SOTA FH 2017 : Day 9

This was the last day of my SOTA tour, and I deliberately had left a couple of summit to activate in my March tour. So this day I would do three off the remaining five I have to do to have activated all ON/ON summits again this year. I hope to do the last two somewhere this fall.

An easy drive-up summit. Having done all ON summits last year, I know my way around all of them. So no problem finding the parking spot at 49.545825, 5.753395.
Operated from the bench near the car, which is in the AZ. Of course one can always walk a little to the exact summit, but it is a very flat ridge, so it does not really matter much.
Had a good pile-up on this one, getting 24 QSO's in 35 minutes, all on 40m, SSB and CW. Three S2S contacts too.

ON/ON-016, Les Aisances 

Easy to find parking spot at the junction of two roads here : 49.767429, 5.207851.
If you like, you can even operate south of this junction, along the road "Route des Routis", which is partly in the AZ. But there is quite some traffic passing by, so I chose to walk a while in the woods and up the summit and find a nice spot where I wouldn't be bothered much.
KX3 and andfed worked well as usual, hetting me 30 QSO's on 40m and 20m, and using CW and SSB.

ON/ON-021, Plantis de Mesnil 

Another very easy summit to reach. Parking spot off the road is at 50.177280, 4.916743. The entrance is not so easy to see, make sure you don't miss it. The summit is just a short walk past the gate, until you see a cabin. Somewhere near that cabin makes a nice operating spot.

Since this would be the last summit of my tour, I wanted it to be a bit special ... what could I do ?
Well, I did wear "the hat" during all of this activation (honest !). See Day 5 of this trip in case you don't know about "the hat" ... hi.

I took some selfies, and used one of the pictures for a special QSL card, which has been sent out to all 18 station who called me on this summit. If you were not lucky chasing me, this is the QSL card.

And that concludes the (rather lengthy) report of my July 2017 FH/SOTA Tour.
I had a lot of fun doing the tour, and in writing about it as well, and I hope the info about the summits is useful to future activators. 
If you still want more details, send me an e-email (address is on qrz.com), I'll help you where I can. 

CU on my next SOTA Tour !


Luc - ON7DQ 


SOTA FH 2017 : Day 8

When I left my BnB in Plobsheim near Strassbourg, I noticed a ham living across the street, in the " Rue de la Niederau" (lookup coordinates 48.475322, 7.734684 on Google Maps).
I couldn't find out on qrz.com who this ham would be, so if anyone has more info ... always welcome.

FL/VO-007, Le Grand Brézouard 

The road to the parking at 48.193533, 7.146444 is not too long. It starts at the "Col des Bagenelles", and the last part is a gravel road, just needs some careful driving.
The walk to the summit is just 1 km, and not too difficult.

At the summit I found an aluminium flagpole one could use to put up a VHF yagi (you can actually lift the pole from its base, attach your antenna and put it back).
I wanted to test a new endfed I made just before this trip, so I didn't want any metal objects near it, and used my 6m fishing pole as usual.

The endfed is just a 21m wire, with a 49:1 transformer. I put it up as an inverted V.
SWR was below 1.5 on 40m, without a tuner, but on 20m and 10m, where it is supposed to work as well, I didn't get a good SWR.
I guess the proximity to ground made it lower in resonance than expected, so I will have to shorten the wire some ... hope to get that antenna ready for my next tour.
I had a nice activation with 15 QSO's, mainly on 40m, and including 2 s2S, with F5UKL and IN3ADF. A Danish family came walking on the summit and of course I had to explain what I was doing with my radio. Always great to see the look on their faces ...

FL/VO-016, Le Rossberg

This summit is a bit confusing, since there is also FL/VO-013 Rossberg, but this is "Le Rossberg".
Anyway, I found a parking spot here 48.183350, 7.092887 , along the D148.
It's an easy walk to a spot in the AZ, all along forest roads, but I had to step over a fallen tree at some point.

I set up the endfed and KX3 and worked 4 S2S first, and finally was lucky to work Petr, OK1CZ, who was on DM/BW-193 !
In total had 22 QSO's, so happy with a good activation, I went to the next summit.

FL/VO-003, Gazon du Faing

There should be ample parking at the Auberge Gazon du Faing, here : 48.109087, 7.064348.
But in summer it can get full, so you may have to park a little further along the D61.
The reason : many people come here for picking blueberries, they're delicious ... and free !

You can't miss the path to the summit, but it is very annoying, every few metres you have to take a step , and the whole path is uneven and full of rocks ... good shoes and careful walking advised !

