DD5LP/P – September 14th 2021 activations of DM/BM-374 Wülzburg, DM/BM-135 Hesselberg and DM/BM-226 Dürrenberg.

Preparation:

Following several “missed opportunities” while staying in the Bavarian Forest region to activate some high point summits and get closer to that 1000 points, Mountain Goat level (due to the horrible weather), I have started looking at what other summits I might activate to earn points. My preference is to activate summits that I know so that I can pack several into a days trip. Unfortunately as all of the closer (around 1-hour drive ) summits have been activated by me this year, they will not bring in any more points. 

I had originally planned to activate Römerstein and Teck and possibly Bussen, bringing in 26 points in all but these summits are over 2 hours drive away and while the weather forecast is changing here on a daily basis were left for later.

The three chosen summits are reasonably close to each other and the first one according to Google a 1-hour 40-minute drive from home. All three summits are 6 pointers and the first two are drive-up so with the forecast of a dry and even sunny day, these were the summits chosen for this day trip. In order to be able to rely on the GPS in the car, I checked the locations of where I knew I would be parking my car, on Google maps, got the lat & long values from the map and converted them from decimal values to degrees, minutes and seconds before entering them as locations into the “Navi” (car GPS).

As I “might” be early enough at the first summit for some contacts into VK or ZL, I planned to use the old 6-metre mast and linked dipole, that has delivered contacts “down-under” several times before. The lighter HF_PRO2 and photo-tripod set-up would be used for summits 2 and 3 as Hesselberg can be busy and Dürrenberg has a long walk-in to it.

Wülzburg DM/BM-374

The run to Wülzburg was uneventful and despite some delays with road works, the drive was completed in 1 hour and 20 minutes rather than the 1 hour and 40 minutes predicted by Google Maps. This meant I was on the summit earlier than expected and alerted. The walk from the car park was a short one and the small lookout platform was free, so I decided to set up there. Strapping the mast to one of the wooden corner posts. Despite the fact that the sun had risen, it was still cold and a jacket was needed.

I had arranged with Mike 2E0YYY and Ernie VK3DET, that I would message them when I was set up and they would see if they could hear me. We use an app called “Signal” on our smartphones and unbeknown to me, a security update to my McAfee security on the phone meant that the App now only works when it has control of the screen (i.e. in the foreground). The result of this was that despite my sending a message out, I got no apparent reply. So as I had decided to start on 20m, I tuned around and saw that the band was open (VK2BY was hammering in but had such a pile-up that my calls to him had no chance of getting through) – so I found a free frequency and put out a call while preparing to spot myself on SOTAWatch and who came back to me but Paul VK5PAS from South Australia with a strong 58/59 signal. He had just been tuning around and came across my (55 with him) signal. That was a wonderful surprise as I haven’t talked with Paul for some time. We often had QSOs when I was living in Australia and after moving to Germany in 2014 for the first couple of years I also had regular calls from him when I was activating SOTA summits. So this indicates to me that Solar Cycle 25 is now starting to bring back the good conditions.

Paul spotted me on SOTAWatch before I could do it myself and that brought more calls – one was a more difficult contact with VK3ANL but we managed it in the end.

At this point, I rechecked the Signal App and the flood-gates of messages came through as the program was back in the foreground. I then found where Ernie and Mike were on 20m and had an easy contact with Ernie VK3DET. But I could hear Mike 2E0YYY/P in the UK (just) but had to ask Ernie to relay the situation – a relay from Germany to Australia to England that I could hear Mike but he couldn’t hear me! 

By the time I finished on 20 metres, it was too late for Greyline on 40m but I decided to give some of the more local chasers a chance of the summit and called for a while on 40 metres, at which I had a SOTA to HEMA summit contact with Mike 2E0YYY/P before packing up to head to the next summit.

 Photos – Wülzburg:

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Hesselberg DM/BM-135

My last two visits to this summit had me operating in a combination of fog and low cloud. This time however the skies were clear and the views amazing. Jacket no longer needed here as the day had warmed up. Of course, nice weather also attracts lots of people to this easy summit and the ever-increasing numbers is what eventually made me pack up and leave before I could try 20 metres.

