DD5LP/P – March 29th. 2017 – DL/AM-177 Kirnberg & DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

Preparation:

With the winter bonus period coming to an end and some easy summits not yet activated this year, along with the weather being dry and sunny, I decided to grab the opportunity and head out and activate two summits I know from previous activations. I posted no alert on SOTAWatch. I decided rather to just self spot (in fact this worked on the first summit but with no cell coverage at Ammerleite I was happy to be spotted by a chaser on the second summit). No special equipment on these activations, rather the kit I know works reliably – the 817, Amp and Aerial-51 OCF on the LambdaHalbe 6m pole. All of which was ready to go following the previous activations. I always charge the batteries before putting the bags in the cupboard, so that I can simply “grab and go”.

The Locations:

Kirnberg is next to a farm called Gigersau towards the end of a fairly long single track road. Be careful where you park – one time here, I had to go and ask for help from the farmer to tow my car out of some boggy ground! No worries with that on this activation, but I still parked on the side of the road, rather than on the grassy patch in front of the notice board!

Ammerleite is above Böbing and on my first two activations, I could drive up to the same level as the summit and then walk about 50 metres across to the cross at the summit itself. That access road is now classified as farm and forestry use only and while in some areas the locals don’t mind, in this case, they can get quite annoyed, so the alternate parking spot (as described in detail in last years blog on the activation of Ammerleite (aka Schmalz)) is located just to the north of Böbing at a small hut. From here it’s about a 3 kilometer walk with a rise of about 1200 metres, so allow 20-25 minutes for this (each way).

The Activation:

My plan was to activate both Kirnberg (DL/AM-177) and Ammerleite (DL/AM-178) in one outing. Logically it made sense to do Kirnberg first and then Ammerleite.

Arriving at Kirnberg all went to plan – I set everything up, took some photos, spotted myself and then called CQ. The following 25 contacts on Kirnberg took just 13 minutes !  As I was packing up a walker appeared and asked what I was doing. He was from the north of Germany and staying at a “farm-stay” down the hill (I think he had just popped out, to get a break from the family) in any case we had a nice conversation and then as he left I kept packing up. I then realised my “short chat” had been nearly 20 minutes, meaning my hope of getting to the next summit an hour after I had gone QRT on this one was not to be. But the weather was nice and I had time, so I headed back down to the car – only a few minutes walk down the slope from the summit, packed everything in and set-off for Ammerleite.

As I was driving along I was thinking about the number and strength of contacts made and would have been happy with that success. Little did I know that this first contacts total would pale into insignificance when I had finished on the next Summit. On both summits I have to say I was bowled over by the number of chasers and their patience and persistence.

Upon arriving at the last spot the road at Böbing that is open to the public and parking up. I picked up my gear and set off up the track. This time the track seemed longer and steeper than I remembered and it wasn’t long before I started panting for air, so I slowed down a little. Around the next corner the track was blocked. A farmer had his tractor and trailer across the track, cutting and loading firewood. After a short conversation with him, confirming I was on the “approved” route up to the cross, I set off again. I was probably only about a quarter of the way up at this point. Suffice to say that when I got to the summit, the wooden benches there were put to good use while I took a drink of water and rested a while.

While setting up I got another farmer visiting me, he was collecting wood which had already been trimmed from the trees. I explained to him what I was doing and again he expressed interest and warned me that f I needed to use my cell phone, coverage was very patchy in this area. He was 100% correct and despite having two SIMs on the two main networks in Germany in my smartphone, I was unable to spot myself. After putting out a CQ however I had a couple of contacts and I asked Pietro I2CZQ if he wouldn’t mind spotting me – this he did and then there was just a wall of stations!

The pile-up was very impressive, I managed to work 52 chasers in 30 minutes and I know I missed a few – it really was a wall of noise – as witnessed by a passing local bicyclist who turned out to be a HAM – he had heard of SOTA but was blown away by the pile-up! I noted his call down but I must have got it wrong unfortunately. Perhaps I’ll meet him again on another summit?
So much for “bad” conditions HI.

While operating a couple of stations said my (compressed) audio didn’t sound right, so I turned the RF-Clipper off and noted that I needed to look into that when I got home. Following the battery problems with the amplifier on the last couple of activations, I had a monitor attached the whole time and at the end of the activation the four cells in the LIPO battery were all showing around 55-60% charge left. Interestingly this translated to 25-30% charge indicated on the battery charger at home. I wonder which indicator is showing the correct value? (The battery was disconnected before I packed the gear up, so it did not discharge the extra amount between the summit and home).

