Return to Pipis

This past weekend, I returned to Pipis, 5B/CY-046 to try some new things. It was not entirely a disaster, but mostly. Pipis is about a half-hour drive from Nicosia if there is no traffic, but since Nicosia always has some traffic, figure 45 minutes to an hour. The road up the to the peak is pretty good except for the last hill which is a bit steep, and you can always walk up that one. This is my second time activating this one-point peak, but something like my fourth or fifth time up Pipis, since it’s a nice nature spot and I’ve brought the dogs up here to run around outdoors.

Here’s a picture from a more pleasant day, with the dogs exploring the hillside.

I was a bright, sunny day after a week of intermittent rain that brought out all the wildflowers. The trip was fine and I lugged all my gear to the very top of the mountain and set up the BuddiPole tripod and a vertical fiberglass mast to try 2M FM. As I reached for the feedline… um, where is the feedline? I was very sure that I packed my roll-up J-pole, and come to think of it, had stowed that in my backpack where I usually put the feedline. My backup feedline, the very rugged looking one that had been shipped with the Buddipole, had failed at one end the previous week, so I had no backup.

A half hour drive home. Get the feedline from the bookshelf. Back in the car. Fuel is on empty. Drive to the service station. My fuel cap release lever is stuck, so I can’t refuel the car. Some fooling around under the dash board to pull the release lever directly with pliers. Chipping off the mud to free up the fuel cap. Refuel. Drive back up the mountain. Lug all equipment to the top.

Except, now the wind was howling, the sky had turned dark, rain was visible over neighboring mountains and I was feeling the occasional droplets splunk down. I hauled up the J-pole and spotted myself on 145.500. I was so quiet that I had to make sure the squelch was not on. Finally, I switched over to SSB and assured myself that the radio really was working. Another ten minutes of calling on FM yielded no replies, so I packed up that antenna.

Earlier in the day, I had seen a lot of activity across Europe on 6 meters, so I configured the Buddipole as a 6-meter dipole broadside to continental Europe. I figured that at least I should be able to hear activity on FT8 frequencies, but when I switched to 50.313 in SSB mode (PKT mode on my FT817), I got an earful of noise. Not background and not signal, but what seemed to be heavy impulse noise. The FT817’s noise blanker is not great, but it knocked that noise down a few S-units, but still not low enough to hear any FT8 signals, which I presume were present. There’s nothing up on the hilltop, but there are radio towers on surrounding hills and in the distance, a variety of radar and microwave communications towers. I may go back up there at some point with directional equipment and try to figure out the source, but for now, don’t plan on operating 6m on this peak.

The other new trick I wanted to try out on this trip was setting up the BuddiPole in vertical orientation with a single raised counterpoise. That seems like a much more agile way of hitting multiple bands on an activation without fiddling with temperamental and time-consuming adjustments needed to tune up the antenna as a dipole on each band. I had previously added color-coded heat shrink to a counterpoise line long enough to accommodate down to 40 meters.

I set up on 17-meters, because that band has been strong over the last week or so and I have to say that the vertical set up did not take long. I set up the tripod with a wide base, with the versatee a bit over waist-height. Then an extension arm-coil-extension arm-telescoping whip. I hung a heavy backpack off the bottom knob of the tripod so even in wind, it was very stable. I screwed the counterpoise into the ground side lug on the versatee and stretched the wire out over the copious scrub bushes on the peak. I kept an eye on my RigExpert stick, and got something like a 1.2:1 SWR, so that made me happy.

Almost happy enough to ignore the freezing rain that was now pelting me. As I leaned forward in my trusty camp chair to shield the rig, I heard (felt?) a snap in plastic bracket that held the chair together. Okay, I’ve sat on the ground plenty of time, no big deal.

I continued to hammer out CQs for a few minutes and was beginning to wonder if anything was going to work that day when I got a couple responses: 1, 2, 3… and then of course, a dramatic pause. I couldn’t get a cell phone signal to tell if I had hit the RBN or not, but I hoped I had. Then came contact number 4, so I was wet, but at least not skunked.

Then the radio gods took pity. The next call came from FR5TG. I thought I must have misheard. That couldn’t be right, could it? Si, il s’agissait bel et bien de FR5TG. The signal was so loud and clear that I could not believe it was coming in from Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean (virtually my next door neighbor when I was based in Madagascar as 5R8SV over the past few years).

I was just about to pack up when I heard a final call from GM4JXP/P, who was operating from SOTA peak GM/ES-067 at a distance of about 3700 km. I thought that was good enough for the day, so I schlepped everything back down from the peak and drove home. As soon as I was on the highway, the weather cleared. By the time I got back to Nicosia, the sun was shining bright. According to my wife, the weather had been great all day.

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