The original plan was to activate three summits in the BW region – the third being DM/BW-094 Kornberg, however after the second summit and a couple of problems, I decided to leave that one for another day.
The summits to be activated are 2 hours drive away from where I live and that’s only to the car parking spot from where I need to begin my walk. The walking up to the summit can take 20-30 minutes, so fitting three summits into a day when they are far away from home and about 30mins drive away from each other is a challenge.
I wanted to test out my new RH770 whip antenna on my 2m HT and so the first summit would need both VHF and HF equipment to be carried to the summit. I will be heading over to the UK later in the year and am considering just taking 2m FM to activate the last of 5 G/TW summits that I haven’t as yet activated.
In case conditions are not good on 2m (or the antenna doesn’t work) – I decided to be ready to run 20m & 40m as well on the summits. For this I would take my standard pack – FT817 plus amplifier and 6m. mast. This time however rather than the lighter SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole I would be relying on my Aerial-51 OCF antenna as I managed to break the centrepiece on the SOTABeams antenna and am awaiting a replacement piece to come in the post.
Römerstein (DM/BW-078) I have activated twice before and know the route up from the car park well – last time it was through mud but as we’ve had a few dry and sunny days, that would not be the case this time.
Teck (DM/BW-695) on the other hand is a new summit for me but from what I could see it’s a favourite tourist spot with a castle on the summit and a nice restaurant/beer garden as well. So it can’t be hard to walk the 2 kilometres up the track right…. Wrong the access track from the Hörnle car park, outside of the village of Owen, up to the castle is long and quite steep. Not ideal for carrying heavy gear if it can be avoided…
The Activation – Römerstein:
The drive from home to Römerstein was fairly straight forward with the first 3/4 being autobahns – well apart from a total of about 20 Km of road work sections with no overtaking and 60 KPH speed limits… What was quite strange was that the GPS Navi told me to exit the Autobahn using a “Behilfsausfahrt” – i.e. not a road to a particular town or village but one that is used to release traffic should the Autobahn be blocked. As it turned out, this was the quickest route to the area around the summit and I quickly spotted my normal parking area on the side of the road. After packing what I thought I would need into two bags, I started off up the track through the forest to the summit.
As I approached the summit I could see the tower was open for visitors and some people were there cleaning up around it. The “Römerstein Turm” is normally open only on weekends in summer and public holidays so I was surprised to find it open on a Friday. I thought I might take a look from the top of the tower once I had finished my activation, but that didn’t happen as during my activation about 30 young adults appeared and started various activities, including inspecting the tower. As I started to set up the mast and equipment, one of the people there, who was, in fact, one of the custodians of the tower, came across and said why not operate from the top of the tower. He would be quite OK with me dropping a wire out of a window down the outside wall! Unfortunately I didn’t have my end-fed antenna with me and trying to rig a dipole from there would have taken too long. So I thanked him and continued to set up at ground level.
I had brought my 2m FM HT along as well to test but as I saw a couple of activators already spotted, it would need to wait until I saw if I could manage some S2S contacts. This was not to be but while tuning on 40m I heard someone with a strong signal calling CQ and getting no answers so I gave Ray PD7DX a call and we had a short chat. I then looked around for a free frequency spotted myself and started calling CQ. The band was strange, with very deep QSB and some stations sounding like there were in a motorboat. Whether this was an effect of the fast solar winds which were hitting the earth at the time, I don’t know, but it was strange.
After the calls dried up after 20 contacts on 40 metres, I decided I’d better try two metres, it being one of the reasons that I was activating the summit. I wanted to see if my Wouxun with the RH770 antenna performed as well as others have said. I was hoping to get a contact and then swap the antenna back to the standard one and see what difference (if any) it made on receive and transmit. After self-spotting and calling on the 2m FM calling frequency on and off for 4 minutes, I got absolutely no contacts on 2 metres FM. By this point the 30 youngsters had appeared and had started a football match near to where I was rather than on the sports field – they were just having fun, but before one of them ran into the dipole wire, I decided it was time to start wrapping up. As I had alerted that I would also operate on 20m, I switched over, spotted and called. In twelve minutes, I only managed two contacts – thanks to Terry G0VWP and Jim EI9GLB. The 20m band was even more strange than 40m, the normal background (atmospheric) noise simply wasn’t there.
