DD5LP/P – March 20th 2020 – DL/AL-149 Blender & DL/AL-281 Urserberg.

Preparation:

With the likelihood for a mobility ban to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus imminent, and the weather being still sunny for another day before winter-like weather was forecast to return, I wanted to pack these two summits into the log before the winter bonus points stop at the end of March.

Unlike the last two summits, these two ARE near to each other and easy to navigate between. They are located just outside of Kempten in East Allgau with the first summit, Blender, hosting the TV transmitter tower for the area.

Preparation apart from mapping work (noting junctions to turn on paper) to make sure I took my known route to the summits was to pack the equipment which going to be the same as the previous four summits – the X108G plus the Komunica HF-PRO2  and photo tripod. As that configuration has been working reliably I decided not to pack the surveyor’s tripod and DX-Wire 10m portable mast. Meaning that I am now down to just one rucksack to carry to the summit. It’s still about 17 kilos though, so some more work is required to reduce this down for future usage. When I intend trying for specific DX locations, the heavier, larger kit will be needed but for the current summits, where I just want to bag a few European contacts, this simplified set-up seems to be working well.

The Activation:

When I woke, it was a little overcast to start with but would turn into another nice morning. I casually loaded the Rucksack and HF-Pro2 in its tube into the car and was on the road around 9am. I had no rush to get to the summits, knowing as it got closer to midday it would get warmer and be more pleasant to operate. Both of these summits are “relatively” easy summits although the walk from the car is about 10 minutes in both cases, with the first summit needing a somewhat steep climb however compared to summits earlier in the week, these are easy to get to.

DL/AL-149 Blender: When approaching blender by the road a good tip is to look out for the VW sales garage in Wegschiedel and turn right there, and not take the earlier right turn from the ST2376 road and end up in the wrong place as I did this time! I only lost a couple of minutes though and as soon as I saw the VW garage, I remembered, that’s where I should turn. Although marked as locals-only, access to a hotel along the same road is allowed and hence public usage is not forbidden. Turn left in Eschachberg (the road up to the Blender TV tower) and I park at the point where the road goes off to the hotel and walk from there as there is enough space by the bench seat without impacting access on the road.

From the parking spot simply head up the road and field towards the transmitter tower. Any of this area is well within the AZ but going off to the left and through the turnstile, there is a nice area with another seat and flat area to set-up the antenna.

As the seat was taken up by two cyclists I simply set up on a plastic sheet on the ground and out up the Komunica HF-PRO2, photo-tripod and radial wires and fired up the rig – plenty of noise and stations on the band, so no re-occurrence of the fauöltx antenna cable issue of a few activations ago (I replaced the short length of coax that comes from the rig out of the rucksack, so it would be strange if the new cable was also faulty).

After trying a couple of frequencies, I found a usable one, self-spotted and settled back to pulling 25 stations out of the pile-up. There was a little QSB but apart from that, this operation went quite well.

Once the flow of calls dried up, I packed everything back into the rucksack and headed back down the hill to the car.

DL/AL-281 Urserberg: The trip from Blender to Urserberg is fairly straight forward. Drive back to the main road and at the VW garage, turn left and then take the small road which is the next right and signposted to Eschachreid. In Eschachreid at the T-junction turn right and follow the OA20 road through Eschach and up to the car park for the local lake, the “Eschacher Weiher”. From the end of the car park, there is a farm road which goes up the hill to Urserberg. A point of reference is the tops of the ski-lifts as Urserberg is above those. To be really accurate, the very summit lies within the forest on the top of this hill, however, the grassy area in front of it is within the Activation Zone (AZ) and far more practical to set up a vertical antenna on, rather than within the forest.

I was surprised to find the car park quite full (usually there is one abandoned car and my car in it) and cars were also parked alongside the road (outside of the car park). I presume all the locals were taking advantage of the nice day and heading down to the beach at the lake.

I could see some darker clouds heading my way, so I decided to get up to the summit and get the activation completed before the sun went in. The walk up the road is quite long but the views on the way up are also quite awe-inspiring. Despite the sunshine, there was still some snow at the side of the road as I walked up. Beware of mountain bikers on this road, it appears to be a favourite route for them and they come down the road at quite a speed.

