DD5LP/P – February 28th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HAL-019 Sattlersbuckl.

Preparation:

The weather had been extremely stormy for the past month but at last, it looked like things were getting better. I had combined a trip with the wife to Kaufbeueren, four days earlier, where she wished to see an art exhibition and I did a survey of this summit (or “reccie” as I like to call it). I didn’t take anything along on the reccie apart from a small shortwave transistor pocket radio to check there was no horrible noise on the summit. There wasn’t and it took me about 30 minutes from the parking spot up to the actual unmarked (although it has a large microwave relay tower on the top of it) summit. That time needs to be taken as a maximum time as I also had our dog with me and hence there were “delays” en-route. Just before the summit (which is totally forested), there is a nice large grassed area that is well within the activation zone and so that would be the place to operate from.

The parking spot at the end of “Hektersteig” in Apfeltrang is about a 40-minute drive from my home, so this will be considered a “local summit” for me. 

I had been watching radio conditions and it looked like if I were to be set up on the summit by 10 am local (0900 UTC) I would have a chance of contacts into VK and possibly ZL on 20m. By 10 am also, the temperatures may get up to freezing point 0°C as mornings had been starting at -7°C recently. So the plan was laid to set off from home at a reasonably comfortable time of 8:30 am on Monday morning. 

As for equipment, with the long, if only a little steep for part of the way, I did not want to carry the large tripod or the 10m mast and decided to go with the rucksack packed with the 6m pole and linked dipole antenna with the backup of the Komunica HF-PRO-2 and the little photo tripod. the rig would of course be the Xiegu G90 to give me 20 watts output. As I thought I might be on the summit for over an hour, I decided not to rely on the 400mAh LiHV battery but also packed my large 10 AH LiPo battery box as well. The rucksack with all equipment was loaded into the car on Sunday evening so that I would only need to bring along my drinking water bottle and pack-up on Monday morning (these would also be packed into the rucksack).

The Activation

The trip to the car parking spot for the new summit was uneventful. It took around 45 minutes due to traffic in Kaufbeueren but still a relatively short drive for an activation.

On arriving at the parking spot, which is just after you drive under the power lines and before the no access except for farm and forestry workers sign and is used by people taking their dogs for a walk or going walking themselves in the countryside. the ground was was somewhat muddy as some foresting work has been going on and the logs are stacked covering part of the grassed parking area. While at the time of arrival it was about -5°C still however the mud was hard and OK to park on.

As I started up the hill, I realised I had left my printed out hiking map inside the rucksack however as I had walked the route before, I was able to remember points as I went up (it is fairly straight-forward), so I didn’t need to stop and take off my rucksack to get the map out. As I mentioned before, there is no indication of this summit on any of the signs along the path.

One very nice surprise was as I turned a corner about 100 metres in front of me a mother deer and her two foals ran across the road in the morning sunshine. It all happened so fast that I had no chance to get a picture of them. By the time I reach the point on the road where they crossed, they were no longer to be seen.

I arrived at my chosen grassy area in around 20 minutes – a little quicker than I had expected, so I took my time setting up as this was the first time I had used my new mast base spike from Decathlon. I’m glad to say it worked fine. I set up the antenna for 20m as it looked like that would have the best chance of a DX contact based on previous days. The first station in the log at exactly 0900 UTC was Ernie VK3DET from Victoria Australia, followed by Ian VK3YFD, also in Victoria. These are two radio amateurs that help me often with long-distance tests and while they were only receiving me at 3-3 (they were both 5-5 / 5-6) – I was happy with that! After that, I had no new contacts in the log until 09:50 and that had two main reasons – one was the fact that I went searching for other VK stations as I would have really liked to have the first 4 stations in the log, for this first activation of this new HEMA summit to be from VK. It wasn’t to be. Although heard by at least one of the other VK stations I could not get a contact as others called over the top of me. The second reason for the delay was that my Internet link had dropped and I hadn’t realised it so all spotting and reports never got to me. At this time Mike 2E0YYY had been busy and lined up lots of HEMA chasers for me on my spotted frequency (where I had worked Ernie and Ian). When I eventually realised there was nothing coming in from the Internet and I switched to my second carrier (I have a dual-SIM smartphone) – I saw several messages from Mike and returned to my previous frequency to work 10 further stations in less than 15 minutes.

I did have a couple of other interruptions. In one case a man on a tractor arrived and I was wondering if he was there to plough up the field but no that was not the case. I explained to him what I was doing and he had no issues with it. Later another local arrived in a four-wheel drive and drove right up to me. Again it was a simple inquiry as to what I was doing and we ended up having a nice chat. Both visitors were given a small brochure about Amateur Radio in German, so who knows – perhaps they may get interested in the hobby as well. They have their own HEMA summit, so that’s a good start! Of course all this time, I was off the air but at times, it’s nicer to take to people 2 metres away rather than fight the QRM to take to people on the other side of the world!

All in all, this was a successful activation and this summit (as you’ll see from the photographs) lends itself to testing new antennas out … once the weather gets a bit warmer!

 Photos:

  1. Reccie on February 24th 2022.

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      2. Activation on February 28th 2022.

