As many saturdays before, we decided to head out in to nature. (Since we knew the day would be mostly grey and dark we did not bring the Go Pro)
We made our way up to the HB/SG-060, passed some military training bunkers and though a beautiful forrest. As we reached the first stage in hight we went on trough a little snow and ice. We were happy to be outside and to smell the fresh air.
Little did we know what this day had in store for us!
On the summit heavy wind did pick up and we setup the radio a little below the highest point where we were less exposed to the wind.
As soon as we turned on the radio we noticed our Antenna (HB9 CV Beam for 2m) had a very bad SWR.
We noticed a strange dent in the cable. We had covered the sensitive parts at the end of the cable with silicone some time ago. we were able to flatten out the dent in the cable and startet our activation.
It wasn’t long before the wind has blown over our Antenna mid QSO! We managed to set it up again. This happened 3 times during that activation…
After a 30min activation we had to leave the first summit. (To make it in time to Summit Nr 2)
Once we reached the second summit we got some very mixed reports and now we were sure that there must be something wrong with our cable.
The wind got colder and colder and soon it started to rain.
We decided to stay until we managed to have a short QSO with all the chasers that we heared.
Our paper log was completly vet and when writing new entries the pen startet to break the paper.
The temperature must have been just high enough to let it rain and not snow…
What a disaster activation!
Now we know where the bad SWR came from - Our cable was completly broken :
I guess, all is well that ends well.
The cable is now fixed and ready for the next activation.
But I have to say in the past year we never had such serious problems. But there is a first time for everything!
We are glad and thankful that the chasers were patient and the activstions were a success
Congrats for having managed to more or less overcome the problems and qualify the activation.
We all have probably experienced some kind of problems during an activation. They are a good thing as they force us to improvise and find a solution, which is a good necessary skill for life in general and SOTA in particular.
In my case , I remember having problems with my power supply wires or connectors, also with coax cable connection to antenna, with morse paddle key cable, etc… but I think I have always managed to overcome the problems and qualify the activation. I remember when I activated one of the two only ten pointers in my region and after installing the HF antenna, I found that SWR was infinite on any frequency and I could copy nothing. At the end of the day, I saved the activation with my 2m HH and I later found once at home an open circuit in the coax to HF antenna connection.
Well, keep smiling/laughing at any inconvenient you may face in the future and you’ll surely overcome them all.
It’s interesting to see by pictures the situation at a counterparty’s location. It was nice to have you met both today on FM from Selibüel, HB/BE-151. It seems that your strong wind was at my summit first, but my antenna remained erected fortunately!
Highly motivated to collect some winter bonus points, I grabbed my FT-817 and headed towards Mulhouse, in order to activate le Molkenrain FL/VO-017. At the turnoff from the main road, there was a closed barrier so I couldn’t proceed towards the parking lot.
I then decided against walking the extra 2.2 km and proceeded to the Grand Ballon FL/VO-001. It was no problem to hike up the path from the parking lot, but on the summit it was extremely windy, so I couldn’t properly set up any antenna.
There is a monument still within the AZ which provided some shelter, so I decided to go for a rapid deployment activation using a vertical with an antenna tuner, only to find out that the Z817 automatic tuner wasn’t working Without being able to tune, I checked the SWR on all bands with the vertical and found out that both on 30m and 17m, it was acceptable. Within half an hour, I managed one QSO on each band.
Unwilling to give up the 13 points, I then did a quick and dirty deployment of my EFHW, setting it up as an inverted L with the 20 section blowing in the wind like a flag. (Sorry for the QSB… ) This got me my 3rd QSO. Since I did not get any more replies on 20m for a while, I added the 40m section the same way, and finally managed to secure the activation with 2 more QSOs. --> 5 QSOs in one hour in ç%*"& weather conditions with degraded equipment.