Once I got to the corner before the start of the forest, I went through the open gap in the fence and up into the grassed area. This is obviously a farmers field however there are several tracks across it, and in winter it is most likely a skiing area, so as there are no signs to say otherwise, I believe it to be public access.

After setting up the gear, which is happening quicker and quicker as I have my routine sorted out, I soon had my rucksack with radio and battery box still inside and Android phone display and control on top of it and the HF-PRO2 antenna set up on its tripod and I was ready to operate.

All went well with stronger signals on this summit than the last one but also with deeper QSB making a couple of contacts difficult but in general, a relaxed activation – that was until I saw the farmer coming up the hill will his tractor with the tank and muck-spreader attachment heading up the road. He was going to come into the field but when he saw me, he turned and started with a lower field but I could see he wanted to do the whole area, so I tried to get the calls finished and the station shut-down but more and more chasers kept calling. Eventually, I managed to get a gap when there were no more callers and started packing everything up. As I got finished and started to walk down from my operating position, I saw the farmer coming back up with a refilled tank of slurry and heading to where I had been, so I had cleared just in time. Add to that time limit that those clouds had arrived and covered the sun so it had got clod quite quickly. On arriving back at the car in the car park, I turned the radio on and heard live, the surprise announcement from the Bavarian prime minister, that a lock-down was going to be put in place from Midnight. So I had got my last two activations for a while in, just in time!

 Photos:

   Blender:

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   Urserberg:

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Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Photo tripod and radial wires.
  • Komunica HF-PRO-2 multi-band HF vertical antenna.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • Aerial-51 OCF 40-10m dipole & SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole (taken but not used).
  • Thin plastic groundsheet.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig.

Logs:

DL/AL-149 Blender:

DL/AL-281 Urserberg:

Conclusions:

  • The weather was wonderful – the timing just right!
  • The “rapid deployment” (lighter) kit continues to work well but I do still need to remove some weight and possibly also locate the rig better so that the loudspeaker is not obstructed.
  • The two climbs still had me pausing for breath but with the views, it was worth the effort.
  • I had planned to try out the speech processor on Urserberg however the approaching farmer with muck-spreader meant that I decided to leave that for another day (perhaps I can try it out from home while under the “lock-down” order?).

73 ’til the next summit – whenever that may be!

DD5LP/P – March 27th 2019 – DL/AL-149 Blender, DL/AL-281 Urserberg & DL/AL-282 Steig.

Preparation:

All equipment was prepared and loaded in the car the previous day even though I wasn’t planning a very early departure. These were not to be DX-seeking activations rather grabbing the last of the easy summits with winter bonus points before those stop at the end of the week.

The Activation (Blender):

Listening to the radio while having my breakfast with the snow falling outside, I head that the B12 (one of the roads I was intending to use), was totally blocked because of an accident. This meant a longer route via two Autobahns but not a lot of difference time wise. In any case I set off at 8:30 am instead of my planned 9am, – it’s always good to have some time in reserve.

I expected some delays around the Kempten ring road but the navi took me from the autobahn across country to avoid the town and its traffic. The downside of this is that I did not know the route and pulled up at a sign on the road which said access for those who live here only. But i could see the TV tower and before making a really long diversion, I decided to trust the Navi and drove down the road it suggested. part of the way down this road, the surface was gone and I was driving on a pot-holed mud track. Hoping not to get bogged I kept going and then as the tarmac returned, I realised where I was. The navi had brought me in from the other side to what I was used to. In any case I now headed to my usual parking spot, took out the gear I wanted to use, loaded myself up and started on the slog up the hill. I had decided to use the Vertically polarised two element (VP2E) 40/20m antenna on this summit as I knew it was fairly flat and I would be able to fit the antenna in. The temperatures were still cold and so I had my thick jacket on.

On arriving near the seat on the summit, I dropped everything down and proceeded to put the surveyors tripod up to support the 10 metre mast and the VP2E. All went well, but I was aware of some threatening cloud in the sky but luckily the rain held off.

