As part of my short holiday away from home, I had hoped to activate some higher HEMA and SOTA summits that I had not activated before however as it turned out with uncertain weather and the fact that my wife and the dog wanted to come along, I decided on some simpler summits mixed with some sightseeing around the southern part of Allgau, Bavaria.
As it was to turn out, this was a good decision and we had two enjoyable days and one where it rained all day and we came home early. At this time of year that was probably the best, we could have hoped for.
Preparation for the trip was limited by the space available as the rear area where I would normally load all of my radio gear was taken up by our dog “Bonnie” meaning all luggage had to fit in our small car on the rear seat.
So the activation equipment was limited to what could go into or be attached to the side of, my 40-litre rucksack. I even chose not to take the lithium battery charges to recharge batteries overnight and rather took three battery packs of different sizes with the expectation that I would not drain them all. This of course added to the weight of the rucksack, as did the screw-in mast base attached to its side.
No experiments with antennas, I would take the linked dipole and the 6m mast with the HF-PRO2 loaded HF whip and its small tripod inside the rucksack as the backup option (which I needed on the second summit).
As the weather looked fine, it was decided to fit in one activation en-route to our hotel.
Burgkranzegger Horn – HEMA DL/HAL-033 and SOTA DL/AL-181.
This is a summit with not too difficult access – especially in late summer (the last time that I activated it was in winter and a big problem was fighting through the deep snow as no track was obvious). The summit itself has an open area where the dog could entertain itself. The reason that this summit is in both the HEMA and SOTA schemes is historical and while its prominence is just 125m it fits nicely into the HEMA range of 100-150m while being well under the SOTA 150m minimum.
On arriving at the parking spot at the clinic on the outskirts of Mittleberg village, the weather was fine and we all three set off up the track. Unfortunately, my wife was unable to complete the last part of the climb (she got over 85% of the way there) but rather than risk anything, she said after sitting and taking in the views for a while, she would start off slowly back down, with the dog and wait for me at the car. I continued on to the large telegraph pole sized holy cross on the summit and started to set up on the bench below it. Before I could get set up 5 cyclists arrived, they were doing a tour around the whole of Allgau and were interested in knowing what I was doing. I gave them one of my leaflets in german about “what is amateur radio” and realised that I had forgotten to re-stock my supply so I would not have any more brochures should other visitors happen by – which they did. A younger couple arrived about 20 minutes later and showed interest and so I broke off operations to explain to them what our wonderful hobby is all about.
At some point between the visitors, I managed to get enough contacts to activate the summit. It was very clear however that there is a far smaller following for HEMA than for SOTA. Indeed I think all of my HEMA contacts were people who just happened to find me on 40 metres, not people who had seen my spot on the HEMA website.
SOTA was the usual pile-up following just one spot and a couple of CQ calls.
One thing is for sure, the radio and linked-dipole did their usual sterling service with lots of good reports and in SOTA we do tend to give real reports.
After 45 minutes on the summit, it was time to pack up and head back down to the car park where my wife and dog would be waiting. As I had however texted to say that I was packing up, by the time I was halfway down the steepest part, I could hear the barks of a dog that I recognised and when I finally got down onto the level track, it wasn’t long before I found my wife and dog waiting for me on a sheltered bank under a tree. They had set off to meet me halfway.
That was the end of activations on Tuesday, it was now time to head to the apartment hotel in Pfronten and en route buy some supplies at a supermarket. Once we got settled in and went out for an evening meal, the discussion was about what I would do on Wednesday. Whether I would go off alone to a higher summit or do something easy again.
The weather was looking like it would “hold out” until at least Wednesday afternoon and after some thought, we agreed that we would visit the local farmers market first thing, then head on up to Falkenstein followed by a tourists visit to Fussen about 30 minutes away.
SOTA DL/AL-167 Falkenstein.
This is a summit that I have activated several times (but not this year as yet). It has a quirky one-way private road that opens one-way at times related to minutes past and before the hour. (to be safe there are also traffic lights) so a bit of bad timing on arrival and you might have to wait 20 minutes before you can drive up the road, once you have bought your €4 ticket for use of the road.
We started Wednesday with a rather disappointing weekly market in Pfronten with just two stalls there, so we grabbed breakfast at a cafe and then headed off to the start of the private rod up to Falkenstein, arriving at the start of the road as it closed to allow those at the castle to drive down. No problems we had enough time.
Falkenstein is the highest castle ruins in Germany and was the last of the famous King Ludwig II’s castles and was going to be his base for hunting in the surrounding mountains however he drowned under suspicious circumstances in Starnberg Lake before it could be finished.
The walk from the car park takes you past a 4-star hotel with expensive luxury cars parked outside, belonging to the hotel’s guests. After what was already a steep walk up the road, the last section is a series of natural and manmade steps up to the ruins themselves. I was glad to see the message that the ruins are open at the bottom of this last climb. Both my wife and dog were determined to get to the ruins to be with me this time while I was operating. It was a fairly hard climb but the views from the top reward you and my wife was very impressed. There was a hefty wind coming up, so I would need to get set up and complete the activation before any bad weather arrived. So I went to the gate to the inside of the ruins, which has a sturdy platform with solid steps up its two levels and even has a round wooden table on the top level – ideal to set the radio up on. The gate was padlocked shut. Whoever put the sign to the ruins being open at the start of the last climb was having a laugh at our expense now!
The problem now is that although there is room inside the ruins to set up the 6-metre mast and linked dipole, outside there is not. So after carrying the bigger antenna and mast and support up all those steps, I had to revert to my backup antenna – the Komunica HF-PRO2 loaded vertical whip on my small photo tripod and with my homemade radial wires. Thankfully once I got set up, this antenna performed like a champion on both 40 & 20m (it actually covers from 80m through to 70cm). Despite being close to the ruin’s walls contacts were made from around Europe with good signal reports.
Just as importantly, the dog had settled herself down and my wife was able to sit on a stone seat (of sorts) and enjoy the views and fresh air.
Once the callers dried up, I was able to pack up and we headed back to the car park to wait for the traffic light system to tell us that we could go back down the single-lane road. we then had a nice afternoon looking through the old town of Fussen before returning back to the hotel and heading out to a closer (and better) restaurant than the night before, just as the heavy rain started.
Thursday was literally a wash-out but we had had two great days and activated a couple of nice summits – a low-stress holiday.
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu G90.
- Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (used on Falkenstein)
- Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (used of Falkenstein)
- Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast (used on Bergkranzegger Horn).
- Screw-in sun umbrella support(used on Bergkranzegger Horn).
- SotaBeams linked dipole(used on Bergkranzegger Horn).
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs) .
- 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
- 4 Ah LifePO4 Eremit battery.
- Painters thick plastic sheet.
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms.
Falkenstein SOTA DL/AL-167
- Despite the uncertain weather it was possible to have a low-stress and an enjoyable couple of days including some summit activations.
- The HF-PRO2 on its small tripod worked very well and I wonder if I would have made any more contacts with the linked dipole on its 6-metre mast had I been able to put it up at Falkenstein.
73 ’til the next summit.