DD5LP/P – January 8th 2020 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg – Intending to test new speech compressor.

Preparation:

As we are now in a new year (2020) all the summits I activated last year, will furnish activators points again, and some, such as Peissenberg, 3 winter bonus points as well.

I have recently bought a DYC-817 speech processor “kit” from FunkAmateur/Box73 and modified it to work with my Xiegu X108G transceiver (they are wired to work with the Yaesu FT8x7 range of transceivers normally). I have tried using this unit on a previous activation and I did not get the expected results. Following this I have been involved in a thread on the SOTA reflector where others are also trying to get the unit to work correctly – some with great success.

As Mike, 2E0YYY had arranged to go out on the 8th of January as the weather forecast looked good in the UK (after some recent rainy days) and he had lined up skeds with Jonathan VK7JON, Ernie VK3DET and John VK6NU to listen for him, we agreed I’d tag-on to the schedule and activate Peissenberg at the same time as he was on Shining Tor in the UK.

I would test the speech processor now that I had the controls inside the unit set where others had had success and at the same time, perhaps manage an S2S with Mike in the UK and contacts also into Australia.

As I was not going to use the VP2E antenna, to keep the things being tested to a minimum, so while I would still use the HF amplifier I would rely on the good old linked dipole antenna and 6-metre fishing pole mast. Then the only variable from items that I know work would be the speech processor.

The Activation:

The 40 minute run down to Peissenberg went without any problems. This time I had decided to go back to my usual location, right on the summit beside the church, as I didn’t need the room to put up the VP2E.

Here’s a 360-degree picture of the bench location by the church, on the exact summit thanks to Google maps: https://maps.app.goo.gl/nGJb47z2JbqHpMen7

Upon arrival, I checked the Internet connectivity via my phone and was surprised to see an indication of 4G+ on my phone on both networks that I have (Telekom and Vodafone) – so no spotting problems on this activation, the internet access was really “snappy”. I wonder if they have installed 5G already in this location and as my phone is “only” 4G capable it was indicating this? This was certainly the first time I had seen 4G+ on the phone and the network was stable the whole time I was on the summit.

After setting up the station on my usual bench (about 30 minutes earlier than I had alerted for) I tuned around 20 metres and found activity from Russia and Italy – so nothing out of the ordinary but more importantly the band wasn’t dead.

I found a free frequency of 14.290 MHz (which for most of my time on the summit, stayed clear of QRM), spotted myself and started calling CQ. I actually started with the speech compressor in circuit but turned off and using it with my Leson amplified microphone that I have re-wired to look like a Yaesu Microphone.

First CQ call, no response, second call no response, so I checked my spot was up – yes no issues there. After 15 minutes of getting no calls, I decided to take the whole speech compressor set up out of circuit and plugged in just the standard Xiegu microphone. Another self spot on SOTAWatch and I got my first call – Lars SA4BLM from Sweden called and gave me a 5-5 report. When I asked him about the audio, he said it was strong but occasionally with a little crackling. Given that this was with the standard microphone, and that I wanted to get 4 contacts in the log to get the summit’s points, I decided to leave it at that and see if anyone else was hearing me now. They were, Lars was followed by Jack OH3GZ – a booming 5-9 signal which he also said I was. The next contact was with Jose EA7GV in Spain who was even stronger than Jack, so the band was definitely opening up! Number 4 contact to get the summit points was a surprise – it was John ZL1BYZ from New Zealand “You BUTE!”. We exchanged 5-3/4-2 reports but I knew it was John’s antenna system that was doing all the work. He is often the first ZL SOTA Chaser to come back to calls from EU. He has a good station and good ears! After John, there was a call from Hans SM4CJM where we exchanged 5-7 reports. About 15 minutes later I heard John ZL1BYZ working Mike 2E0YYY in the UK and while I couldn’t hear Mike, John had gone up to a good 5-5 signal!

For the next 45 minutes, I couldn’t “buy” a contact and signals that had been strong were suddenly weak and later strong again. Looking at Propquest when I got home, it seems the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) was bouncing up and down like a Yo-Yo around this time and sometimes dropping below 14MHz, which would, of course, explain the stations disappearing.

