This took a few changes to complete.

  • Summit height: 774m
  • Transportation: driving + hiking
  • Rig: KX2, 10W, internal battery
  • Antenna: LNR EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly, inverted V configuration on Lambdahalbe 6m telescopic mast
  • QSOs: 1 on 20m and 4 on 40m, all SSB

Together with the wife and baby, we initially headed out to HB/ZH-015. The baby fell asleep in the car, so we changed course to HB/ZH-004 which was further out and thus would allow for a longer nap. HB/ZH-003 was even further in the same direction, so we headed to that. Once almost there, we realized that the access road is not driveable and, given that we weren’t ready for a 1h+ hike with a baby, went back to HB/ZH-004. Once there, a surprise: there was an openair cinema ongoing, which resulted in a whole lot of people and cars and nowhere to park nearby. Almost defeated, we were ready to head back home but had another look at the map and noticed that HB/ZH-020 was nearby and went to have a look.

This time there was nobody around and the summit was reachable after a short hike. We started setting up, with a different antenna as compared to the previous activation: a lighter 6m mast instead of the 10m, and a SOTAbeams Bandspringer Midi instead of the LNR endfed. Not being used to the antenna it took longer than usual to raise, although with my wife’s help it went smoothly.

Once on the air, I spotted myself and started calling CQ on 20m. Called, called, and… nothing! Similar results on 40m. It didn’t seem like anybody could hear me, and there was no way to check. I wished I had brought a Morse key – I’m not sure if my CW is good enough for an activation, but I could have at least used the reverse beacon to see if my signals were making it out.

After a few more minutes of fruitless CQs, we took the antenna down and replaced it with the trusty LNR endfed. After what felt like a long time calling CQ on 40m again, SP9AMH finally came back for the first QSO of the activation. I could barely hear him, though, and he also gave me a fairly weak signal report (44). Switching to 20m I got a second QSO with HB9BHW, who was close enough that I suspect it was groundwave propagation. A bunch more CQs later I started wondering whether this would be my first failed activation.

Switching to 40m again, I noticed that SWR was quite high. The LNR trail friendly uses a trap for 40m and needs careful length setting, which I hadn’t bothered to do so far and now it was likely costing me in efficiency. I turned on the KX2’s internal ATU, knowing that I’m just papering over the problem. However, once I started calling again SP9AMH jumped in again to say I was a 57 now, so at least things improved a little. After another half hour of persistent calling I managed to rack up 3 more QSOs, for a total of 5. Yay, success!

Despite all the back and forth, this was a fun activation and it was really enjoyable to drive through the scenic Z├╝rcher Oberland. It’s hard to tell whether the difficulty in getting QSOs was due to the antenna setup, dense vegetation around, bad propagation conditions, a combination thereof, or something else entirely.

Lessons learned:

  • check road accessibility
  • check for events
  • test antennas beforehand
  • bring an antenna analyzer or at least trim them to size before leaving
  • bring a Morse key even if not planning a CW activation
  • persistence pays off!