Having had to abort the activation of Eisenberg and Falkenstein about 6 weeks earlier due car problems (turbo on the engine failed and wrote off both the turbo charger and the main engine block, making the car a write-off), I decided this would be a good way to try out the new car, while picking up the winter bonus points before the end of March. I had also done some changes to my small Ramsey QAMP amplifier that I use with the FT-817. As well as increasing the power by raising the voltage from the 13.5v to 16v (the power transistors are supposed to run at 28v for full output), I had also added some suppression to the brushless cooling fan that I have fitted.
As both summits are only about 15 minutes walk from each car park, this was going to be a “two-bag” activation, taking more equipment than essential, in case something failed and so that I could test out a couple of different configurations.
Access to Eisenberg is best made from the car park of the Schlossberalm Zell restaurant, where I intended to have lunch. It’s a really friendly restaurant with fantastic views and simple, good food. This is a good summit to go to if you have others with you who are not interested in radio but are happy sitting on a sun desk enjoying some drinks and food. Eisenberg is about a hours drive from my home and on the route to Falkenstein above Pfronten which is about another 20 minutes drive away, making these two and four point summits a good (easy) pair to combine. Access to Falkenstein is via a private road (€4 charge for use) which has a timed 1 way system with 45 minutes in each hour for cars going up and 15 minutes every hour for cars to drive down. About half way along this private road there is a track which leads off to Zwolferkopf, another SOTA four point summit about a 25-30 minutes walk up through the forests and along the ridge. I was not intending to activate Zwolferkopf on this trip unless I had a lot of free time as it would need the additional walk from either the top or bottom of the private road as parking is not allowed at the start of the track.
Since most snow where I live had melted a couple of days earlier, I exected no snow and indeed all the way up to the Schlossbergalm Zell car park under Eisenberg, very little was to be seen. Luckily I decided to put my hiking boots on rather than go in my training shoes as half way up the track to the castle ruins the track was covered in snow and worse, as people had walked through the snow the previous day and the snow had melted and re-frozen overnight, much of the track at several points was pure ice. I wish I had packed my add-on shoe spikes as this was so bad but I hadn’t packed them, so with my 9 kilos of radio equipment in two bags, I carefully crept up the track. On some parts of the track the snow had melted and so there was leave covered ground to stand on and on some parts there was fresh, untrodden snow, both of which were better than walking on the ice. The ascent took 20 minutes instead of my usual 10 minutes but as I was ahead of schedule and the sun was out, this was not a problem.
I took my time setting up the gear on the lookout platform on the castle ruins before any other walkers got there and was on the air at 09:40 UTC, still 20 minutes ahead of my alerted time. When unwinding the wire on the Spiderbeams UL-404 OCF dipole I found one kink, that had taken the PVC covering off the wire and it looked as if it might have also broken some of the wire strands inside, so I taped up this part of the antenna to avoid any further damage and hoped all was well with the antenna (once I got it home and checked, the wire core hadn’t been broken luckily).
I first tried calling and spotting on 20 metres as I saw that there had been some SOTA activity on 20 metres 30 minutes previously. Nothing heard, no replies. I tuned around and the band sounded very quiet. There were a couple of Italain stations on but not much apart from that. I started to wonder if the antenna was actually broken (in fact later other stations confirmed this was simply very bad propagation on 20m at the time). So I switched over to 40m and after a little time had plenty of calls from chasers. The problem on 40m was the amount of traffic there – the opposite effect to 20m and finding a free spot to call that wasn’t being splattered over by a QRO station on a nearby frequency was difficult. Perhaps having found that 20m was dead, the whole of the active European HF population had moved to 40m? I did try 20m again a few times and at the end of the day managed two contacts on 20m – one of which was an S2S contact with Leszek SQ9MDF on SP/BS-005.
Talking of QRO, I was running more power than I have been doing for a while. The modified Ramsey QAMP linear amplifier now produces 20w on 20m and 30w on 40m. The reports I was receiving back on 40m reflected this. In some cases I was getting a better report than I was giving. Part of the reason could be that there was some local broadband interference from equipment on the summit. I also have an outstanding problem with noise from the brushless fan that I have mounted in the QAMPs case, the pre-activation suppression work had not been successful.
After, for me, a long activation of an hour on-the-air and with the difficult conditions on both 20m and 40m, I decided not to go on and activate Falkenstein. I’ll look at activating Falkenstein and possibly Zwolferkopf as my next activation. If this warm weather continues the snow on the tracks at the even higher summits should clear.
Spiderbeam Aerial-51 UL-404 off centre fed dipole.
5 metre squid pole.
Ramsey QAMP 20/40m amplifier
Propagation can be very bad at times. Perhaps as we come towards the low point in this sunspot cycle, I should look at the low bands (80m) for contacts from summits?
The QAMP is working well with the increased power output, but the 2-3 S points of noise coming from the brushless fan is bad and I need to find a solution. Most recomendations for equipment with these types of fans is to run them off a separate PSU as the interference comes back down the supply leads. A separate PSU is not practical, so I may add a relay so that the fan only comes on when I am on transmit.
73 ’til the next Summit!