During these 45 minutes, I also took a listen for Ernie VK3DET who I had an email conversation running with and we “blind called” each other. Based on the contact with John in New Zealand, this should have been about the right time to have got a contact but it was not to be. I also heard nothing from VK7JON or VK6NU either (but in John VK6NU’s case, it may have been too early for Western Australia).  Interspersed with my attempts for a contact into VK, I was also putting out CQ calls and also listening on Mike 2E0YYY/P’s frequency. Nothing!

During my time on the summit, I had two different couples come up and ask what I was doing, so they got an introduction in Amateur Radio and a brochure in German.

It was 50 minutes after my last contact that I got another call and that was from Christos SV2OXS down in Greece. I had activated this very summit with Christos when he was visiting Bavaria two years earlier, so he commented that he remembered the summit.

Jack OH3GZ then called me again and asked if I was still on the same summit as my signal had dropped considerably and I could confirm that I was indeed still on the same summit. Jacks signal, although still easily readable was down from the earlier good S9 to an S5 level, so the band was dancing all over the place.  After Jack, Ricardo EA1DHB came in with a good solid 5-9 signal and gave me a 5-4.

All of this time, I had not had the opportunity to get any reports on the speech processor as the signals were varying too much. For some of my CQ calls, I put the processor in, some not. In any case, none of my SOTA contacts were made with the speech compressor in place – so I still don’t know if it works!

After being active for almost an hour, I decided to take one last listen for Mike 2E0YYY/P and suddenly he was there at about 5-7, so I gave him a call and we made the contact. 3 minutes later, he was gone again, I couldn’t hear anything from him, only the chasers calling him. Strange band conditions indeed.

A quick last spot and CQ call and then it was time to pack up and head back to the car.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G 20w HF transceiver (running at 3w)

50/70watt HF portable linear amplifier

LambdaHalbe 6 Metre telescopic “Squid Pole” mast.

SOTABeams “band hopper” linked dipole antenna at about 5m AGL in inverted-V format.

Painters plastic sheet.

Battery Box with 2 x 5Ah 4S LIPO hard-case batteries

Smartphone using PocketRxTx app to control and display the X108G display

Log:

Conclusions:

The main purpose of the activation was to test out the speech processor – that was not possible with the 20m band the way it was. The contact into New Zealand was a nice bonus but why wasn’t I able to get through to the VK stations?

Coldness (even in the sunshine) remains a limiting factor to the length of my activations. If I had been able to stay another hour the contact into VK3 may have been possible, even though those into VK3 and VK7 failed. A small tent could help with this problem but it needs to be one that is an instant pop-up type as I wouldn’t put it up if a lot of time is needed. It would not work at the bench location at Piessenberg but it would in the field near the lower car park.

I was using the bench effectively as my table for the radio equipment but I ended up crouching in front of it, which was uncomfortable. I have some small lightweight camping stools in the car, which I need to think about bringing up to the summit next time.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – May 31st 2019 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg – hoping for contact into VK with VP2E antenna.

Preparation:

As Jonathan VK7JON was heading out with his wife to a beach in Tasmania to operate portable, Mike 2E0YYY, Bill F/G4WSB and I decided, despite the early hour that we would head out to some summits to see if we could get a contact via 40 metres long path.

Due to the early start needed to meet the long path window and Jonathan’s planned activation time, I chose Piessenberg even though I had already activated it three times this year.

There was also a chance to make a contact with Thomas operating as FR/F4HPX/P from Reunion Island off the coast of Mozambique on the 10 pointer FR/RE-004 summit about 30 minutes later (this most likely on 20 metres).

As I had updated my two VP2E antennas since getting back from Dayton, I decided it was best to check that they were still correctly resonant on their bands (one is 40/20m and the other 20/17m). This I did on Thursday (the day before the activation) and thankfully all was fine (if you are interested in this antenna, the full design details and my tests are documented on this website under Equipment/Antennas/HB9SL Vp2E antenna).