While packing up, I noticed on the 404-UL that the dipole wire, just as it exited the BALUN box was frayed – the outer sheath had completely gone and the wire itself was having to take the full load. I taped this up to give some strength to it, so that it wouldn’t break in transit. I consider calling off the next summit as I had no back-up antenna with me but decided to go ahead. At the same time one of my mini-wire winding coils (usually used for earphone cable for smartphone headset), fell apart and the dipole wire was everywhere and tangled up. I took time to untangle it best I could and did a quick repair to the coiling loop to get me to the next summit, think in the worst case if this happened again when packing up at Teck, I would just “bundle” the antenna wire into my rucksack and sort everything out at home. At this point, I made the final decision not to try to activate the third summit (Kornberg). There were simply too many things that might not work after the quite long walk to that summit.
The Activation – Teck:
After walking back down to the car and bundling everything in I set the GPS Navi to take me to Teck which is not far from Römerstein near to the village of Owen and should take just about 20 minutes to drive from car park to car park. As I had only packed limited food and as now, that I had decided not to activate the third summit, I had time to stop at a supermarket and pick up some drink and food supplies. Even with the supermarket stop, the journey still only took just over 30 minutes.
The route to Burg Teck (Castle Teck) is well signposted when you get into Owen. In fact, you are guided to the car park on “Hornle” hill whereas it turned out, the local model glider club were having a competition, launching their model aircraft off the side of the hill down a grassy slope.
I had looked at this route on the map and although there is a closer car park, the track from that one is much steeper and this one turned out to be more than steep enough itself. It appears the track between the castle and the car park is a favourite track for mountain bikers with several pushing (and puffing) their way up the track with me to the summit, where they would most likely grab a cool drink in the beer garden before hurtling back down the track.
The track seemed to go on FOREVER! But eventually, as I turned around another corner after a steep section, there was the castle gates (and a lot of people taking photos and resting). I snapped a couple of shots on my smartphone camera and continued through the gates (which also have public toilets in the sidewalls of the entrance). I continued on, past the restaurant and beer garden on the right, into a kind of parkland area and after surveying possibilities decided I could use a bench in the middle and run out the dipole without causing danger to others. While setting up, I saw the gardener fighting to get an old petrol power lawn mower to start, which he did finally manage. I hoped he wasn’t going to want to cut the grass where I had my antenna up. I had been able to throw the cords on the end of the dipole over some tree branches and when the mast was raised, the wire was high enough for people to walk (or ride) under without catching it.
At this point, the gardener came over to see what I was doing and it turned out he was from Serbia and had been a member of an Amateur Radio / CB club there when he was younger. In fact, the club had acted as a civil warning method for bombing during their war. By warning people where bombs were being dropped, to keep away from those areas. Interesting guy!
Once set up, I checked what was spotted and bagged two Summit-to-Summit contacts straight away before spotting myself and calling. The bands were still strange, with 20m very quiet – in fact, I wondered at this point whether the wire had either broken or frayed further since I took it down at Römerstein, despite the tape I had put on it. This was not the case and the antenna got repaired (the wire at both sides of the BALUN were fraying) once I got home.
So as not to disturb the ever-increasing number of tourists arriving at the summit, I “donned” my headphones and managed a total of sixteen contacts in 35 minutes on 20 & 40 metres. I didn’t bother with any 2-metre tests from this summit given the lack of contacts from the last one and the worry that the HF antenna could fail at any time. I also had a 20-minute walk down to the car and a 2-hour drive back home to look forward to, so I closed down the stations at 1100 UTC, 1PM local, packed up, said goodbye to the young lady and her horse who had joined me on the other end of the table and set off back down to the car park.
I’m sure it took less time to get down the track than come up it, however, one had to be careful on the gravelly surface not to slip, especially while carrying probably 8 kilograms or more of gear. The drive back home to a similar route to the one coming, including all of the road works on the Autobahns and I arrived back home at around 15:30 local time. I was glad that I decided not to go on to the third summit as I was somewhat exhausted and if I had gone on, I would have been driving back in peak hour traffic.
I am going to look at combining Kornberg and Wasserberg, two other summits in this same “Schwabische Alpen” area at some point in the near future. Those 10, 8 and 6 pointers are very attractive when one is used to 1, 2 and 4 pointers that are harder to climb! If only they weren’t so far away from where I live.
Photos – Römerstein:
Photos – Teck:
Aerial-51 OCF wire dipole antenna.
LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.
Modified QAMP amplifier (35W on 40m, 25W on 20m).
Wouxun KG-UVD1P HT with RH770 antenna
It’s always advisable to have a back-up for everything. While the antenna didn’t fail, it could so easily have done so. If I had, had an end-fed antenna (and tuner) with me that could have been a nice experiment from the top of the Römerstein Tower!
Planning to activate 3 summits in one day, so far away from home is only sensible if I have already activated all of them before and know what to expect. While it is very tempting, given the far higher points allocated for these relatively easy summits, the drive to and from them takes a lot of time and effort, from where I live.
73 ’til the next Summit!