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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.
  • Decathlon mast base spike.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Log:

Conclusions:

  • While the weather was sunny (which lifts the spirits) it remained very cold and I had made the right decision to keep the equipment simple and what I am used to rather than trying out any of the new antennas that I have built. They can be tested when the temperatures improve.
  • For once, I came home without anything needing repair or improvement!
  • I was really happy with the contacts with Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD being the first in my log but disappointed that trying to get the first four contacts (to qualify the summit) as VK stations was not possible. Not because of radio conditions, not because of mý equipment but because of the greed of the UK and European QRO stations calling on top of me. I’m sure I could have worked VK4, VK2 and another VK3 station by their strengths but that chance was destroyed by the greed of the high powered and big antennaed stations. A sad reflection on the state of amateur radio in Europe and the UK.
  • A great thanks to Mike 2E0YYY who rounded up HEMA chasers for me and for their patience waiting for me to get back on frequency along with thanks to Don G0RQL for holding the frequency for me while I was away.
  • The Decathlon spike worked fine. I have had one of these before, which sheared off, so I hope this one will last longer as it packs easily inside the rucksack.
  • The G90 radio continues to perform well, especially on receive and I don’t think going up to 50 or 100watts output from 20watts would have made any difference to the contacts that I made or those that I was trying for.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – December 20th 2021 – DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Preparation:

As I hadn’t activated a summit recently, the radio conditions appear to be getting better and the threat of new COVID lockdowns is getting ever closer. I decided to activate one of my closest and simplest to get to summits – Piessenberg. I have already activated Peissenberg this year and hence won’t give me any additional activator points, not even winter bonus points, but for a quick activation it is a drive-up summit, and it’s a summit that I can get to early in the morning (to take advantage of Greyline or Long Path contacts into ZL/VK).

I decided to take the reliable Xiegu G90 and linked dipole combination but with the 10m mast and the surveyors tripod to support it (of course, other options would be along in the car “just in case” there were any problems). The car was loaded the night before to allow an early departure, the plan was to be on the summit and operational by 0800 UTC or 9 am local time – which was around the time that the 20m-band has been opening to VK recently. The weather was another factor. This is winter in southern Bavaria and Monday was to be the warmest day of the week, with temperatures getting as HIGH as zero degrees! Between minus 9 and minus 6 was forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The Activation

The trip down took nearer to 50 minutes rather than the expected 35 minutes, due to being stuck in a queue of traffic following a slow truck with a trailer which refused to travel at more than 60 km/h on the country roads where 100 is allowed. Peissenberg was reached therefore at 8 am (0700 UTC) and the first surprise was new signs in the previously free car park, stating that it is now privately owned (but still not very well maintained) and hence costs money to use. I paid my €2 for 3 hours although others who came and left seemed to ignore the signs and machine completely, so I don’t know how often it is checked, most likely at this time of year not at all but I did the right thing and paid.

Once I had parked, it’s only a few metres to the benches where I set up. The tripod, I set up with the 10m mast and linked dipole, I thought quite close but a couple of steps further and the coax wouldn’t have reached (it did, just). 

Ernie VK3DET in Victoria Australia had agreed to listen for me and Mike 2E0YYY/P had headed out to a HEMA Summit in the UK, so we had a group of three of us. As it was too early for 20m to be open, I started on 40m and after a little tuning around, I found Ron ZL4RMF calling CQ from the south island of New Zealand not getting any replies. So I called him – hang on, no output – Oh dear, what is going on? Well, I have been testing using my Bluetooth headset and for that to work, the microphone audio has to be switched to the line input connector on the ACC socket. I had forgotten to switch it back. After a few attempts, I remembered what I had to press to get to the menu setting to change it back and then everything was fine again. By this time others had found Ron and were calling him. I threw my call in to have a try and Ivan (sorry I can’t remember his call, from Russia, said to Ron when he had finished his contact – there’s a portable station in Germany calling you – please take a listen for him (thanks to Ivan – that was very thoughtful and kind of you). So my first entry in the log was a 5 & 6 contact with New Zealand and a few words with Ron, who I hadn’t spoken to for a while. After working Ron, I realised the speech compressor had not been turned on (another change due to the BT headset tests) and I know that makes a difference, so I turned it on for the rest of the contacts.  

I now found a free frequency and put out some CQ calls and was surprised to get calls back without even spotting myself. Mike had, had a delay as his antenna was reporting a bad VSWR reading on 40m and indeed when I did get to work him, he wasn’t as loud as usual. That could have been conditions but other UK stations were strong, so I think Mike must have had a bad contact in the antenna somewhere. Once we all switched to 20m, Mike was not so strong to start with plus he had S9 QRM across the whole of the 20m-band (we believe this could be from a timer/light level switched floodlight on a nearby building at Mow Cop as all interference disappeared later). As the band changed, Mike was so strong that there was no background noise when he spoke and the S-Meter was up around 10 dB over nine. He was like a local 2m FM station. Later again, he dropped to just above the noise within 30 seconds but this was radio conditions changing, not a faulty antenna. The 20m-Band was really variable during this period. I never managed to hear Ernie VK3DET although we tried several times. I did hear VK3XAT at about 3-3 at one point but he could not hear me. I think the extra “hop” needed on the long-path route for a VK signal to get to me rather than to the UK makes a lot of difference to the signal strength.

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Surveyors Tripod and 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass “mini-mast”.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • 4000 maH LiHV battery
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • Overall a successful activation with lots of good reports for the G90 – Linked dipole combination.
  • Greyline propagation into ZL is a reliable thing, especially when other hams help you get through the pile-up.
  • The equipment, even the smartphone, needs me to operate without gloves on far too often. In winter this is a risk as when operating alone, simply packing the gear away can be difficult with hands going purple with cold.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – October 20th 2021 – DL/AM-156 Schneidberg.