This summit is easy to find as the large red and white painted TV and microwave transmitter tower is on top of it and the road is well signposted to the Evangelische (Protestant)  training college on Hesselberg which is just a little way down the hill from the summit. When I arrived the summit car park was almost empty and when I got to the summit, the seat and table were free for me to use. I had left the mast and dipole in the car and concentrated on putting up the simple Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T on my modified photo tripod and put out its radials before the crowds arrived. I did actually have two people come up to me at this stage and after a little explanation, were sent off each with a brochure on what is Amateur Radio in their hands. I had decided to start on 40m on this summit, as I had started on 20 metres on the previous one. After spotting myself, the calls came in thick and fast and in fact I had 21 contacts in 18 minutes. The last one was an S2S with HB9BTI/P who was on Säntis HB/AI-001 – a 10-point summit that I would like to activate one day. This is a summit in the northeast of Switzerland from where up to 5 countries are visible.  After working the S2S I considered switching to 20 metres but in the meantime, there was a group of about 20 young adults on some kind of course on the summit and rather than continue talking and possibly disturbing their teacher, I decided to pack up and leave the summit to them. It was time to get some (pack-up) lunch and get off to the last summit in any case.

When I got back to the car, there were only one or two parking spots empty, as well as the walkers the locals had driven up to enjoy the good weather and good views.

 Photos – Hesselberg:

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Dürrenberg DM/BM-226

Dürrenberg is between Wülzberg and Hesselberg but I had decided to leave this one until last as it has a longer walk-in from where I park and so I was never going to be at the last summit at a good time for radio propagation on HF, it was always going to be early afternoon. I park on a small pull-off where one of the roads that go up to the summit on the st2218 Heidenheim to Degerheim road. The area around Dürrenberg looks to me as if it has been used as a military training (tank driving) area and access roads are closed to motor transport by metal barriers but these barriers are so high that those walking or even with bicycles can easily “duck under” and get access. There are a lot of ventilation pipes coming out of various parts of the ground, suggesting that something has been stored underground previously. Parts of the area have now been handed over to a wind farm, it appears. The top of the hill has a large radio tower on it and a few buildings that look like they could be from the 1940s or 50s at its base. Access to the tower area is blocked by a 3-metre high fence and solidly locked gate. 

My first two activations of this summit were from within the wooded area near to the gate, however as the drop in height to the field area immediately outside of the woods is negligible, I now set up in the open on the flat area well within the activation zone before the hill drops off back down to where I park my car 55 vertical metres further down the hill at 600m ASL.

After setting up, I started on 20 metres, picking up two S2S contacts in the 15 contacts made and I then collected another 6 contacts on 40 metres. It was nice that some of the stations I had worked on one or other of the previous two summits were there to work me again. In fact, one of the S2S contacts from this summit was HB9BTI again, still on Säntis HB/AI-001. Although not rushed, these 21 contacts only took 25 minutes to get in the log.

By 1117 UTC (1317 local), it was getting hot and the screen of the LG smartphone was almost impossible to read in the sunlight. Interestingly the screen on the G90 radio did not have this problem however this radio, which is known to get hot during operation was indeed almost too hot to touch on its top (non-ribbed) side. I will be adding some white “Fablon” plastic to the top of the radio as I had to do with my FT-817ND a few years ago.

The journey home took longer than expected due to the way my GPS routed me and more roadworks along with more traffic but I was home by late afternoon.

 Photos – Dürrenberg:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 portable HF transceiver.
  • Komunica HF-PRO2-Plus-T HF/VHF vertical and photo tripod with radials (used on Hesselberg and Dürrenberg).
  • 6-metre Lambdahalbe mast and SOTABeams Linked dipole (used on Wülzberg).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella foot (mast support) taken only to Wülzburg but not used.

Log – Wülzburg:

 

Log – Hesselberg:

Log – Dürrenberg:

Conclusions:

  • With 970 activator points on my account after these activations, I am getting closer to that magic 1000 level!  
  • The radio gear worked without issue. It would have been good to see if I could work or at least hear, the VK stations using the HF-PRO2 but time considerations meant I didn’t think of it (it was actually in the rucksack that I had with me at the operating location!) 
  • In the brightest sunshine, the LG K42 smartphone even in its “High-Contrast” mode (black backgrounds) still was not easy to read as previous phones I have had. The next option might be to try different Apps (e.g SOTL.AS instead of SOTA Spotter) to see how they fare.
  • It was right to set off back when I did as the traffic and roadwork delays on the way back were worse than on the run-up and would have been even worse had I gone with the original plan of the other summits even further north.

73 ’til the next summit(s).