DD5LP/P – May 26th. 2017 – DM/BW-078 Römerstein & DM/BW-695 Teck.

Preparation:

The original plan was to activate three summits in the BW region – the third being DM/BW-094 Kornberg, however after the second summit and a couple of problems, I decided to leave that one for another day.

The summits to be activated are 2 hours drive away from where I live and that’s only to the car parking spot from where I need to begin my walk. The walking up to the summit can take 20-30 minutes, so fitting three summits into a day when they are far away from home and about 30mins drive away from each other is a challenge.

I wanted to test out my new RH770 whip antenna on my 2m HT and so the first summit would need both VHF and HF equipment to be carried to the summit. I will be heading over to the UK later in the year and am considering just taking 2m FM to activate the last of 5 G/TW summits that I haven’t as yet activated.

In case conditions are not good on 2m (or the antenna doesn’t work) – I decided to be ready to run 20m & 40m as well on the summits. For this I would take my standard pack – FT817 plus amplifier and 6m. mast. This time however rather than the lighter SOTABeams Band Hopper linked dipole I would be relying on my Aerial-51 OCF antenna as I managed to break the centre piece on the SOTABeams antenna and am awaiting a replacement piece to come in the post.

The Locations:

Römerstein (DM/BW-078) I have activated twice before and know the route up from the car park well – last time it was through mud but as we’ve had a few dry and sunny days, that would not be the case this time.

Teck (DM/BW-695) on the other hand is a new summit for me but from what I could see it’s a favourite tourist spot with a castle on the summit and a nice restaurant/beer garden as well. So it can’t be hard to walk the 2 kilometres up the track right…. Wrong the access track from the Hörnle car park, outside of the village of Owen,  up to the castle is long and quite steep. Not ideal for carrying heavy gear if it can be avoided…

The Activation – Römerstein:

The drive from home to Römerstein was fairly straight forward with the first 3/4 being autobahns – well apart from a total of about 20 Km of road work sections with no overtaking and 60 KPH speed limits… What was quite strange was that the GPS Navi told me to exit the Autobahn using a “Behilfsausfahrt” – i.e. not a road to a particular town or village but one that is used to release traffic should the Autobahn be blocked. As it turned out, this was the quickest route to the area around the summit and I quickly spotted my normal parking area on the side of the road. After packing what I thought I would need into two bags, I started off up the track through the forest to the summit.

As I approached the summit I could see the tower was open for visitors and some people were there cleaning up around it. The “Römerstein Turm” is normally open only on weekends in summer and public holidays so I was surprised to find it open on a Friday. I thought I might take a look from the top of the tower once I had finished my activation, but that didn’t happen as during my activation about 30 young adults appeared and started various activities, including inspecting the tower. As I started to set up the mast and equipment, one of the people there, who was in fact one of the custodians of the tower, came across and said why not operate from the top of the tower. He would be quite OK with me dropping a wire out of a window down the outside wall! Unfortunately I didn’t have my end-fed antenna with me and trying to rig a dipole from there would have taken too long. So I thanked him and continued to set up at ground level.

I had brought my 2m FM HT along as well to test but as I saw a couple of activators already spotted, it would need to wait until I saw if I could manage some S2S contacts.This was not to be but while tuning on 40m I heard someone with a strong signal calling CQ and getting no answers so I gave Ray PD7DX a call and we had a short chat. I then looked around for a free frequency spotted myself and started calling CQ. The band was strange, with very deep QSB and some stations sounding like there were in a motor boat. Whether this was an effect of the fast solar winds which were hitting the earth at the time, I don’t know, but it was strange.