Preparation:

Schneidberg (the SOTA one, not the HEMA Schnaidberg one) is a summit that is not too far away from home but I haven’t activated it for some time. The last time I went there it required fighting through the forest as the direct track had a gate on it and there were bulls in the field! This also requires a long walk from the nearest car parking spot, so a lot of time can be consumed for just 2 points. The days before this activation the bands had been great with openings to Australia, New Zealand and the Americas every morning. I wasn’t to know it but the conditions were about to take a dive, just as I could get out to a summit! In any case, based on what I thought would be good conditions, the radio kit was to include the good old linked dipole (albeit modified to cover 17 metres in place of 30 metres) which would also require at least the 6-metre LambdaHalbe Mast and a support – the screw-in sun umbrella base. The backpack was going to be heavy, so I looked at what I might possibly remove and the battery box, which contains two 5000 mAh 4S LIPO batteries and the electronics to reduce their 16.5v down to 13v came to mind as I now have my 4000 mAh LiHV 3S battery which is smaller, lighter and needs no voltage reduction circuit electronics. I had used this on my last activation, so now it was time to rely on it on its own. I also removed my SOTABeams end-fed wire, which while not very heavy did take up some space. Then I considered removing the HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T and its mini-tripod, all of which fits inside the rucksack and I decided not to as, without it, I would have no backup should anything happen to the linked dipole. A good decision as it turned out …

The removed items were put in a second rucksack which would travel in the car but not be taken to the summit unless something unforeseen were to happen. As I wished to hopefully take advantage of the morning grey-line propagation for some contacts into ZL, I would need an early rise and early start, so the car was loaded the night before, with just pack-up and water to be added to the rucksack on the day of the activation.

The Activation

I was awake before the alarm went off and on the road by 6:45 am local time (0445 UTC). On getting to the spot that I wanted to park at about an hour later, I double-checked that all that I intended taking was in my rucksack and the long walk started.

On walking up to where the gate had been closed a couple of years ago, I found it had gone, gateposts and everything. The reason appears to be that the small hut at the higher end of this field is being renovated – most likely to make a summer rental property. It looks like they have just put a new metal roof on it, but with all the wooden scaffolding still around it, the work looks like it’s far from finished.

Going up the track to the small house and then past it, I found the highest area before the forest where there is a plateau of sorts. This area is definitely within the activation zone and walking another km to increase my height by 15 vertical metres and be in the middle of the forest was not an attractive option. At this point, I found that the forestry commission has put in a new track through the forest just behind the flat grassy area – this is not marked on any maps yet as far as I can see, so it is very new.

Anyway, time to set up and see what I can hear…

As I was hoping for ZL/VK and Ian VK3YFD had kindly offered to listen for me, I decided the best chance would be with the linked-dipole on the 6-metre mast, so up it went and as it was still possible that contacts via Greyline could be possible I started on 40m. I even head Ron ZL4RMF, not as strong as usual but there at least. I tried a call – no response (not a surprise with the other mega kW stations calling him at the same time, but sometimes he picks me out of the pile). Ian told me that he couldn’t hear me on 40m, no surprise there, 20m is usually better with the gain of his beam and the long-path propagation. It was still a bit early though and the MUF was still under 14 MHz so I decided to spot myself on the SOTA cluster, put out a CQ and see what I could get in the log so that the summit would be qualified. The first station who came back to my call was Klaus DL6MST and while we made the contact, his report for me was not what I expected initially at 3-1 and then at best 5-2 where I was getting him 5-9. This was worrying. I checked for anything obvious on the coax connection to the rig (this had broken a couple of months ago, but that wasn’t the problem. I tried a few more calls and got no response – even with a bad 40m band, I normally get a small pile-up. Eventually, I made another contact, Eric F5LMH. By this time I had set up the backup antenna, the HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T on its little tripod and so could switch between the two antennas. Eric reported at least a 2 S-point better signal from the far lower loaded vertical to the inverted-V dipole. That is the opposite way round of what I would have expected. There is really something wrong with the linked dipole. 

Time had marched on and so I decided to switch to 20 metres, initially with the loaded vertical and tried an arranged call with Ian VK3YFD. He could not hear me but I could hear him “Just”. I then had a thought, perhaps the problem on the dipole was only on 40 metres, so down came the mast to unlink both 20m links and …. one was ALREADY UNLINKED! No wonder the antenna wasn’t working as it normally does – it was set to 20m on one side and 40m on the other. This would have caused a bad SWR with my old X108G rig but as the G90 has an auto-ATU in it, it had matched the rig to the faulty antenna and hence I had a 1.3:1 VSWR showing – about normal. 

I took out the remaining 20m link and put the mast back up to full height and asked Ian to call again. Now I could hear Ian on both antennas (but he could not hear me on either) – that was just bad radio conditions and it’s great that Ian stayed around to try. If anything he was a little stronger on the vertical than on the (operating correctly on 20m) linked dipole. This was a surprise but often it is said that a vertical is a better DX antenna because of its lower angle of radiation. I’ll have to compare the antennas again once I get out when the conditions are better.

 I then completed four 20m QSOs in quick succession with 59 exchanges both ways. Although there was little on the band, I was getting out. The activation finished with a contact into Portugal with CT1DIZ 55 both ways and then it was time to pack up and head back down to the car as I was getting cold. The sun came out as I was halfway back to the car – typical!

Even when conditions are bad (as confirmed by several others on the day), you can learn from an activation. In this case, it’s perhaps to set up the radio without the ATU engaged first to check the antenna and only turn it on when needed. After all, an ATU in a rig connecting to an antenna via a length of coax will NEVER actually TUNE an antenna, it can only match the antenna. Directly connected antennas, like end-feds you can say the ATU in a radio tunes the antenna if it connects directly to the radio.

 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 linked dipole (modified for 17m).
  • LambdaHalbe 6-metre travel pole.
  • Sun umbrella screw-in base.
  • 4000 mAh LiHV battery.
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • LG Smartphone for spotting.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • Happily, the problem on the dipole was a simple error in physical configuration however it still needs to be tried on 17 metres.
  • The Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T was great to have as a backup and got good reports. Once I have worked VK or ZL reliably using it I can remove the extra weight of the linked dipole and mast.
  • The LiHV battery worked again without issues and while it is a lot lighter and smaller than the battery box except on long activations I will most likely rely on this battery from now on.
  • You can never rely on good radio conditions staying long enough to get out and make DX contacts. You need to be lucky.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – October 8th 2021 – DL/AL-166 Zwoelferkopf “the 1000 point summit”.