From the rigde on the summit, you have a wonderful view over the region, with the lake "Lac du Forlet" in the valley.

I made only 10 QSO's here, 2 on 30m CW, and 8 on 20m SSB.

I was getting behind on my schedule again, and little did I know I would get behind a lot more ... anyway, it was time to move to my last summit for the day ...

FL/VO-014, Chaume de Sérichamp

I followed the instuctions I got from Peter, ON4UP, and took a small road called "Le Vic" in the village of Sachemont. This road starts at 48.147237, 6.980842.
After a long drive through wooded area, and the road degrading more and more ... I finally reached the parking spot at 48.109832, 6.994016. 
From there is an asphalted road to the transmitting tower, which is in the AZ. I operated a little further behind the tower.
In just 11 minutes I had logged 22 QSO's, all on 20m SSB. Then it was really time to go to my BnB in Rodange in Luxemburg, quite a long drive ahead.

What went wrong that day I don't know, but it seems I 'found' all the road blocks, deviations and traffic jams there were in that corner of France, leading to an enormous delay, and only arriving at my destination at 21:00 local time. Well, I made it, and a good shower and a comfy bed made me ready for my last day ... returning home via three ON/ON summits !

(to be continued ...)

Luc - ON7DQ


SOTA FH 2017 : Day 7

After three nice days in and around Friedrichshafen, it was time to go back home, but again, I had split the trip in three days. This first day of the return trip was devoted to all DM/BW summits.  

First target was 

DM/BW-156, Lindenberg

I parked my car at position 47.988396, 8.676048, and walked a while up the summit until I was in the AZ. Having carried my folding "directors chair", I had a comfortable operation.
I made 13 QSO's on 40m, half in SSB, half in CW.
I had worked DB7MM on this summit a few days before, so this was also a summit complete for me.

Returning to my car, I saw another car had parked, and someone was unpacking some stuff, clearly also a ham. It turned out to be Petr, OK1CZ. He had tried to work me from his car, from outside the AZ, but had a problem with the tuner in his KX2. By the time he could transmit, I must have gone QRT ... sorry Petr, more luck next time !

Anyway , we had a nice talk, after which Petr was going to activate this summit, and I drove off to my next one ... But wait, suddenly I heard someone shouting ??
In all my haste, I had left open the back door of my car ... and Petr shouted to warn me ... tnx Petr !
I owe you one in FH next year !  

DM/BW-057, Lupfen

As this summit is very well documented, I had no problem finding the parking spot at 48.025185, 8.667307. The walk up the summit to the Lupfenturm is not so long, but it is quite steep at the end.

The summit is wooded, so not much to see, unless you climb the tower. But a man must have his priorities right, so I decided to EAT first, then ACTIVATE, hi. Since the weather was nice, I set up my station outside the tower, using the bench as my operating desk.

The activation went well, I made 20 QSO's on 20m and 40m, and had a good mix of SSB and CW.
After the activation I climbed the tower. The viewing platform on the tower has all windows closed with plexi sheets, so no possibility to throw out a wire antenna ... another good reason to setup your station at the base, at least if you're activating on HF. For VHF there will be some better signal from up the tower I guess.

View from the top of the Lupfenturm, at 1000 meters ASL

Now, returning to my car, who did I meet ? Again it was Petr, OK1CZ !
He must have had a bad day, because again, he just missed the opportunity to work me on this summit, I was QRT before he got to the parking spot.
Well, he should have stayed on his first summit a bit longer, we could have made a S2S contact ... hi. Maybe next year we can match our schedules a bit better ?
I'm happy  to see that at least he was able to succesfully activate DM/BW-156 and DM/BW-057.
I also advised him to go to DM/BW-193, as this is an easy drive-up, with lots of antenna space.
And as we will see later (see "Day 8"), I finally was able to work him on this summit ... so it isn't all bad luck after all ! 

DM/BW-042, Rainen

I'm not sure if it is allowed to drive the forest road into the activation zone, but I must have blinked for a second ... at least I didn't see a sign, and nobody came after me ... HI.
So nothing difficult about this summit, I parked at 48.179697, 8.808547, then walked a short distance to set up my station. The summit is wooded, so no spectacular views to report.
I made 12 QSO's on 40m and 20m, all in CW.