The Activation:

The 40 minute run down to Peissenberg went without any problems only when I arrived, there was a surprise. The car park was not there any more! It was covered with an enormous marque tent, such as sometimes are used for large wedding receptions. Luckily there was still some parking space off the road at the end (near the woodwork statue) and the area that I wanted to use (on the grass field at the side of the car park) was still clear. So I parked and then carried everything to one of the convenient bench seats.

 After setting the antenna and station up, while tuning around looking 40 metres for a free frequency I came across this strange transmission on the band.

I initially checked if 7090kHz was free, spotted my self and started putting out a CQ. after about 10 minutes of no contacts a CW station started up on the frequency. While this is the QRP channel, it is well outside of the normal CW area of the band. Given the slow speed of the morse, I guessed it was some form of CW teaching class and decided to go and find a different free frequency.

I ended up on 7163 kHz between two other stations as the band was quite busy. I was able to keep this frequency for the whole time I was active, however, so that worked out well. Perhaps as it was still silly-early there were not that any callers to start with and I wondered if in fact, I was getting out OK? I could certainly hear stations. I took a tune around and found GJ/OQ7A/P on an IOTA DXPedition on “The Minkies” in the Channel Islands. As he was not getting any responses to his CQ calls I gave him a call and we had a short chat proving that we were both getting out and it was the lack of chasers that was the problem. I then went back to my 7163kHz frequency and got a slow run of callers from around Europe, including an S2S call from Bill F/G4WSB/P on FL/VL-001. Mike 2E0YYY/P also called in, he had chosen to go to a closer HEMA summit rather than a SOTA one, so this didn’t count as an S2S contact in SOTA terms but a nice short chat in any case. In the ten stations that I worked there were both a few new calls and a few of the old reliable chasers. It was interesting that with some of the stations they were weaker than usual, while others were stronger. This I put down to the direction I had set up the VP2E antenna as it was “aimed” long path at VK. Unfortunately, even though Jonathan VK7JON managed a contact with Mike 2E0YYY in the UK, he never made it the whole way down to me which would have been another 1000 km and another skip off the Ionosphere. I was just thinking it might be time to take a listen for Thomas on Reunion Island as we had come to the end of the best possible part of the long path window to VK by this time and then I heard an engine. It was the local farmer coming across the field cutting the tall grass down. I managed to flag him down before he got to the antenna and told him I’d have it packed up and out of the way in 5 minutes. He was apologetic but explained that the field had to be cut at that time – hey it’s his field I’m in, he didn’t need to be apologetic. In any case, it was a nice meeting. He went off and cut another part of the field while I packed up and then came back to take care of that area. He said he wouldn’t be long and it would be fine if I wanted to set-up again in a few minutes. I thanked him but decided not to as it was already almost the time I was going to call it a day in any case.

That’s the first time my activation has been “cut short” as the antenna nearly was! in any case HI!

After packing up, it was a casual drive back home during which time it started to rain, so had I stayed longer, that would also have been with me.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G 20w HF transceiver

Surveyors large tripod

DX-Wire 10m “mini-mast”.

Homemade HB9SL VP2E antenna (Linked 40/20m).

Log:

Conclusions:

With the Kp Index still being between 2 & 3 from a CME that hit 48 hours earlier, some deep QSB and static cracks from the approaching storm, reception on 40m was never going to be good. I did hear at least one station calling me that I couldn’t make out in the noise. Another started but came up out of the noise so that I could work him, so with a LOT of luck and Jonathan calling me on my frequency – the contact “might” have been possible but it would have been a minimal contact, nothing like the 5-7 each way contact that he had with Mike 2E0YYY/P. That extra 1000 km and extra bounce off the Ionosphere make a big difference.

I continue to like the capability of putting the mast where I want it, with the surveyor’s tripod, despite its size and weight. At Peissenberg, I only needed to carry it about 70 metres in any case.

The VP2E does appear to work well and I know have the ends raised off the ground using my walking poles, so that the wire doesn’t drop into the grass.