Preparation:

Zwoelferkopf is not a 1000 point summit, rather just a 4 point summit but as part of my push to get to the “magic 1000” activator points, I only had another 4 points to get. Weather has been variable and I have some commitments over the following days, so I decided I would go and activate this 4-point summit when I had the opportunity on Friday 8th October. I did not set an alert, in case I had to cancel for some reason. I know the summit but the last time that I activated it the conditions were very different with deep snow and fallen trees blocking the path in several positions. This time no snow but still one spot where the track was blocked.

In any case, I knew this was going to be a challenge but I had forgotten how long the trek to the summit takes and although I didn’t pack the complete kit in hindsight I should have taken less than I did.

The gear in the rucksack was the XIEGU G90, battery box and Komunica HF-PRO2 antenna (and photo tripod) but also the 6-metre mast and linked dipole (now changed to cover 40/20/17 instead of 40/30/20 metres). I had planned perhaps to test this change antenna on the summit. Also there, as it has been on the last few summits is the 4000mAh LiHV battery to be tested. Of course, my food and water also added to the weight of the rucksack but an addition for this trip – a thermos of hot chocolate was to be left in the car as a reward for getting back to the car and to warm me up a little.

I checked the alerts and had hoped to perhaps get an S2S with Phil G4OBK who was on holiday in Spain and Portugal but at the time I was on the summit, he was only on CW, not SSB.

As I only set off when a few tasks (including the morning dog walk) were completed at home, I would not be in time to get any contacts into VK or ZL but that was not the purpose of this activation. I just needed enough contacts to qualify the summit and get to the 1000 activator points.

The Activation

On arriving at the spot where I intended to park my car, it was quite muddy as some forestry equipment had been through and pulled up the ground leaving it very messy, so I had to park carefully to make sure I wasn’t bogged down when I wanted to leave. The path up to the summit is marked with what I call the Austrian flag but these are just the path markings (white horizontal line, red horizontal line, white horizontal line) these are not the border indicator, as we are also on the German/Austrian border here.

It took hardly any time at all for me to follow what was the (wrong) larger track, which then came to a dead-end and I had to climb back up to the correct track. So word to the wise – look for and follow those three colour markings on trees and stones and you won’t go far wrong. My excuse is that the mountain was in low cloud or mist for all of the time it took me to climb the track to the summit. At one point as I mentioned, there were two fallen trees across the track but I could duck under these without any problem and continue.

Following about 45-50 minutes of walking, I eventually came to the summit. I had forgotten how long this took but eventually, I was at the bench on the summit and I decided that with the track running directly over the summit, setting up the 6-metre mast and linked-Dipole could be an issue with other walkers passing by (in fact only a few came by but as I went back down later I passed over 15 people coming up the track – so my timing worked out quite well).  The small photo-tripod, radial wires and the HF-PRO2 were erected in a small area of grass just off the track, next to the bench, where the tree cover would not block the vertical antenna. Looking in the SOTASpotter app, I saw a couple of other activators were out operating 20m SSB, so I decided to start on 20 metres and possibly switch to 40 metres later. As it happened, I spent very little time on 40 metres because I was getting very cold and my attempts of finding a free frequency were thwarted twice when a stronger station came up and simply blocked me out. We have a real problem with these LIDs in Europe. In any case, my first call was to one of the other activators – Thomas DC8TM/P on DM/BW-002 – a rather short skip for 20 metres but the contact was made and then I went off to find my own frequency and eight contacts followed in the next nine minutes. The key station who gave me my needed 4th contact was Christian F4WBN who has been a regular chaser for me over the last few weeks, from his home near the French/Spanish border – so you could say this was a B2B (Border to Border) contact with me sat exactly on the German/Austrian border. Before leaving 20 metres to try 40 metres, I managed another S2S contact, this time with F5UKL/P who was on F/PO-171. Rather than simply pack up and leave at this point, I adjusted the antenna for 40 metres switched bands on the radio and searched for a free frequency (7.090 the SOTA portable frequency was free) before self-spotting and calling. Horst DK1HKU came back to me for a contact but then as soon as we finished some other home station came up calling CQ without even checking the frequency. Tuning around, I simply could not find another free frequency. Rather than keep trying with little chance of success, I decided (as I was feeling very cold at this point), to simply call it a day and pack up and head back to the car.

The trip down the track took about half the time it had taken to come up despite having to stop to let those coming up the track get past me. On arriving back at the car, I had 40 minutes to wait until the road opened in a downward direction, so after some lunch, I checked emails and listened to the (broadcast) radio.

The trip home was uneventful, except that my wife had arranged a lovely surprise for me as she had bought a sweatshirt and had it printed to celebrate my Mountain Goat achievement. For the evening meal, there was a special homemade “SOTA Desert” as well.

 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 and linked dipole (both taken but not used).
  • LambdaHalbe 6-metre travel pole (taken but not used).
  • 4000 mAh LiHV battery.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs) (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • LG Smartphone for spotting.

Log:

Conclusions:

  • Once again the combination of the XIEGU G90 running its full 20 watts and the Komunica HF-PRO2-PLUS-T got good reports. So why did I take the extra weight of the other antenna and mast?
  • The LiHV battery worked without issues and is a lot lighter and smaller option than the battery box. This was a successful test and I can see myself using this in the future and leaving the battery box in the car as a backup.
  • I still need to test the modified linked dipole on 17, 20 & 40 metres.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – October 4th 2021 – DL/BE-093 Buchberg & DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg.