DM/BW-046, Plettenberg

I found a nice parking spot in the shade, just past the playground, at position 48.207457, 8.808293. But as I found out after the activation, this spot is on the road to the quarry, and past a gate that closes at 16:00 local time, so if you intend to activate later than that time, you better park at the playground/cafetaria here : 48.206766, 8.807491.
(The cafetaria was closed when I was there, it was on a monday, so it probably only opens in the weekend).
Close to the car, and up the slope was a nice bench .... well, it must have been nice when it was new, because it had some large holes in it !

I had no connection on my phone, so only did operate CW and was lucky to get one spot from RBN.
Still I could only make 7 QSO's before a man came waving that I had to go before they closed the gate ... so far for a short activation !

DM/BW-067, Brandenkopf

It was getting late, I still had to drive to Strassbourg after my final activation. Luckily, Brandenkopf is also a drive-up summit, I parked my car at 48.338569, 8.153926. 
The road I had to drive was long and partly it was a gravel road (coming from DM/BW-046). The way down, in the direction of Strassbourg, was all paved roads, so that went somewhat easier.
At the summit is a cafetaria, a large stone tower, but also an impressive transmitting tower.

I chose an operating spot a few steps in the wood, and made this also a short activation, as I was getting behind on my schedule a lot now. Only 5 QSO's here, and then I had to pack up and find my B&B in Plobsheim near Strassbourg.

(to be continued ...)

Luc - ON7DQ 


SOTA FH 2017 : Day 6

After driving all the way to Friedrichshafen, I thought that I could as well take it a little further into Austria and Liechtenstein. So on Sunday morning I set off for my first summit

OE/VB-525 Kummenberg 

To avoid the toll highways in OE, I took some local roads, so the trip took a bit longer than expected but I had no problems. I got a good starting point from Matt HB9FVF, so I parked my car at the climbing garden in Koblach, at position : 47.331196, 9.610010.
From there it took me about 45 minutes to the summit. The path was not difficult to follow, but of course, the closer tot the summit, the steeper it gets ... but the magnificent view makes up for all the walking.

Michael, DB7MM informed me that on this Sunday, there was a German GMA Contest on VHF, so I decided to take my FT857D and a 4-element logperiodic to do some contesting ...
This was my setup, at a nice bench in the shade.

The antenna was mounted horizontally on the fishing pole, around 5m above the bench.

I did call CQ and tried to selfspot, but got no connection. Result : no replies ...
Then I tuned over the band, and with a lot of trouble I found one station that I could work : OK1KNG, a club station some 400 km away. OK, at least I knew my equipment worked.
SSB didn't result in any more QSO's, so I turned to FM, but left the antenna horizontal.

This got me 7 more contacts, one with OE, and the rest all with stations which were visiting the Ham Radio. Three of them were not at the fair but also activating a summit near FH.

I spent over two hours to get these 8 contacts, so my conclusion : VHF is not worth the trouble of hauling a heavier backpack and antenna up to the summit. Had I done some HF, I would have had more QSO's, or the same amount in a much shorter time. And the FM contacts would probably also have been possible with a simple 5W handheld.

Anyway, mission accomplished ... and after a little snack, I tried to find my second summit.

HB0/LI-012 Schellenberg

I trusted my GPS and it sent me to a road to cross the Lichtenstein border. I must have missed a sign somewhere, it seemed this road was blocked at the border ... so had to return the whole way, and try another approach. So with some delay, I arrived at my parking spot at 47.242031, 9.562320.
From there it's a nice walk to the summit, although parts of the path are difficult because of all the roots from the trees sticking out. Better wear good walking shoes !

Now stupid me had forgotten some small detail, quite essential for a SOTA activation ... the battery !
I had put it out of the VHF backpack to put it in the KX3 backpack, but with all the delay I forgot that last step ...
I was lucky to have put back the internal AA-cells in my KX3 after my Mallorca trip.
I took them out for EA6 to save some weight.
So running at QRP power, and being able to self-spot this time,  I was able to make 18 QSO's in 45 minutes. Some in SSB, but most in CW, and I even made a record number of S2S contacts : 7 in total !

After this, it was time to return to my BnB in Deggenhausertal, but that was no easy ride.
In Bregenz, there had been some festival with old tractors etc ... so I ended up in an enormous traffic jam and lost a lot of time. Well, it gave me time to make some more nice pictures ... like this oldtimer I followed for at least half an hour ...

So with another dose of delay I finally got "home" ... tired but satisfied as thay say .. with two new regions on my list.

(to be continued ...)

