing but from the start of the activation to the end it was very, very difficult to read anything on the X108G display and while it was light, there wasn’t any bright sunshine. I could hear lots on the whip but all of the stations that I called and my CQs never received any answers. So I switched to the wire dipole and changed the links to cover 20m. to find …. I could hear lots of stations but no one came back when I called them! I started to wonder if I had hit one of the buttons on the rig and something wasn’t set right – but I COULDN’T READ THE DISPLAY!

Perhaps it’s 20m? So I switched to 40m. and I managed to get through to F5KKD/P – this was my first contact after over half an hour on the summit! I was starting to think I wasn’t going to even get the needed 4 contacts to get the points for this summit, never mind any S2S contacts NA or EU! I went back to twenty metres to see if I could hear any of the other SOTA activators who by this point were on their summits – NOTHING and this using the trusted linked dipole. Conditions seemed to be going up and down but this was worse than I had seen for sometime. Had the solar winds already hit? (I found out later – no, we were lucky and missed those). Another 20 minutes, some more instruction on Amateur radio to visitors and then CT2IUV replies to my spotted CQ call (oh yes while using Vodaphone the Internet connection was questionable and I was unable to spot, despite the fact that the phone was showing 3 bars and a 4G indication – once I realised and switched to the other SIM to get a Deutsche Telekom 3G link, everything worked fine). Another half an hour passed by which time it had got cold on the summit and my departure time was fast approaching. This was starting to look like a failed activation, then all of a sudden I got a stream of calls on 40m – 16 contacts in 15 minutes.

Once the calls stopped, it certainly was time to pack up and while packing away the HF vertical, the clip for the radials broke from its wire (I don’t think this will have affected the performance as it was still hanging by a few wires I guess), but who knows and also the wire to one of the links in the linked dipole broke – this one I think could have affected the dipole antennas performance as would have the number of people stood next to the wire and that unruly female offspring kicking the peg!

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G and Battery box

Komunica HF-PRO-2 and tripod.

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

LambdaHalbe “End Fed Half wave” (J-pole) antennas for 20m, 17m & 15m (not used).

Lambdahalbe 6m fibreglass mast.

DX-Wire 10m portable mast (not used).

Log:

Conclusions:

The good: I did mange two S2S contacts (albeit this side of the “pond”) and qualified the summit. The battery box with it’s diodes replacing the “Buck” converter worked without RFI problems again.

The Bad: The continuing problems with not being able to read the rigs display! The suspicion that perhaps one half of the antenna was not fully connected on 40m.

The Ugly: That little brat-ess kicking away at the antenna! In fact trying to operate from a summit when there is a contest on and it’s a summit that is easy to get to and so is crowded. The variation in the conditions and the fact that apparently, some better conditions arrived after I had packed up.

73 ’til the next Summit!

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DD5LP/P – November 15th. 2017 – DM/BM-135 Hesselberg.

Preparation:

With the big EU-NA S2S event approaching on the 18th. I had been trying to get out to a summit to do some more preparation and testing for the last week but weather and other commitments had stopped me up until this Wednesday opportunity. I could have gone to one of my semi-local summits but as well as testing a new antenna (more later on that), I also wanted to get at least 6 activator points, so that the activation on Saturday the 18th. with its 10 activator points, would break the 500 level as an activator (half a goat if you wish). All of the semi-local summits that could supply the needed 6 points or more were now off-limits as a part of the trip up these mountains needed the use of a lift and in Bavaria all Alpen lifts go out of service around November the 5th. until just before Christmas for maintenance and inspection work prior to the Ski season and their heavy usage.

Looking around, I realised I hadn’t activated either Duerremberg or Hesselberg this year, each of which are about 2 hours drive away from my home QTH and both are worth 6 points. Initially I thought I might activate both but later decided to concentrate on the easier access Hesselberg and get to see the views from the summit. Duerremberg is a forested summit and hence has limited views and also impacts the use of vertical antennas – which is what I wanted to test.

From previous blog entries and construction pages on this vk2ji.com website, you’ll know that I built a combined 20m, 17m and 15m J-pole antenna by using a loading coil at the bottom for 17m and 20m. This was the antenna that I tried to use as a sloper antenna on my last antenna testing activation at Peissenberg. Using that antenna as a sloper, especially relatively close to the church building did not work out very well. In the meantime, Christos SV2OXS tipped me off about a commercially built vertical antenna, from LambdaHalbe (the same company who supply the lightweight 6m portable masts). Although sold as an end-fed halfwave it is indeed a J-pole of the same design as I had used for my home-made antennas. I bought the 20m QRP version of this antenna and I decided to test that against the home-made tri-band one at Hesselberg to decide what to use for the NA-EU S2S event on the 18th.

