As the end of the year got closer, I realised there was one more summit that I might be able to squeeze in, that I hadn’t activated in 2019. In fact, the last time I had activated Falkenstein was in 2017, so I missed the points from this summit in 2018 somehow!
Looking at the weather forecast, Monday the 30th. December looked like being a dry day and as it turned out, while cold enough that the ice and snow on the summit hadn’t melted, it was actually quite sunny.
This summit does not need a cable car to get to it. It is a “drive-up” summit, at least to about 70 vertical metres below the summit. It does have a novel access restriction however, in that the road up to the summit is a private, one-track road with tight hairpin turns and sheer drops off the mountain face at some points! The road is owned and maintained by a hotel that is located just below the summit and there is a charge of €4 for the use of the road, which is paid at a ticket machine at the start of the road by the traffic lights. To avoid vehicles meeting each other going in different directions (there are no passing spots) the road is controlled with traffic lights on a timer and cars are allowed to drive up the road between a quarter past the hour and 5 minutes to the next hour and drive down the road between the full hour and 10 minutes past. As it takes 5 minutes for the drive, the no-drive gaps of 5 minutes allow for those risking a last-minute sprint (usually the hotel supplies van).
So that I could get on-air at my planned time and return home for some afternoon shopping, I had to plan the trip precisely so as not to be delayed too long if I arrived at the traffic lights at either the bottom or top of the road, at the wrong time as that could cost me 30 minutes easily.
I decided that I would once again use the small set-up with the photo tripod and the Komunica HF-PRO2 loaded HF mobile whip. But, just in case, I would also take along my 6-metre mast and a couple of Inverted-V dipoles. My operating position is on the summit, upon a platform within the ruins of the castle. This does not allow a lot of space to run out dipole wires so it would be simpler if I could get my required 4 contacts just with the mobile whip.
Falkenstein is the highest castle ruins in Germany and it was to be another hunting lodge type castle for King Ludwig II but he was drowned in Lake Starnberg before the work could be completed. The location therefore also has a Castles on the Air and a World Castles Award designation of SWB-13014 and DL-0246 respectively.
As there is no cable car involved I decided to take both radio bags, so including the amplifier and various spare cables and things “just in case” i.e. twice as much weight as I really needed! All was packed the day before however for me it was a relatively late start at 9:45 local time for the estimated 75-minute drive. To arrive just as the road would open for traffic to go up it.
The drive down went well and I actually arrived 15 minutes earlier than I expected, meaning as I arrived I saw the light change from green to red. As I hadn’t paid my ticket at that point, to dash through the light would have been a bad idea. I waited the 15 minutes and then took off up the road. I have driven this road two times before but some of the hairpin bends were interesting to negotiate, as was getting past a parked truck, in use by a crew installing Armco barriers a little further up the road. In any case, I was back in my schedule when I arrived in the “day visitor’s” car park and loaded myself up with two bags and the HF-Pro2 antenna in a protective tube that I made for it.
The walk from here up the rest of the road to the hotel entrance is steep – especially when carrying the weighty bags, but the road was fairly clear of ice and so no problem to get up. The next stage after passing the hotel, on the final path and stone steps up to the ruins were more of a challenge and I stopped and added spikes to my boots, which made all the difference. Where other tourists were having some real problems with lack of grip, my spikes were cutting into the ice-covered stones and giving me good traction with my heavy load.
Upon arrival at the ruins, I found the gate open (as it’s supposed to be) and went in and up the wooden tower that has been built inside the stone walls. On arriving on the top, I was happy to see the same wooden table that was their three years ago – much better than having to put the equipment on the floor, especially as more and more people were arriving as I set-up.
The tripod and HF-Pro2 went up quickly and then it took a while to untangle the eight counterpoise wires and run them out. Once that was done, I set the loading coil on the antenna to the position for 20 metres connected the rig to the battery. I decided not to bother with the amplifier despite having carried it up to the summit, I also left the speech compressor and power microphone in the bag and stuck with the standard microphone. As I turned on the rig I wondered what I would hear. On my last two activations at this summit, QRM from the hotel or the microwave relay station behind it wiped out 20 metres on one activation and 40 metres on another. This time although there was some background QRM on both bands, it wasn’t enough to be a problem, so it looks like whatever was causing the QRM previously has been fixed.
I started on 40m but the band was busy and the first two frequencies where I called CQ and spotted myself were immediately swamped by splatter from stations just off frequency, so I’d hear someone call me – I’d go back to them, pass it back and then hear nothing more from them as I presume, I had been flattened by the other station. Perhaps I should have put the amplifier on? In any case, my third frequency worked fine and I got a nice series of seven contacts including one S2S contact with Rudi OE7RDI on Laber. When the calls dried up (bearing in mind, my wish to get back to the car to be there at the right time for the 10-minute window when one can drive down the hill) I decided to give 20 metres a quick try and made two contacts there before shutting down, packing up and heading back down to the car. The trip home was uneventful and I managed the planned shopping trip as well.
All in all, it was a successful activation, getting me the 4 activation points plus 3 winter bonus points and proving again that the simple loaded whip on a tripod can get a signal out all around Europe.
- Xiegu X108G.
- Komunica HF-PRO2 HF bands vertical whip.
- Converted Photo tripod and counterpoise wires.
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
- SOTA Beams linked dipole (not used).
- 6-metre Lambdahalbe fibreglass portable mast (not used).
- Plastic painters sheet (not used).
- 2 Smartphones one running PocketRxTx App and USB cable as an external display for X108G and one used for spotting and taking pictures.
Keeping the operation simple is the best solution and when I receive my birthday present of a slightly larger rucksack, I’ll be trying to cut back to include all essential equipment in the one bag, but not more than is required.
Overall the outing was worth it as I got my points and some time out in the sunshine.
73 ’til the next summit!