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:
Photos – Falkenstein:
- 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:
- 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.