I don’t normally activate on a Saturday, however as the Transatlantic SOTA S2S event was scheduled for Saturday 5th of November, I had no choice. I decided the week before on activating Wank Mountain near Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the southern border of Germany with Austria. This mountain has a cable car which stops, as all in Bavaria do, at the start of November for annual maintenance. What is different about the wankbahn cable car is that it stops all the way through into the spring of the following year while most re-open for the Christmas season. Probably as there are no ski runs from the Wank mountain, the owners have decided that it is not worth restarting before the walkers arrive eager to go in spring.
As I hadn’t activated DL/EW-001 in 2022, this was the opportunity to bag it and hopefully several contacts into North America. As the date neared the number of activators that alerted that they would be out around 1300 UTC on Saturday increased and increased with over 25 on Friday. Most of these were in the US and there were only a limited number of UK stations going out as the weather forecast for them had been bad, however, as the day neared, the weather forecast for the UK improved and my, planned easy activation in the sunshine on the grass, slipped away. Thursday night brought a good covering of snow to the top of Wank Mountain and with temps between -6°C at night and -2°C during the day, this wasn’t going to be gone by Saturday.
I considered going to an alternative summit, that was lower and free of snow as I could see from the webcam pictures that the track from the cable car station up to the very summit of the mountain hadn’t been cleared and was unlikely to be cleared with very few people on the mountain. Then I checked where the activation zone for the summit comes down to and saw that the area to the east of the cable car station, above a children’s play area and in fact where the webcam is located is actually still in the activation zone, so I decided to stick with Wank Mountain and it’s 6-points rather than going to a lower hill with just 1 or 2 points to give out to each chaser.
The drive down to the summit is just over 90 minutes in the car, so I kept checking on Friday and Saturday morning that they did not close the lift early because of a lack of trade. All seemed OK, the cable car was still open, as was the restaurant in the cable car building, but not the one on the very summit, which is run by the DAV (national alpine walking club).
The drive down was uneventful – a route I have taken many times before. I arrived at the cabin lift’s car park at 1 pm as planned. The parking fee is excessive at €6 but that’s for a full day of parking (there are no shorter options). The lift is also expensive at normally €24 but for us OAPs it’s €22.50 for the round trip which takes about 20 minutes each way. My guess is that at any one time, there were a maximum of 20 visitors on the mountain possibly closer to 10 at times. So the company that owns the cable car will not have made a profit this Saturday. The Sunday, however, was expected to be sunny and so for the last day of operation in 2022, I suspect they will have been busy.
On arriving at the top station of the lift, I did a quick check around to see whether going to the actual summit would be possible, but the track hadn’t been cleared, so it was off to the spot on the map which is actually marked on some maps as the SOTA summit location, although it isn’t the actual summit (it’s in the AZ, which is all that matters).
After clearing the ice and snow off the bench, I set to, to get the mast and antenna up as quickly as possible as some of the work required me to remove my gloves and in -2°C you want gloves on whenever possible. I had thought I might have a problem getting my screw-in mast base (it’s actually meant for a sun umbrella) into the ground, but no, that was easy enough. Ideally, I would have liked to have run the inverted-v linked dipole N-S to give the best radiation and reception to/from North America but so doing would have one wire across the path and while visibility was restricted with the low clouds that I was sat in, I thought the danger to others would be too great and simply ran the wire out of the way in an almost E-W direction. At only 5m AGL the antenna is still rather Omnidirectional in any case.
Somehow, I managed to have my radio set up almost 30 minutes ahead of my alerted time, despite the weather. I had decided to start on 20m as that was the most likely band for the S2S contacts. I tuned 20m and found a full band (well it was the weekend and I’m sure some contest or other would be belting away somewhere). On tuning around 20m I found that 14.285 was free but I decided not to operate there as that is the QRP calling frequency on 20m and found 14.290 as a good alternative.
After calling only a short while I had a constant pile-up of chasers from around Europe, nothing from the US but it was a bit early. Checking spots on SOTAWatch, I saw a couple of US stations on 20m CW, so perhaps there might be some SSB stations at some point.
After about 20 minutes the pile up calling me just kept calling and calling and no matter which station I went back to, they did not respond, then they started calling with their call sign again and there were more and more and more of these callers – something was very odd – I seemed to still be transmitting – no problems there… Then I guessed what was going on – what is it when lots of people transmit but don’t listen? Yes, a DXPedition station had looked for a space on the band and found 14285 free (as I had) but ignored the fact that it is the QRP calling frequency (and they were certainly running QRO), started up there and found he could not separate all the stations calling him. No problem, “I’ll work split” – listening 5-up – Yeah, 5-up the frequency is already in use but does he check that? NO – he unleashes his hoards of chasers, who also listen only on the DXPedition frequency, not where they are transmitting, and I get hammered with stations on my frequency who don’t respond! Is this “in the spirit of amateur radio?” I think not – but this is a DXPedition so they can break the rules can’t they? NO, THEY CAN’T! Perhaps I should have re-spotted on the same frequency and stated that I was listening 5 kHz down to block the DXPeditions signal with my chasers? but I’m not like that, instead, I sought out a new frequency and luckily the outstanding SOTA chasers followed me when I moved.
While the rest of the activation went without further incident apart from the usual splatter from stations up to 5kHz away from my frequency, when I finally decided the weather was getting the better of me and I took the station down, the mast had frozen and the ice inside it broke the base cap on the mast. Not a big problem until I found that the electrician’s tape that I had with me didn’t like the cold and refused to come off its reel without splitting, making it useless. Luckily the mast’s top “bung” was still OK, so I simply put the mast in the side of my rucksack, upside down and that was fine until I could get it to my car in the car park of the bottom station of the cable car lift for my drive home.
Not the best activation but it has pointed out what I need to look at to improve the equipment as we move into the winter activation months.
DL/EW-001 Wank – Timelapse pictures from public webcam:
DL/EW-001 Wank – My pictures:
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu G90 radio.
- Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna with a modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials. (not used)
- Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
- SotaBeams linked dipole.
- 4 Ah Eremit LifePO4 battery.
- 4 Ah LiHV battery (not used).
- Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
- Gardener’s kneeling pad.
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone for SOTA spotting.
- I hate operating weekend days from a summit. In this case, however, the offences perpetrated by the DXPedition station could just as easily have happened on a weekday.
- Sometimes limited time due to bad weather and DX Contacts simply do not work well together. If I had been able to stay another hour, I may have been able to have got an S2S into North America.
- The Xiegu G90’s 20w and the linked dipole continue to work very well, with lots of reports received being 5-9. Shame about the mast breaking its bottom cap but that is already repaired and ready for its next outing.
- I need to make some more log sheets from glossy photo paper, normal paper is terrible to write on without tearing it in the middle of sleet storms.
73 ’til the next summit(s).