As the situation with a possible stronger COVID-19 lockdown has still not been clarified, I decided that I needed to get out and at least activate a couple of Summits in January. The weather, however, had other ideas, so between possibly travel restrictions coming in and bad weather I had been limited for the whole of January.
My preference would, of course, be a couple of higher height and higher scoring summits as these will again bring me more points as we are in a new year. Unfortunately, these summits need a ski lift for any practical activation and the ski-lifts are now closed because of COVID until at least February 14th (most likely until Easter).
I decided that I would pick just two local easy summits that I could literally decide on the same day to go and activate. Weichberg and Auerberg fit this “half-day activation” model very well.
I always keep my equipment charged and packed ready to go. In fact, I now have one rucksack using the loaded vertical and tripod, battery box and rig in fact everything I need for an activation and a second rucksack with all possible optional additions such as an amplifier, Dipole antennas and even the VP2E antennas and a “short” 6-metre mast. Both packs go in the car but normally only the first one gets pulled out.
After several days of snow and ice an opportunity came up on Friday the 22nd of January and I took it before the expected new snow came in that night.
The first summit (DL/AL-179 Weichberg), is one of my favourite summits, it’s not a long drive to get there and is not a busy summit. This time I only met a farmer who drove up a “no public access” track in his tractor, to replace a broken bulb in a spotlight that shines on the little chapel on this summit. Access for walkers is up from the car park just past the farm and before the “restricted road” sign using a track through the woods. I know this can be tricky in winter, so I added spikes to my hiking boots before setting off on the steep walk.
This summit has now got a second bench looking out over the valley, next to the information board and trig stone in addition to the wooden bench/table system that has been there next to the chapel for years and is where I always set-up. This is a larger summit and (in summer) is fine for setting up a larger antenna such as a mast with a wire dipole but in winter it has over two foot of snow on the chapel’s “lawn” so it was still a good idea to go with the simple and small, loaded dipole and photo-tripod option.
After setting up the antenna and radials I operated from the bench with my rig still in the bottom of my rucksack and just my “external control display” (an old smartphone) outside of the bag. I made 18 contacts in a fairly short time and when the calls that I could hear dried-up, I packed up ready to head to my next summit for the day.
The second summit (DL/AL-169 Auerberg) is another easy summit, where there is a car park almost at the summit and a shorter walk than at Weichberg, up to the church on the summit is all that is needed. This was steep and icy but several people had gone before me and kicked out steps in the snow and ice. (when there is no snow, there are proper steps in the ground).
At the rear of the church, there are two wooden benches which I used one of, setting up the tripod, radials and antenna just a little away from the Church walls.
The take-off from this summit would be great for a VHF activation with a good drop-off in all directions. It also seemed at the start to be a better summit than Weichberg with 59/59 reports being exchanged. After 10 minutes or so, signals seemed to drop off. I initially thought this could be band conditions varying but I now think more likely was a high powered station only a few kHz away that was de-sensing my receiver! On both summits, I heard the very loud (probably military) signal moving up and down the 40m band and when that comes, you have no choice but to wait until it passes your frequency. For a band where Amateur radio is supposed to be the primary user, this shouldn’t happen but the regulator isn’t going to argue with the military – most likely it wasn’t the German military rather an ex-eastern bloc EU member state’s military in any case!
I worked fewer chasers from this summit, despite it being a better location but once the chasers calling dried up, I decided to pack up as I was starting to get cold. I wondered whether I might fit in another “easy summit”, the problem was that the others are quite a drive away and I would have had to have started much earlier if I had wanted to include more summits.
With snow forecast for the weekend, perhaps, just perhaps, there may be an opportunity to activate a group of 4 semi-local summits next week?
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu X108G.
- HAMA Photo Tripod.
- Komunica Power HF-PRO2-PLUS-T loaded vertical.
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
- Painters thick plastic sheet.
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.
- The grab-and-go approached after several planned activations having to be cancelled because of weather or possible travel restrictions. I did these two without any alerts as I was not sure all would go to plan.
- Using the small tripod and Komunica Power HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T antenna is a very practical solution. With a set-up in 10 minutes from arriving on the summit being the “norm” putting up a mast and dipole in comparison can take up to 30 minutes depending upon the summit (and it’s more to carry).
- The loaded vertical when compared to the dipole is an inferior antenna in some ways. If the critical frequency gets up to say 7MHz the vertical will not work as a good NVIS antenna but it’s a case of convenience versus performance. If I am going out trying for a VK/ZL contact for example I would take the linked dipole or even the VP2E, which take longer to put up but are better DX antennas. If I have to activate from a wooded summit, then again, it has to be a horizontal antenna.
73 ’til the next summit.