I was not expecting any intercontinental DX as I was too late for long path and too early for short path. There was a time at the start when I wondered if I was getting out but after about 4 CQ calls the chasers appeared. Although I had checked and called to make sure the frequency wasn’t in use, as soon as I started to get calls, some station started up about 1 kHz away causing problems both for me and the chasers. This same problem actually occurred on all three summits!

Eleven contacts in 6 minutes and I was happy and packed up to head to the next summit, one that I have not activated for several years and it turns out that Urserberg isn’t that far from Blender especially if you take the narrow farm roads as directed by the navi!

The Activation (Urserberg):

On approaching Urserberg, I recognised where I was and drove straight into the car park, which is signposted as the car park for the Eschacher  Weiher (pond) on the other side of the road. This is a good place to park as there is a track from here up the hill and the car is safely parked. The navi wanted to take me closer, around the other side of the hill, where I suspect the parking would not have been as good.

It is a fair walk up the track until you reach the summit (above the ski lifts), so I decided not to take the tripod this time chosing my screw-in sun umbrella base and 6 metre mast instead. To go with this I would use the Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole. I actually had all antennas in my rucksack, so I could choose a different one if I hit any problems. As had happened the previous week on Senkelekopf.

There’s no seat on this summit, so everything (including myself) was sat on my plastic painters sheet and after putting up the antenna and with some cold winds around, I managed 14 European contacts in 17 minutes, before packing up again to head off to the next summit. The walk up and down from this summit takes about 15 minutes and in my rush to get down I was not as careful as I should have been and slightly strained my ankle. Luckily this wasn’t as bad as it could have been but it underlines that rushing is not good in slippery conditions. I wasn’t going to let this stop me “bagging” summit number three of the day however, so once back at the car, it was time for a bit of lunch, reset the navi for the next summit and set off.

The Activation (Steig):

For some reason, this time the Navi decided to take me back via Kempten and there was some delay getting around the town but not as much as when I approached the summit. Previously I had used notes from Google maps to get to the car park and start of the walking trails in this forest-covered summit. This time I just gave in the summit reference and it directed me to the closed road to the summit – which just happened to end in a farm-yard at the other side of the summit where there are no official tracks to the summit from. To get me to this farm-yard, another length of mud track was included in the route so some interesting driving and some strange looks from the locals. Once I realised what had happened and having no way to tell the navi where the entrance to the forest was that I wanted, I reverted to Google Maps on my phone and was able to pick out two villages where I could tell the navi to bring me to and I knew the road between them and so found my parking spot for Steig with probably 40 minutes delay over a direct route.

This summit also entails a fairly long but not difficult walk, so again I opted for the lighter set-up and left the tripod and 10m mast in the car.

The forest looks a little different to what I remember as an awful lot of the trees have been cut down however the tracks are the same and I soon found my way up to the summit alongside the lookout platform.

Again the painters sheet became the base for operations and the SOTABeams linked dipole went up on the 6m mast and despite the QRM problem again on this summit, I bagged 12 contacts from around Europe in 10 minutes. At this summit the sun actually came out, so I felt like staying longer but as I had lost so much time through mis-navigation and the chance that the weather could change, I decided to pack up and head home, where I was by 15:30.

All in all good day out!

Photos (Blender):

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Photos (Urserberg):

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Photos (Steig):

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Equipment used:

Blender:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs)
  • Linked (40m/20m) VP2E antenna
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Urserberg:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • Aerial-51 OCF dipole antenna
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Steig:

  • Xiegu X108G plus battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs)
  • 6 metre lambdahalbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet
  • SOTABeams Linked dipole
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable

Log (Blender):

Log (Urserberg):

Log (Steig):

Conclusions:

Don’t trust your Navi (GPS) to take you where you expect it to. I took the summit locations as a KML file from the SOTAMaps website. The Navi will try to get you as close as possible on a normal road but that isn’t always where the parking is or where the tracks go from.

I used different antennas on each of the three summits and all worked fine. I have the feeling that the VP2E was the best of the three and I will most likely use that one for the UK/EU – VK/JA/ZL S2S event on April 6th once I replace the centre mount which broke when I was taking it down at Blender.

73 ’til the next Summit!