All in all, although about an hour behind schedule at the end of the day, it turned out to be two very successful activations for which I got one activator point and three winter bonus points for each summit.

Now I wonder if I can fit in another activation before the end of the month ….

Photos – Kirnberg:

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Photos – Ammerleite:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Aerial-51 OCF wire dipole antenna.

LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.

Modified QAMP amplifier (35W on 40m).

Screw-in sun umbrela base

Log Kirnberg:

Log Ammerleite:

Conclusions:

Don’t trust band condition predictions. Things can turn out a lot better than you expect! Always be prepared to take some time to explain Amateur Radio to strangers who show an interest.

73 ’til the next Summit!

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DD5LP/P – February 5th. 2016 – 5 Summits in a day.

Preparation:

The 10m/6m challenge finishes on February 13th. 2016 and I wanted to pack in some more 10m summit activations before it ended. Without travelling to a different country (e.g. Austria), an activation on 6m is not possible as portable 6m operation is illegal in Germany. I have already tried going to two Austrian summits and was unable to get even one 6m contact on either of them, so I decided to look at any local summits where I have not been able to get a 10m contact from during either of the two halves of the challenge.

I activated DL/AM-001 Peissenberg on January 26th, again with no 10m contacts, so I wanted to try that summit again – it is also one of the closest and easiest summits for me to get to. As propagation on 10 metres was absolutely horrible, I alerted the local amateurs to my activation plans in the hope that I could at least manage one ground wave / line of sight contact on 10m.

The other local summits that I had not activated on 10m in the challenge period so far, were DL/AM-178 Ammerleite (tried in December again without success), DL/AM-177 Kirnberg, DL/AL-169 Auerberg and DL/AL-179 Weichberg. Making five summits in all – with the drives between these summits and the walking times from where I will be parking my car, this will take a complete day.

With mixed weather, there was the real possibility that one or more of the summits may not be accessible. In this case I would try to activate it/them the following week.

As some of the summits required a fair walk, I took the small radio kit, but also packed the larger kit in the car in case I decided I needed it.

The Locations:

Peissenberg – DL/AM-001

About 45 minutes from home and a logical first summit for the loop of activations. This summit I last activated on January 26th 2016, and hence would not gain any activator or activator bonus points, but perhaps a 10m contact.

Ammerleite – DL/AM-178

About 30 minutes drive from Peissenberg but then with a 20 minute climb to the summit.This summit I last activated on December 31st 2015 and  hence would be able to gain both activator and winter bonus points along with another 10m summit point if all went well.

Kirnberg – DL/AM-177

About 20 minutes drive from Böbing where I park the car for Ammerleite. I have not activated this summit this year so as well as the hoped for 10m multiplier point in the challenge, I should be able to get the summit activator point as well as the 3 winter bonus points.

Auerberg DL/AL-169

The trip over into the Allgäu region takes a while from Kirnberg, around 45-50 minutes. Like Kirnberg as I have not activated this summit this year as well as the hoped for 10m multiplier point in the challenge, I should be able to get two summit activator points as well as the 3 winter bonus points.

Weichberg DL/AL-179.

Just up the road from Auerberg, this is the shortest drive between the summits about 15-20 minutes and again I have not activated this summit this year so as well as the hoped for 10m multiplier point in the challenge, I should be able to get the one summit activator point as well as the 3 winter bonus points if all goes well.

So there’s the plan – 5 summits, all of which I have activated before and hence know the best approach to each of them. A possibility of earning 5 10m challenge summit multiplier points, 5 activator points and 12 winter bonus points.

The Activation:

The planned day was on and then off a couple of times as the weather forecast kept changing. Friday the 5th. of February I set off expecting some rain showers but nothing much and that the snow would have gone from most of the summits. This turned out not to be true. The rain never came, but the snow was still there at all summits making access to Ammerleite, Kirnberg and Weichberg particularly difficult when climbing through snow drifts and sliding on wet, slushy ground.

Peissenberg, the first summit turned out to be horribly cold and after getting just one contact with Robert DJ2MKR (a local station to me here) on 10m using the loaded vertical on a tripod, I packed up while I still had some feeling in my fingers. If the weather was to stay as cold as this, it was going to be a difficult day! I also was not happy with the SWR from the vertical and so decided to use the usual 5m fibreglass pole and Spiderbeams OCF antenna on all following summits, even taking the 40m/20m amplifier and its batteries with me as well (but never using it).

