This weekend I reached the "5 band DXCC" level. Quite a remarkable milestone considering the journey...
Where it started
When I came back to ham radio in 2010 I was eager to work as many DXCC as I could. I started with a shortened dipole in the attic - very far from ideal - but each and every country was a new one. Even with limited radio time my progress was smooth and I was happy for a while.
I upgraded my license in 2011 adding a load of new bands and with that the challenge increased: I would have to collect at least 100 DXCC on each (why?... I don't know, that is how addiction works).
My antenna changed into a wire behind the house running from 8m high to 2m high in a corner of the garden. An upgrade from my in-house dipole and an opportunity to add a few more DXCC.
In the mean time I had developed a new addiction: activating WWFF nature reserves. Going /P inspired me to develop better antennas. Portable operations have their limitations (especially if you look at it from your multi tower station) but in my case I saw opportunities I did and do not have at my QTH.
From a mobile whip I quickly moved to vertical end fed antennas that already were more effective than the wire behind my house. And as time went by, adding more DXCC meant going out /P.
I took the opportunity of big contests - with lots of DXCC's active at the same time - to make my /P DX hunting as effective as possible. All the while trying to improve my /P station.
Beaming with delight
In 2012 I had one of my most pleasant chases when I went out with a 4 element beam for 10m (a band still open at the time) during CQ WW SSB . I added 24 atno's and 14 new bands, working a few hours on Saturday evening and a few hours the following morning. I don't think I have ever worked so many new ones in just two time slots.
Although the 10m beam was instrumental in the fun that time, it was also the first time I used the folding hexbeam that I just finished building in the week before the contest. This became and still is my favourite /P antenna. It has helped me work DX even now, at the bottom of the solar cycle.
With the hexbeam and a small mobile amplifier I added to my /P setup, I went DX fishing during a few other contests the next year. I scored 10 atno's and 22 new band dxcc during WPX in 2013 with the hexbeam, 4 atno's and 27 new band dxcc during EU HF contest in 2013 and 6 atno's and 24 new band dxcc during CQWW SSB 2013.
3 band DXCC
By August 2013 I had logged more than 100 DXCC on three bands: 10, 15 and 20m. 17m was the candidate for the next 100 and I think I reached that somewhere in 2016 (time to play radio had been rather limited in the interim and I had not been out to actively chase DX /P).
By 2016 12m was no longer a feasible candidate to reach 100 DXCC as the sun spots had disappeared and I had failed to give that band enough attention in the preceding years. So my focus shifted to the lower bands. In 2016 I went out again during a CQWW SSB. This time focusing on 40m and 80m. I was only able to add 4 new DXCC to 40m, while adding 12 new ones to 80m and 28 new ones to 160m.
This left a challenge with still quite a few to go on 40m. The most feasible new ones required different operating hours than I could use from home (with the whole family asleep). So it looked like I needed another contest and /P operation. However I did not find the time.
The final push
Then came last weekend with yet another CQ WW contest. I had not planned to be particularly active. There was no time to go /P but I did have some free slots to switch on the radio at home. Somehow I had brought my total to 96 DXCC worked on 40m in the meantime. With no expectations at all I started chasing some new ones I could hear. With the simple setup at home I could not reach all of them but with some persistence I was at 99 DXCC on Saturday evening. Of course this was not going to be the end result of the weekend. I continued my chase on Sunday in between other obligations and by the end of the day I was at 102 DXCC with an amazing JT and KL7 in the catch (thanks to their antennas).
Next up: 80m.. only 50 DXCC to go.