As there had been several Long Path contacts between Europe and Australia over the previous few days, I decided to make the effort to get up and out in time for the Long path window. This meant rising before 6am local time to drive to, walk up and set up my station in time. I considered closer summits than this one however they were at best only 15 minutes closer and only 1 pointers, where Rangenberg is an 8 point summit, which I activated last year. The planned equipment was already prepared, batteries changed and everything packed after the last activation. I printed out the route which was 90% Autobahn and then 10 minutes on country roads. I planned to try a different walk-in approach from the village, which looked tp be shorter than the route I took last time.
Rangenberg is located near to the village of Ratzenhofen and for me the easiest, and quickest approach was to drive down the A96 autobahn to exit 8 and then follow signs for Isny and then turn off into Rohrdorf, go through the village and out alongside the hill before turning into Ratzenhofen.
The run down went well with me arriving near to the summit on-time. I actually decided not to try the route from Ratzenhofen (may be next time), I parked where I had the previous time but then took the low track followed by the steps rather than the longer, constantly climbing route. This new route is shorter however some of the turnstiles are hard to get through with my two backpacks. In one field (while still on the track) I was greeted by a rather large, four-legged resident. A lovely grey coloured cow with the largest cow bell I have ever seen around her neck. luckily there was no bull in the field! While the route around to the steps only went up a little, the long climb up the steps had me stopping twice to catch my breath. I really do need to reduce the weight of my packs and get fitter!
Once I was at my activation spot, I slowly unloaded the equipment onto the very convenient solid wood picnic table, then went over to the fence to put up the aerial-51 OCF dipole on my 6 metre telescopic squid pole. The antenna is probably only at about 4.5m AGL in the centre as the 4:1 balun in this antenna has to sit further down the pole where there is some strength.
Once the antenna was up (and I avoided stepping on the giant snail a few times – see pictures), I went back to the table to connect up the gear. As I was hoping for a SSB Long Path contact into VK, I had brought my Ramsey QAMP amplifier, which pushes up the output from the FT817 from 5W to about 15w. Not a big difference but has proved to be useful on other activations.
Well as I was laying out my logbook, I smelt something burning and looking around I saw white smoke coming from the cable from the amplifier as it went into the cloth bag that holds the 3S LIPO battery and inverter that I use to bump the 11v up to 13.8V. No need to say some quick disconnecting took place and I assessed the damage. This had happened before and had been a problem with the cigarette lighter socket output on the battery bag. I had a spare cable to allow me to feed the linear amp directly from the 3S LIPO (albeit at the lower voltage). Witth this in place however I could hear the relays in the amplifier were not going over and later investigation at home showed that in fact the fuse inside the amplifier and one of the two power transistors had blown.
So, it was back to just running the FT817 at its 5W output, which normally has been enough to capture contacts however this time I called and called and tried different bands (20, 40, 15 & 10m). Eventually I got enough contacts on 40m to qualify the summit (one was a summit-to-summit contact with Negro S55KM on S5/KS-025 which was the highlight of the activation). I found out later that a CME from the Sun had created bad radio conditions, which had improved after I left the summit.
Aerial-51 model 404-UL asymmetric dipole.
6 metre squid pole.
Just because equipment has worked fine for months, it doesn’t mean it will work when you take it again up onto a summit and you always have to be prepared to work around problems.
73 ’til the next Summit!