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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – September 2nd 2021 – DL/AL-158 Breitenberg.

Preparation:

As part of my push to get to the “magic 1000” activator points, I wanted to either activate multiple or a high scoring summit once the constant rain stopped and we got a nice day. I prefer summits that I have already activated as that way I know what to plan for. Breitenberg DL/AL-158 is one such 8-point summit that I hadn’t activated for 5 years. It’s not an “easy” drive-up summit but for 8-points it’s a reasonable effort, with two lifts getting you up to about 100 vertical metres from the summit. Then it is a hard slog up a stone track.

The views, both on the way up and when you reach the top are amazing but this is NOT a summit to do in winter (despite its 3 extra bonus points). The summit has limited space so the gear would be the XIEGU G90, battery box and the Komunica HF-PRO2 antenna (and photo tripod), a combination that has worked well on several recent activations. As a backup, my new SOTABeams random-length end-fed antenna was also packed but no mast.

This is the first time I have taken my fishing shade tent to a summit, as when in the sunshine, this can be a scorching summit and more to the point, I need shade to be able to even read my new LG smartphone.

The last time I was on this summit, I had difficulties getting any cell service, so I was hoping with the change from 3G to 4G, I might now be OK (3G has been totally decommissioned across Germany).

In order to get an S2S in the log Mike, 2E0YYY, kindly offered to go onto the Great Orme in northern Wales (GW/NW-070) and as well as trying for early morning contacts into VK, he would wait until I got on my summit before leaving. My original plan was to get to the summit at about noon local time (1000 UTC), as it turned out, I did a lot better than that. 

The Activation

The lifts to Breitenberg start just outside Pfronten close to the German / Austrian border. Getting there is normally quite straightforward, except that there are a few sections of roadworks and diversions to get through at the moment. Luckily, Falkenstein which I activated with Christos SV2OXS a couple of weeks earlier is in the same area and I know which diversions to follow and which to ignore. I had planned to have an S2S contact with Mike 2E0YYY/P who was heading out to the Greate Orme in Northern Wales (GW/NW-070) to take advantage of recent good conditions into Australia, early mornings and then would be travelling on for his work. Given that the first lift only starts operation at 9 am local time, and it takes effectively an hour to get to the summit from the town, I was never going to be on the summit early enough for a contact into VK or ZL but Mike had agreed to stay on his summit long enough to get a contact with me before heading off. My original plan had me being operational by noon local but by starting earlier, catching one of the first cabins in the Breitenbergcabinbahn followed by the 4-seater open seat lift HochAlpebahn up the mountain to about 100 vertical metres under the summit, and “pushing-on” on the final climb, reducing it from 30 to 20 minutes (15 would have been possible had I not had the 15-kilogram backpack on)  I managed to be there and operational just after 10 am local (0800 UTC). I found Mike as he was trying to work John VK6NU in Western Australia and we both tried calling him but unfortunately without success. 

Following his contact with me, Mike left me the frequency and spotted me before he packed up and left for his business meeting. As you can see, there were lots of contacts gained many of them quite strong and given the hurried assembly of the HF-20 loaded vertical, it, along with the XIEGU G90 again gave good service. Luckily the spot I found on the summit had a little shade provided by the small bushes so I didn’t need to put up the fisherman tent which I had brought with me to provide shade and protection from the hot sun and to allow me to be able to see the feeble display on my new LG K42 smartphone (don’t buy one of these if you are considering it and need to use it outdoors). I actually had good 4G LTE Internet connectivity (which I hadn’t had, the last time I activated this summit, 5 years ago). When I decided to switch from 20m to 40m and found a free frequency, I was not able to spot myself. I was swearing at the SOTA Spotter app which normally works fine but at the end of the day, the problem was a simple one, that it still had my old SOTAWatch password programmed into it. I didn’t work this out until after I got home though.

So on 40m, it was a case of calling any SOTA activator I could hear and I happened across Heinrich IW3AGO who was in Lichtenstein so that was a nice (10 point) S2S contact. While looking to spot myself, a Belgian WWFF activator came up and stole my frequency, so I thought I’d give him a call in any case and then pack up as the summit was becoming quite busy. 

All in all, this was a bit of a physical challenge but an enjoyable morning out and another 8 points to my activator total.

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical, photo tripod and radials.
  • SotaBeams end-fed (not used).
  • Fisherman’s tent (not used).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • LG Smartphone.

Log:

 

Conclusions:

  • For restricted space, the combination of the XIEGU G90 and the Komunica HF-PRO2 continue to work well.
  • Sun protection cream on a smartphone does not improve its responsiveness.
  • Do not assume all software is going to work, switch to an alternative if there are problems.
  • The rucksack is STILL too heavy for such steep tracks. I need to try an activation using my LiHV battery rather than the big battery box.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – Bavarian Forest activations August 22nd – 25th 2021 – DM/BM-304 Haidstein, DM/BM-047 Großer Arber, DM/BM-002 Pröller & DM/BM-296 Hadriwa.

Purpose of trip:

The purpose of a short holiday in the Bavarian Forest area of Germany was to activate as many high scoring summits as possible. As I had just got through the 900 points mark, there was a possibility that I might reach the Mountain Goat score of 1000 during the visit. This looked less likely as a couple of activations in the DL association had to be cancelled a few weeks previously however I could at least add a good number of points to my total, as I should be able to activate 2 or 3 10-point summits per day. Or so I thought …

This was the end of August – five days that are normally dry, sunny and warm.

Not in 2021!

With the COVID infection rate getting higher and having cancelled similar planned trips to the area twice before because of COVID lockdowns, I was determined to get a bundle of points out of this trip.

It wasn’t to be – of the four full days that we were in the region, there was only one day that was dry, all others rained from morning to evening with an occasional 30 minutes break in the rain.

I even planned one (6-point) activation, on the way to the apartment as this was a relatively easy one and as I had the wife and dog along, I had to consider what they would like to do during the trip. Sunday on Haidstein, worked out well, with the downpour there starting some minutes after we left. By the time we got to the apartment it was pouring down and the forecast for Monday was for it to continue, so it was decided that Monday would be a town visit, museum visit and shopping day – no radio. The weather was supposed to be mixed on Tuesday and fine for the following days.

As it worked out Tuesday was terrible, as was Thursday and we didn’t stay until Friday as had been planned.

In any case, write it up to experience – never trust weather forecasts – I did manage four activations and here are the reports on those activations.

As it turned out on all four activations I used the “lightweight” radio configuration which all packed into one 40 litre rucksack. This is a configuration that I had tried out at Falkenstein about a week earlier and it worked remarkably well on all of these summits.

Activation – Haidstein Sunday 22/8/21

This was the activation that I did on the way to our holiday apartment. It is a really simple summit, drive all the way to the “Haidsteiner Hutte” on what is at first a narrow road and then for the last couple of kilometres a mud track and behind the restaurant, there is a track going up to the St. Ulrich church which sits on the summit. If you are lucky and the keeper of the church is there – take a look inside, for such a small church it is really well decorated with gold everywhere.

