Hello and Welcome!

Hello and welcome! I'm Dzianis, a licensed radio ham holding the callsign DD1LD. I love to take this hobby with me wherever I may roam. The blog "QTC de DD1LD" means "Messages From Me" and reflects my ham radio activities and projects. I barely have time to write everything down, so I blog occasionally, and mainly, for myself. You can subscribe to the blog below to receive updates when new posts are available. 73 and enjoy reading!

Featured post

GoGreen XOTA

GoGreen XOTA? What on earth does it mean? There are thousands of ham radio operating awards available, some of them offer a great way to...

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Watzmann Full House

I made Watzmann crossing and first activated DL/BG-039, Watzmann Mittelspitze and DL/BG-040 Watzmann Suedspitze back to September 2009. I guess I was waiting long enough for activation of its little brother DL/BG-067, Kleiner Watzmann, 2307m. I was wondering why there were no takers so far!? Now I know why, there's something to be said for that, the route is fair challenging and long. Now, 9 years later I crossed the Kleiner Watzmann and first activated the little brother and, by this, completed my Watzmann Full House on September 9th, 2018. And I made it to the summit easy within 3 hours (from Hammerstiel).

What a sunny day! It was a nice and a lonely tour, I very enjoyed. A couple of climbers on the top.  The ascent was via the Kleiner Watzmann Nordgrat which was not easy to find, the way down was via the Mooslahnerkopf, 1815m.  I spent about 2 hours on the top enjoying every minute of being there. A great view towards the big Watzmann ridge and Steinernes Meer. The crossing of the Kleiner Watzmann requires good climbing skills and some experience, but, in summary, is technically easy. The main challenge for me were wet and slippery stones on the way down, not to mention the loose gravel.

 View towards the Steinernes Meer. 

Operating SOTA from the Kleiner Watzmann, DL/BG-067, 2307m. 
Watzmann Mittelspitze, DL/BG-039, 2713m in the backgrond.

SOTA as usual. A gust of wind blew down my antenna, it costed me some time to repair and erect it. I felt like chasers are becoming lazy more and more, most of them seem to heavily rely on SOTAwatch spots rather than to search and pounce (S&P). I spotted myself on 20m and announced to be on 30m and 40m later, however there were no takers on 30m despite my long CQing. So, I spotted myself on 30m and got a nice short run. I decided to omit self-spotting on 40m and gather a couple of QSOs on 40m by calling CQ like in good old days. I got 11 QSOs with major share of non-SOTA chasers, and guess what, no one spotted me on 40m. With a mixed feeling I sent QRT over the air and packed my rig away. Altogether 28 QSOs were logged.

Picturesque view towards the Mooslahnerkopf.

On the way to the Mooslahnerkopf. 

On the way down, I started questioning myself about why I still take my QRP radio station to the high mountains...  Should I leave it at home next time? 

Monday, July 09, 2018

Hiking in the Texel Group Nature Park

One evening I got a call from a buddy of mine who asked if we could do a high alpine tour over a weekend together.  Steffen wanted to hike the Roteck, 3337m (Monte Rosso in Italian) which is the highest peak in the Texel group of the Ötztal Alps. I needed a minute to take a close look at the map, and promptly answered with “Sure, with the greatest of pleasure!”

The initial plan was to start from Partschins towards Nasereith on Saturday in the early morning, take a rest at the Lodner Hütte, 2259m, climb the Roteck the same day, stay overnight at the Lodner Hütte and climb the Tschigat, 3001m on Sunday on the way back to Partschins via the Hochgangscharte. And the initial plan fell apart.
Saturday, July 7th, 2018

We started from the Birkenwald (930m) in the late morning and arrived at the Lodner Hütte after 12PM. Steffen got muscle cramps in the legs and proposed to climb the Roteck, 3337m, I/AA-020 on Sunday… Well, that is how it is. So, I switched to plan B – I still had plenty of time and a lot of energy to activate the Tschigat, 3001m, I/AA-331 and, eventually, the Spronser Rötelspitze, 2625m, I/AA-138. I told Steffen to expect me back before darkness covers everything and betook myself to the Halsljoch, 2808m.

On the way to the Tschigat, 3001m, I/AA-331. The weather got worse.
The Tablander See and Lazinser Rötelspitze, 3038m on the right.  

Approaching the Tschigat, 3001m, I/AA-331.

