I have been wanting to get an activation of Wank mountain which lies above Garmisch-Partenkirchen in, for a while but had to wait for the cabin lift to start running again after having been closed for annual maintenance, as most are around Southern Bavaria at this time of year. The cable car was supposed to start running again on Christmas Day (25th December) but it didn’t because of high winds. I could see from the webcam near the summit that the tracks had not been used, let alone cleared on Wednesday so my trip on Thursday (Boxing Day) was in the balance until the last minute. As it was the lift would only start operation at 10am instead of the more usual 8:30 or 9am.
At least the weather forecasts said that this activation would be a nice sunny one albeit quite cold on the summit.
Given that this is a favourite tourist summit and that there are a lot of people and visitors in Garmisch who would most likely be glad to get out after two or three days inside because of the storms, I expected cramped lift cabins and a busy summit and so would not take the normal gear rather just one bag and the Komunica HF-Pro2 loaded HF whip antenna and a photo tripod. No amplifier or large tripod or large antennas on this excursion. Of course, as a backup, I squeezed the small fishing pole and the linked dipole into the small rucksack, making it quite heavy.
As usual, all gear was prepared the day before and put ready to take near the main house door.
After waking, I still wasn’t sure whether I would be setting off as I was worried that the drive down would be wasted if I found the cable car not running. The website now said that the lift was scheduled to run from 10am and the weather forecast did not indicate high winds, so in the end, I decided to head off and hope for the best. Leaving 30 minutes later than planned at 09:15 local time, I arrived at the car park for the lower lift station at 10:30am and was glad to see the car park was not nearly as full as I have seen it before. They still get you for the fee though. The car park costs €5 for a day and €5 is the minimum fee. The lift cost a further €22.50 so this was to be an expensive outing if I didn’t manage my needed four contacts from the summit.
After getting my ticket and heading into the lift station, I was surprised to see no queues and empty carriages, so I took the next one in the queue and had it all to myself, all the way up. The lift to the top has two stages and the cabins move from one system to another at the middle station, where at some times of year people can join the lift to go back up however as the ski-runs down from the top are not yet open because of lack of snow, the middle station is also closed to passengers getting on or off.
As I went up the lift, the temperature probably dropped about 10 degrees. At the bottom no snow was to be seen, at the top, there was lots of snow. So as soon as I got out of the lift station, it was on with the spikes on my hiking boots before setting off for the summit which is around 30 vertical metres higher up a winding track, which while compacted snow was still slippery. With the heavy rucksack and the whip antenna in its transport tube, I was glad of the extra traction that the spikes gave me. Those in just boots, or worse still, running shoes! were having more issues getting up the track.
I found my way to the very summit, behind the cross where several other radio installations are located (thankfully none causing any interference as far as I could tell) and set my station up on my piece of painters sheet on top of the snow. The small tripod and HF-Pro2 antenna went up easily and I ran out the counterpoise wires in all directions. I decided to start on 40m so I set the antenna to 15 which is the position I have calibrated it with my antenna analyser at home, for 7.100 MHz. I think connected up rig, battery box and Smartphone acting as an external control panel for the rig as the X108G’s OLED display was totally unreadable in the sunlight.
As I tuned 40 metres on this Thursday morning, something suddenly became clear. The band was full with contest stations (it turned out later, that the DARC – the national society in Germany had decided to pollute a weekday with their contest rather than sticking to weekends – which is the usual situation). Having good contest operators who follow the “DX code of conduct”, it would just have been an inconvenience finding a free frequency but with the “wanna-be”, un-skilled contesters in this contest, my patience was going to be tried. During my activation, I had to change frequency five times. I ALWAYS check whether a frequency is clear before starting to call CQ – it seems this is not the case for DARC contest operators – they just chose a frequency and call, whether or not there’s a station there. Worst of all is that these same twats start calling CQ in the middle of me having a QSO – now I could perhaps excuse the crocodile station for not hearing me, but I am SURE they heard the chaser station!
In 50 minutes, I managed 7 contacts around Europe, so the station was certainly getting out but all of the chasers commented about difficulties in hearing me due to over modulated contest stations splattering all over the band. After about an hour on the summit, I was getting a little cold and more and more tourists were finding their way up to the summit area, so I decided it was time to pack-up and head home. At least I had some good mountain air, some great views and even some sunshine – as you can see from the photos below.
For once all equipment worked as expected.
The trip home was uneventful and I had another 9 points towards my activator totals.
- Xiegu X108G.
- Komunica HF-PRO2 HF bands vertical whip.
- Converted Photo tripod and counterpoise wires.
- Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
- SOTA Beams linked dipole (not used).
- 6-metre Lambdahalbe fibreglass portable mast (not used).
- Plastic painters sheet.
- 2 Smartphones one running PocketRxTx App and USB cable as an external display for X108G and one used for spotting and taking pictures.
Contests bloody CONTESTS! I should have guessed being a public holiday, the contest virus would have spread to spoil this day also for “normal” radio operators. This appears to have been an 80m & 40m only contest, so I could have tried getting enough contacts on 20 metres instead of going onto 40 metres. I was more concerned as to whether the summit was going to be accessible at all, than worry about the incompetent contest operators.
Overall the outing was worth it and I got my points and some time out in the countryside.
I also proved that the lightweight, small configuration of just the photo tripod and HF mobile whip plus the 20w X108G does work well enough to get the contacts (in this case despite the DQRM).
73 ’til the next summit!