Having set up the gear and explained to an old guy who was at the other end of the bench, what I was doing – I worked several stations on 40 metres. One of them was an S2S contact with Stefan DG4RBS who was activating another summit close by and had planned to activate Haidstein as well. As it turned out without knowing it, when leaving and driving down the track we passed him coming the other way. He told me later that on arrival at the restaurant’s car park, the heavens opened and he wasn’t able to activate the summit. It turned out that he was on holiday and doing day trips from his home about 2.5 hours away. He joined me on GroßerArber a couple of days later and we did a joint activation, which was also plagued by bad weather (see below).

 Photos – Haidstein:

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Activation – Großer Arber Tuesday 24/8/21

Expecting a mixed day weatherwise and having agreed to meet Stefan DG4RBS at the lift up to Großer Arber, I set off at 9 am only to be sent on a diversion route almost as soon as I left the town and then the heavy rains started, even with some hail. This was not looking good!

I met Stefan in the car park and after trying for ten minutes to get the parking ticket meter to work with both of my bank cards without success, we went and bought our lift tickets. With my change from the ticket, I was able to return to the ticket machine and buy a €4 day-parking ticket (the only option), so now we were set and could take the gondelbahn (cable car) up to the summit. This was quite a short and quick ascent but from the car, we could see nothing but rain and clouds. I’m sure in summer the views would be fantastic – Oh hang on this WAS summer!

Once at the summit the weather conditions did not look any better. We were effectively in the (very wet) clouds. Well, we decided it wasn’t going to change, so we set off on the short ascent to the actual summit from the cable car’s top station. There is very little cover on this summit but the views! (what views?) You can, on a clear day, see all the way over Bavaria to the Alps in the south – or so it is said. Großer Arber is the highest mountain in the Bavarian Forest region.

Rather than get both of our radios wet, I volunteered my radio and antenna that we would both use. I set up the photo-tripod with radials and the Komunicas HF-PRO2 along with the Xiegu G90 and we were on the air within 10 minutes. Once I had “bagged” half a dozen contacts (one of them an S2S with Heinrich IW3AGO) I handed the microphone over to Stefan so that he could qualify the summit. This being a ten-pointer summit, there were plenty of callers and it was a matter of sorting out some from the pile-up to work. I am sure we missed lots of the chasers but in these weather conditions, we wanted to simply do the minimum, then get back down to the bottom of the lift and go and have something warm to eat.

That was the next surprise – as there were very few visitors due to the horrible weather, the restaurant at the bottom of the lift wasn’t open. We asked at the ticket window and were advised that down at Arbersee about 2-3 km away, the restaurant there was open, so that was our next destination, only to find that we had to pay another €4 each for another day ticket even though we were only stopping for about 45 minutes.

Stefan had only intended activating this one summit today as he had activated what I had planned as a second summit (DM/BM-368 Schwarzriegel) 3 weeks previously. That summit is accessed via an open seat-lift, so with the weather as it was, I decided that would be terrible to use (if it was even running) and after lunch, decided to head back to the holiday apartment hoping for a better day on Wednesday!

 Photos – Großer Arber:

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Activation – Pröller Wednesday 25/8/21

What a difference a day makes! Wednesday was a lovely sunny day and I was on the road and off to Pröller after breakfast. I headed to the car park of the hotel/restaurant “HochPröller” which I had booked into twice before intending it to be my base for summits in the region but on both occasions, I had to cancel because of Covid lockdowns. Those plans were me alone and hence I would have been able to get to the summit (perhaps) early enough for the greyline into ZL or long path into VK. This time however this was a holiday also for my wife and the location is too remote to do anything “non-radio” from and so wasn’t practical. This is the closest road/track to the summit and I reached the hotel car park with no difficulty. I then set off up the hillside on what seemed like a track, it led to a shed and then to a small ski-lift. There is no marked trail up from this side of the summit and as you will see from the photographs, the route is first of all under the ski-lift and then across and up the side of the ski slope. The principle of always keeping going upwards works out and eventually, I met a marked hiking track that took me to the summit. On arriving at the summit, I found the cross and several tables and a major well maintained hiking track running across the summit. This track comes up from Hinterweiss village and although longer, it appears to not be as steep or tricky as the route I had taken. Perhaps next time I will use that route.

There is plenty of room on this summit and I could have put up the 6-metre mast and linked dipole that I had with me but after the success, I had had the previous two days, I decided to just set up the Komunica HF-PRO2 again and it worked a treat! This being a 10-point summit, there were more than enough callers and the biggest problem was separating them to get as many as possible in the log. This was the only summit where I didn’t get an S2S in the log however I wasn’t really trying for S2S contacts, rather get finished and off to the next summit. 

As I was packing up, it turned out that one of the on-lookers was a radio ham of a few years previously but as often happened he had lost contact with the hobby through his career and marriage and having a young family. As I have a training call sign as well (DN5LP) I could have put him on the radio but I only found out when I was almost complete with packing up all the equipment!

 Photos – Pröller:

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Activation – Hadriwa Wednesday 25/8/21

There are several points in the area marked as Hadriwa, so it’s important to go to the point given in the SOTA database and indicated on SOTAmaps. I had programmed the coordinates of the hiking car park between Maibrunn and Elisabethszell into my GPS and it took me there in about 10 minutes from HochPröller. On arriving, there were cars blocking each other in the car park as some wanted to leave and some new ones park so I drive further up the road but finding no alternative, drove back as I had seen a very small spot of concrete on the other side of the road and I thought, I might park there if I had to. As it happened when I got back, things were a little less chaotic and I was able to drive into the correct parking area and find a good spot.

This car park has some remembrance boards and a large map board with tracks marked on it. The reference number on the map however didn’t tally with the codes on the signposts, so I took a while to work out which tracks I would need to take from the map so that I would reach the Hadriwa high point as indicated in SOTA. The trick is to follow the “Hadriwa Höhenweg” signs which were also marked as “Nur für geübte” (only for experienced walkers). This warning was as much of the track was over rough rocky ground and slipping and twisting an ankle would be very easy to do. Upon reaching the high-point I asked another walker who was nearby having lunch with his son, whether this was the actual summit. He wasn’t sure but confirmed that the track goes down if I was to continue along the track – so it seems reasonable. After getting home I checked, I was in the right place and in any case that part of the track runs along a ridge and a long length of it is within the AZ (activation zone).

Perched on top of these rocks, the small antenna set-up definitely came into its own – I would not have been able to put up a dipole here in the space available!

This summit also got pülenty of calls from chasers including two S2S calls one from SQ9ITA Marcin and again from Heinrich IW3AGO. Space was limited but the weather was fine, indeed I actually put my cap on, on this summit. Mario DJ2MX from Munich was also staying in Bod Kotzting where our holiday apartment was and he had emailed me the previous day when he saw we were in the area and we had arranged to meet on Thursday (an action that unfortunately ended up getting cancelled due to the weather). Well, another contact from Hadriwa was indeed Mario who had set up his gear in the park and of course was a good signal. He suggested that as I was running ahead of schedule, and the weather is good, why not activate DM/BM-368 Schwarzriegel which I had cancelled the previous day. I told him I would consider this and by the time I had packed up and headed back to the car, that had become the plan. In hindsight, I’d have been better going to another summit local to where I was as Schwarzriegel was over 35 km away but I had a rough plan of how I would activate.