As it was still early and there was little sun to speak of, I was able to operate the X108G without having to plug my SmartPhone into it to use as an external larger and brighter screen.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – May 8th 2019 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg – testing equipment for US trip.

Preparation:

as I intend visiting Hamvention in the US this month, I have also planned in an activation of a summit in the US for my SOTA Mountain Explorer award. That of course comes with some restrictions and the “normal” SOTA kit is going to be too heavy and take up too much space to take on the plane.

Seven years ago I made up some very lightweight end-fed half wave antennas for a trip from Australia to Europe where I had similar space and weight restraints. At that time however I hadn’t being doing SOTA for very long, so these were some of my first antennas for SOTA.

For the transmitter, I decided it would be easier to take my 5 watt FT-817ND rather than my Xiego X108G 20 watt transmitter, given the current aversion to Chinese products by the US Government (and possible questionable FCC approval). The Yaesu will have all of the US approvals while the Chinese unit may not.

So that will be the configuration; the FT817ND and the EFHW antennas for 40m and 20m matched to the 50 ohm antenna port on the rig using a small “Miracle Antenna” ATU unit.

I checked the antennas at home on the antenna analyser and they seem fine still after so many years of no use but I needed to check the complete configuration out at a site that would be somewhat similar to what I expect at the W8O/CT-001 Campbell Hill summit in Ohio. (Please listen for me and the rest of the ICQPodcast team around 1600 UTC on Sunday May 19th).

I chose Piessenberg for this. Not my usual location at the absolute summit, alongside the church but in the car park a little further down the hill, which is still in the activation zone and with a parking arae and a few trees is similar to what I expect at Campbell Hill.

The Activation:

Despite the fact it was cold and drizzling from time to time, it turned out to be a magic activation! My expectations of the antennas were not great before starting and the activation didn’t start well, with me throwing the throw bag too hard and it wrapping it’s cord around two branches. Luckily I had brought the standard gear with me as backup and I took the 6m fishing pole out and used that to untangle the mess I had made. After that I threw the bag with less force and all was fine.

In a quarter of an hour I had 10 chasers call me on 40m, two of those were S2S calls. These came from pretty well most directions around Europe with (true) reports given from 3-3 to 5-9 – even the 3-3 got revised to 5-5 as the QSB came up and the QRM went down.

Taking the 40m antenna down and putting the 20m one up took about 15 minutes and once on 20m I had problems getting calls, so I tuned around and found the IOTA DXPedition station TM5FI who came back to my first call and we exchanged 5-9 reports – I don’t know if this was a true report, however the station after me only got a 5-6, so I think it might have been. A few more 20m CQs raised reliable Lars SA4BLM in Sweden who gave me a 5-3.

With just five watts and simple antennas only about 3m AGL in the lower tree branches at one end and on the bench seat at the rig end – I’m really surprised (and happy) with the results!

I had just one job to do when I returned home – I had managed to snap the 40m antenna while winding it up. I use printed circuit board patching wire (about 28 swg) for the antennas which make them REALLY compact and light to carry but one downside is that the wire breaks easily.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND

Home made end-fed halfwave antennas for 20m & 40m.

“Miracle Antenna” ATU.

Throw bag and cord.

Log:

Conclusions:

I start to wonder if the bigger heavy antennas I normally use are worth the extra effort when I get such good results with the simple antennas. Conditions weren’t great either. OK but not great.

What is clear is that this ultra-small configuration still works and will be what I take to the US in a weeks time.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – February 18th 2019 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg – another 40m long path attempt.

Preparation:

Following the debacle the previous week where I got to my summit 30 minutes after the 40m long path to Australia had closed, I decided to go to a summit, where I knew I would not be delayed in getting there and could be set-up well in time for any chance of contacts into VK/ZL.

The chosen summit was one of my more local summits – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg. This is a drive-on summit with its own car park and a road that is kept open as it also leads to the governmental weather monitoring stations.

