As we approach the change of clocks in Europe, getting to a summit and activating early enough to catch the EU_VK long path window is going to become more difficult, so with this activation, I hoped to perhaps make a short path contact to a VK chaser and/or a US chaser or activator in the late afternoon. The weather forecast was for dry, sunny weather up to 26 degrees centigrade.
As I found out on the last activation, my Ramsey QRP amplifier that I use to boost the FT817’s signal had decided to stop working, so once I decided on Wednesday to activate Laber on Saturday, I used what spare time I had to take apart, fault find and repair the amp. Once repaired, I also ran tests and found a healthy 15W output on 20m and 25W on 40m.
Also for this activation, I wanted to try 15m as this should give the best chance of a contact into the US at the time I planned to be on the summit. This meant, I would be taking the Aerial-51 404-UL antenna rather than the SOTABeams linked dipole as my model of the linked dipole only has links for 20,30,40 and 80m operation. The Aerial-51 antenna is heavier than the SOTABeams due to its balun however with my modification it sits nicely on top of either my 6metre or 10metre squid pole. I planned to take the 10m high one this time, but later decided on the lighter 6m pole. The advantage of the Aerial-51 antenna is that I can change bands without having to lower the antenna remove or connect a link and raise it again.
By Friday all was set for Saturday, so everything was laid out ready to be packed into the car for the about 1.25 hour drive down to Oberammergau (where the Laberbergbahn starts) the next day.
Laber is one on the mountains looking down onto the town of Oberammergau.
Oberammergau is famous for its “Passion Play” which has been run every 10 years since 1634 when it was put on as an offering to God to rescue the town from the plague.
In 1632 the pestilence, a plague, had infested Oberammergau and by 1633 nearly every family had come to experience death. People, brought down with the pestilence, vowed to perform every ten years at the towns cemetery, a Passion play depiction of the suffering and dying of Christ if there would be no more deaths by the pestilence.
On Pentecost 1634 the population of Oberammergau performed for the first time the “Play of suffering, dying and revival of our lord Jesus Christ”: on a stage which has been built at the pestilence cemetery, over the graves of those who had dies of the plague.
Access to the Laber summit is either via one of two walking tracks taking around 3 hours from the town or using the oldest cable car system in Germany which takes about 15 minutes from the valley to the mountain station with the journey stopping half way up. This halt is needed to unload or load people at the base or mountain station. There are 4 cars on the system, each of which can hold up to 12 people. They are not large but are standing room only with just one small box to sit on in them.
On arriving at the summit station, it’s only a short walk down the (very steep) track to get to the edge of the AZ, however the best location to set up is to use one of the benches on the actual summit, next to the cable car station and restaurant.
The weather on Saturday was not at all like what had been predicted. It was foggy and cool and on the drive down rain showers started. As part of this trip we were to visit the Weis Church and look around Oberammergau, so hopefully the weather would clear up in the afternoon. It didn’t and by the time we got to the valley station of the cable car, the mountain didn’t look very inviting at all. Cold, misty and light rain. The webcam monitor in the cable car station showed the weather on the mountain as even worse than in the valley. We asked the lift operator if he thought it would pass and he said it was set in for the day (according to the Internet).
After some consideration, we (my wife and I) decided to risk it and hope that the wether would improve – which it did a little for about an hour of the 2 hours that we were on the mountain.
It was damp more than wet most of the time. Visibility varied from being just 20m to being able to see Oberammergau in the valley. Certainly not the views we expected but I got to work 37 stations over about 100 minutes. To my surprise I worked some on 10, 12 & 15m as well as the usual 20 & 40m. The Aerial-51 antenna is not designed to work on 12m without an ACU, but it worked well enough for one contact and that was an S2S into Finland!
I managed six S2S contacts around Europe – actually a duplicate S2S (the 7th) when the other station called me again when I changed bands. There were some contests running which made finding a free frequency difficult and the habit of contest stations not to check whether a frequency is free before starting to call CQ is annoying to say the least. 40m had an S8 noise level from the microwave antennas and equipment about 50m away, so all of the (many) contacts I had on 40m were strong to overcome the local RF noise.
Aerial-51 model 404-UL asymetric dipole.
Ramsey QAMP amplifier.
6 metre squid pole.
16:30 local (currently 14:30 UTC) is too early for contacts into the US or Australia. Once the clocks move back an hour at the end of this month, it may be worth trying again as 16:30 local becomes 15:30 UTC, however a new test would probably need to be from a hill that does not need a cable car to access it as many of the cable cars will be out of service in November while they get their annual inspections, upgrades and approvals before the skiing season starts in December. Being on a walk-up hill would also give the possibility of staying later, which could be an advantage for contacts to the US, but later in the day will make it past midnight for even those VK stations in Western Australia, so I wouuldn’t expect any contacts from VK.
Contests, and contest stations can be a pain. Apart from them taking up most of the band, their signals being too wide (or overpowering the receiver), there attitude of just calling on a frequency without checking it first and even if they do check, ignoring anything other than an S9 reply is a PITH!
I need to look again at how I can reduce the equipment that I take with me. For a winter activation – possibly involving skiing-in to a site, I need a minimum set of gear and a simple to install and remove antenna that does not obstruct other people – so most likely a vertical anntenna with radials for each band. Some more thought is required around this.
73 ’til the next Summit!