On setting off from Hadriwa the traffic had increased and as I approached one tourist park with lots of games for the children, the traffic stopped while more and more cars arrived and left the parking area. A little later up the road at another spot, it was the same. Everyone had come out with the children as it was, at last, a sunny day! The problem I now had to consider, along with a delayed drive, was that on arriving at Hohenbogen from where the chairlift goes up to the summit – is also a tourist area which would undoubtedly be overrun with people seeking a day out in the sunshine. So I reversed my decision and headed back to our holiday apartment planning to go perhaps to a closer summit on Thursday morning, before meeting Mario in the afternoon.

It was not to be. The heavy rain returned overnight and Thursday was such a wash-out and there was no likelihood of it improving so we decided to return home a day early.  

 Photos – Hadriwa:

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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.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Also taken but not used on all summits – 6-metre Lambdahalbe mast and SOTABeams Linked dipole.

Log – Haidstein:

Log – Großer Arber:

Log – Pröller:

Log – Hadriwa:

Conclusions:

  • With 944 activator points on my account after these activations, I still have a way to go to that magic 1000 – especially as closer to home, the summits that I can access are normally 1 or 2 pointers. OK at some point the winter bonus, 3-extra-points, will kick in on some summits but it’s still going to be a challenge to get to MG status by the end of the year. 
  • The radio gear worked without issue and really makes me wonder what advantage a mast and linked dipole is over the simple tripod and loaded vertical has? The simple vertical antenna teamed up with the photo tripod and the Xiegu G90 continues to amaze me how well it works! When the point is to bag a difficult summit, the extra work of installing the linked dipole or any other of my antennas is simply not worth it when I can work Europe from north to south and from west to east with this light and compact set-up. – I must do some antenna comparisons at some point.
  • The new smartphone – an LG K42, was better in its “High-Contrast” mode (black backgrounds) but still was not easy to read as previous phones I have had. It connected to the 4G LTE network without any issues thankfully.
  • This plan was DESTROYED by the constant rain and cold and this at the end of August when normally you could guarantee dry, warm weather. NEVER TRUST weather forecasts!

73 ’til the next summit(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – August 19th 2021 – DL/AL-171 Eisenberg & DL/AL-167 Falkenstein.

Preparation:

With Christos SV2OXS still in Munich and the trains running again after a strike we decided to include another SOTA activation trip. Initially, we had hoped that Michalos would join us as well however with the delay because of the train strikes, his return flight to Greece was on the same day as this new SOTA schedule.

As Michalos is not a ham, I had deliberately chosen two summits that are interesting for other reasons in that they have castle ruins on top of them and have some great views.

This trip would also act as a test for equipment that I will be using the following week on multiple summits in the Bavarian Forest area of Germany.

Before the day started I had also considered squeezing in a third summit – Zwolferkopf DL/AL-166 which is not far from Falkenstein but with train schedules combined with the one-way, traffic lights controlled road, logistically it wasn’t going to work.

Another attraction of the first summit is a nice country restaurant whose car park I always use when going to Eisenberg. That was also added to the plans.

I was surprised to find a railway station quite close to Eisenberg with a direct train from Munich, so Christos agreed that he would take that 2-hour train journey each way to save me having to drive into Munich to collect him. In any case, either arrangement meant that we would be starting the activations around midday local time and so only have the afternoon for the activations.

I have activated both summits previously and so know what antennas can be accommodated there.  Eisenberg would get the 6-metre mast and linked dipole and the limited space Falkenstein just the photo tripod and the Komunica HF-Pro2 vertical.

The Activation – Eisenberg

Having collected Christos from the railway station where the train arrived right on time, we were on the road up to the restaurant under the summit within 15 minutes but there were crowds of people, mainly walking and lots of cars parked at the bottom of the road – this was the busiest I have seen this summit EVER! It is school holiday time in Bavaria and this was the first nice day for about a week and it was approaching noon, so I suppose I could have predicted this but it was a surprise anyway. Luckily one car had just left and I managed to grab what was probably the last parking spot at the restaurant. After a quick check with the owner (as we were intending to go to the castle ruins on the summit before eating and he said it’d be OK but we couldn’t reserve a table for later). So off we went up a track I know in all kinds of weather still with lots of people doing the same thing – I’m used to being totally alone on this summit, so it was a little strange to have it so busy.

On arriving at the platform, I wanted to set up the mast and linked dipole but with several members of the public around I thought I may not be able to but with my guest along as well, I decided to just go and do it and EVERYONE moved when I needed them to and a few were even interested in what we were doing. It still amazes me that Ham Radio is recognised still by lots of people in Germany in England or Australia I’m sure the reaction would have been “What’s that?” but not here. The German public either know what it is or ask more to learn what it is. It’s a nice feeling almost respect, that you get.

In any case on this summit, I just set up the radio and antenna on 40 metres and got busy getting a few contacts in the log. Meantime Christos with his little QCX and telescopic whip antenna was logging good CW contacts using CW on 20 metres. Once I finished, we switched the linked dipole to 20 metres and connected it to the QCX to get a few more contacts in Christos’s log. It was at about this point that he said beware – the gaps in the planks in the platform are a danger as small components could easily drop through. 

Once the calls on 20 metres dried up, we decided it was time to go down and get lunch so that we could then head to the next summit. While packing up I moved one bag and what happened – Yes, an item dropped through the gap in the wooden planks, never to be seen again. This wasn’t an expensive part – it was just a rubber band that I use to keep the wound up antenna “under control” but after the warning, it was embarrassed to have to admit that I had indeed lost something down the hole! Temporarily the old PVC tape came out and served to hold the rolled-up antenna together until I got home where I found a replacement rubber band.

Once we got back to the restaurant, the queue for a table was across the car park. We were wondering whether to leave and try to find a different restaurant on the way to the next summit but after a little while the queue started moving and we were seated at a table. With the COVID restrictions, they are not allowed to simply fill every table which is what used to happen so there are inevitably delays in getting seated. Once seated however we could order and the food and drinks came very quickly (well done Schlossbergalm Zell!). This meant we were back on schedule but in discussions at lunch, we effectively decided to drop summit number three (Zwolferkopf) in favour of a more casual activation of number two (Falkenstein). After a nice lunch, we were on our way again to arrive at the start of the private road up to Falkenstein just after the lights had turned red. (cars are allowed up the road between xx:15 and xx:55 and down the road between xx:00 and xx:10)

The Activation – Falkenstein

After spending ten minutes as a tour guide/explainer to others who hadn’t known there was a one-way road that only opened at certain times in a particular direction and helping out with change for the ticket machine, which only takes coins (the ticket is till €4 as it was last year), we headed up the road as the first car when the lights turned green.

I pointed out the point where I would need to park about 2/3 of the way up the road if we decided to activate Zwolferkopf but with the road open times and the time of Christos’s return train to Munich, we decided to drop the third summit completely.

On arriving at the top car park, I was happy to find it wasn’t completely full, in fact, it was only half full so the crowds of tourists that we saw at Eisenberg hadn’t decided to head to Falkenstein (which was a relief). That’s not to say that there weren’t a lot more people here than I am used to and after we climbed the steep road from the day-visitor car park to the hotel entrance and then on up the steep track to the ruins, there was a surprise waiting for me.