I decided to rely on a known antenna, mast and radio and would use my normal location at Peissenberg, despite the fact that for long path I would be firing directly through the church which sits on the very summit. It has worked before, so why not again – not the perfect set-up but a reliable one that I knew I would be on the air with in good time.

Everything was packed and ready to go the night before and the alarm set.

The Activation:

I didn’t need to set the alarm as I was wide awake an hour earlier than I needed to be. Preparation to leave home was therefore a casual, rather than a rushed action. Although still cold initially once the sun was to come out, things would warm up. Despite that I went with my winter jacket but before the activation was finished I had taken it off and even just in the sweatshirt I was feeling a little warm.

The sunrise occurred while I was driving my, well-known by now, route and after arriving parking and walking the 500m to the usual set-up point, looking across the valley I could see the last of the sun rising into a blue, almost cloudless sky. This hasn’t happened on my activations for a long time, but sure enough – it was a wonderful few hours in nice sunny weather and no longer sub-zero. A real spring-like day.

I soon got the mast and SOTABeams linked dipole up with the links set for 40 metres – this was going to be a 40m only activation.

One of my first contacts was Mike 2E0YYY on “Gun” in the UK, he had a good signal this time – the previous week, I couldn’t even hear him. The contacts flowed early on and via email I knew Ernie VK3DET was listening but not hearing Mike or myself. Between the European contacts I specifically took a listen for VK/ZL stations and at one point I heard what I think was a ZL station but not strong enough to work them. I also listened in to Mike’s QSO with John ZL1BYZ and could hear him fine, unfortunately when Mike asked him to listen for me, he could not hear me. At one point I could hear Ernie VK3DET calling Mike but not strong enough for me to try for a contact. There was a lot of QSB on the band and I had to move a couple of times due to QRM from stations on nearby frequencies. added to thi the fact that my remote control USB connection would lock-up leaving me the only option of turning the rig off and back on was annoying to say the least.

The fact that it was a beautiful sunny morning and that I did in fact get 39 contacts around Europe made it a nice activation however just one contact into VK or ZL would have made it perfect.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole.

6 metre fibreglass “Squid Pole”.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

Conclusions:

The propagation wasn’t there to enable long path contacts for me on 40m. Perhaps 20m would have been better? Perhaps being at the other side of the church would have increased my chances?

Although having the display from the radio’s functions on the smart phone screen is a big improvement, the fact that the USB link is susceptible to RF causing lock-ups will need to be addressed asap.

73 ’til the next Summit!

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

Preparation:

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to the Location:

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

The Activation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos:

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G (20w).

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

SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole.

Aerial-51 Off Centre Fed dipole 404-UL.

6 metre fibreglass “Squid Pole”.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

Conclusions:

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

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

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

73 ’til the next Summit!

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

Preparation:

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

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

The Location:

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

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

The Activation:

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

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

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

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Ramsey HF amplified (30w on 40m).

SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole.

6 metre fibreglass “Squid Pole”.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

Conclusions:

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

73 ’til the next Summit!

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

Preparation:

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

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

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

The Location:

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

The Activation:

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

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

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

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

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

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

Lambdahalbe 6m fibreglass mast.

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

Log:

Conclusions:

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

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

73 ’til the next Summit!

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

Preparation:

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

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

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

The Location:

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

The Activation:

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

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

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

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

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams Bandhopper linked dipole.

Lambdahalbe 6m fibreglass mast.

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

Log:

Conclusions:

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

73 ’til the next Summit!

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

Preparation:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Location:

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

The Activation:

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my report publshed on ARNewsline and WIA NEWS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

< the audio clip was played here >

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

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

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

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Modified Ramsey power amplifier.

SOTAbeams linked dipole.

6 metre “lambdahalbe” fibreglass mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet

Log:

activator-logChart of all stations talking part:

chart-of-stations-taking-partConclusions:

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

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

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

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

73 ’til the next Summit!

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

Preparation.

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

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

The Location:

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

The Activation.

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

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

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

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole.

5 metre squid pole.

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

Log:

Activator Log

Conclusions:

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

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

73 ’til the next Summit!