About 1.5 hours later I was approaching the Tschigat, I/AA-331. The weather changed suddenly, a cloudy mist hugged the summit like a child, and a cold wind started blowing from the north. The temperature dropped down, my iPhone I was carrying in a side pocket of my backpack suddenly died when it should still have some juice. I put all clothes I had with me on and was erecting an antenna just below the summit cross, as two guys arrived at the top. I explained my intentions and shared one headphone to listen to while calling CQ SOTA on 30 and 40m and occasionally chatting to them for the next 30 minutes. Neither the propagation conditions nor the time were optimal for activating, only 18 QSOs were logged. One of the guys lent me his power bank for about 10 minutes to bring my iPhone back to life. What a great spirit! So, I was able to put an alert for the upcoming activation of the Rötelspitze, I/AA-138 and send a message to my XYL, and even take a couple of pictures.
All three of us wanted to descend the Tschigat through a chimney on another side, towards the Milchsee, 2540m. There still were some steep snow fields, and we needed to slash our way through the chimney (UIAA II+). I followed the picturesque path to the Hochgangscharte passing the Milchsee and Langsee and had an easy climb to the Spronser Rötelspitze, I/AA-138.

The Langsee on the way to the Spronser Rötelspitze, 2625m, I/AA-138.  The weather got better.

The weather got better, the sun came out again but the cold wind was still blowing strong. I was QRV for about 30 minutes, the propagation on 40m and 20m was good enough to gather 18 QSOs plus 1 QSO on 30m.

 I/DD1LD/P on the Spronser Rötelspitze, 2625m, I/AA-138.

View from the Spronser Rötelspitze, 2625m, I/AA-138 towards the Spronser valley.

Being back to the Hochgangscharte, 2444m I made a fatal mistake. Following a recommendation from a local I decided to take way back to the Lodner Hütte through the Hochganghaus, 1839m following the Franz Huber path. Unfortunately, I had no detailed map of the area to check this suggestion. A much better choice would have been to go back via the Milchseescharte and Halsljoch.  As soon as I arrived at the Hochganghaus at about 7PM I saw a trail sign that said “Lodner Hütte, 7B, 4 hours”. No way!?  I had to be there before sunset, i.e. in about 2 hours latest.

I quickly informed the owner about my plan to approach the Lodner Hütte. The only one question she asked was “Still today?” I answered, “Yes, I must be there in two hours”. She just smiled back as I started running... running, hiking and climbing driven by fear of not having enough time and energy to make it in two hours. As I gained some height I was able to send a text message to my XYL with my actual coordinates and final destination before my iPhone finally died. There is no network coverage around the Lodner Hütte, so there was no chance to inform Steffen about my late arrival. Only when I saw the Lodner Hütte I caught my breath and calmed a bit down.

While approaching the Lodner Hütte I saw Steffen on the crossroad between 7 and 7B with a flashlight and binoculars looking for me.  The Bergwacht (Mountain Search and Rescue Team) was already alarmed, however, they figured out very quickly that I was seen late in the evening at the Hochganghaus and should be on the way to the Lodner Hütte.

Finally, I made about 9km, up to the 2400m ASL again, a couple of cruxes with UIAA I/II in just two hours, just before dark. I felt totally exhausted after the 12 hours long hike and net elevation gain of about 2500m.

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

It was a typical night in the mountain lodge. We were woken up at about 6AM. Since Steffen needed/wanted to breakfast we started at about 7:30AM. We both were a bit tired, Steffen hiked the Blasiuszeiger, 2834m on Saturday in the afternoon. So, we wanted to take it easy today, and ascent remaining 1100m to the top without any time pressure. The way to the Roteck, I/AA-020 was a technically easy hike with only one serious crux (UIAA II+), however, with a lot of iron in the rock wall. Finally, we arrived at the summit cross in the sunshine and took a while to enjoy the greatest view and almost cloudless sky over the Texel group, and embrace the beauty of the Alps again… and again.  The high Alps magically attract me, and unconsciously I started looking for the next summit I want to hike. I felt like the Hochwilde, 3482m with flat glaciers partly still covered by morning mist on the north side was calling me. So, bad!?

 Dzianis on the way to the Roteck, 3337m.

 Steffen mastering the crux on the way to the Roteck, 3337m.

I set-up my portable station close to the summit cross and made 30 QSOs in 30 minutes of operating time on 20, 30 and 40m. A good CQ run, however nothing exceptional. Then, packing, taking some pictures, making an entry into the summit book, chatting with others… enjoying every minute of being there.

I/DD1LD/P on the Roteck, 3337m, I/AA-020. The Hochwilde, OE/TI-706 in the back.

