As the first part of the 10m challenge is coming to a close in 10 days time, I thought I’d try to get my 10m activator scores up a little and found this rather nice 8 point summit that I had not yet activated.
The summit has a longish walk after taking both a cable car and a seat lift to get to the summit. I normally have all of my SOTA gear in two bags – a camera bag and a small rucksack. These were not to be a suitable option for this summit, so I set to, to reduce down what I would take to pack within just the one small rucksack. I decided that going back to using the Diamond RHM-8B vertical antenna, which connects directly to the top of the FT817 on the BNC connector could be one option to remove the need to take the OCF dipole, balun and fibreglass pole. I had used the Diamond once before on Wallberg when there was nowhere to get the dipole out.
On Monday the 3rd. of August, I put all the equipment together in the racksack and went out into the countryside to simulate an activation. The antenna received brilliantly but no one I called came back to me – they could not hear me. I had intended doing more tests on the Tuesday but then decided to go with the known working Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole configuration with fibreglass pole etc.
Some more repacking and I was down to one (rather heavy) rucksack, that got a bottle of water and some food added to it before putting it in the car for the 1.25 hour drive down to the bottom of the cable car. I also packed the 6m fibreglass pole and my two telescopic walking poles into the side pockets of the rucksack.
The Breitenberg Cabinbahn starts from just outside of Pfronten – a town I had driven into previously while trying to find the road up to Falkenberg, so the majority of the route from home I knew. The car had stopped without warning a couple of times with the wife on Monday so I was hoping for no repeats on this relatively long journey – and luckily there were none.
Even with the gear cut down to one rucksack – it is too heavy, especially with what was a hard climb from the top of the seat lift to the actual summit. I had to stop I think 4 times as I was totally out of breath. It just took me 20 minutes to get up there, not the written 30 or 45 though, so perhaps I was being too eager. I had expected to use the walking poles but I couldn’t seem to get them to extend correctly without falling apart! I later found I was turning the rong part to release each section – of curse I hadn’t tried these out before so now I ended up carrying the extra weight up and down the hill!
Once at the summit the “Ostler Hutte”, a restaurant, takes up most of the top with a little space left where the holy cross stands. At 11:30 local time, when I got there, there were already quite a few people mulling around, so I couldn’t set up near the cross. I then found a path around the back of the restaurant where there was a little open land with (at the time) no one there. So I set up the OCF Inverted-V there and sat down to operate. As usual the first thing I do is check to see if there are any other activators out. When I looked at my phone though I had messages from both cell phone companies (it’s a dual-SIM phone) that since I am roaming in Europe and I am no longer in Germany, rather in Austria (which of course I wasn’t, but from up there the nearest phone cell is in Austria) there will be extra charges for data usage. What they should have said was that it simply would not work! I was surprised somewhat as behind the restaurant is a hut with that looks like a mobile phone cell antena on it, so it should have been booming in. Thinking later about this, I guess this wasn’t a mobile cell transmitter but as I was located probably only 20 metres away from it, it could have been blocking the cell signals. With the Internet connectivity not working I had no way to see whether there were any other SOTA stations on and also self spotting would be difficult and might only be possible via SMS and then definitely NOT using the Vodaphone network! Looking back through SOTAWatch, of the probably 10 spots I sent – ONE got through.
Sufficient to say, the idea of making some 10m contacts from the summit came to nothing. I called several times on my alert posted frequency (the 10m QRP SSB calling frequency of 28.360) – no replies – I then tried my 40m (Alert) posted frequency of 7.090 – again nothing. I was a lot earlier than my alerted time, so perhaps that was part of the reason.
So I was down to hunting other stations – any other station and then my 5W signal was fighting against 1 KW stations, so it wasn’t at all easy and once I managed 4, I decided to pack up. I did get one Castle & Stately Home on the air (CASHOTA), a special event station and a DL/WWFF station in the four however.
As I went back past the wooden cross and down the path from the summit, suddenly my phone started beeping (I had left Rucksack Radio Tool on) and then there was the list of other activators. For me to unpack and set up somehow at this point (still around 25m down from the summit so in the AZ), was not an option as I was feeling rather unwell (probably from too much sun) and wanted just to get down the mountain and back home. If I ever activate this summit again, I now know to set up on the other side of the mountain to get Internet access and he able to spot!
The other MAJOR MAJOR problem was that after a while I was unable to read the FT817 display to see what frequency I was on. This problem got worse as the sun got brighter and also meant I could not read the smart phone either. The FT817 itself got VERY hot in the sun. When in Australia I had added some white “fabulon” sticky backed plastic to the top of the radio but just this last week, as it was starting to look a little tatty, I removed it! In summer on an alp, all possible protection against the sun and heat is needed.
Aerial-51 model 404-UL asymmetric dipole.
6 metre squid pole.
For such summits, I need to reduce the pack weight further. A reccie of the site beforehand (where I check things like Cell phone coverage) would have been very valuable. Without spotting, 5W just isn’t enough to get contacts, so having the 25W amp might have been a good idea, despite it’s extra weight and that of its batteries. If I do go back to this summit, I might risk just taking my very-lightweight end-fed half wave antenna as there were plenty of trees to run the wire through (no need to take a fibreglass pole).
73 ’til the next Summit!