Preparation:

I had originally planned to activate Buchberg and Zweisselberg but changed at the last minute as the weather forecast changed – and it is lucky that I did. After riding up on the open seat lift, it’s a good 45 minutes to the Zweisselberg summit with some of the way quite steep. The summit itself is open and offers no protection from the weather rather with its sun loungers, this is a summit to visit on a bright sunny, dry, day.

So the plans were changed the day before to be the two one-pointer, easy access summits of Buchberg and Schwarzer Berg and the trip reduced from a full (long) day to just over half a day.

As conditions have been good of late for contacts down into Australia around 0630-0730 UTC, I decided that is what I would try for from Buchberg and while I am at it, I will also try 17 metres as well as 20 metres as the propagation forecasts and reports are indicating that for EU-VK contacts, 17 metres should be also better than 20 metres. Another advantage of 17 metres of course is that contests are not allowed on the band meaning, once conditions do improve on the band it will be a band that can be used by low power portable operators on Saturdays and Sundays – something that, in Europe, neither 40 nor 20 metres are anymore.

As equipment, I decided to take the 10 metre DX-Wire mast, my surveyor’s tripod, as its support and my commercially made 17-metre vertical antenna from LambdaHalbe in Germany – it is effectively a J-Pole antenna, which needs the full 10m mast height to be deployed. I would of course also take the SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole and try to put both antennas up on the same mast at the same time to make switching from 20 metres to 17 metres as quick as possible.

The Activation – Buchburg

After getting up before 6 am, I was on the road by 6:45 am (0445 UTC). The drive down took the expected 90 minutes despite a surprisingly high amount of traffic – I must have hit the time that the building and trades workers travel to work on a Monday morning. Half of the journey (which is completely on country roads) was driving behind other cars and trucks. We even came to a total halt for about 10 minutes in a small town called Weilheim, which is where several roads meet and where some road works were underway.

In any case, once I arrived at Buchberg, which is not far from the regional town of Bad Tölz, I found my usual parking space outside of the field where the cross and summit of Buchberg are located, collected up all my equipment and set off across the field, following a well-worn path that gets steep at the end. It was cold but I was hoping that as the sun came up, it would warm up (it didn’t). I had arranged with a couple of VK hams – Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD to do the tests on 20 & 17 metres. Mike, 2E0YYY who often is the lead to this little group, was sheltering at home in pouring rain but agreed to try and listen for me via his local web SDR receiver. In fact conditions the whole morning were not good between southern Germany and northern England and Mike never heard me on either 20 or 17 metres. I sent out a text via the “Signal” App telling them all that I was setting up. I had a major problem with the idea of having both antennas on the one mast at the same time, in that it bent over at the top to an alarming amount and I had to lower it to about 6 metres in height – which of course then meant that the lower part of the 17m J-pole was laid on the ground. In any case the plan was to start on 20 metres using the linked dipole. 

On connecting up and tuning around, looking for a free frequency, I just caught the end of Paul VK5PAS talking to someone, so I waited on the frequency and he actually handed over to his partner, Marija VK5MAZ. I tried calling her several times in the next hour but without success as the multi-kilowatt Europe based stations with big towers and beams were fighting each other to work her. At the strength she was coming in, with a clear frequency I’m sure she would have been able to work me. Never mind… I kept looking and trying different frequencies only having to move on when some station close to the chosen frequencies splattered all over what I had listened on and found was not in use. Eventually, a sort-of-OK frequency was found, I put out a call and Ian VK3YFD came straight back to me. Ernie was having some local noise on that frequency, so we moved again, and this time, on the new frequency, Ernie VK3DET could join in as well.

Well, that’s not bad for 20w SSB and a dipole, two VK3 stations and levels of signals where we could have a normal conversation, not just exchange signal reports.

So now it was time to try 17 metres and even though half of the antenna was on the ground, there was Ian, stronger than he had been on 20 metres! The trouble was, he couldn’t hear me. So I decided to take the mast down, remove the dipole and put it back up only with the J-Pole antenna, to its full 10 metre height, so that the driven element was no longer on the ground. I tried with Ian again. He was as strong as ever, but he could hear nothing from me! The VSWR on the antenna was fine, it was now set-up OK – there was nothing for it – it simply doesn’t work for whatever reason! My next problem was to even get the single point for the SOTA summit, I needed two more contacts, so I put out calls on 17m in the hope that someone in Europe would be able to hear me – but no, nothing! This was starting to be a bit of a disaster but there was nothing for it, I had to lower the mast remove the J-Pole and put the linked-dipole back up and go back on 20m to get the needed contacts quickly as it was already time for me to head over to the next summit.

I managed 3 quick contacts following Mike spotting me on SOTAWatch again and then that was it. Time to pack everything up and head back down the field to the car with mixed feelings. It was great to get to talk on 20m with Ernie and Ian but the fact that the 17m J-pole receives (as well as VK, I could also hear JA stations with it) why wasn’t it transmitting? 