After the calls dried up after 20 contacts on 40 metres, I decided I’d better try two metres, it being one of the reasons that I was activating the summit. I wanted to see if my Wouxun with the RH770 antenna performed as well as other have said. I was hoping to get a contact and then swap the antenna back to the standard one and see what difference (if any) it made on receive and transmit. After self-spotting and calling on the 2m FM calling frequency on and off for 4 minutes, I got absolutely no contacts on 2 metres FM. By this point the 30 youngsters had appeared and had started a football match near to where I was rather than on the sports field – they were just having fun, but before one of them ran into the dipole wire, I decided it was time to start wrapping up. As I had alerted that I would also operate on 20m, I switched over, spotted and called. In twelve minutes, I only managed two contacts – thanks Terry G0VWP and Jim EI9GLB. The 20m band was even more strange that 40m, the normal background (atmospheric) noise simply wasn’t there.

While packing up, I noticed on the 404-UL that the dipole wire, just as it exited the BALUN box was frayed – the outer sheath had completely gone and the wire itself was having to take the full load. I taped this up to give some strength to it, so that it wouldn’t break in transit. I consider calling off the next summit as I had no back-up antenna with me, but decided to go ahead. At the same time one of my mini-wire winding coils (usually used for earphone cable for smartphone headset), fell apart and the dipole wire was everywhere and tangled up. I took time to untangle it best I could and did a quick repair to the coiling loop to get me to the next summit, think in the worst case if this happened again when packing up at Teck, I would just “bundle” the antenna wire into my rucksack and sort everything out at home. At this point I made the final decision not to try to activate the third summit (Kornberg). There was simply too many things that might not work after the quite long walk to that summit.

The Activation – Teck:

After walking back down to the car and bundling everything in I set the GPS Navi to take me to Teck which is not far from Römerstein near to the village of Owen and should take just about 20 minutes to drive from car park to car park. As I had only packed limited food and as now, that I had decided not to activate the third summit, I had time to stop at a supermarket and pick up some drink and food supplies. Even with the supermarket stop, the journey still only took, just over 30 minutes.

The route to Burg Teck (Castle Teck) is well signposted when you get into Owen. In fact you are guided to the car park on “Hornle” hill where as it turned out, the local model glider club were having a competition, launching their model aircraft off the side of the hill down a grassy slope.

I had looked at this route on the map and although there is a closer car park, the track from that one is much steeper and this one turned out to be more than steep enough itself. It appears the track between the castle and the car park is a favourite track for mountain bikers with several pushing (and puffing) their way up the track with me to the summit, where they would most likely grab a cool drink in the beer garden before hurtling back down the track.

The track seemed to go on FOREVER! But eventually as I turned around another corner after a steep section, there was the castle gates (and a lot of people taking photos and resting). I snapped a couple of shots on my smartphone camera and continued through the gates (which also have public toilets in the side walls of the entrance). I continued on, past the restaurant and beer garden on the right, into a kind of parkland area and after surveying possibilities decided I could use a bench in the middle and run out the dipole without causing danger to others. While setting up, I saw the gardener fighting to get an old petrol power lawn mower to start, which he did finally manage. I hoped he wasn’t going to want to cut the grass where I had my antenna up. I had been able to throw the cords on the end of the dipole over some tree branches and when the mast was raised, the wire was high enough for people to walk (or ride) under without catching it.

At this point the gardener came over to see what I was doing and it turned out he was from Serbia and had been a member of an Amateur Radio / CB club there when he was younger. In fact the club had acted as a civil warning method for bombing during their war. By warning people where bombs were being dropped, to keep away from those areas. Interesting guy!

Once set up, I checked what was spotted and bagged two Summit-to-Summit contacts straight away before spotting myself and calling. The bands were still strange, with 20m very quiet – in fact I wondered at this point whether the wire had either broken or frayed further since I took it down at Römerstein, despite the tape I had put on it. This was not the case and the antenna got repaired (the wire at both sides of the BALUN were fraying) once I got home.

So as not to disturb the ever increasing number of tourists arriving at the summit, I “donned” my headphones and managed a total of sixteen contacts in 35 minutes on 20 & 40 metres. I didn’t bother with any 2 metre tests from this summit given the lack of contacts from the last one and the worry that the HF antenna could fail at any time. I also had a 20 minute walk down to the car and a 2 hour drive back home to look forward to, so I closed down the stations at 100 UTC, 1PM local, packed up, said goodbye to the young lady and her horse who had joined me on the other end of the table, and set off back down to the car park.

