March 2017: Hohloh is unpredictable...
During the GHz Meeting in Dorsten we discussed and felt like it was finally time for DR9A to try the "DARC Kontestpokal". Despite having won the IARU contests several times DR9A never tried it so far, as it is very difficult and very demanding. Not only one has to participate in seven contests including the March contest, but five are multi-band contests. So you winning 144 MHz and 432 MHz is not sufficient - there are at least eight bands more. Therefore we value a lot what the teams of DL0GTH and all the other “Kontestpokal” winners have achieved in the last couple of years..
March is always the most difficult one, as Hohloh can have snow until April easily and we would not be able to reach our site then. But this year there was not much snow and it was pretty warm in February, so we thought we might have a chance.
Henning DF9IC and Helmut DK8SG started to prepare the multi-band operation. We found enough operators that would dare to try.
One week before the event, everything looked very promising. Snow was almost completely gone on Monday - but suddenly the weather changed and on Tuesday heavy snow made the scenery white again and rendered all our plans useless. So we all hoped for the rising temperatures the weather report had promised and that the snow would melt in time. Everything looked good until Thursday morning. The weather report now warned of high winds with top speed of 80 km/h. As everything was calm in Dobel at Helmut’s place, he decided to drive up the mountain to have a look himself. And indeed, at the mountain top, there was more winds, but still nothing serious. Also the snow looked ok - a challenge for sure, but nothing we could not manage. Then Helmut decided to go up the Hohloh lookout tower - and was almost blown away when he tried to leave the staircase for the actual lookout. The wind above the trees was really unbearable and there was no way to install antennas safely in such conditions.
So we had to cancel the event almost at the last minute, we wanted to start early on Friday morning.
The weather report was right - but it also promised pretty high temperatures for beginning of March. Therefore Henning DF9IC and Alexander DL8AAU thought it might be a good idea to try at least the mm wave bands on Sunday morning. So far we do not have much experience from this site - we did some 24 GHz back in October 2014 and we tried 47 GHz (in vain) the year before. But now we even had another band (76 GHz) to try. Before the contest we asked a couple of BBT participants if they would be willing to try a QSO with us.
Saturday night confirmed our decision not to try a regular contest: the wind was even worse than predicted with up to 90 km/h peak.
Sunday morning was sunny, but the wind was still pretty strong and ice cold. But it was bearable on the lookout of the tower. First test was with Andreas DL2FZN/p. His 24 GHz signal was so extremely loud, that we had to put a handkerchief into the dish feed to be able get meaningful S-meter readings. We optimized the dish - but unfortunately could not hear anything from Andreas on 47 GHz. Maybe Hohloh is really not good for mm wave?
We then turned our dish to the north, where the group in Rothenberg was now waiting for us. They had a total of four (!) 24 GHz stations in place and were all >S9 on 24 GHz over a distance of almost 100km.
from left to right: Alfred DH8AP, Uwe DL4ZBB and Stefan DL5FDP
Now our good friend Ewald DK2DB went into the log - just 24 km to Karlsruhe, but NLOS, so not really strong.
Finally Horst DL4SBK/p called. We immediately found each other on 24 GHz. 47 GHz was a bit worse, but even 76 GHz was not difficult (maybe even easier). Right after Horst we tried with Walter DL6SAQ/p over a distance of about 110 km - a real challenge for 47 and especially 76 GHz, as the attenuation due to water in the atmosphere is really high and output power is rather low. But Walter proved us all wrong - no problem, easy QSOs on all three bands! We have a short video of the QSOs - unfortunately you can hear the strong wind in the microphone.
Last contact was with Claus DL7QY. We had his telephone number so just called him and asked and he immediately agreed to try and started to transmit a CQ loop in our direction. The path is NLOS, but we already worked him back in 2014. And we heard him rather well. The big issue: he has 7 W on 24 GHz - in 2014 we had about 3 W. But Henning's BBT transverter is limited to 250mW. Luckily Claus was able to copy our rather weak CW signals and we finished our 9th QSO on 24 GHz.
Of course we won on all three bands and are very happy to have tried. The weather was indeed rather warm, but the wind was nasty...
A pity that we could not try on the other seven bands and had to give up our "Kontestpokal" plans for 2017.