The Activation – Schwarzer Berg

The trip from Buchberg to Schwarzer Berg took about 25 minutes and upon arrival at the parking spot, it was still as cold as it had been early morning but the skies were starting to look more threatening, despite the fact that the forecast said there would be no rain, I was starting to doubt that.
I decided not to bother with the big mast and tripod on this summit and just took the 6-metre one and the sun umbrella screw-in foot along with the radio equipment in the rucksack. At this point, I realised I could have tried with the HF-PRO-2 on 17 metres from the last summit as it covers all bands – but that was all too late now.
Once set-up, I started on 40m to try to get enough contacts into the log in case I had to abort quickly if the weather turned bad. There were no problems with calls on 40 metres though, I had what is now becoming usual, a pile-up of chasers calling, even managing 2 S2S contacts. Once the flow of calls finished, I decided that while it hadn’t yet started to rain, I would give 20 metres a go. The G90 has a band scope and after switching the antenna and rig to 20m, it was obvious 20m had passed its best, there was very little showing in the SSB part of the band.  I only managed one contact, that with Lars SA4BLM who had also called me on 40m – he was a lot stronger on 20 metres as the skip distance is better for Sweden and Greece on 20m than on 40m. Lars was my only contact on 20 metres, so I decided I might as well pack up and as I was packing up, the rain started. Only light, but my timing couldn’t have been better.
Once back at the car, I loaded everything and set off home. When I passed the lift up to Blomberg and Zweisselberg, it was raining harder and I could see the summit was inside the clouds. If I had continued with my plan to activate that summit, I would have been halfway when the rains started and probably have been soaked by the time I reached the summit. So all in all, even though I only accrued two activator points not five, the choice of summits was right.

 Photos – Buchberg:

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 Photos – Schwarzer Berg:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack with added radio section protection.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Sotabeams linked dipole “Band Hopper” (used on both summits).
  • LambdaHalbe J-Pole vertical antenna for 17 metres (used on Buchberg).
  • 10m DX-wire mini-mast (on Buchberg).
  • 6m LambdaHalbe mini-mast (on Schwarzer Berg).
  • Sun umbrella screw-in foot (used on Schwarzer Berg).
  • Surveyors Tripod (as support for the 10m mast – used on Buchberg).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • 4000 maH LiHV battery (carried but not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log – Buchberg:

Log – Schwarzer Berg:

Conclusions:

  • I was lucky that I chose to change the second summit to be activated. Stuck on a mountain without cover in a rainstorm is not fun.
  • The Linked dipole has now been modified to work on 17m as well as 20 & 40m as the LambdaHalbe 17m J-Pole has issues.
  • I’m two points closer to Mountain Goat – only 4 more points to go.
  • Never trust weather forecasts – how often have I said that?
  • Radio propagation conditions are definitely improving as Solar Cycle 25 “wakes up”.
  • I still have to test the LiHV battery on an activation, rather than just carrying the extra weight.

 

DD5LP/P – September 30th 2021 – DM/BW-695 Teck & DM/BW-078 Römerstein.

Preparation:

I have had these two summits on my list for a while and as it’s quicker to bag the points with a couple of high-scoring summits rather than several lower-scoring summits, I had decided, based on the weather forecast 4 days earlier to head up to the Stuttgart area where these summits are on Wednesday 29th September. Of course, as seems to be a very common occurrence these days, the weather forecast changed and checking the forecast the day before, the area was expected to get rain and high winds. Both of which are not welcome on these summits. As it turned out the rain didn’t arrive but the high winds did, so I am happy that I rescheduled to Thursday the 30th of September.

I decided to use the repaired linked dipole for these activations to make sure it was working correctly again. This in turn meant taking the small 6-metre mast and for Römerstein something to support the base, so I packed the screw-in sun umbrella foot and indeed used that on Römerstein. On Teck, I was able to simply strap the mast to the end of the wooden table.

The Activation – Burg Teck

The drive from my home to Teck is straightforward as most of the route is on the Autobahn system and it took just under 2 hours start to finish (finish being the Hörnle Car Park at the other end of the ridge to where Castle Teck and the summit is located).

Teck has a long and for most of the 2-kilometre track, steep, walk, which, with a heavy backpack is very draining. (see pictures of the track later). Eventually, however, I got to my operating position and the area was fairly empty of visitors as the castle restaurant had not yet opened and a lot of people time their walk up the hill to coincide with that.

It always seems to happen, as it did again on Teck. I search around and find a clear frequency put out 2 or 3 calls to make 100% sure it is clear, then spot myself and start calling CQ SOTA. Within 5 minutes, some Idiot has started up 1 or 2 Kcs above or below of my frequency. Even if they say they can’t hear me as I’m running low power with a small antenna portable – they MUST hear the chasers calling me. In most cases, they simply don’t care and don’t check.

I’m then left with the situation – what do I do – do I move off and try to find a better frequency, where the same problem will happen again most likely, or do I “stick to my guns” and keep working on my frequency as there are also chasers who manage to get through and to hear me. After all, as an activator, I only need 4 contacts – all after that are a bonus – but I do try to work everyone who calls and can get through.
 
The pile-up on Teck was enormous, so much so that by the time I had worked all the stations I could on 40 metres, I had no time to move to 20 metres. That is sometimes the way of things.
While packing up someone came over and I explained to him in my best German what I was doing, only to find out this 80-year-old gentleman was in fact a US citizen (born in Germany but emigrated at an early age) who was visiting relatives in Stuttgart. Once we switched to English we had a nice and interesting conversation. We often say that one can learn about other cultures through talking to other amateurs over the air, in this case, the amateur pursuit of SOTA put me in a situation where I could talk to someone without the radio.
The drive from Teck to Römerstein took about 30 minutes including a forced detour for a closed road (my SOTA activations wouldn’t be complete without having to detour from the expected route!). After a little checking, I eventually found the other car park and the start of the track up to Römerstein “Türm” (Tower).
 
 

The Activation – Römerstein

After loading up at the car, the walk up to the summit is shorter than my previous route but also steeper, so the first order of priority after getting to one of the tables on the summit was a drink of water and a short rest. The summit was almost deserted with just one couple cooking their lunch on an open fire in one of the prepared fire-pit areas. This appears to be an area that is prepared for usage by boy scouts and similar organisations.
 