I’m sure it took less time to get down the track than come up it, however one had to be careful on the gravelly surface not to slip, especially while carrying probably 8 kilograms or more of gear.The drive back home to a similar route to the one coming, including all of the road works on the Autobahns and I arrived back home at around 15:30 local time. I was glad that I decided not to go on to the third summit as I was somewhat exhausted and if I had gone on, I would have been driving back in peak hour traffic.

 

I am going to look at combining Kornberg and Wasserberg, two other summits in this same “Schwabische Alpen” area at some point in the near future.  Those 10, 8 and 6 pointers are very attractive when one is used to 1, 2 and 4 pointers that are harder to climb! If only they weren’t so far away from where I live.

Photos – Römerstein:

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Photos – Teck:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Aerial-51 OCF wire dipole antenna.

LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.

Modified QAMP amplifier (35W on 40m, 25W on 20m).

Wouxun KG-UVD1P HT with RH770 antenna

Log Römerstein:

Log Teck:

Conclusions:

It’s always advisable to have a back-up for everything. While the antenna didn’t fail, it could so easily have done so. If I had, had an end-fed antenna (and tuner) with me that could have been a nice experiment from the top of the Römerstein Tower!

Planning to activate 3 summits in one day, so far away from home is only sensible if I have already activated all of them before and know what to expect. While it is very tempting, given the far higher points allocated for these relatively easy summits, the drive to and from them takes a lot of time and effort, from where I live.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – August 16th. 2016 – DM/BW-078 Römerstein & DM/BW-484 Bussen.

Preparation:

After considering activating a new 4 point Tirol (Austria) summit (which I had not activated before and hence was not sure about the best access route and how long the walk would be),  I decided, I would like to go back to Römerstein and Bussen, which I had not yet re-activated this year. Neither of these summits have difficult or long access routes from the car parks. The distance from the Römerstein car park is about a 15 minute walk up a forest path and Bussen is a (very steep) road access taking about 10 minutes. The problem with activating these summits is getting there from where I live. It takes over 2 hours on Autobahn’s that are constantly being repaired and small back roads where it is very easy to take a wrong turn and get lost.

Since last year however I have changed car and installed a proper car GPS/Radio unit, so I have that rather than relying upon the GPS in my mobile phone. This would be a good test for the car GPS. The day before the planned activation, I programmed in both the complete circle route and favourites for each point – Home, Römerstein and Bussen.

Radio equipment was checked and charged. I decided to pack the SOTABeams linked dipole rather than the Aerial-51 OCF in the bag as I only intended operating on 40m and 20m and the linked dipole is lighter. RF would come from the FT-817 and my much modified Ramsey amplifier. Both of these units now run off internal LIPO batteries with the option to run off external supplies as well if required. I would normally also carry a second battery for the FT-817 but after checking it and finding it had expanded itself to a size that could no longer fit into the FT817 case and also didn’t seem to be holding charge, this (now 4 years old) battery was thrown out and a replacement ordered. Unfortunately by the day of these activations, the replacement hadn’t arrived. In fact it arrived on the day of the activations but after I had left home.

In any case, I only intended making a 20-30 minute activation on each summit, so the existing batteries capacities should be enough. As far as the small (1.7Ah) LIPO in the amplifier was concerned, I did not have any experience how long it would last as on the previous activations I had only used it for a short time. This would be a good test. The amplifier runs on 16V and hence this internal LIPO is a “4S” model. I do have a 3S LIPO and inverter, that I can connect into the amplifier however I don’t like using this as the inverter causes a level of extra RF noise. I now have a 4S external 5aH LIPO as well but at the moment don’t have the needed power connector on that set-up. So on this activation it would be a test to see how long the battery lasts in the amplifier. As it turned out it did sterling service on the first activation but was totally drained by the start of the second activation.