I normally activate from the raised platform inside the ruins but for some reason, when we got to the gate, it was chained and locked. There have been times in winter when it would make sense to lock the gate as the rocks inside and the steps and platform itself are often ice-covered but I presume this action is more related to COVID – wanting to avoid people meeting up on the small platform. In any case as those controlling the ruins are not the hotel but rather the local council, all the way down in the valley, getting the area opened just for an amateur radio action would have not been successful and certainly not within the time we had available. So it was a matter of finding an alternative spot. I had only brought the Komunica HF-PRO-2 and its photo tripod and radials to this summit in any case as the platform is small and because I wanted to show Christos that this antenna does work as he has been blaming it as the reason that he hasn’t heard me from any summit during the last year. Using this on 20m, I worked a friend of Christos, Dinos SV3IEG without problem, so I think the more likely reason for the lack of contacts has been simply that I haven’t been out as much over the last year.

In any case after going around the base of the ruin, we returned back to the side facing the path up and found a small area there to set up the gear on. I wasn’t happy that this was so close to the castle wall but despite that somehow Lars SA4BLM in Sweden made it into the log. We worked 20m SSB and CW before switching to 40 metres which at this time in the afternoon was almost dead. A surprise for me as I’m used to 40m being so full that you can’t find a free frequency! Although we had plenty of time before Christos’s train we had to take into account the fact that the private road used to leave the summit, is only open in a downward direction for 10 minutes and missing that would mean you have to wait until the next hour. All went well, although Christos had rather a long wait at the station in what was like a bus stop shelter (these small rural stations no longer have any buildings whatsoever) and work more like a bus stop than a railway station. 

 Photos – Eisenberg:

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 Photos – Falkenstein:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Sotabeams linked dipole “Band Hopper” on Eisenberg.
  • 6m LambdaHalbe mini-mast on Eisenberg.
  • Komunica HF-PRO2-Plus-T HF/VHF vertical and photo tripod with radials.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log – Eisenberg:

Log – Falkenstein:

Conclusions:

  • The radio gear worked without issue with the only problem being the loss of one rubber band used in packing up the linked dipole, which fell between the planks on the platform at Eisenberg never to be seen again.
  • The new smartphone – an LG K42 was better in its “High-Contrast” mode (black backgrounds) but still was not easy to read. It connected to the 4G LTE network without any issues thankfully.
  • This was a day where the temperature was at the point, where one didn’t know whether to wear a jacket or not and the result of a jacket and a still relatively heavy rucksack caused a lot of sweating.
  • It’s enjoyable but tiring to do a joint activation with another amateur.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – August 6th 2021 – DL/EW-001 Wank & DL/BE-094 Irschenhausen.

Preparation:

With Christos SV2OXS visiting his family in Munich and a promised good day, at least in the afternoon, I agreed with Christos that we’d go to Wank to do a joint SOTA activation. I chose Wank as while it is a straightforward summit to access, it does have some good views and two restaurants on the summit and as Christos was to bring a non-ham friend along, these might stop Michalis from getting too bored while Christos and I “played radio”. We arranged that the two would take a train out part of the way and I would pick them up and then we would head on to the summit near Garmisch Partenkirchen and the Austrian border. This was the summit I had planned to activate in July however the flooded river in the area caused the main road to be closed and so I changed my choice of summits for that trip. going to Hinteres Hornele instead of Wank.

The Activation – Wank

As it turned out Michalis was keen to help with everything and not too interested in taking walks from the summit and both Christos and I had time to check out slightly changed equipment. Christos only had his 20m QCX CW only transceiver along with him and the “about” 5 watts of RF from it was radiated from a telescopic antenna on top of it but despite that he was getting the needed contacts into the log. At one point we swapped to my linked dipole that I had set up but it did not bring any new contacts for him.

While both radios were running we caused each other receiver problems even though one was on 40m and the other 20m. Being so close together (Christos was sat underneath my antenna wire), it was to be expected but as we both managed we’re happy enough.  

In my case, I was using the replacement Xiegu G90 radio (received only days earlier) at its full 20 watts SSB output to the linked dipole set to 40m. This unit replaced the previous one that had a mechanically failed switch (or more likely a dry solder joint) in it – so Radioddity simply swapped the unit out for a brand new one. As well as the 6-metre mast, sun umbrella foot and linked 20/30/40m dipole, I also had the Komunica HF-Pro-2 loaded vertical with me but didn’t have time to compare it with Christos’s small loaded vertical (maybe next time).

While the Xiegu worked fine, I have also had to buy a new smartphone with the closure of the 3G cell service in Germany and while the new LG K42 connected as it should to the LTE (4G) cells and we had Internet connectivity, even at the highest brightness setting, the screen was unreadable in the sunlight!

After about 40 minutes of operating, it was decided it was time to go and sample some food and beer from one of the restaurants, which we duly did and over a late lunch decided that we could fit in another summit. For the second summit, while we would go past it on the way back to the Railway station in Starnberg, I decided we would go to Irschenberg. It is a good example to show Christos the type of small summits with forests on top of them that we have here in Southern Bavaria.

The Activation – Irschenberg

Being a forested summit with lots of trees this was far from an ideal location for the QCX and its vertical antenna, so we agreed I would once again set up the mast and linked dipole and the Xiegu and it would get its first-ever use on CW.

After about a 15 minutes walk from the closest parking point, we found the summit from a combination of my memory of an earlier visit and Christos’s Garmin GPS unit into which he has the SOTA summits loaded. The location was confirmed when I saw the Tig point marker stone. 

I know nothing about CW operation, despite Christos’s determined arguments to try to get me to commit to learning it I probably won’t understand it in the future either however what I did learn from this experience is that there is a lot of set-up actions to get things working correctly between the Palm mini paddle key and the electronic keyer that is built into the G90. Eventually, we got it into a “sort of” working condition and Christos bashed off the needed contacts for him to have activated the summit. After that, I got onto 20 & 40m SSB to gather a few contacts of my own.

After finishing at Irschenhausen, it was just a 15 minutes drive to drop my two Greek guests back at the railway station for their run home.

 Photos – Wank:

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 Photos – Irschenhausen:

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Equipment used (both summits):

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Sotabeams linked dipole “Band Hopper”.
  • 6m LambdaHalbe mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella foot.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log – Wank:

 

Log – Irschenhausen:

 

Conclusions:

  • The replacement Xiegu G90 radio worked as well as its predecessor only the band change “up” button worked also.
  • The new smartphone – an LG K42 let me down badly. Although it connected to the LTE network, the screen was unreadable in the sunlight. I have found it is possible to switch the display from colour to black & white mode but on a new phone from a recognised manufacturer, this really should not be necessary!
  • My rucksack continues to be too heavy for the summits with longer walks/climbs needed. I need to try out the “Raddy” rucksack on a summit.
  • It’s enjoyable but tiring to do a joint activation with another amateur.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – July 19th 2021 – DL/AM-060 Laber & DL/AM-058 Hinteres Hoernle.

Preparation:

With the promise of a fine day after a week of rainy days, Monday, July the 19th. was first earmarked for the Wank and Laber mountains. Both of these 6 point mountains have cabin lifts that take you to the absolute top – in the case of Laber or most of the way, in the case of Wank. Unfortunately on Saturday night, the river next to the main road running into Garmisch Partenkirchen, where the Wank mountain is located broke its banks with an excessive amount of rain coming down from the Alps and both the road that I would need to use and the railway was flooded, causing chaos in the area as access was cut-off for most of Sunday. While by Monday the road would most likely be open again, I thought it best not to increase what would already be congested traffic, just for my trip to a summit.