The next summit was Ammerleite or rather Schnalz as the actual summit is called. I used the longer (official) access route following the closure of the road to the easier access point last year. After parking I picked up the two bags that contain the larger radio configuration and set off up the track. This is quite a steep ascent up a forestry track which in parts was like a river and in other parts very slippery. The final approach to the summit is across two fields which were still partly covered by snow drifts, making the ascent “interesting” as I was certainly the first person up this “track” since the snow had fallen. Once on the summit, setting up took a little longer than normal, this time not because of the cold but rather because of high winds. In any case once set-up, I was able again to get a contact with Robert on 10 metres (but with no one else). I then changed to the zoo that is 40m and made another 13 contacts before packing up. Although the short activation at Peissenberg had put me ahead of schedule the extra ascent time through the snow to Ammerleite had lost that time and I knew I would have to take the descent slower than I would like, so I was concerned not to lose any more time.

Once I was back at the car and had warmed up a little, I checked my route to Kirnberg and set off, eating a sandwich en-route. The distance from the parking spot to the summit at Kirnberg is not far but again, it was made difficult by the still laying snow as was the erection of the dipole antenna when I reached the summit. While Peissenberg had been very cold and Ammerleite very windy, Kirnberg turned out to be both very cold and very windy, with the result that I was eager to get the activation done and get on with the long drive over to Auerberg as soon as I could. Once again Robert on 10m was the first in the log but despite several calls I was unable to find anyone else on 10m. Rather than the zoo on 40m, I decided to try 20m this time to pick up the needed extra 3 contacts. In fact I got 8 more contacts before the chasers ran out, so I packed up again and slid my way back down to the car.

The trip from Kirnberg to Auerberg took a little longer than planned as I missed a turn off and only when I realised this when I saw I was approaching a different SOTA summit (DL/AL-170 Zweisselberg). So I had to turn around and back-track until I found a way through to the road that I should have been on. I had hoped that the Panorama Restaurant at Auerberg may have been open, so I could have got a warm drink, but unfortunately it wasn’t. It’s probably not worth them opening except at weekends at this time of year. Once I was set up behind the church on the summit, reliable Robert was there again on 10m for me but this time I also managed a contact with Michael DJ5AV near Lake Constance on 10m aswell. I saw that there were a few other activators on while I was at Auerberg and managed an S2S contact with Hans DL/PA3FYG/P but with the other three activators I called, I simply could not get through the pile-ups to them with just my 5w (with cold fingers, I didn’t try to install the amplifier to give me 25w instead of 5w and even with that boost I may not have been able to “break the pile-up”). I worked a total of 25 other 40m contacts from Auerberg in about 50 minutes. At this point, I was running behind schedule, so it was time to shut down and pack up again and see if indeed I could manage all 5 planned summits in the day and get home at a reasonable time.

Auerberg to Weichberg was probably the shortest drive of the day at about 15 minutes. The parking spot for Weichberg is not normally a long walk from the summit, but in this case no one had used the track up the hillside and I had to “break the track” through the snow to mark the way up to the chapel on the summit. The 4 or 5 people who came up while I was operating probably appreciated my marking the track – on the way down it was a lot clearer and easier to negotiate as it had been used more. Weichberg would have been a good summit to use the vertical on a tripod from as there is only limited places to install the fibreglass squidpole but as I had left the vertical in the car, I was not going to go down to get it and so the dipole went up as best it could. One call on 10m and there was Robert, reporting this was the weakest he had heard me but I still broke over the top of some S5-S7 noise he was having on 10m from some local installation. Apart from Robert, I worked a further 7 stations on 20m, with some weak reports. It was only after getting home that I realised that the FT-817 had switched down to 2.5w output from its maximum 5w due to the battery voltage dropping. I had a spare (charged) battery with me however on Weichberg, I just wanted to bag as many chasers as could hear me and then pack up and head home to a warm bath tub! So it was after 25 minutes of operating on Weichberg, I packed up for a last time, happy with the fact that I had managed to activate all 5 summits but glad it was over. The state of the paths and the fact that there was still quite a lot of snow around had surprised me as all snow at home had gone some days before.

Photos:

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

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DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

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DL/AM-177 Kirnberg.

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DL/AL-169 Auerberg.

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DL/AL-179 Weichberg.