As I had not got onto 20m on Teck, I started on 20m looking for some S2S contacts and also to make some contacts. The Over the Horizon Radar was “swooping” up and down 20m unfortunately but despite that in total on Römerstein I worked 64 chasers in 30 minutes including taking the antenna down twice to switch bands between 20 & 40m. The pile-ups on both bands were really “Over the Top”. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that it was a 10 point summit?
A lot of people were giving 73 and 44 at the end of a contact, and some who were in parks giving me their FF number, so much so, that I wondered if I was on a WWFF preferred frequency. I was on 7162KHz. So after returning home I’ve searched the web for a list of preferred frequencies and found that WWFF is in fact 7.144 so I wasn’t stepping on anyone else’s frequency. In fact, the closest frequency was 7160 kHz which is listed for SOTA usage.

I received the strongest best (real) reports that I have had for a long time, both 20 & 40m were good inside Europe (but no DX) – I had 3 x S2S contacts from this summit and 5 from Teck  – I had lots of 5-9 or 5-9+10 reports and general comments about it being a real strong signal. I was using the G90 with the speech compressor turned on and the linked Dipole at about 5 metres AGL on both summits.

 Photos – Burg Teck:

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 Photos – Römerstein:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack with added radio section protection.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Sotabeams linked dipole “Band Hopper”.
  • 6m LambdaHalbe mini-mast.
  • Sun umbrella screw-in foot (used at Römerstein).
  • Komunica HF-PRO2-Plus-T HF/VHF vertical and photo tripod with radials (as a backup antenna – carried but not used).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.

Log – Teck:

Log – Römerstein:

Conclusions:

  • Two great activations – the pile-ups were enormous – but controlled and polite. I have activated both Teck and Römerstein before but this time I tried a new (shorter) route up to Römerstein. Er – the summit is still the same height, so what does a shorter route mean .. Yes – a lot steeper track! It is a better approach though as the car park is larger and I guess this is the way you are supposed to get there up a track, not bashing through the forest from the other smaller car park as I used to do!
  • The Linked dipole is back working correctly again after its problems on the last activation (broken wire in the PL-259 plug).
  • The number of chasers eager to make a contact with these 8 and 10 point summits was overwhelming, I tried to work all of the callers but I’m sure I missed several in the “wall of noise” which wasn’t helped by the OTHR and splattering QRM and QSB!
  • The smartphone – an LG K42 was able to be angled to be visible but remains a weak component in the summit pack. It simply does not have the needed brightness and contrast to be able to be viewed in sunlight as my previous (3G only) phones had (3G is now decommissioned in Germany).
  • These were summits with steep climbs and the rucksack is still too heavy. The strengthening through the addition of the plastic box to form a protected section in the bottom of the pack for the radio, batteries and accessories worked well and hasn’t added much weight but I do need to do an activation with just the small and lightweight LiHV battery rather than the two 5ah LIPOs that I am presently carrying to each summit and then only using, at most, half of the capacity of one battery.
  • The 20 watts from the XIEGU G90 with its speech compressor turned on along with the linked dipole is the “sweet spot” for portable equipment. I was getting the majority of (true) reports as 5-9 or 5-9+ and I could hear stations very well once I managed to get just one station calling. In the pile-ups, it’s normal that the radio de-senses with so many signals.

DD5LP/P – September 21st 2021 activations of DL/AL-149 Blender, DL/AL-281 Urserberg and DL/AL-146 Sonneneck.

Preparation:

Still looking for summits that I haven’t activated this year, but also ones that I might achieve the contacts into VK that I had a week earlier, I had to rule out any summits that either had a long drive to them or needed a lift of some kind to access (which normally only start at 9 am local time). Of course, I’d like the higher scoring summits but with the first two restrictions, that’s difficult. So after searching, what I came up with was a plan to activate two summits that I know and two new-to-me summits. I entered the lat/long for each of the parking spots into the car’s GPS-Navi system so that I could rely on that to get me to the best spot to start my walks from. My hope was that from the first and even the second summit I might get contacts into VK/ZL if I set off from home early enough. The fourth summit, not listed here was the 4-point DL/AL-145 Hauchenberg which will have to wait for another day as once I was finished on DL/AL-146 Sonneneck, I was too tired to take on another challenging long walk.

Blender DL/AL-149

Leaving at 6:20 am local time, I was well set to meet my schedule and the trip down to Blender was fairly good, only with some delay in the early morning traffic going around the Kempten ring road. Once at my parking spot under Blender, I loaded up with both antennas (SOTABeams linked dipole and loaded vertical HF-PRO-2) so that I could possibly run some comparison tests if I had time.

Despite arriving almost 30 minutes before my planned time Mike 2E0YYY/P must have been up even earlier in the UK as he was already setting up on G/SP-013 Gun. So after the first shock of the seat bench, that used to be on this summit, being gone, I laid down my plastic sheet on the grass and started to unpack and put the station together.

All seemed to go well, I had the 6-metre mast in the screw-in sun umbrella base and the linked dipole running down from it in inverted-v configuration, the coax back to the plastic sheet where I had the G90 connected to its battery box and ready to go. I tuned to Mike’s frequency and quickly called him but looking at the display, I could see there was an infinite SWR on the antenna. As a quick fix, I tried the internal tuner in the G90 – even it could not do anything with it. There was no alternative, I had to lower the mast and check both the links and the feed-point. All seemed OK, so my conclusion at this point, after another quick test (which still showed an infinite SWR) was that the problem was either in the PL259 plug or the coax cable itself. I couldn’t do anything about that on the summit so this had to wait until I got home. Later it turned out that I was correct, the centre conductor of the thin coax was no longer connected to the centre pin of the PL-259 plug. Luckily I also had the Komunica HF-PRO-2 with me and within 5 minutes, that was set up on its converted photo tripod with radial wires and the contact with Mike was made. Unfortunately, no contracts were made into VK/ZL from this summit. I believe I would have had a better chance with the dipole, if only for its increased height. That being said, I could hear stations from VK & ZL on the vertical and had there not have been so many other high powered stations calling over the top of me, I might have been able to get a contact or two “down under” – another time …

With the problems with the dipole antenna, I had of course lost a lot of time, so once the flow of calls stopped, I decided to take one last try at calling Ron ZL4RMF, without success and then packed up to go to the next summit, Urserberg which I could see from where I was on Blender.