My old, repaired 6m squid pole was to be the mast for both activations although I also packed my 10m one in the car as backup. In both of these beautiful locations, the 6m (realistically 5m), elevation of the inverted V dipole is sufficient and carrying the twice as heavy 10m pole up the hill is not justified.

The Locations:

The locations were DM/BW-078 Römerstein and DM/BW-484 Bussen. Both of these summits are about 2hr. drive from my home QTH. In fact about 2 hours to Römerstein, then 1 hour from Römerstein on to Bussen and then nearly 2 hours home from Bussen, so a lot of driving is involved in activating these two summits, but they are worth 10 and 8 points respectively.

Both locations are some way away from the main routes (Autobahns) and involve some “interesting” country road driving. Please refer to my activation report from 2015 to get more route details and pictures of the Römerstein car park that I use.

The Activation:

Römerstein is easy access with just over a 1Km (15 minutes) walk from the car park on the main road. The weather was fine, but just in case I packed a light rain jacket but didn’t need it at Römerstein. The track from the car park is clearly marked and after about 700m joins the forestry road to take you to the top of the summit with it’s tower, hut and picnicking area.

When I arrived there was a farmer just finishing off cutting and collecting the grass but apart from that I had the area to myself. I had promised myself to go up the tower to take a look at the view however unfortunately the tower was locked and while the address and phone numbers of three key holders are shown on the door, I didn’t want to go to that trouble in the time I had available. I looked around and decided to set up in a group of camping tables that were partially in the shade from the, by now quite warm, sunshine. I used one camping table to support the base of the mast and two others to ties the ends of the dipole off to. A fourth table fully in the shade became my “shack” where the gear was set-up. There is a lot of space ot this summit, which was good as a large family group arrived about 10 minutes later and cooked their lunch at one of the open hearth grills. They used a couple of the other camping tables, so no issues with the antenna wires. They never came over to ask what I was doing, but I had the info brochures out, just in case.

I checked activations that were currently on via Rucksack Radio Tool on my smart phone and decided that the most were on 20m at present, so the dipole was initially set to 20m. I listened for the spotted activators without success, so found a free frequency, started calling CQ SOTA and self spotted (cell phone coverage from both of these summits is fine, so internet – 3G connectivity is no problem). 22 contacts followed in the next 17 minutes. The 25w from the amplifier certainly makes sure I received in general very strong reports, 5-9 was not unusual.

I constantly check for other activators and now a couple had popped up on 40 metres, so down came the antenna, the links were changed and it went back up. My first contact, now with 35w from the amplifier was an S2S contact with OM1DK. Following this, I found a common SOTA frequency 7.118MHz to be free, self spotted and started calling CQ again. 16 more contacts followed in the next 16 minutes. The last of these being another S2S this time with Steve, G(M)1INK/P. It was now time to pack up and head to the next summit. As I started to pick up however, I saw a new activator Petrica YO9RIJ had just spotted himself on 20m, so a quick change of antenna and amplifier settings and I grabbed another S2S before finally packing up and leaving down the track, back to the car.

The trip from Römerstein to Bussen has caused me problems, getting lost, last year but this year it was “plain sailing” with the new GPS and about an hour later I was in the car park below the church and castle ruins at Bussen. I just had to climb that steep road with all the gear…

Bussen. Upon reaching the small park area on the summit between the church and the ruins, I again selected a camping table. This time only one with the ends of the dipoles being pegged into the grass at each end. Set-up went quickly and without problems. When I put out my first call however I had a reply from David IW3IDX to tell me that my audio was distorted. It was at this point that I realised battery levels after the level of activity at Römerstein were depleted. The first action was to turn off the speech compressor that I have built into the microphone and probably doubles the effective output of the rig – but of course also then draws twice the current. The audio on my signal was then fine, but later I saw that the amplifier kept dropping out and I switched to running the FT-817 barefoot at 5w output from Bussen. The conditions had been quite stable from Römerstein however at Bussen signals were up and down to a ridiculous extent with stations often varying between S1 and S9! It is nice that even an S1 signal is able to be heard (albeit only after putting my headphones on) from locations away from metro-noise.