3000er of the Texel Group: Hohe Weiße, Lodner, Lazinser Rötelspitze with Tschigat in the back.
View from the Roteck, 3337m, I/AA-020. The sky is getting cloudy.
It was time to descent, 2400m in altitude from the summit down to the parking spot had to be mastered. Two hours later we had light lunch at the Lodner Hütte, and another two hours later we were on the way back home, both tired and highly delighted.
In summary, 3 summits, 3 first activations, 2x 3000er, 67 QSOs and 3600m of net altitude gain were done.   

Steffen and Dzianis in the dizzy heights. On the Roteck, 3337m, I/AA-020.

Some thoughts on operating high alpine SOTA

I wanted to know how strong my signs were. Something surprised me, e.g. from the Rötelspitze, AA-138 I worked Mario, DJ2MX in Munich on 40m with a solid 599(+) as if he were just around the corner (thanks Mario for recording), on the other hand I only managed one QSO on 30m; e.g. OK/OM3CUG/P sings (who was operating on OK/ZL-039) on 40 and 30m on the Tschigat, AA-331 were similar and just on the edge. 

A simple evaluation of RBN I/DD1LD/P spots and number of made QSOs over the weekend might give alpine activators a sort of indication on which band(s) is(are) the best or optimal for operating QRP SOTA. The average of reported SNR, dB and the number of QSOs made on each band are summarized in the table below. 

Band vs. SNR dB
Sunday, 08.07.2018,
8:50-9:20 UTC
Saturday, 07.07.2018,
12:30-13:00 UTC
Saturday, 07.07.2018,
15:30-16:00 UTC
20m 6 N/A 8
30m 8 11 10
40m 14 11 13
Band vs. QSOs

20m 9 N/A 8
30m 9 6 1
40m 12 12 10
All bands 30 18 19

The evaluation just confirmed my thoughts on operating high alpine SOTA:
  1. Although a 40m antenna usually has less efficiency and, usually, more weight compared to a 20m antenna, the 40m band should be your choice if you want to achieve a large number of EU chasers with QRP anytime in day or night. I think, on 40m you will maximize your chance of success.
  2. If you prefer to work DX chasers and don’t care much about the number of QSOs in your log, the 20m band should be your choice. You might design a ultralight and very compact however highly efficient single-band antenna for 20m, e.g. ~5m long GPA directly connected to your TRX (I mean, without ATU).
  3. Band switching, tuning and spotting cost some time. Operating on two bands only – 40/30m or 40/20m –  seems to be optimal to me with regard to Number_of_QSOs/Operating_Time.
I tend to try out the option 2 where the overall set-up is optimized for 20m but I still can use fixed-tuned 40m aerial (with poor efficiency and sharp SWR curve) as a backup option. Any thoughts? 

73 de Dzianis, DD1LD

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Tour par excellence in Allgäu

I barely have time to blog every SOTA expedition I ever made. However, so far this year, this one was my best tour in quiet solitude! I think, it deserves to be written down.

I love hiking Allgäuer Alps, however they are a bit far from my QTH. Traditionally, I combine my Ham Radio visits in Friedrichshafen with a hiking tour in Allgäu.

So, the initial plan was to spend Saturday, June 2nd at Ham Radio in F'hafen, and if the weather would permit, to hike a couple of summits in Allgäu on Sunday, June 3rd. That was the plan, and it worked out well.

Two weeks ago, on May 26th I activated two uniques - DL/AL-038 and DL/AL-040 around the Schrecksee. Both summits were pretty easy to access from the Lahnerscharte. The walk around the Schrecksee just awakening from winter's slumber in late May to the Lahnerscharte took about half an hour longer than expected as I had to make my way through the snow fields. 

Schrecksee on May 26th with DL/AL-040 on the left and 
DL/AL-038 on the right from the saddle (in the middle).

Unfortunately, I was requested to be home this day at 3PM latest, so that I had not enough time for activating DL/AL-036. There is no marked path to the Schänzlekopf (DL/AL-036) but I recognized that it could be doable from the Schänzlesattel (the saddle on the north-east side of the summit).

 View from the Lahnerkopf DL/AL-038 on May 26th. 
The anticipated route to DL/AL-036 is marked in red.

On the way to DL/AL-036 I wanted to check-in at the Roßkopf (DL/AL-190) which has been activated once in SSB and FM. The ultimate goal was to climb the Glasfelderkopf (DL/AL-033) to complete a triple activation in one day. Another lesson learned from my last tour to the Schrecksee was that I would ride a bike to the Giebelhaus rather than march the whole way up to the path entry point.