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Diamond RHM-8B on tripod (used on Peissenberg only)

Spiderbeam Aerial-51 UL-404 off centre fed dipole on 5 metre squid pole (all other locations).

Log:

DL/AM-001 Peissenberg.

Activator Log  DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

Activator Log  DL/AM-177 Kirnberg.

Activator Log  DL/AL-169 Auerberg.

Activator Log  DL/AL-179 Weichberg.

Activator LogConclusions:

At this time of year, fives summits in one day is probably the most I could have achieved. In summer 7 may be possible as I drove past one summit (Rentschen) which I had already activated on 10m and activated this year and so would get no points for it and the DL/AL-170 Zweisselberg summit that I almost reached by mistake would probably also be a possible seventh candidate!

73 ’til the next summit! ….. or summits?

DD5LP/P – December 31th. 2015 – DL/AM-178 Ammerleite.

Preparation:

My attempt to activate Ammerleite earlier in the year had been stopped by the road being blocked by a farmer moving his crops and I was told that the road that I had used three times before was private and I could not access it. This is despite Google and other mapping systems reporting it as a public road. As always in SOTA, we have to avoid causing issues especially around access routes, so I have been researching an alternate access route from the other side of Schnalz (which is the correct name for the Summit – Ammerleite is the complete area). There is even a road called Schnalzstrasse that comes out of the village of Böbing, that the summit overlooks.

Even with the new route, I did not consider it too difficult and indeed my wife agreed to come along as well.

The Location:

The new route:

As noted above, there is a road named SchnalzStrasse on the western end of the village of Böbing. Take this road until you leave the village and come to a junction – now take Leitner Strasse (the direction being up the hill). If I remember correctly, the walking trails are also signposted from this point onwards – you need to follow B7 which on some signs is called Schnalz Gipfel or Schnalzrundgang or similar. Driving further up Leitner Strasse you come to a Y junction where the left fork has the sign saying that access past this point is restricted to farming and forestry workers only. This is just past where there is a small fountain on the left that has a horses head in wood as its spout (water not for human consumption). There is also a hut on this junction (see photos in slideshow below), I drove down the right hand fork and parked on the grass (later others had done the same, so this seems to be the acceptable point to park and start walking). Now it is simply a matter of taking the left hand fork, following the route B7 up the ever steeper hill and around the corner until you go through a stile into an open field. The opposite side of the field has a turnstile and after you go through that you can just see the cross through the trees up and to your left. This is where you need to head to, to take advantage of the two benches and fence posts to locate your radio gear.

SchnalzThe Activation:

Once I had put the antenna up, and laid out the rig and log, I found a faulty contact on the coax from the antenna but was able to position it so that it was connecting (after investigation at home, it was the inner core of the coax that had broken away from the centre pin of the BNC plug). I also noticed that although the SWR was now fine, the power out indication seemed low. I then realised that I had the FT817 switched to 2.5w rather than 5w output for all of the last activation on Herzogstand!

I tuned around the bottom 1MHz of 10m and apart for the DL0IGI beacon on 28.2050 on Peissenberg being off the scale on the FT817 (I could see the antennas from my summit) there was nothing on except for some interference, presumably from equipment not meant to be on 28MHz at all (I suspect the weather station – which was also very close – but I can’t prove this) – there was NOTHING on the band that I could hear. So I tried spotting myself and putting out CQs for about 10 minutes but to no avail. The band was totally dead!

Never mind, now I know the “authorised” access route I can try again in the new year, bag the activator points again and hopefully some 10m contact points as well for the challenge.

I then decided to try 20m, where the results were far better with 15 contacts in 12 minutes. I followed this with a stint on 40m and bagged another 12 contacts in 12 minutes. On both 20m and 40m I was still just running the 5w from the FT-817 into the OCF dipole. I didn’t unpack and set up the amp as I could see a storm coming in. Indeed just as I stopped operating, the first few rain drops fell. A quick pack away and head down the hill and when we reached the car the rain storm really started.

The activation was completed with a stop for soup in a nice cafe in Rottenbuch on the way home.

Photos:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Spiderbeam Aerial-51 UL-404 off centre fed dipole.

5 metre squid pole.