With the reduced power I thought I may have some problems getting contacts however 22 contacts are in the log from the 30 minute activation. That included three S2S contacts – Hans OK/PA3FYG/P on OK/KR-066, Henning LA3NGA/P on LA/TM-049 and Andy MM0FMF/P on GM/WS-150. That last one took some getting as we were working at true S1 levels in both directions and by this time I suspect the FT-817 was probably down to 2.5 watts output.

Partially due to the battery situation and the fact there seemed to be less contacts available on 20m & 40m, after 30 minutes at Bussen, I decided to pack-up and just as I got the last item packed into the rucksack, the rain started. So I was happy I had packed my light rain jacket which I put on for the walk back down the steep hill to the car park – at which point the rain stopped.

 The drive home, still using the GPS was “interesting” and at one point, it or I, made a mistake and the corrective route took me over some single lane farm roads and numerous small villages until we got back to main road to the autobahn system. I was glad to get back on the autobahns – that was until I got stuck in a 5km. traffic jam for over 20 minutes just 45 kilometres from home. The delay being caused by one group of road workers slowly packing up their equipment and chatting, while causing chaos on the 2 lane section (now reduced to just one lane) autobahn. I was glad to get home and relax after about five hours driving during the day!

Photos:

Römerstein:

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Bussen:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND.

Highly modified Ramsey amplifier

SOTABeams linked dipole.

6 metre portable squid pole.

Logs:

DM/BW-078 Römerstein:

Activator Log

DM/BW-484 Bussen:

Activator Log

Conclusions:

I need to plan my battery usage better. Having the amplifier in circuit makes making contacts easier, so I either need to carry a spare/external battery or plan shorter activations. This comes down to a weight question again – for easier summits the extra battery weight may not be an issue. For more difficult summits I will need to monitor battery levels better.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP – January 14th. 2015 – DM/BW-078 Römerstein & DM/BW-484 Bussen.

Preparation:

I had intended to use my new 40/20/17/15/12/10m linked Inverted-V dipole for these activations, but adjustments over the previous 2-3 weeks (between snow storms and high winds) had proved annoying in that once one problem was solved another came up and the antenna simply wasn’t ‘Idiot-Proof” enough for use on a summit yet. Maybe next time.

My 6m squid pole’s base seal has broken, I have repaired it, but to be safe I decided to take the (albeit heavier) 10m DX-Wire mini-mast that I bought at Freidrichshafen in 2014 and along with that as I needed to cover 10 & 15m, the Aerial-51 OCF dipole.

I also packed the RHM8B vertical and it’s tripod in the car, just in case access to either summit turned out a lot harder than expected or if there was no where to put up the Inverted-V. This antenna actually stayed in the car and was not needed.

Apart from those changes, the planned equipment was the usual Yaesu FT-817ND running off the internally installed 2500maH LIPO battery, with a spare LIPO along just for backup. Although I also packed my small amp and cables, as this only works on 40,30,20m it wasn’t used and stayed packed in the bag. All contacts were made on 5W output with the DF4ZS RF Speech clipper in the microphone boosting the signal a little.

Navigation: For my activations unless I know the summit I usually write out a route based on the route google maps produces, but simplified to just the important points. The google printout is too detailed and this makes it unlclear to read when driving alone to a summit. I do have a GPS navigator program in my smart phone but I don’t trust it. It can ask me to go down roads that are not public access and generally doesn’t find the shortest route. I prefer to take the google maps produced list and check it against the map to understand the route. I made three navigation lists. One from home to Römerstein, one from Römerstein to Bussen and the third from Bussen, back home. All are printed in large text so that they are easy to read when driving.

The Locations:

The locations were DM/BW-078 Römerstein and DM/BW-484 Bussen. Both of these summits are about 1hr. 40mins drive from my home QTH. As they are in the same general (North West) direction, rather than making two separate trips, I decided to combine the two summits.