Luc - ON7DQ


SOTA FH 2017 : Day 5

The Ham Radio, The Sota ... and "The Hat" !

This was my second day at the Ham Radio, but I was also looking forward to the SOTA meetings, the group activation of Gehrenberg DM/BW-348, and the SOTA dinner.
So prepare yourself, this is going to be a long post ...

But first : SOTA !

What ?
I had seen the alert from Ricardo, EA6AIF, that he was going to activate another new summit on Mallorca : EA6/MA-079, Morral.
Now how could I work him, while I was on the Ham Radio ??
When I arrived at the parking in FH, I checked the spots and saw Ricardo was on 40m CW. Yes, this could work !
So I quickly fixed my 10m GFK mast to the wooden railing between the rows of cars, fixed my endfed to it, and wound the 4m counterpoise around the railing.

There was a huge pile-up of mainly Spanish stations, but luckily, Ricardo was working split.
After several calls, I finally worked him, I gave him a 579, and I got a 599 back. Nice !
All with 15W from the KX3 and a non-resonant endfed with homebrew 9:1 UNUN.
The key was my homebrew paddle with the "floppy disk" switches ... who needs a Begali ?

Of course, my operations attracted a couple of viewers ... hams are a curious breed , hi.
One of those was Dimitris, SV1OZ and his company. He made a short video of my operation, you can find it here : https://youtu.be/35MMiWg6NDE
As you can see in the video ... once a teacher, always a teacher ... even when retired , hi.

If you are interested in the activations of Ricardo, he always makes nice pictures and some videos too. For this activation, you can see them here :

The Ham Radio and The Maker Faire

I didn't spend much time at the fleamarket since I had seen most of it the previous day. In Halle A, I bought some more accessories and antenna wire, which I may need for future projects.

On saturday and sunday, one can also visit the Maker Faire with the same ticket, so I went to see what was new there. Since I retired as a teacher, I'm still active as a tutor in the "Techniekacademie" in Belgium ( see http://www.techniekacademie.be/ , it's only in Dutch, sorry). This is a kids club on wednesday afternoon, where we let kids of ages 10 and 11 build some fun projects. It involves all techniques like wood, metal, plastics, chemistry, ... but also electricity, electronics and even programming a robot (using the LEGO Mindstorms system).
So of course, I was interested to see  what was offered in Germany.

At the Maker Faire, the DARC (https://www.darc.de/home/)  and Aatis (https://www.aatis.de/content/) had setup a large booth, where children could see all the fun projects they have to offer. One of the ever popular things to do is to learn some Morse code ...

Another fun project is the so-called "line follower" robot. This can be a complex thing with a lot of sensors , an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, etc ... but it can be as simple as two small DC-motors and one sensor, like the ones in the picture bellow, as shown here by the Hochschule Ravensburg-Weingarten ( http://korsel.hs-weingarten.de/ ).
I was lucky they had some kits for sale for 1 Euro, containing the PC board (having a small fault, one ground track was missing, easily repaired) and the few components needed. I still have to find two small motors though, to complete my "robot".

A second part of the hall was reserved for the Modding Masters.
People with this hobby build their PCs in all kinds of crazy modified cases , so they call themselves Case Modders. Being a Dr Who fan, I liked this Dalek  a lot :

There is even a nice video about its makers here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPQhpK2ysn8

Last part of the hall was the Fantasy Area , or area for Cosplay , short for Costume Play. Mostly young folk there, dressed up as their favoutite characters from computer games, movies or comic books. Not so technical at first sight, apart from all the needlework and painting, but they also make some accessories with a 3D-printer. And beware, if you see a nice girl, it might be a boy (or vice versa) ... hi.

Also some nice strange objects with or without any useful purpose, I especially liked this clock :

Then I visited the booth of the Elektronik Museum of Tettnang. They had a nice old telephone in my favourite colour ;-)

This museum is only 10km from FH, so maybe I should visit them next year, and who knows they are interested in some of my old junk ... I'll put some in my car.

Finally, I met some Americans on the Maker Faire. They were Steve, K8UD and his the TV crew from DARA, the Dayton Amateur Radio Association ( http://www.w8bi.org/ ).

Each year, they provide a live video stream from the Dayton Hamvention, but also from the Ham Radio in FH. So their motto could be :
   If you can't make it to the fair, 
   Watch it all from your lazy chair !
They were so friendly to let me wave before the camera to say hi to all the SOTA friends in the USA.
I haven't found the video where I am talking, maybe they just deleted it, but some of the footage can still be viewed here http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/105816485 . There are many hours of video to watch, if you find me antwhere, let me know !