I am sure this summit hates me: On both activations I did there, it was extremely windy and I had issues with my equipment. (The first time both cables of my palm mini paddle were broken). Back at home I checked the tuner and found out that one of the batteries had become loose in the holder, thus there was no supply voltage…
Another unpleasant surprise: From last year’s autumn SOTA trip, I remember a few nice easy access 10 pointers along the route des crêtes, which looked appealing to me for collecting winter bonus points. (Currently there is not much snow in the area yet, and Santa brought me a pair of snowshoes) However, starting from the Grand Ballon, the road is now closed for winter so there’s no easy access to these summits
What a story!
I can relate to these activations where you seem to wait forever to reach a station and barely are able to make 4 QSO. In my case it was mostly due to the location itself or if we reached the summit to early. (I think either people are sleeping in or have to go buy groceries on saturday morning🤔)
I`m happy for you that the you were able to successfully activate the summit after all!
Yes I know what you mean. The most unconfortable activations to me are the ones where it already starts raining on the way up to the summit. I bought a nice rain jacket since then also rainy days can be good activation days
Just an advice about your silicone protection on your cable. Be aware that some silicone contains acetic acid that is corrosive.
I have done this bad experiment on 2m 1/4 wave for my car. After building, it has worked very well. But after some months I noticed that it worked worse and worse. After autopsy of the antenna, I noticed that the silicone had completely “eaten” the antenna at the connection point on the PL259.
following the picture with the broken connection I’m wonder about the plug. It seems to be for crimping. But it seems it was soldered to the outer conductor of the cable. In this way you have only a low protection against torsion between the cable and the plug. A stronger torsion could break this connection. This could be one reason for your problem. I strongly recommend to use a better plug like this. With such a plug you don’t need an additional water protection on the cable site.
Thank you for bringing this potential problem with the silicone to my attention.
I will inform HB9PIM about that.
It is his equipment I did not buy any “heavy gear” until now. (I’m currently focused on building an antenna stand )
The recommended plug looks very interesting, this may be an option for the future if it is available as “N” model.
Before we used silicone we tried it with shrinking tube, but it will never shrink on all points in an acceptable way, there always will be the section behind the plug where there is still air between cable and tube.
Then we tried the electrical tapes the problem there was the devastating effect of sun vs. low temperature.
Silicone seemed to be a good alternative.
I will check out the liquid electrical tape, thank you for recommending that, i have never seen something like that. (But then I’m a beginner and have a lot to learn )
Thank you all for your help, this is much appreciated!
Fit the heat shrink tube over the cable / connector but do not apply heat. Instead use a Hot-melt PVA glue gun and inject hot PVA glue into the heat shrink. The glue will cause the heat shrink to shrink and will trap the glue inside around the joints. It provides a water proof seal and also provides mechanical strength as well. It works for me but doesn’t always look beautiful. Function over form in this case
Well they seem to last longer for me. But I spent some time working for a UK defence company where we knew that cables and connectors were the biggest failure points and so I try to treat cables gently so they last longer.
And i completely agree, i also try to handle any equipment with as much care as possible.
Even more so if it is not my own. I think the break could have happened during transportation in the backpack. It could make sense to store it in a separated container and not just loose.
(It is always on top and never underneath other objects but maybe that is not save enough)
Heh, torn cables…
I once tripped over my antenna cable during band change and sent my radio flying. RG174 was pulled out of crimped PL259. Fortunately I didn’t leave the house without my multitool. I was able to strip the cable, jam the center conductor into the socket using a piece of wood and connect the braid to the grounding screw. SWR meter didn’t move and activation was rescued!
But I had to finish two activations before they really started because of sudden high SWR. In both cases the culprit was broken antenna wire. In one case it was torn off the dipole center (it could be an easy fix but I somehow managed to miss it), but in the other case the antenna wire was broken inside the insulation. The insulation had a tiny hole and wire corroded and broke.
Bad weather? In general I avoid activations if the weather forecast is bad. I might be brave enough to go hiking in less-than-ideal weather, but my XYL makes sure that we don’t make any stupid attempts.