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Was I heard? The story of 3 failed activation attempts

Following my spots did anyone try to hear me between 1500 and 1530 UTC today on DL/al-276 Attensberg?

I was unable to get any response to my CQ calls although I was hearing plenty on both 40m and 20m. I’d appreciate knowing if anyone heard me and called me. In that way I can decide if the problem is with the antenna or the new rig before tomorrow’s more important activation.

73 Ed.

Hi Ed,
I was QRV looking for you on 40m but didn’t hear anything. Neither your CQ nor any chasers calling you. Now I know there were no chasers…:frowning:
I remained on your spotted frequency waiting for something to hear until a couple or three strong EA stations started chatting. I kept listening to their QSO while I was checking and responding some e-mails waiting for a piece of furniture to be delivered to my QTH this afternoon. So long I waited that I forgot checking SOTAwatch again for some more possible spots of you or anybody else and I missed the one you raised for 20m. I saw it far too late, when you were not there anymore.
I’m very sorry to hear that you didn’t have a single QSO.
It’s really weird and there must be something wrong that you’ll have to figure out.
Good luck!
I hope to be able to chase you next time.
73,

Guru

Hi Ed,

I tried to find you but couldn’t hear anything although this may have been due to the inappropriate distance between us. But I didn’t hear any chasers either, which I found a bit surprising.

73, Sylvia
OE5YYN

Measure the output power of the rig now you’re home using the patch leads etc. you used. Check output frequency is same as the display. Doesn’t confirm it wasn’t playing BillySuggars on the hill but at least you know it is kosher now.

tried but heard nothing
Distance 59 km

73 de Mike, dj5av

From the evidence so far, I predict a CCR was being used.

Ed,

I was listening your freq hoping to hear you & nothing heard. But condx been poor in West Wales about a week to near EU from here IO72. I only managed to log EA3 7mhz & CT3 14mhz today.

Don GW0PLP.

I called CQ today on 7.0306 for ages and did not get picked up by the skimmers. Then I waited and called on 7.0304 and got picked up straight away. There seemed to be a lot of QRM from 7.031 - 7.040, it just got louder and louder as I tuned up the band.
de OE6FEG / M0FEU
Matt

Might be worth verifying that the transmit frequency is believable using a second radio to monitor. And that split mode is not enabled etc

Good luck.

Hi guys and thanks for all the input. I used the rig from home yesterday and frequency and tx signal output was OK as I worked into Holland.

My suspicion is the antenna. It’s only a loaded wideband vertical on a tripod however I have used it from the very same location last year and got contacts.

For tomorrows activation of Hochgrat I’m returning to the linked dipole and squid pole, hoping I can find somewhere to strap it to as I haven’t brought my screw-in-the-ground umbrella base along.

If Hochgrat goes OK I’ll still have time to activate Attensberg as the hotel where we are staying is 800 m away from that summit.

  1. Ed.
1 Like

I’ve seen reports else-Net suggesting that 40 metres (at least) was particularly poor at times today, so you may just have been unlucky in your timing…

That probably wouldn’t help if combined with a day when conditions were less than wonderful…

Also listened Ed, nothing heard …
Can you work on 60m maybe today ?
Luc

Unfortunately today was a total failure. Hochgrat - got to top of lift and visibility was at best 10 metres! It was in a mixture of cloud and freezing sleet. I asked the lift operator what he thought and he said it would be difficult to find the path. The danger being if I lost my sense of direction I could walk off the side of the mountain. It was a no-brainer - simply too dangerous to try for the summit. So I went and got a warm drink at the restaurant and then took the cable car back down. I’ll post some pics once I get home.
On returning to the hotel, I decided to have another go at Attensberg, this time with squid pole and linked dipole. This antenna has ALWAYS worked. After setting everything up, RX was fantastic but as soon as I tried to transmit, the SWR was constantly high. I checked the links and the antenna wire for any obvious breaks - nothing found. It could be the coax I suppose but here I don’t have any test instruments, so it’ll have to wait until I get home and then I can hopefully find the fault.
Three failed activation attempts in a row. Someone doesn’t want me to activate I think!

  1. Ed.

As you very well know and have clearly demonstrated, it’s never worthwhile assuming serious risks in the mountain, let alone when it’s just for the fun of playing our hobby.
So you definitely did RIGHT not attempting the hike to the summit in such WX conditions.

I’m so sorry about that. Three failed attempts in a row is too much and perhaps you need to invest some time and effort double checking everything in your SOTA-kit before going out to another SOTA activation. Firstly in the shack for the rig and coax cable connectors, etc. Then on some local field to be able to try the complete SOTA-kit including aerial.

I wish you good luck. It will probably be some silly thing like a short circuit in a PL-259 or BNC…

73,

Guru

Hi Guru,
Part of the reason for the first activation was to test the equipment in preparation for the second, more difficult and higher scoring activation. The first test, to my mind proved that the Bazoka Pro mobile HF wideband whip on a tripod, is not a reliable way to go. Even though it had worked acceptably from exactly the same location the previous year. My fall-back was the SOTABeams Linked-dipole that has served me very, very well on many activations and was what I used on my 5 summits in a day activations about 10 days previously.