 Photos – Blender:

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Urserberg DL/AL-281

The drive from Blender to Urserberg (actually the public car park for the local lake is at the start of the track up to Urserberg) only takes 10 to 15 minutes. When I was getting close, there were road signs for the road being closed, but … it said the road was open as far as the löake! Great – and so it was – the road was open just up to the entrance to the car park. The road after this point winds through the forest and the reason for the road closure was that they were felling the trees closest to the road and in some cases, they would be falling across the road, so the road definitely needed to be closed!

I had originally considered taking the mast and linked dipole to this summit as well but given the fact that it was broken, the remaining summits would be activated with the HF-PRO-2 only. Mike was still on G/SP-013 Gun when I got to the summit and set up while being watched by an inquisitive cow behind a single wire fence. This was of course a “different” S2S for both of us as I had changed my summit. Mike had just finished a contact into VK3 but commented that the noise on the bands (40 and 20m) had not improved. Indeed the noise was like a badly suppressed car or motorbike ignition system of years ago and this was heard both in the UK/Europe and in VK/ZL. This was activity in the ionosphere making receivers worldwide desense as the AGC circuits reacted to the pulses of electrical noise!

The views from Urserberg, looking down from the top of the ski-fields are lovely now that the early morning mist had mostly cleared but the temperatures were still sub 10°C even though the sun was coming out. After working Mike I spotted myself and the calls came flowing in. As I was a little behind schedule and I did not know how difficult the next two summits would be, I decided to call it quits after the calls dried up on 40 metres and didn’t try 20 metres. Once packed up it’s a good 15-20 minute walk back down to the car park, where I decided to have lunch.

 Photos – Urserberg:

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Sonneneck Höhe DL/AL-146

This was a new summit for me so I arrived and parked at the end of the road in Oberhofen, just before a gate on the road by a house that marked the start of private land. Private as, no car access is allowed, walkers are welcomed – including by the dog who lives at the house. Equipped with the map shown above, I set off from Oberhofen with my reduced rucksack (only talking the HF-PRO2 and tripod, not the mast and wire antenna on this long walk), and it was a long walk, which took me 40 minutes to get to the summit. I followed the “main” track shown on the map over Voglerholz and curving back up to the summit. Accidentally on the way back I came back on the other route under the summit as the track indicated on the map as being small has been expanded and sand and stone laid down so that tractors and diggers can get access using this route. On reaching the top track, the track coming in from the left is actually part of the Europe-wide “JackobsWeg” pilgrims way. I have come across this on other SOTA and HEMA summits recently. It seems the pilgrims are expected to climb all of the summits along their route!

  As this was my first time on this summit, I was happy to find the tripoint stone and about 5 metres further on a nice bench and a wooden sign on a metal post declaring this as Sonneneck Höhe – which is the correct name for the actual summit. 

After setting up the gear, with the HF_PRO-2 antenna set to 40m, I saw there were several other activators shown on SotaWatch and one – OE/HB9BCK/P was a good 59 signal so I called him for a 6-point S2S contact meaning I had now had S2S contacts on all 3 summits. In fact, soon after when I was calling CQ, I also had an S2S with Chris DL1CR/P who I haven’t talked to for a while – he was out on the DM/NS-122 2-pointer summit. After about 15 minutes of calls on 40 metres, I was determined to get some contacts on 20 metres as well and three more contacts from Sweden, Finland and Spain went into the log.

This was the point where I considered my next action. I knew I had about a 40-minute walk back to my car and then an over 30-minute drive to the next summit which, I also didn’t know and looks like it was as long a walk as Sonneneck had been, so rather than risk anything, I decided to cancel that last summit. I have the mapped route for it, the next time I am in the area, possibly when there is snow on the ground and the 3 winter bonus points are active?

As mentioned above, the return to the car did not go quite as planned. Through inattention and not retracing my route on the map, I ended up coming back via a different route. This route may have been 5 minutes quicker as it turned out. It had been threatening to rain for a while and there were a few light drops of rain, which also confirmed my decision to leave the last summit. That said, as soon as I set off home in the car, the sun came out and on arriving home it was up around 20°C!   

The drive home was uneventful and I was home by 3 pm – ready for a cool beer and a rest!

 Photos – Sonneneck:

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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.
  • 6-metre Lambdahalbe mast and SOTABeams Linked dipole (failed when put up on Blender).
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella foot (mast support) taken to and only used on Blender.

Log – Blender:

Log – Urserberg:

Log – Sonneneck:

Conclusions:

  • The problem with the linked dipole turned out to be a broken centre connector in the PL-259 plug. Now repaired and strengthened, so hopefully, this trusty old antenna will continue to give good service for a couple of years. 
  • I still haven’t been able to compare performance between the linked dipole on a 6-metre mast versus the HF_PRO-2 loaded vertical on a small photo tripod. I am fairly certain that the dipole will work best, however, the convenience of the vertical and the fact that I had it all packed inside my rucksack as a backup has earned its position on the summits for a while to come.
  • It was right to set off back after the third summit. The fourth, with a similarly long walk into Sonneneck Höhe, would have been too much for what was already a hard day.

73 ’til the next summit(s).

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).