The whole afternoon and evening where devoted to SOTA, nothing but SOTA ...

First we had the meeting at the QSL wall at noon. Amongst many other interesting talks, I had the pleasure of talking to Rob, DM1CM.
He's the programmer that makes the SOTA Mapping Project possible (https://www.sotamaps.org/).
I bothered him many times during the previous year with feature requests, errors, etc ... so I'm sure Rob was very glad to see me ;-)

(Left is Martin DF3MC, right is Rob, DM1CM)
One of the famous SOTA couples I met are Sylvia OE5YYN and Peter OE5AUL. I suspect they don't have a home, but live in the mountains somewhere ... you can hear them activate almost every day, hi.

At 14:00 we had the big meeting organized by Jürg, HB9BIN, in the Austria meeting room.

I saw many familiar faces, and Jürg had organized 5 different lectures, but as it always goes, time was too short, at the end we nearly got kicked out of the meeting room, hi.

These were the subjects :
- The latest developments of the KX2, KX3 and related products by Eric WA6HHQ, CEO of Elecraft
- Using the RBN for SOTA by Hans-Peter HB9BXE
- From paper logging to tablet logging: VK3ZPF “VK port-a-log” Android app by Manuel HB9DQM
 -Log4OM: Free logging software with full SOTA support by Daniele IW3HMH
- "Extreme SOTA" by Emil DL8JJ
For those interested, the presentations can be downloaded here :

DM/BW-348, Gehrenberg

After the meeting there was some time until the SOTA Dinner, so a number of activators took off for the Gehrenberg, to have a "group" activation. It was not really a group activity as I thought it would be (all activators in one spot, using one transmitter and each make 4 QSO's ...), but more a "multi multi" operation. Activators came and went in succession.

When I reached the summit, two German hams (forgot their calls, sorry) just ended their activation. And when I had just finished, DL8DZL and a friend came to my spot.
I made a short QSO with DD5LP and HB9BIN who were elsewhere on the summit. Of course this was not valid for SOTA, but still fun to say hi to someone you can hear but not see ... the AZ on that summit is quite large.
Elsewhere there were activators from VK, OK, and maybe more.

When I drove outside the activation zone, I parked my car along the road, and quickly mounted a homebrew short vertical on a magnetic mount on my car.
It's just a base loaded telescopic whip, tuned for 30m, but the KX3 can tune it up on 40m and 20m too.
In only a few minutes, I worked 4 of the other activators with the KX3 in my hand, using only the internal AA-cells (output 5W).

Then it was time to go to the ...

SOTA Dinner

This dinner was organized by Ed, DD5LP, and 21 people showed up, so we had a nice group of activators from many nationalities.

Now Ed had received a "prize" , donated by Richard, G3CWI,  of SOTABEAMS (http://www.sotabeams.co.uk/) , the prize was a WSPRLite (http://www.sotabeams.co.uk/wsprlite-antenna-tester/).
.The prize would be given to the person wearing the best item of clothing which made clear you were into SOTA ...

Two members of my local club in Ostende already had a WSPRLite, and I had seen a demo of how it worked ... and that it DID work !
So , of course that started me thinking.To make sure I had a chance, not only did I make a special SOTA HAT, but also had custom printed a T-shirt, and to top it all off, I started tinkering with an Arduino and a display to make an "electronic ornament" ... and that should be enough to win the prize ... I thought.

[More details : the basic hat is from the Decathlon Trekking department, on top of that I constructed a "mountain" from a piece of grey felt, then made some "snow cap" from an old bedsheet. A small soldier from the toy box just looked like the climber on the SOTA logo, so I glued that on the side, and marked the summit with a printed flag on a skewer stick. On the front I also glued the SOTA logo. The T-shirt was printed at Decathlon. And this is the Arduino contraption :

It displays three different messages on the display, and when the button is pressed, it plays CQ SOTA DE ON7DQ/P in CW from the little speaker. On the back of the speaker is a small Li-Ion charger board to recharge the builtin Li-Ion cell (the red rectangle).]

As it turned out, I shouldn't have bothered that much ... when I entered the restaurant in my "costume" ... I was the only one there that looked SO(TA) silly ! HI
So no voting was needed to declare me the winner, hi !

This must be the longest entry on my blog so far, but hey ... this was also a full day of FUN !
More to come on day 6 ...

(to be continued ...)

Luc - ON7DQ