So on Sunday, I changed my plans to go to Laber followed by Hinteres Hornle and leave Wank for some other time – perhaps the “Yorkshire Day” S2S event on August 1st? We’ll see.

Hinteres Hornle has a rickety chair lift followed by a 30-40 minute mainly uphill walk and so for that summit at least, I would need to use my lighter weight pack. This is just the loaded vertical (HF-PRO2-PLUS-T) from Komunica and a small photo tripod, both of which fit inside the rucksack. I also included my new end-fed random wire “Bandspringer” from SOTABeams and my arborist’s throw bag, in case I needed a backup. I took the dipole antennas, the 6m mast and the screw-in base, but all of these stayed in the back of the car and never found their way to a summit on this occasion.     

All prepared, the plan was to leave at 7:30 am Monday morning to arrive at the cabin lift in Oberammergau for the Laber mountain in good time, so the alarm was set and the bags stood by the door.  

The Activation – Laber

The decision to arrive early at the lift was a good one. It doesn’t officially start until 9 am but I was in the car park by 8:40 am, paid my parking fee and in the office as the first person there. I was expecting a small family group behind me to have been put in the small cabin but that was not the case. One cabin, one group and if that group is one person – then so be it. There are only four cabins on this complete system so that they normally run about every 10 minutes between them. I was at the top of the mountain at about 8:55 am – before the lift should even have started. Had I been 20 minutes later, I would most likely have had to wait 30 minutes before getting on the lift. Indeed when I came back down, there was a long queue of groups of people waiting to go up.

I have activated Laber so many times, that I know exactly where I will go and what I can set up. In about 15 minutes, I had the station installed and wanted to check who else was out via the SOTA Spotter App but it didn’t seem to be updating, so I switched from the Vodafone to the Telekom network (I have a dual SIM phone) and at that point, I received an email from Ernie VK3DET telling me on which frequency Mike 2E0YYY/P was on – we usually try for contacts between Germany, England and Australia but it was quickly obvious that the conditions to get through to Australia had already closed. I would have needed to have been on the summit an hour earlier at least. As I had set up for 40 metres and Mike was already on 20m, I took a quick tune around and worked two very strong Italian stations and then tried to spot myself. I couldn’t as there was no Internet connectivity again – this was going to be the story of the day – but more of that later. I then changed the setting on the bottom of the HF-PRO-2 vertical for 20m and went to see if I could hear Mike. There was nothing on the frequency that Ernie had given me, so I put a quick call out for Mike. “BOOM” back he came with a fully quieting S9+ signal. The conditions within Europe at least were very good on 20m. Mike had worked a station in St Helena some minutes earlier who had commented that the band was not good. 

Mike kindly left me the frequency as he had to pack up and also spotted me before he left – well that created a big pile-up for me of around 20 stations one after the other from all around Europe. The reports I was getting with the 20w G90 and the small antenna were very impressive. Mostly between 55 and 59, which for such a simple setup over still relatively long distances was good to have.

In fact, the radio gear was working well and time went by until I decided if I was to get to the next summit and activate it, with its long walk. I should get packed up and back down the lift.  Just before I left a hang glider pilot set off and flew down into the valley. The start was so short that I only caught him as he was already starting into his first loop (see the picture below). The ride back down was uneventful, again with a cabin to myself – most people were coming up the mountain at this time around 10 am. This was obvious when I saw the queue when leaving the bottom station of the lift and heading back to my car.

The Activation – Hinteres Hoernle

The drive to Bad Kohlgrub (where the lift up to the Hoernles starts) was less than 30 minutes and when I arrived, the car park was fairly full but this lift is a seat lift with about 100 seats on it – so no problems here with waiting to get on the lift, it was moving at its normal pace, just interrupted when someone had difficulty getting on or off. This is also a very old lift but has a very novel system that when you arrive either at the top or bottom, you just stand up, the seat splits into two and goes around you. When you pay at the parking machine put the main part of the ticket in your car and take the “tab” with you because when you hand this over at the lift ticket office, they pay half of the parking charge and you get a reduction on the lift ticket price.

The ride up the mountain on the seat lift takes about 20 minutes. Time to check things on the phone (yes I had cell network coverage while on the lift) and in my case grab a little lunch from my pack-up. One needs to be careful not to drop anything though, as it’s a long walk to get to where you may have dropped something. there is a path back down the mountain, that winds back and forwards under the lift but watching people walking up the path, tells you how steep it is. Not recommended if you are carrying heavy radio gear.

Once at the top and safely off the lift, it’s time to prepare for the walk to the rear mountain – it’s signposted as needing 40 minutes, I usually take about 30 but when I arrive I need 10 minutes to catch my breath, while those taking it a little slower appear to manage it better but they are not carrying as much weight. My rucksack is still too heavy for these kinds of walks and my next change to what is in the rucksack will be to see how long I can run on a 4000maH LiHV battery instead of the two 5000maH hard cell 4S LIPOs that I currently carry.

The actual summit is often crowded as was the case this time, but there is a nice level patch about 10 metres below the summit across from a strange wooden structure that all ask what it is but no one knows. I believe it was there already in 2020 when I last activated this summit and was something to do with a festival. Unfortunately, the local cowherd knows of this area of grass and had marked it out quite well with cow patts, so caution was needed while setting up the station and especially when running out the radial wires.

It was at this point that I realised that again I had no Internet connectivity either on Telekom or Vodafone (the two choices I have in my dual-SIM phone). At the time, I thought it must be that the cell systems are overloaded with traffic related to the recent flooding around Garmisch Partenkirchen which could be using the same transmitter sites. It was only after getting home, that I realised the actual reason. The 3G data network from all three network providers in Germany was closed down on June 30th. Their intention is to re-use those frequencies and mast space to expand the new 5G network coverage. OK, my phone is a 4G-LTE phone, so how about the 4G network? Why wasn’t that working? In regional Germany, band-20 on 850MHz (the old CDMA band) is used for regional LTE coverage and the older 4G capable phones (like mine) only have the 4G 1800/2100MHz band enabled, not the 850MHz one! DOH!

So I had to manage without any way to spot or to see where other activators were and so I tuned around and found two portable stations chatting and managed to break in. These were Harry SM0VPO/P on his lunch break and Martin M7BIA/P on holiday in the Lake District. Martin had been activating SOTA summits the previous day but today was just out in a field. All three of us had a nice chat for 15 minutes, and I had two of the needed four contacts in my log but now it was time to go and see what other contacts I could make. After another 15 minutes a couple of unanswered calls and trying each cell network with no success, I happened on Lauri LB1RH/P on SOTA LA/OL-184 and worked him for an S2S contact. He was actually just packing up and said the frequency was free – so I thanked him and jumped in and took over the frequency hoping that chasers looking for a SOTA activator would settle for me instead of Lauri who was on his way to his next summit. It worked and I got another four contacts into the log in the next 5 minutes before packing up. Unfortunately without the Internet spotting and checking option, I missed several S2S possibilities and in fact, gave out the wrong SOTA reference to those last 4 stations (PMed in the meantime to correct their logs). I had given out the correct summit name but gave out 068 rather than 058 as I had that written on my paper log sheet. My alert from the previous day was correct and if I had been able to self-spot I would have seen my error straight away as SOTA Spotter display the summit name and details for the code entered. 