I also wanted to try to get a second W4V contact to qualify W4V as an association (and also North America as a continent) for my Mountain Hunter Platinum Award. In the meantime, I managed two contacts into the Canary Islands, which gave me Africa as my third continent but I still wanted the NA continent. Eric W4EON again offered to go out to a summit for me to try a S2S contact. It appears the best bands currently for an EU to NA contact is 15 or 10m from about 1400 to 1600 UTC, so the plan was set. I would call Eric at 14:30 on 15m and then we’d both move to the activation for other chasers by spotting ourselves at 15:00 UTC. As you will read below, the best laid plans don’t always go well….

The Activation:

Römerstein is easy access with just over a 1Km walk from the car park on the main road. Despite several rain storms that I drove through on the way, when I arrived it was not raining. The track from the car park was very muddy from the previous nights rain so some care was needed but I still got up the track OK. At about 700m the track joins the forestry road to take you to the top of the summit with it’s tower, hut and picnicing area.

I set up by the open fireplace and was quickly operational. No RF noise and strong signals but when the sun was not out, it got very cold, very quickly. I was glad of my thermo gloves which allowed me to operate and log without any issues. I managed 30 contacts from Römerstein the final one being a summit to summit contact with James M0JCQ on the Canary Islands – La Palma summit EA8/LP-002.

Although my abreviated notes got me simply and without any issues to the first summit (Römerstein) I got lost on the way from my first summit to my second. Either I missed a turn or Google got it wrong. In any case I found my self in a village that I didn’t recognise the name of and the road signs to the next towns & villages didn’t ring any bells either. At this point it appears from checking later that I had travelled only about 8Km after missing a turn Without paper maps of the area I set up my Navi (yes it was my fallback).

  The “navi” eventually appeared to be taking me in some logical direction and indeed I did eventually arrive at Bussen but coming into it from the totally opposite direction than I would expect (i.e. from the South rather than the North where the previous summit was) but the time taken in setting up the GPS (yes it was my fallback), the time to return to where I should have turned off and the extra time the navigator took in asking me twice to do a U-Turn on the same road(!), plus the fact that it then took me a longer way to the destination probably lost me at least 40 minutes.
End result, by the time I had climbed to the summit it was almost 1500 UTC and by the time I had set up it was 1505. Thankfully the climb from the cemetry car park to the summit is short (if rather steep) up a roadway. Almost as soon as I reached the summit, the ice-rain started. As I was now probably too late for my sked with Eric in the US, I decided to activate as quickly as possible to qualify the summit and get back out of the wet and cold into my car. Having problems with the rain on the Smart phone screen meant I couldn’t type easily to put my spots up, which was ultra-annoying! I did manage 10 contacts to qualify the Bussen summit. I will not be driving to summits in the area of these two summits again, without a paper map of the area. The roads are terrible and the road signs worse.

Bussen was a difficult activation with the wind and ice-rain and at the time when I decided I would pack up my equipment, the antenna came down on it’s own, tangling the dipole wires in the tree branches, so it took a while to get everything packed up. The drive home in the wind, rain, dark, spray from the road and glare from headlights, was not a pleasant experience either. That’s the trouble with a late afternoon activation some distance from home at this time of year I guess. As mentioned above, the reason for the late afternoon activation was that I had arranged a sked for an S2S contact into the US but unfortuantely I missed it by about 15 miutes with all the delays in getting to Bussen.

Photos:

Römerstein:

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Bussen:

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Equipment:

Yaesu FT817ND,

Aerial-51 model 404-UL asymetric dipole.

10 metre DX-Wire Mini-mast squid pole.

Logs:

DM/BW-078 Römerstein:

Activator_logDM/BW-484 Bussen:

Activator_log

Conclusions:

Do not rely on a route written out from Google Maps and then miss a turn. Do not rely on a GPS Navi to take the shortest / quickest route when GPS reception is affected by stormy weather. Do not do late afternoon activations a relatively long distance from home at this time of year.

73 ’til the next Summit!