The Location:

Hesselberg is located north of Augsberg and about half way between Ingolstadt and Stuttgart. It has the advantage that having a Radio transmitter mast on top of it, there’s a road almost all the way to the top. this is also a health resort area and hence access to the summit for walkers is well-defined. There are even disabled persons spots in the car park, making this summit a possible for disabled operators although some help getting up the last few metres to the summit would be needed as it’s a rough track.

At the summit, as well as the standard cross, there is also a mini-cross and a trig point stone along with an information board and a table with bench seats at each side of it.

The Activation:

The drive across was uneventful and the weather was clear. That was until,   …. I go to about 500 metres down the road from the summit. At this point visibility dropped drastically and I was in a combination of freezing fog and low cloud. Guess what – I couldn’t see any of the views from the summit AGAIN – like my last visit! What is it with this mountain?

In any case, once I arrived at the car park and unpacked, I was about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, which is always good and in this case, as I was setting up two masts rather than the usual one, the extra time was useful to have. Initially it didn’t feel so cold but as time went on during the activation, I started to feel the cold more and more and when I eventually packed up and took down the antennas, ice had actually formed on the top og the J-pole wire!

Anyway back to the tests and the contacts …

I set up the lambdaHalbe 20m J-pole on my DX-Wire 10m mast at the end of one of the bench seats (which of course collapsed into itself for two sections at the top just as I was pushing the last section from the bottom out and so had to be lowered and re-erected). I actually wound the mast as I put it up, so as to have enough space for the driven element to be still on the pole. I have tried this method before and having a J-pole’s driven (half wave) element in a spiral rather than true vertical configuration appears to make no difference to the antennas performance.

The home-made (loaded) J-pole antenna went onto my LambdaHalbe 6 metre mast at the opposite end of the other seating bank and both coaxes came back to the centre of the table, allowing a switch of antenna to be a simple unplug of the BNC connector from the amplifiers output socket and plug the other one on.

On 20 metres the amplifier outputs between 20 and 25 watts dependant upon the state of the battery.

Even just on receive, I could notice an immediate difference between the commercially made, single band 20m jpole on the 10m mast and my home-made, loaded version on the 6m mast of around 3-4 S-points. Transmission tests with Lars SA4BLM and Cam G0CAM confirmed a similar difference on transmit. Later contacts who had been listening gave reports of similar levels. After the two very clear tests however, it was obvious, that a combination of being a single band antenna, not having a loading coil in circuit and being a little higher (although I don’t think the height was critical) makes the LambdaHalbe, the clear choice for use in the S2S attempts between the US and EU.

As you’ll see from the log below, I did manage several contacts on 20 metres and despite some very deep QSB, I was happy with the performance of the set-up completing 20m operations with a nice S2S with Antonio EC2AG. As I saw some other activators on 40 metres where an S2S contact may be possible, I took down the home-made antenna from the 6m mast and put up the SOTABeams linked dipole. Interestingly, this usually very effective and reliable antenna didn’t seem to perform as well as normal as I had some difficulty getting the S2S contact with Csaba HA5BV. While I worked several other stations on 40m before packing up, there were no more S2S contacts.

All in all, the activation completed the planned tasks of testing the new LambdaHalbe antenna and gaining 6 activator points but I was a little disappointed at the low visibility from the summit again. As I drove down the road, the air cleared, so I suspect this was possibly low cloud cover on the summit rather than fog or mist.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams Bandhopper linked dipole plus home-made loaded J-Pole for 20m and LambdaHalbe “End Fed Half wave” (J-pole) for 20m.

Lambdahalbe 6m fibreglass mast. DX-Wire 10m portable mast.

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

Log:

Conclusions:

The new LambdaHabe 20m J-pole is a success and will be the antenna I will use on the NA-EU S2S event. The DX-Wire 10m pole continues to give me problems but I will have to manage those as I need the full 10 metres for the antenna.

Lets hope band conditions improve by Saturday for the EU-NA S2S event!

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – December 18th. 2016 – DM/BM-135 Hesselberg & DM/BM-226 Dürrenberg.

Preparation:

After a while not activating and with no snow to speak of on the ground I decided to make another activation. While the lifts to the DL summits are all stopped for maintenance before the start of the Skiing season at Christmas, I looked to the DM region, with their easier to access summits with higher point values. The problem for me is the distance, especially after the last purge of nonconforming summits in the DM region, the closest for me are around 2 hours drive away. Looking through some of the closer summits, I had activated Dürrenberg before but as that was back in 2014, I would get 6 points for an activation in 2016. This would still be a 2 hour plus drive, so I looked to see if I could possibly include another summit en-route to make the trip worth-while and found Hesselberg. A summit that appeared to have really easy access and again would give me 6 points. Neither of these summits have winter bonus points.