The walk back to the lift and ride down to the car park were uneventful as was the drive home. All in all, it was an enjoyable day out that proved the small radio kit (while still too heavy) can perform well. The combination of the XIEGU G90 and the Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T antenna seems to work surprisingly well.

 Photos – Laber:

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 Photos – Hinteres Hoernle:

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Equipment used (both summits):

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T and small photo tripod with radial wires.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • SOTABeams 10-60m bandspringer antenna (not used).
  • Arborist’s throw bag (not used).

Log – Laber:

Log – Hinteres Hoernle:

Conclusions:

  • I was amazed at the performance of the loaded vertical antenna on both summits. The fact that the luxury of self-spotting was taken away from me, meant I had to make “normal” QSOs with non-SOTA chases/activators (at least in most cases).
  • I have to buy a new smartphone – the removal of 3G coverage by all three networks on June 30th in Germany brought me a problem I didn’t expect with my 4G phone.
  • My rucksack is STILL too heavy for the summits with longer walks/climbs needed.
  • The G90 continues to amaze me, especially with its receiver performance.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – July 12th 2021 – HEMA – DL/HAM-003 Schnaidberg.

Preparation:

The weather had been so variable that I had a one day window to get out and activate. I considered “bagging” two 6 point SOTA summits that I know but decided rather to try to access this HEMA summit and then possibly go on, to one of the SOTA summits. The risk was that I hadn’t done a “Reccie” of this summit and it was possible that access may be impractical. If it was quickly clear that access was going to be a problem, I could always head straight on to one of the SOTA Summits.

I did know that this was a wooded summit and as such, my super light HF-PRO2 loaded vertical antenna set-up would not perform well, so I would use the old SOTABeams linked dipole and my 6-metre pole and screw-in sun umbrella base. All of which are not light but can be packed onto one rucksack. Perhaps next time I can use my new SOTABeams Bandspringer end-fed antenna, which arrived here two days later.

Another attraction of this summit is the fact that it still has the highest wooden radio tower in Germany on its top. It’s used by Vodafone as a cell tower. Despite being wooden, the 62.5m high, Rottenbuch Radio Tower was only built in 2002 but now is suffering from ants and so may soon be replaced with a more conventional tower. I wanted to get to see it before it perhaps disappears.

Another delay to my activations recently has been that one of the main roads that I use to get to the summits (the B17) had been closed for repairs and upgrades over the last few months. One major stage (the large bridge over the Lech river) was finished on Friday and a further part of the repairs to the road junction nearby would only start mid-week, so Monday was THE day, for this reason as well!

The Activation

The trip to the new summit went down a route that I know well and in fact, I had driven past this summit many times as hasn’t enough prominence to be in SOTA but it does have, for HEMA. There are two approach roads to the summit from the B23 main road. The first is from a car park of a small roadside restaurant. Unfortunately, this one proved to be a disappointment straight away with a sign banning all motorised vehicles except for those living on the road or working on the road (eg winter clearance). So I headed on to the next possible access road. This one again is at the end of a roadside parking area, which meant I was able to park and then go and see if this was also a restricted road. Thankfully it was not, so I drove up this (single track) road until I came to where the road changes to a track to head off up the hill – where – there was again a restricted road sign (the black P on the map shows where I stopped), this time restricting motorised vehicle access to only forestry workers. Looking at the map (see below), it was some distance and a steep climb up the track. I wondered whether to take the easy option and head on to the SOTA summit that I know and leave this for another day. While the weather was nice, however, I decided to load up with the rucksack and see how much closer I could get to the summit.

Some 25 minutes and several bites from flies later I reached the summit and found a cleared area across from the radio mast. The absolute summit is about 50m before this point but this area is certainly in the activation zone and thankfully now had fewer biting flies! Ernie VK3DET kindly said he would listen for me but with the DX radio conditions being pretty horrible of late we didn’t hold out much hope. That proved to be the case. With several calls on 20 metres, Ernie could hear nothing. So I spotted myself on the HEMA website and on the DX Cluster and happily, I soon had a few callers. 

Interestingly the strength of signals from around Europe, especially the UK were strong on 20 metres. At the start, there was some QSB but as the band “woke up” even this went away. The contacts were more like nice conversations than quick activator/chaser calls which was refreshing. Once the calls on 20 metres dried up (perhaps the MUF had dropped under 14MHz again) I took down the antenna and reset it for 40 metres. On this band, the background noise was worse (K Index was up to 4 after all) and it was difficult to find a free frequency and once I had one, even more difficult to keep it! Typical 40m SSB in Europe!

After about an hour, I decided it was getting quite hot and I should start packing up and head back down the hill. At this point, I decided not to go on to a SOTA summit but as the climb up the hill had been quite strenuous, I would amble slowly back down and then drive home. As I got to the main road in the car, I realised this had been a wise call as the road was full of everyone and his dog in their campervans and cars towing caravans were on the road heading south towards “my” SOTA summits. Had I also gone that way, I would inevitably hit queues at the lifts and crowded summits. The SOTA summits can wait for another day.  

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • 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.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella base.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Aerial 51 404-UL OCF dipole (not used).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • New 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig. (not used)

Log:

 

Conclusions:

  • While the weather stayed nice, I am happy that I battled on and reached the summit but also that I did not try to activate a second summit.
  • One thing that I should not have left behind in the car was my water bottle but once I realised, going back for it was not an option.
  • Although the DX band conditions were not good, I was happy with the performance on 20 metres around Europe. With some UK stations being the strongest that I have heard them from a summit! 40 metres was just noisy and messy.
  • A HEMA summit does not attract as many callers as a SOTA one does, but the QSOs that you have are more “chatty” rather than just a “contest exchange”.
  • The HEMA to SOTA contact was a nice one, even though it doesn’t count for anything special.
  • The G90 radio continues to perform well.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 30th 2021 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Preparation:

Despite the fact that I have already activated Peissenberg this year and hence won’t give me any additional activator points, it has two advantages. Firstly it is a drive-up summit, so for testing, I can take a lot more equipment with me and secondly, (normally) it is a quick summit to get to, so that early morning activations (Greyline or Long Path contacts into ZL/VK).

I say “normally”, but more of that later.

One thing I had been working on before the COVID pandemic was a directional wire HF antenna, called the VP2E (Vertically polarised 2 Element) – all the details are on this website, here. As the pandemic lockdown situation combined with winter weather, I never got my comparison tests completed. Hence along with trying for a contact with Mike 2E0YYY/P in England, Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD in Victoria, Australia, this activation was meant to act as a test of my 20m version of the VP2E.

The car was loaded the night before to allow an early departure, the plan to be on the summit operational by 0600 UTC. The weather was questionable having had two evenings with thunderstorms and high winds – one of those storms, bringing down one of my antenna support masts at home (repaired in 15 minutes, no real damage). The forecast was for a mixed day but with several other appointments in the week, it had to be this Wednesday morning or not at all.

The gear would be the new XIEGU G90 and battery box in my rucksack and several antennas including the HF-PRO2 antenna (and photo tripod), the SOTABeams linked dipole and of course the VP2E for 20m. To support the VP2E and linked dipole configurations I packed the surveyor’s tripod and 6 and 10 metre squid poles.  

