As the situation with a possible stronger COVID-19 lockdown has still not been clarified, I decided that once December 1st. came along I would try to get out and activate some summits that have a winter bonus that will run out at the end of December (or rather will be reset as it will then be the 2021 winter bonus). My preference would be a couple of higher height and higher scoring summits which I have not activated at the start of the year before the early year bonuses stopped. Unfortunately, these summits need a ski lift for any practical activation and the ski-lifts are now cancelled until at least January 10th. Not that the lifts themselves are dangerous but the government is doing everything that it can, short of announcing and official “stay home” order, to stop people going on winter holidays and creating “super-spreader” centres for the COVID-19 virus.
I had had Steig on my list as outstanding for some time, but it’s hardly a “local” summit with at least a 90-minute drive there. I looked at other summits that I already knew that I could perhaps team it up with but all were too far away, more looking at other summits within 30 minutes drive of the car park for Steig I found these two, which I had never activated before. One had a write-up that suggested it was a straight forward walk to the summit (it wasn’t and I wonder if the other activator actually mistook where the summit was? Either that or a walk-in summer is somewhat easier than in sub-zero temperatures through snow). Bet that is it may, these were the three summits I chose and the plan was to be on Falkenstein at the right time for an S2S into Arizona, USA (something, that with the state of the bands was not to come to fruition).
Given the unknown nature of two of the summits and the long walk into the first summit, I decided to plan to use my smaller configuration – one medium-sized rucksack with everything (rig, antenna, tripod) packed inside it. I also put a second rucksack in the car containing the portable 100W amplifier, 6 metre FG mast and 4 different wire antennas in case the bands were looking good on the first two summits and having the extra gain on the third summit may make the S2S into the US a possibility. In fact, the bands were not good, so the extra equipment stayed in the back of the car the whole time and in fact, on Falkenstein (“Auf Dem Falken”) there is no space for any antenna other than the tripod-mounted vertical antenna.
With all equipment pre-packed in the car the previous evening, I was ready for an 8 am departure on Friday.
Temps varied I guess from -3 to +3°C over the day.
The first summit (DL/AL-282 Steig), is in the middle of a forest and the final climb changes each time as it depends how the foresters have taken their tractor in to harvest the trees. This time compared to last time it was a diagonal route that brought me to the summit. After setting up the first call was from DK4EI who said the audio was breaking up and he thought it was RF getting into it. He spent 15 minutes with me trying to find it without any change. He even made and played a recording back. I decided to try to work another 3 stations to at least claim one summit and then head home. Strangely even when asked none of the following 10 contacts complained about my audio, but several commented on the QRM from another station a couple of kHz off – I wonder if that was the problem all the time? It sounded a bit like OTHR radar or something industrial like that.
Needless to say, I was unsure whether there was a real problem or not, however, after driving down over 90 minutes from home, I decided to head to the next summit and see how I go.
The second summit (DL/AL-181 Burgkranzeggerhorn) was OK but a lot longer climb than I had expected from the write-up that I read (or perhaps that op had never got to the real summit? (there are three summit crosses on the route! I checked with a local that I was in the right place before setting up, to be sure).
The summit is west from Oy-Mittleberg and the easiest way to find the path is to park at the rehabilitation clinic. By the way, this small town is a little way away from the normal routes and is certainly a hill walking centre with several nice hotels and cafes in the town (all closed because of Corona) and some sports clothing and other “touristy” shops.
Looking at a hiking map, there are clear tracks shown up to the summit – unfortunately apart from the first one, the others are all covered in snow and not visible however there are a few points to follow – a small holy cross near to a large wooden hut across and up a meadow is the start. There is also a signpost at this point. From there a larger holy cross can be seen – that’s the next point to reach up the hill. from there, the really large (telegraph pole sized) holy cross at the top of the hill is visible and this part of the climb has the best views back over the valley – really amazing views – there’s a reason this is a recreation area. The hard work to get up the hill is worth it for the views. A local couple was ahead of me and took the bench seat at the bottom of the cross, so I laid out once more, my painters sheet on a flat piece of ground a few metres away. This couple confirmed that this was indeed the Burgkranzegger Horn.
After setting up the equipment and taking a few minutes to explain what I was doing .. the contacts came in without problems and without any mention of corrupted audio. So indeed it looks like the problem at the previous summit came from QRM, not from my system! OK, as I was starting to get cold, it was time to pack-up and head back down the way I came, back to the “Reha” (re-habilitation) clinic, not down the main track which leads back into the town of Oy-Mettleberg itself. Climbing down the steep fields while not seeing what was under the snow was more of a challenge than coming up. I suspect this summit will be easier to access when the actual track can be seen!
Auf Dem Falken (Falkenstein)
Another thirty minutes should have got me to the car park for the third summit (DL/AL-271 Auf Der Falken) which should be called Falkenstein in the SOTA database, there is no reason that it should be named as it is, as far as I can see!
The trip from Steig here went fine except for the last 10 kilometres where the Navi (GPS) took me up some really small and windy back roads until I was instructed to take one that was clearly signposted as only accessible for the Forestry Commission so I parked up and tried to find where I was. I walked up the road to see how far the car park for the summit might be without success. I decided to try further along the “main” road where I saw a young gentleman cleaning his car, so I drove up to him to check I was in the village that I thought I was – I wasn’t! In principle, the GPS had taken me out of the previous large town (Rettenberg) on completely the wrong road! However, the local lad said, rather than driving all the way back into town, do as the locals do and use the forestry road, which comes out right at the car park for the hiking trails. He didn’t have to tell me twice!
Having parked up in the correct car park, I grabbed the gear and set off, what on the map looks like an easy climb. It is not, it’s through a forest up to the top of a long ridge and then along there for a good 15 minutes. The route reminds me of the hard climb up and along to Zwolferkopf near the other Falkenstein (castle ruins). The views when you get to this holy cross and trig stone at this summit are amazing though.
But, with several people around – including a small family with two small boys who were very interested in what I was doing (and got the mandatory brochures), I got distracted and forgot to attach the radials to the bottom of the vertical, again (there’s no way I could have put up an Inverted-V dipole on this summit). No wonder the signals from this summit were not as good as from the other two, I’m surprised that I made contacts so easily – I wonder how much stronger they would have been with the other “half” of the antenna attached?
I didn’t even bother trying 20 metres for the guy in Phoenix USA who was out looking for an S2S contact as I didn’t have time and the bands from the previous summits were not in as good a condition as they were a week ago.
Well, at least that was 1+3, 2+3 and 2+3 activator points earned for a days work.
Auf Dem Falken:
- 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.
DL/AL-181 Burgkranzegger Horn:
DL/AL-271 Auf Dem Falken:
- All told, it was a long long day but worthwhile. Going to these summits in future years will be easier. The views from Burgkranzegger Horn are really worth the climb!
- Why must every Navi (GPS) ignore when a road is not allowed to be used? Luckily this time it was not a big problem, it could have ended with me dropping the last summit.
- The simplified “Rapid deployment kit” works very well (but only when I remember to connect the radial wires) – I can’t believe I forgot this AGAIN.
- The Komunica Power HF-PRO-2_PLUS-T antenna is now my favourite. A good portable antenna which gives a good balance between performance and ease of transport and assembly along with not needing very much space to put up.
- Interference on 40 metres is becoming worse, but from military/commercial installations and from other amateurs. It won’t be long before we will no longer be able to operate portable on the band! This is not a good demonstration of Amateur Radio for those who come by and ask me what I am doing!
73 ’til the next summit.