The second activation was stopped on safety grounds due to lack of visibility on Hochgrat, so that was not an equipment related cancellation:

This was for the Ski Slope from the top station of the lift.

This is what I could see there - about 10m visibility - IF that!

And I wasn’t that far away!

On returning to the hotel, I decided to attempt Attensberg again, this time with the squid pole and SOTABeams linked dipole - that has to work “it always does”. Not this time - after setting everything up, the rig indicated that the SWR was “through the roof”. I visually inspected the antenna and could not find any fault so had to abort that activation as well.

I’ll look into this and the other problems now that I am home.

Previously I have carried two bags on SOTA activations in some cases giving me a second backup of major components like the antenna however given the fact that I wasn’t sure of how much I could carry up Hochgrat, I reduced to one small rucksack.

Realistically I was just unlucky with these activations but it started to feel as if, they weren’t meant to happen! I had no more time to try again in any case.

I now need to concentrate on getting everything working for the S2S event on the 10th. of March. You can be sure, I’ll be back to the two bag configuration with duplicate back-up options for rig and antenna for that 10 pointer!

73 Ed.

2 Likes

Was this with the 817, Ed?

I found the antenna problem from yesterday on the linked dipole. I was pretty convinced it was the coax but I was wrong! Just as the antenna wire leaves the 20m link, it had broken inside the wire insulation (I must have kinked it too far at some point). There was nothing at all visible but when I put my multimeter on and did an end to end test, continuity was lacking. I then went stage by stage until I found the break and once I pulled it a little - out came the short length of wire! All repaired now and I’ve gone through and totally checked both sides of the dipole for any other problems.

Of course, if I had known this was the problem, I could have activated on 20m yesterday but there was no visible break and I had, probably had enough in any case, with the wasted morning because of the weather and the cold temperatures.

The rig was the Xiegu X108G Andrew, but it would not have made any difference had it been the FT817 in any case as it was a physical break in the wire in the antenna. It shows you just can’t trust even the things that have worked faultlessly for many activations. In fact with the 817, I might not have noticed the bad SWR as I don’t usually have the meter set to that whereas on the Xiegu, it shows power and SWR on the same display.

Ed.

1 Like

OK, yes it is difficult to notice antenna problems if you don’t have a continuous swr indicator. Though I do find if you know how the output power meter operates into a good load, you can often see that something is wrong when output power seems unusally high or low.

Reason for asking about 817 was that I have myself committed the sin of transmitting into the wrong (unconnected) antenna socket a few times and it behaves exactly like your experience. No answers despite many calls. But in that case the band is oddly very quiet!

The 817’s feature of having two antenna sockets selectable by band group, is nice but sometimes inconvenient. Memorising the xtended setup screen sequence (it’s actually in alphabetic order but you need to know the name of the setting) is essential for making a quick check of the Antenna selection. A is for antenna.

When I activated G/NP-028 (?) the 40m band was strangely quieter than I expected it would be. I later found that a connector was faulty and that meant one side of the dipole was at the 20m length and the other was set correctly for 40m. This made it good for a band where 15m was a half wave, yes 30m band would have been close, but offcentre fed so impedance a bit high.

Wade vk1fwbd (soon a new standard call) showed me his very compact and inexpensive antenna analyser. It would be a handy tool on a summit where you don’t want to take your AA-700 out to play!

Hope it all is fixed now Ed.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

Hi Andrew,
Good point on the 817. I have mine set to use the BNC socket on all bands and have a screw on cover over the SO239 on the back of the rig. True with a bad SWR less output power would be shown, but often the display is difficult to read in bright light levels - which this time I had because of refection off the snow.

The receive side, even with a break in one side of the antenna seemed as loud as normal, but I had presumed a similar problem (beak in the coax) as you describe. As it turns out it wasn’t though. In any case, problem found and fixed.

As for an antenna analyser - the Xiegu has one built in and after seeing the high VSWR, I ran that and it was clear the antenna was faulty. I wish I had tried the analyser with the rig on 20 metres though, as that would have been OK to use but I didn’t as I had decided the problem was with the coax and hence all bands would be affected.
I believe both YouKits and Shark (?) have small analysers that are great for use on activations but having an SWR trace built into the rig is even better. I have just heard of a customised version of the Xiegu from an American company that actually now has a spectrum scope display option.

Keeping my fingers crossed for Wade and the standard upgrade!

73 Ed.

Watch out if you have a YouKits FG01 and take it out /p. Make sure that the battery is secure!
The crystal used in it stands proud of the rest of the components used, and if the battery comes loose, it WILL rip the crystal, and its pcb tracks off the pcb!

Don
m0hcu