The Activation

Peissenberg has two good activation points. One on the very summit alongside the church and one in the car park below the graveyard. The first has a nice seat and fence where I can attach the mast and run the wire antenna out to a flagpole in one direction and down around a try to a second bench seat in the other direction. The best for antenna tests with lots of room is the car park.

But first I had to get there! Everything was going to plan as I left home at 7 am local time (0500 UTC) and the trip down over the country roads, I could probably do almost with my eyes closed, I have driven it so often. It was on the last turn-off onto the road up to the TV transmitter tower and church, that I caught a sign that is normally not there, something about “full hours” – Where it was located on the junction it was difficult to see. It became clear what it had said when I got halfway up the road and there was another one (see below) – there were major roadworks in process and the road was closed until the next hour. It was 07:35 local – bang goes my chance of being on the air at 8 am (0600 UTC) – I had to wait the 25 minutes until the road section was opened and the various road working machines moved out of the way to let the traffic through. I guessed at this point that probably the road in the downward direction would be open only on the half-hour as there is no way two-way traffic would work with all the holes that had been dug along the side of the road (more of THAT, later).

I sent Mike and the guys in VK a message to say I had been delayed. Mike let me know that 20m was open to the US and just starting to open to VK.

When I arrived at the car park it was almost completely full of campervans. Obviously, this is a favourite location for the brilliant view. I did find a spot to park, not too far away from one of the two benches there and unloaded and set up the gear.  Half an hour after arriving I was listening for Mike. He was weaker than usual but an OK signal in any case. At this point, I wasn’t going to do any antenna comparison tests, with the lost time I wanted to concentrate on seeing if I could indeed hear the guys in Australia – and I could! The problem was they couldn’t hear me!

The receiver in the G90 is impressive – combine that with a low background noise level and you can hear the weakest signals. The fact that I run 20 watts when I am portable, not 450 watts will be a factor but not the main one. The fact was that despite an SFI in the mid to high 90s 20m was not good and by the time I got on the air. It was already suffering deep QSB on signals and soon went short. I could easily make contacts around Europe and even locally into Munich. Mario DJ2MX compared my signal on his beam and his vertical antenna and I was stronger on the vertical. As the VP2E is supposed to be vertically polarised, that was good news even though Mario would be off the side of the antenna – not in the direction of its gain – that was definitely pointing towards England and Long path to VK over the US.

After spotting on the SOTA cluster I had about 8 more contacts in the log, most of them giving me a good signal report. When those calls dried up and because another station had started called 2 kHz above my frequency, I went back to see how Mike was doing on his frequency. He also had no calls, so I called in again and we both agreed the DX capabilities of the band were gone and we both had storm clouds coming in but before we both packed up, Mike agreed to give me a comparison report between the VP2E and my normal linked dipole. It would have been best if I had had both antennas set up but I didn’t so there was a 10-minute break between the tests and while the VP2E appeared to give a 1 point advantage over the linked dipole, with the QSB on the band, this was probably not a good test. (1 S-point stronger is what it should be theoretically). I think my best bet is to use WSPR on both antennas as a true comparison at the same time or at least switching between them.

One Mike and I finished the test, I saw that half of the campervans had or were leaving – I looked at my watch to see it was quarter past the hours, so I thought, the road must be open at half-past for downward traffic, so I used to pack everything up into the car and get down while the road is open, otherwise I would have to wait another hour and with the storms coming in, that might not have been much fun.

  When I got to the closed section of the road, there was one Dutch campervan waiting at the traffic lights and a sign saying the road opens on the hour. I don’t know where the other campervans went – either they got through late on the previous hour or they knew some other route down the mountain on the farm tracks.  In any case, I had a good half an hour to wait, so I took the time re-packing the radio gear that had been just dropped into the back of the car.

One pile of wire (the linked dipole) had to wait until I got home to be un-tangled – that was a long job as you can see:

 Once the lights changed to green we DID meet some traffic coming up the hill but managed to manoeuvre past each other. There seems to have been a miscommunication between the two workers who were controlling the traffic lights manually. They had intended to get the cars down the hill first and then let the ones free to go up the hill.

  By the time I got home the next rain front was coming through, so staying longer would not have been pleasant. Overall the activation did not deliver what I had hoped for but it was a trip out and next time, I may try some of the farm roads to get up to the summit.

 Photos:

 

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “mini-mast”.
  • Six-metre fibreglass mast.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • VP2E wire “beam”.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log:

 

Conclusions:

  • Sometimes unannounced road works can mess up your plans. There is a good possibility that I had been on the summit 30 minutes earlier I may have made a contact into VK3 with at least one of the two guys.
  • Comparing antennas alone on a summit does not give accurate results, especially if they are not both set up together and you can switch between them. Perhaps next time I will test using my WSPRLite unit.
  • The G90 continues to amaze me with its receiver performance.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 23rd 2021 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

As we had now moved into hot summer days, where being on a summit later in the day was not be recommended, I decided to do an early morning activation when it was still cool. At the same time, I wanted to get a 40 metre Grey Line contact from a summit into ZL and possibly VK.

The conditions of late, hadn’t been so great and the SFI had dropped so it was quite possible that only a Grey Line propagation contact would be possible into VK/ZL and not the long-path F-Layer communication, but “who knows”? This would also be my second outing with the new XIEGU G90 radio.

Mike 2E0YYY kindly offered to go out to his local UK HEMA summit “Overmoor” G/HSP-021 at the same time and Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD would try to be listening from Victoria, Australia.

I decided on the one point Berndorfer Buchet summit as it is my closest summit and I hadn’t activated it in 2021 yet. My plan was to be operational by 0500 UTC (7am local time). so a short driving time means more time to wake up and have breakfast. Little did I know that there would be a road closure and diversion on my shortest route! The alarm was set for 05:30 local time and all equipment packed into the one (quite heavy) rucksack. The planned equipment was the new XIEGU G90 radio, battery box plus my new LiHV battery, my 6-metre mast with sun umbrella base and my linked dipole. As a backup, I would have my OCF dipole and the loaded HF vertical/tripod/radials configuration (hence the heavy backpack). 

The Activation

The trip down to Berndorfer Buchet normally takes 20-25 minutes but this day, the council had decided to do renovation work on part of my route adding 20 minutes to the first half of my journey and so dropping me into the time when many tradesmen are heading to work to be further delayed on the small country roads where overtaking is almost impossible. The result being that I arrived at the car park at Kerschlach around 7 am local time – when I had hoped to already be operational on the summit. It was raining and there was a cold, wet mist around. This was only to clear up and the sun to come out when I was packing up three hours later. I set off through the forest and up to the summit getting the gear set up and operational by 0520 UTC. As a change to my normal installation, I ran the linked dipole east-west rather than north-south. While at this height, the antenna is omnidirectional, the advantage of running it E-W is that it runs along the small ridge of the summit rather than down each side and hence the ends of the Inverted-V configuration are a little higher.  My first contact was with Mike 2E0YYY/P (so is that an H2S or an S2H contact?)  in any case he told me he had just worked Ron ZL4RMF in Dunedin, New Zealand (I often work Ron from my home station and he is always a pleasure to work), so I said 73 to Mike and headed off to find Ron – there he was a solid 55 signal but by now the pileup had arrived and I had no chance of getting through. When the hub-hub did finish and I might have had a chance, Ron either went off to 80 metres or for his evening meal. I did not have an easy way to check the DX Cluster (I must add a cluster monitoring app to my phone). Had I been on the summit 20 minutes earlier, it may have been before the amateurs in the UK could hear Ron and I think I would have had a good chance of a QSO with him as he is also in a location with a low background noise level. What I did realise during this activation was how the receiver in the new rig excels with no local “metro-noise” I was hearing lots of stations such as Jim E51JD in the south cook islands but with the high powered callers, again I had no chance of getting through although I’m sure he would have heard me.

