Whitsun weekend saw the re-opening of the cable cars and chair lifts on mountains around Bavaria as part of the reduction of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Most of the summits that can be accessed without a lift, I have already activated this year and the couple that I haven’t are fairly distant 1-pointers, so getting back to a 4 or 6 or 8 pointer is of interest.
As solar cycle 25 slowly starts up there have been some good and some not so good conditions over the last couple of weeks. One target I always have on activations is to try to get a contact into either New Zealand or Australia. At the present time, that means being on the mountain early in the morning or late at night to take advantage of the short-path windows. Long path is not performing well at the moment.
The original plan was to head down to Bad Kohlgrub as soon after 9am (when the lift starts) as possible to maybe get to the summit by 10:15 am – still not very early but I have made VK/ZL contacts at this time previously. Earlier would be even better but not possible because of the lift.
Unfortunately, on May 31st my wife injured her foot and it wasn’t getting better. While she did not need me to stay home, she would be in no condition to take our dog for her two daily walks in the next few days. I had considered perhaps postponing my activation a day or two however the weather forecast said that as from about midday on Wednesday 3rd of June for 10 days we should expect high winds and rain. So that could easily mean my new date would be scuppered.
The compromise was that I would take the dog out on her long, morning walk prior to heading off to the summit and then get back in a reasonable time to take her for her afternoon walk. This, of course, meant there would be little or no chance of contacts into VK/ZL this time around.
The chairlift from Bad Kohlgrub is a very small rickety old one and carrying a lot of gear with me was not an option. So I decided to reduce down to my mini-pack with just what I needed to set up a station and no more. Added to the restrictions of the chair lift, the walk from the top station to the summit is both steep and long so excess weight should be removed. On arriving at the actual summit there is limited space and it is usually quite busy but I know from previous trips that just down from the summit there is a grassy area where I can set-up out of the way of others while still being well within the AZ.
So all gear was checked and (hopefully) not required items removed from the rucksack to reduce weight and bulk. Everything had to go in or on the rucksack.
The alarm clock was set and all packed for what should be an “easy activation” with the very slim chance of a contact into VK3 where Ernie VK3DET had promised to listen for me and a possible SOTA-HEMA S2S contact with Mike 2E0YYY in north-west England.
With the first dog walk completed, I managed to fit in a call to Mike 2E0YYY from my home station as he was already on his HEMA summit “Mow Cop”. It was then time for the trip down to Bad Kohlgrub which took longer than normal due to extra traffic on the roads caused by the school holiday period. On arriving at the village station of the chairlift, the car park was overflowing, so there would be a lot of people on the mountains but there’s also quite a lot of space and many people only head up to sit in the sun or visit one of the two restaurants – which are allowed to serve food again – at least in their outside gardens.
Another surprise was that the fare had been increased from €10 to €12 “because of COVID-19” however the website still lists the fare as being €10. I got a discount of half of the parking fee of €3 (for four hours) so I was just about back at the original price.
This time I was able to mount and dismount the chair without almost falling off as happened the last time I rode it (also with radio gear along). The lift took longer than usual stopping often, I presume due to the need to space people with only one to a seat pair – except if passengers are members of the same family. So by the time I arrived at the top station, it was already 11 am. Any chance of contacts into VK or ZL was now definitely gone.
The walk from the top station to the summit was longer than I remembered. I expected it to take around 25 minutes. 45 minutes is closer to the requirement.
After I got to the summit and set up the station – 20m was only open around Europe it seems, but stations from Sweden to Spain, from the UK to the Ukraine were BOOMING in – better than I have heard on 20m for a long time. I worked 12 stations in 12 minutes, including a bit of a chat with some of them. I had two S2S contacts, one of those after I switched over to 40m but what was strange was while I gave Robert HB9OME/P a true 5-5 report, he was having trouble hearing me at 3-3. After that contact, I realised something was wrong as tapping the gear the noise level came up and went down – I tried moving cables around and even removing the short adapter cable that I have so that I can leave the rig in the rucksack and connect whichever antenna I want to the rig from outside of the rucksack. Then I couldn’t get the noise level back where it had been, so I decided that this needs to be investigated at home – my suspicion is the coax that is attached to my home-made tripod base may be broken or have a dodgy joint. As it was, I was running behind schedule so I decided to be happy with the contacts I had got and packed up the station and headed home, arriving there in time for the afternoon walk for the dog.
Because of the antenna cabling problem, one thing I didn’t manage to test, which I had hoped to, was the external speech processor but that’s now something for the next activation (again).
- Xiegu X108G running 20w PEP output.
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
- Komunica Power HF-PRO2 multi-band HF loaded vertical antenna.
- Converted photo tripod base for the antenna.
- External speech compressor for testing (not used – no time available).
- Thick plastic painters sheet.
- Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.
For those interested here is the exact list of everything that was packed into or onto the rucksack: Equipment configuration – light kit
There’s always something to learn from these activations. Today I learnt three things:
- The walk from the top station of the chair lift to the summit isn’t 20-30 minutes as I remembered, it’s over 40 minutes!
- The Komunica HF-Pro2 performs above it’s price-level both on transmit and receive. It has done well in the past on 40m and today it was a marvel on 20m (I think had I been able to be on the summit at an earlier time, contacts into VK/ZL could easily have been possible with this antenna).
- I need to do an inspection on my coax leads and perhaps have some fall-back option in the future – perhaps a 2-way SO-239 connector on the Tripod and a separate coax lead, rather than a CB SO239 base with its own crimped on coax.
73 ’til the next Summit!