For these activations I would not be testing out any new antennas, rather relying on the old faithful SOTABeams linked dipole and the Lambdahalbe 6 metre squid pole. As I now always re-charge and re-pack all equipment when I get back from an activation, I only needed to check my two bags to see what was in them and remove what was not needed. I would add my pack-up the following day and then set off at about 10am hoping to be back by 4pm.

The Locations:

Both Summits lie north of Augsburg in the direction of Ulm and are around a 2hr. drive north from my home QTH. I decided to go to Hesselberg first as I had not yet activated that summit and it “seemed” to be easy to get to. Using the NAVI to find the shortest route about 40% of the route was on Autobahn or large roads and 60% on small country back-roads. Since I have loaded in all SOTA summits in Germany into my car navigator I planned to simply follow its directions. I did, however also print out the Google Maps routes to and between each summit, in case I lost GPS coverage as happened on the last outing.

The Activation:

DM/BM-135 Hesselberg

The weather over the previous week had been cold but sunny with morning fog clearing around 9am. This day was no different and I set off at the planned 10am. The further north I drove however, the darker the skies got and once past Augsburg, it was obvious that the weather was not going to be sunny. In fact quite the opposite, I had rain, mist and generally grey weather all the way to the first summit, Hesselberg, which after about 2.5 hours driving was sat in low clouds as you will see from the slide show below. There was actually snow on the ground in the car park. However this IS an easy access summit, also suitable for people with disabilities. The track up to the summit from the car park is about 60 metres (although the sign says 100m). On the summit there is a solid wooden picnic table with benches and the information panels make good supports for the squid pole mast. There is also a TV transmitter tower on this summit but although it couldn’t be more than 50 metres away, I could only see parts of it through the clouds. I am sure the views from this summit are normally fantastic but on this day it was simply a wall of white in all directions!

I had planned to activate on both 40 metres and 20 metres however 40 metres was the best band for propagation. It was impossible to find a completely free frequency and I ended up on a frequency where two russian speaking stations were having a local chat. Despite that (and I’m sure I didn’t disturb them with my lowly 30 watts and a dipole) I managed a good run of 16 contacts around Europe and then finished off with an S2S with John EI2KA/P and two other UK contacts on 20 metres before deciding to pack up. When I took the antenna down ice had formed all the way along the thin wire. No wonder I was also feeling cold and welcomed the fact that it was less than 5 minutes to get back to the car in the car park.

DM/BM-226 Dürrenberg

The journey from Hesselberg to Dürrenberg took longer than expected, partly due to the weather (which hadn’t improved) and partially due to road works requiring a slight change of route. I did however eventually get to the same place that I parked the last time that I had activated the summit, unpacked my gear from the park and started the 15 minute slog up the road (which is closed off with a locked barrier as this used to be a military installation). It was good that I knew the route as that low cloud / fog was still there and I could not see the summit from the bottom of the road. Visibility was probably down to 3 metres in some parts of the walk up the hill.

Dürrenberg is a wooden summit, which is generally bad from a radio point of view and also finding support for the mast to carry the Inverted-V dipole, however I already knew what I was going to do. The underground parts of this installation had air vent pipes coming out of the ground in the woods and these are perfect for attaching the 6m squiddy to with my rubber straps.

At this time, I started to think it was not as cold on Dürrenberg as on Hesselberg however I was wrong and by the time I finished the activation, I could feel the effects of Hypothermia, having difficulty concentrating and being slow at doing things.

On checking spots I could see the majority of activity was on 40 metres rather than 20 metres so I started there with two S2S contacts right away – one with Mike 2E0YYY on Gun and another with Esther GIOAZA over in Northern Ireland. The band was not nearly as busy as it had been on Hesselberg so it was easy to find a free frequency and I put out a CQ to receive a flow of 12 chasers from all around Europe in the next 15 minutes. There was no sign of the VK6 S2S that Mike and I had hoped to catch via short path unfortunately and 10 minutes of calling CQ on 20 metres brought no responses at all – that band had completely closed. By this time I was behind schedule for my return journey it was dark and I was feeling the cold now, so I packed up and returned to the car. the route home was quite different to the one I had used to drive to the area but after 2.5 hours driving (which seemed a lot longer), I arrived home at 5:30pm, glad to be safely home.

Photos:

Hesselberg:

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Dürrenberg:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Highly modified Ramsey amplifier

SOTABeams linked dipole.

6 metre portable squid pole.

“Spy Glasses” for video recording (not used in the cold).

Logs:

DM/BM-135 Hesselberg:

activator-logDM/BM-226 Dürrenberg:

activator-logConclusions:

I need to consider the dangers of activating in the cold and wet. Hypothermia is a real danger as it driving a long distance when tired.

73 ’til the next Summit!