I arrived the parking spot in the Hinterstein on Saturday in the early evening. I was pretty tired, so that I felt asleep shortly after 9PM (that never happens at home). The night was shorter than usual, the alarm aroused me from sleep at 5AM. About 30 minutes later I was riding my bike towards the Giebelhaus.

I had the same issue twice – to find the entry point to the path to the Roßkopf. There are no signs neither to the Roßkopf nor to the Erzsteig route I wanted to go. First, I missed the entry while I was cycling and needed to return. Second, I couldn’t find the narrow path (Erzsteig) because of the freshly grown grass hiding it. So, don’t get surprised if you see this back and forth on my recorded track. All this resulted in a time loss of approximately half an hour.

There is no marked path to the Roßkopf (DL/AL-190), but it’s easy hiking. A quick check-in at the summit brought 18 QSOs on 40m in CW within 15 minutes of operating time. Due to time loss, I hadn’t called CQ on other bands.

 Check-in at the Roßkopf, DL/AL-190, 1822m, 8 points.

Passing the Sattelkopf on the way towards the Jubiläumsweg I assessed the opportunity to ascent DL/AL-036 from the south or west side. Almost no chance!? So, I decided to climb DL/AL-033 first and then try DL/AL-036 from the north-east side starting at the Schänzlesattel.

The way up to the Bockkarscharte covered by snow.

The way up to the Bockkarscharte was full of snow.  I discovered a sort of chimney (or couloir) going from east to west and spontaneously decided to free climb the summit from the south-east side to avoid trudging through the snow. I had much fun slashing my way through and enjoying the walk on the ridge. This route is wild, however much more exciting and challenging than the suggested one from the Bockkarscharte. You could just try it out by yourself! 21 QSOs on 40m and 12 QSOs on 30m were logged within 30 minutes of operating time. The way back to the Jubiläumsweg was quick – climbing down to the Bockkarscharte and sliding down through the snow field. Ohhh yes,  I got my shoes soaked in snow, that was the cost of using the "fast track" down.

 The ridge stroll I very enjoyed on the Glasfelderkopf, DL/AL-033. 

DD1LD/P on DL/AL-033, 2271m, 10 points.
Hochvogel, DL/AL-030 in the background.

I still had a lot of energy left to try DL/AL-036 on my way back. Now I just needed to run around the Schänzlekopf following the Jubiläumsweg towards the Schänzlesattel. The saddle was still covered by snow. There is neither official nor marked path to the top, one has to find his own way. I found a suitable channel pretty quickly. After the last 200m in altitude were mastered in free climbing, I was quite surprised to see a big summit cross on the very flat and green top. I took a deep breath to feel the crystal clear alpine air, signed into the summit register, made myself comfortable on the top and logged 7 QSOs on 30m and 9 QSOs on 40m in about 20 minutes of operating time. On the way down I just noticed that I had less fun climbing this summit if compared to DL/AL-033 because of the highly steep grass and gravel fields.

Chosen route to DL/AL-036 from the Schänzlesattel side - up and to the left.

Log in the summit register on the Schänzlekopf, DL/AL-036, 2069m, 8 points.
Hochvogel, DL/AL-030 in the background.

About two hours of descent later I arrived at the parking spot. I jumped in the car and jetted home as fast as I could, since I wanted to spend the evening with my family. Thanks to my XYL for her uderstaning and letting me do such crazy things!

Garmin says 42 km distance made in total for 2x8 + 1x10 points,  three summits, two first activations and 67 QSOs in CW. A couple of S2S were logged. The propagation was average to below average allowing to serve local and EU-based chasers only. 30m band was quite useable so that I didn't want to waste any time on 20m.

I only met one small group of three mountaineers during the whole tour, but a lot of marmots and chamois.  The WX (weather) couldn't be better. I came back home a bit exhausted and hungry like the wolf but deeply satisfied and mentally relaxed. And that's the only thing that matters to me! 

The detailed track record (as .kml) can be found here.

A couple of more pictures from the tour:

 View towards the Hochvogel DL/AL-030 from DL/AL-036.

View towards the Seealpsee from DL/AL-033.

On the way to the Schänzlekopf, DL/AL-036, 
the south-west side and Jubiläumsweg around it.

I love these beautiful green landscapes in Allgäu. 

DD1LD's track recorded by Garmin.

73 de Dzianis, DD1LD