During the 3 hour activation (a long one for me) I heard at workable strength’s ZL4RMF, Ron, (40m), E51JD, Jim (20m), VK3YFD, Ian (twice) 20m and K9TK BOOMING in from Florida on 20m. There was also some quite deep QSB on 20m, but I suspect this was related to the MUF only just getting above 14 MHz earlier in the activation.

What this outing has proved to me is when you get a good radio outside, even just with an inverted-V dipole at 5m AGL – you can hear the world! The problem is that with all the other impatient mega-watt home stations, the DX stations don’t often get a chance to hear lower power stations.

The SDR and waterfall proved useful when looking for a clear frequency but that didn’t help the one time when, by accident, I chose the SSTV calling frequency (14230) – oops -sorry! Even after finding a valid free frequency and checking it is free what often happens is that some idiot starts up 1-2 kHz off your frequency with modulation set far too high and never checks before calling! GRRR!

This was the longest activation I have done for some time with almost 3 hours on the summit. I actually managed to drain one of my 5Ah Lipo batteries so that the G90 reduced output power drastically at about 9v on load (receive kept working perfectly). I have two 5Ah Hardcase Lipos in my battery box, so it was just a matter of swapping the cable over and I could continue. Had it been needed, I also had a 4Ah LiHV battery in my bag as well.

Although it would have been nice to make a contact into VK or ZL during this activation, I am happy with the outing – I have 36 contacts in the log, including one H2S and one S2S contact and most importantly I have a station in one rucksack with everything needed, including a mast – a mast foot – a tripod mount with radials, two inverted_V antennas (one linked dipole, one OCF) and a loaded vertical that can do 80m through 70cm.

The G90 receiver, now that I am a bit more used to using it, is amazing! Certainly IC7300 class if not better and when I have been received, I have only had good comments about the transmit audio and I ran the whole time with speech compression on today.

 Photos:

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Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 transceiver.
  • Battery box with 2 x 5000 maH 4S LIPO batteries.
  • 4000 maH 3S LiHV battery (not used).
  • 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.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella base.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Aerial-59 OCF dipole (not used)
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig. (not used).

Log:

Conclusions:

  • The G90 performed brilliantly – the receiver combined with the spectrum scope/waterfall, despite its small size, is really useful
  • I need to add an easy to use DX-Cluster displaying app to my phone, to see where the DX stations have gone to. 
  •  That 20 minutes delay with the road diversion was a problem and now I know it’d have been quicker to have turned around and taken a different route rather than follow the signposted diversion. 
  • Running the antenna at 90° to my normal direction seems to be better, perhaps only because having the ends of the Inverted-V higher does help?

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 15th 2021 – HEMA – DL/HAM-002 Rösenau Kreuz.

Preparation:

The DL association of HEMA came into existence on April 5th after my surveyed summits were accepted. I have been trying to get out and activate the first HEMA DL Summit since then. With equipment problems, COVID lockdowns, bad weather and illness delaying my attempt, I determined to get to this – my closest HEMA summit at last!

Since my last portable operation, I have bought myself a new radio. A XIEGU G90 – I have written a review on it which can be found here.  So this was to be a “trial of fire” for the new radio as well.

I had already visited the summit twice, taking two different approaches. The first was when there was still a lot of snow on the ground and was a long access route. The second visit and this one got my car much closer to the summit, leaving just a 10-15 minute walk up prepared tracks to get to the summit.

The Activation

The trip down to Hohenfurch (the nearest village to the summit) is straightforward using the B17 main road. It wouldn’t have been a few weeks earlier as the whole road is being resurfaced and improved. Further south on this road the main large bridge over the Lech River is closed for a month for upgrades (something to remember as I normally travel over that bridge to get to many of my favourite SOTA summits). As far as I was going all roadworks are complete and after leaving Hohenfirth, I took the road to North Schongau and immediately turned off it onto single track roads to take me to the closest parking point for the summit at (47.83556, 10.91673). Parking at the holy cross next to the ram-shackle farm it’s only a short 10-15 minute walk up the track to the summit. Just keep taking the track that goes upwards and then takes you under the high voltage electricity pylons and you are there. There is no local name for this summit, a lower one close by is the 774m high Schwalbenstein but if you end up there you have gone past the higher 780m summit, which, as it is over Rösenau on the River Lech and there is a small stone cross on it, (at 47.83556, 10.91673) I have called the HEMA summit Rosenau Kreuz. Hopefully, the sequence of photos below will guide future activators to the summit.

The summit area itself is fairly flat and so it’s possible to choose a location in the woods or on the open grassland. I arrived to find that the farmer had his cows grazing but they were in fenced-off areas below the power lines. I did have some pulsed noises on 20 metres during my activation and I wonder if this was coming from the power lines but generally this seems to be a very quiet location and the view down into the Fuchstal valley is amazing. A short walk through the forest gets you to the “LechErlebnisWeg” walking trail that is part of the famous JakobsWeg pilgrim’s way and gives lovely views down to the River Lech. 

I think the combination of the fact that HEMA is a much smaller community than SOTA and a contact with a German portable station, isn’t of a lot of interest to most watching the DX Cluster in Europe, is what made contacts hard to come by.

I was thankful to have contacts with Mike 2E0YYY/P from HEMA summit G/HSP-021 Overmoor on both 40 and 20m. My first H2H contact and the first into the new DL association!

For its first trip out, the new XIEGU G90 performed well. It still suffered from an inexperienced user though. All but my last contact on 20m were made with the attenuator on and the preamp off. Despite that, the few signals that were on the band were strong enough and once the preamp was turned on I still had an S0 noise level! Apart from some annoying pulse noise which could have been coming from the nearby 33KV power lines, both 40 & 20m were very quiet – unfortunately, that also meant not many signals. I was happy to find that the speech compressor in the rig performed a lot better than the one in the X108G which distorts speech when set at any value above 2 out of 10. I actually managed to be able to read the display the whole time, even in sunlight and didn’t have to revert to my external (Android smartphone) display.

I did hear one VK6 station but he was in a net with several other stations and I had no chance of getting in. I was hearing the VK6 at S1 and that was partially due to having the attenuator engaged – I guess he may have been S3 without the attenuator and with the preamp on.

I managed contacts with 5 different stations in all and so I had qualified my first HEMA summit.

  All in all, an enjoyable morning out!

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • 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.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella base.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • New 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig. (not used)

Log:

 

Conclusions:

  • The band conditions were not good and a HEMA summit does not attract as many callers as a SOTA one does, so getting contacts were difficult.
  • The new radio performed well (especially when I turned the attenuator off!).

73 ’til the next summit.