Ramsey QAMP 20/40m amplifier and batteries (taken but not used)

Log:

Activator log

Conclusions:

Unlucky with the 10m band conditions (they improved later in the day), but lucky to get down and away before the storm came through. Although somewhat further and a lot steeper, this access route appears to be, by all of the signposts, the way that the locals want you to approach Ammerleite – or we should now say Schnalz.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – SOTA EUROPE – June 3rd. 2014 – DL/AM-178 Ammerleite

Preparation:

VERY LITTLE ! Having heard from Tony VK3CAT at about 1pm that he hoped to activate a summit in France (where he was on holiday) at around 3:30pm, it was a very quick pick up equipment and go activation. I have a couple of planned activations (as regards practical approach to summit and Google Maps route to get to the area) and Ammerleite was one of these. It’s also the last “close” summit that I haven’t yet activated, so I’ll have to start going further afield for new summits in the future.

So the standard equipment (FT817, 6m squiddy, SOTABeams linked dipole, small amp and LIPO batteries) was grabbed from their storage space and I set off.

The Location:

Ammerleite is across the valley from Hohen Peissenberg, one of my first activations  since moving to Germany, so three quarters of the route I knew. The last part involved turning off on a small (single lane) unmarked road to go up through a small village and onto the summit area. The summit is actually known locally as Schnalz and was well signposted once I got onto the smaller roads. This seems to be part of two or three different walking or biking tours. Given the view from the summit, I can understand why. I wondered if I was going to hit the issue that I hit at Auerberg  with the road being marked as farm and forestry traffic only, but it wasn’t. (NOTE As of 2015 this road is now CLOSED to all motorised vehicles with no alternative – you now effectively have to walk the 2km (1200m vertical) from the village to access this summit). I simply followed the road out of the hamlet of Holzleiten taking the route that climbed upwards and soon I came to the junction where I knew I needed to park and walk across the fields to the summit. Finding a spot to park off road so that I was not blocking the road wasn’t easy and if people in two or more cars were to be going to Ammerleite at the same time it would not be possible for them to park.

The walk across the fields gave me a great view back across the valley to Hohen Piessenberg, which can’t be seen when you get to the summit due to trees blocking the view in that direction. It was probably about a 300 – 350m walk at most up to the Summit, where as well as a very impressive cross with a piece of shaped glass in its centre also has two banks to sit on and (a little way down the hill) a panorama photo, showing the whole area of the Alps that can be seen from this side of the summit.

Ammerleite-approach-map

The Activation:

On the way Tony had texted me to say that he had been delayed and his revised expectation was to get to the F/VL-010 (Roche Aigue) summit by UTC 14:30 or 4:30pm local time. This gave me some time to set-up and indeed install the amplifier to give a little extra punch to the signal and today it was needed! Twenty metres was dead so forty metres was the best band for the afternoon activation and it was full! with many very loud and (in the FT817) wide stations. I don’t have the optional narrower SSB IF filter in the FT-817 yet. In Europe it is definitely needed!

I found a reasonably clear spot on the band and started calling CQ SOTA and spotted myself. I guess the noise from an otherwise quiet area awoke the (four-legged) locals and it wasn’t long before I was having to repeatedly chase them off to stop them licking the antenna guys and rubbing their noses on the Squid Pole mast! (see photos below).

As the afternoon passed, I tried finding some of the other activaors who were out and while I could hear some of them as soon as I was ready to call, some local station came splattering at S9+ across the frequency and I had to give up trying to contact another summit. Later I gave 20m a try but with no great success and then I got a text from Tony saying he was setting up. At first we hit the same problem of heavy QRM but then I decided we should move right to the band edge at 7.199 (remembering we are using Lower Sideband) and there we managed an S3 / S4 contact. It was only after the contact that I realised that I had probably worked tony off the end of the dipole rather than the ideal side-on direction. Both Tony (in France) and I (in Germany) could see storms approaching, so neither of us stayed active much longer. In my case, i hit the storm about half way home. I was glad I wasn’t still on the summit.

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Equipment:

FT817ND

Ramsey QAMP amplifier

SOTABeams Linked dipole

Log:

Ammerleite-log

Conclusions:

Overall a very enjoyable and successful activation, showing equipment and operator readiness at short notice, which is one of the reasons that we are involved in portable operations, to be ready if needed in the case of a natural or other disaster. I also have a “to do” item on my list now and that is to get the 2.3KHz wide IF filter for the FT817. Perhaps I can get one at a discount price at the big hamfest at Friedrichshafen which is at the end of the month. I also realised on this activation that if i use a different hole on the SOTABeams dipole centre piece (one that is not meant for this purpose) I can get the dipole to sit on the top section, rather than slipping down to the second section, giving the aerial about another 50cm in height.

73 ’til the next Summit!