DD5LP/P – March 24th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HAL-037 & SOTA DL/AL-171 – Eisenberg.

Background – Double summit.

Some of you may recognise the name of this summit from my previous reports. Eisenberg is a current SOTA and a current HEMA summit. How can this happen? Well HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.  

Preparation:

This activation was planned to be a little after the normal time for our twice-weekly “Comms Testers net” on 14.242 MHz which normally runs from 0745-0815 UTC on Monday & Thursday mornings, because of the somewhat longer distance to this summit.

Ernie VK3DET had promised to wait until I got on the air and Mike 2E0YYY would listen from the UK and we would use Signal as the “back-channel”.

Eisenberg has popular castle ruins on top of it and in fact, the wooden platform within the ruins is where I always set up. One big advantage to Eisenberg is the mountain restaurant where I would park my car and head there for a beer after completing the activation. It has a great view out over the valley. I avoid this summit on weekends because of the tourists but weekdays are fine (except Monday when the restaurant is closed).

The climb from the restaurant car park to the castle is steep and in winter very slippery. I have needed to fit spikes to get up the ice-covered path in the past but that certainly should not be needed on this activation, with a dry sunny and reasonable warm day forecast.

As usual for early starts, I loaded the car Wednesday evening with all but my food and water so that all would be ready for a 7 am (0600 UTC) start the following morning.

The Activation

I knew there was one part of my route closed (and has been closed now for 6 months while the complete road is renewed for about 5 miles through Seeg – I know the diversion well for this and it adds hardly any time to the trip. What surprised me though was the total closure of the major east-west route including some newly constructed parts of the road on the way to Markt-Obersdorf. It looked like cars were coming through from the other side, so the return journey should be fine (or so I thought). The signposted diversion in fact took me past 4 SOTA summits, all of which I could have easily diverted to but I wanted to activate Eisenberg, so I pressed on. Actually arriving about 20 minutes earlier than I had expected at the restaurant’s car park! I had not been driving any faster than allowed either, while this was the one day in the year that all of the speed traps in Bavaria are set up, especially on the country roads. The police chiefs say this teaches the drivers to slow down but an investigation looking at data from the last 5 years of these actions, carried out by Passau University, found that car drivers ONLY slowed down on this one day and increased speed the following day again. This is purely a money-raising action for the local governments.

On arrival, at the car park, it was still a little chilly but not nearly as cold as it has been over the last few weeks. It looks like we might have spring arriving after all!

The “trudge” up to the castle took the usual about 20 minutes and I found the place deserted. While setting up the antenna and radio, I got an inquiry from Ernie asking how long I was going to be and a few minutes later, he came straight back to my 20m 20w SSB CQ call on our net frequency. We exchanged 53/54 reports and I tried to explain to Ernie that this summit has two codes, one for HEMA and one for SOTA. During my conversation, I noticed what I at first thought was some idiot causing deliberate QRM by playing music on the frequency but later I realised it was over a larger section of the band and I now believe it was the third harmonic of one of the high powered Shortwave broadcast stations that have been re-started to send propaganda into both sites of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Someone at the stations needs to put a spectrum analyser on the transmitter’s output! 

The next surprise was that my radio turned off without warning! Right in the middle of one of my overs with Ernie. I had been running on my 10AH battery box but I also carry a spare supply in the firm of a LiHV battery and when I got that out and connected up, I was working again but with less battery capacity available, so I would not be able to stay as long as I had hoped.

After I had worked Ernie, Mike 2E0YYY kindly spotted me first on HEMA and later on SOTA but today instead of the usual pile of callers, it took a while to gather enough to qualify the summit! Even after switching from 20m to 40m, I was not getting many calls and while Mike reported that I had a “booming signal” into the North of the UK, the only two contacts I made on 40m were into the southwest of England with low signal strengths in both directions. The bands were definitely strange. I thought perhaps there was a break in one of the links in the 40m section of the dipole so I tested it when I got home and it was fine. It was band conditions at the time that I was on that were strange.

My 20m contacts were mainly into Sweden and Finland to the North and Greece and Portugal to the south, suggesting the band was “long”.

In any case after the troubles finding contacts (I ended up with thirteen which is more than enough to qualify the summit but a lot less than I would normally get) and seeing the LiHV battery voltage dropping, I decided it was time to pack up and head back down the hill, arriving at the restaurant a few minutes after they opened and I was able to relax looking out over the valley in the sunshine and drinking a lovely weissbier.

The trip home was not as easy as I had hoped. I headed back using my normal route only to find the main B472 road was indeed completely closed in both directions and the diversion from Markt Oberdorf had obviously been worked out for large trucks as it added over 30 minutes to my journey by avoiding taking me up the small roads that would have reduced the journey time, not only because it would have been a shorter route but also I would have avoided being stuck behind slow-moving trucks, that on this “Speed-trap-day”, had the added danger of a speeding fine while overtaking. 

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Bothy bag (emergency shelter) (not used).
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs). (failed)
  • 4000maH LiHV battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and for back-channel comms. 

Logs:

HEMA

SOTA

Conclusions:

  • The weather is getting better – I needed no gloves while operating this time.
  • It was a pleasure to get an immediate contact with Ernie, which probably would not have been possible from home. The lower noise level when operating portable is a great advantage.
  • I checked the dipole when I got home and found no breaks – this must just have been radio conditions or obstructions causing the problems.
  • The failure in the battery box turned out to be a simple broken wire, which must have been breaking over a long time through being plugged and unplugged and over time, breaking a strand at a time and then the final strand not being able to handle the current burning through (picture in the slideshow above).

73 ’til the next summit, be it HEMA or SOTA – or perhaps BOTH again?