After leaving Kudertberg and heading along the A4, I arrived at Berghotel Mummelsee at around 9pm. This hotel is located on Mummelsee, which is right next to DM/BW-019 Hornisgrinde, which of course had NO impact whatsoever in my choice to stay there. It was an excellent hotel, even if the manager was most apologetic that just about everything was closing at 9pm – the kitchen, the sauna, etc, etc. I told him I didn’t mind, and placed the battery on charge, while heading off to sleep.
My plan was to climb Hornisgrinde prior to breakfast, taking advantage of the opportunities for LP greyline contacts back into VK. I awoke at the allotted time, grabbed all my equipment, and started up the access road to the summit. The road is not available for general traffic, but there is a bus that will shuttle people to the top (I assume the elderly are its intended audience).
The walk up, in soft pre-dawn light, was easy enough; the road is not too steep, and there are contours marked on it, so you know just how high you’ve managed to reach. After about fifteen minutes, I reached the Hornisgrindeturm (Hornisgrinde Tower) and started to look around the summit plateau. Over to one side was a wind turbine and the TV transmitter tower for the local area. I walked around, catching the sunrise to the east, before heading back to a point about midway between the turbine and the Turm, and set up. There would be plenty of room to stretch out a large antenna, but there are not so many trees to tie off against, so I kept myself limited to 20m and above.
I started on SSB first, getting Sergei RA3PCI and Vlad R4FCJ in the log before a long period calling CQ. After about ten minutes, I pulled out the key and switched to CW. Coverage on the summit was fairly spotty, so I wasn’t able to spot my frequency, but after a short period of calling, Gerard VK2IO came up on frequency, and I guessed that RBNHole had done its trick. Whoever wrote that piece of software deserves a medal. Shortly afterwards, I got F6HKA in the log to claim the 10 points on offer.
Ron VK3AFW was next in the log, proving the path to VK was open, followed by LZ2RS for my first Bulgaria contact, and a scratchy QSO with Andrew VK2UH. Very tough copy, with lots of QSB, but we managed to complete it.
After a little while calling CQ again, and with the path to VK open, I decided I’d give SSB another go. I tuned around looking for a clear spot, and found a strong VK voice calling CQ, and discovered it was Paul VK5PAS, who got in the log. Hornisgrinde is also in DLFF-0111, so he was happy to get another reference from me. He alerted me to Peter VK3TKK in VKFF-0757 Enfield State Park, and Adam VK2YK. I could not hear Adam, but Peter popped out of the noise enough to complete the contact, 3/1 signals both ways.
Two SV2 stations, Ron again, and Allen VK3ARH got into the log, before wrapping up with Russia and the Ukraine. At this point, I’d been on the mountain for over an hour, and my stomach was getting rumbly. I headed down via the Westweg (West route) and think I took the right option in heading up via the road. Nice walk, but a lot steeper.
I had planned to do another DM summit, but after breakfast, I decided I’d head instead to the airport, and in the end I was grateful that I did, as with traffic on the autobahn, and a missing wing mirror reducing my ability to pass cars, I took a bit longer than anticipated to get there. After sorting out the hire car, I headed back to Heathrow, and from Heathrow, I headed back to Australia.
I can recommend the Berghotel Mummelsee as a nice place to stay – there are cheaper options in the surrounding towns, but none are as convenient to a 10 pointer as this one is.
Again, I set the satnav up to take me to my next stop, F/VO-052 to the east of the town of Volmerange-les-Mines. It gave me a track that kind of matched what I’d expected from Google Maps, but kind of didn’t. In any case, what’s the worst that could happen? Last time I followed it I got stopped by the police. That sort of bad luck couldn’t happen again, right?
Of course, following a satnav is supposed to be easy, but when there’s an instruction to “bear left” and there’s a left turn lane, and then you try to get into it, right as the road narrows, a truck is in front of you in the right lane, and you’re suddenly squeezed for room and realising you’re actually not supposed to turn left, but to bear left further ahead. You can probably guess what happens next. A loud crunch, and the right wing mirror has clipped the back of the truck and, followed by a bunch of swearing from me, I pulled over into a side street and dealt with the very annoyed truck driver.
After reviewing his truck and noting no obvious damage (I basically hit the mudflap), I reviewed the damage to my car, which was the wing mirror being ripped right out, missing its plastic shell, and hanging on only via the wiring loom. Luckily I had a roll of duct tape available which enabled me to hold the mirror close to the door so it wasn’t going to flap around. I also read the hiring agreement, which said I had to report the damage immediately to the nearest Avis branch.
Satnav set again (do I trust it still?) and I headed off to the town of Bertrange to report. I arrived there and they basically said, “No, just report it when you hand it back.” That worked for me, as did the duct tape, although the sting to my pride was much worse. Once I realised the usual top-level cover I have as a regular hire car user wasn’t automatically applied in Europe, the sting to my wallet was worse (900 Euros worse). Once the car was returned, they also saw some scraping on the door handles and a dent where the mirror had hit the door, so plenty of damage there. I was grateful to only have to pay 900 Euros once it all was tallied up.
After Bertrange, I decided to head out to Kudertberg – I was going to go past it anyway, and I had a hotel booking in the Black Forest to get to. I had a brief panic as I took the turn off to Volmerange-les-Mines as there were more police pulling over random cars, and I now had a missing wing mirror to add to my problems. I managed to avoid that problem (they were on the other side of the road and gone by the time I went back). I also took a wrong turn (my fault, not the satnav), and ended up a one-way lane that took some effort to get back out of.
Finally, I hit the main road up to the top of Kudertberg, which is used as a launching place for hang gliders. The road is 4WD only, but I was able to take it all the way to the top. I passed a man walking to the top on the way. At the top there is a nice view east, as the peak has a pretty much solid drop off (perfect for hang gliding).
Once I parked and began to set up, the gentleman I’d passed reached the top and asked a few questions about what I was doing. He’d seen a few online documentaries, and had a reasonable grasp about the ionosphere (‘you bounce the signal off the clouds’) and how antennas worked (‘shorter is higher frequency’). He listened in, as I told him I expected to get into Germany, England and France with the signal.
By now it was almost 5pm, so most of Europe might have been at my beck and call on 40m, but I couldn’t find a clear frequency at all, so I switched to 20m (prompting the antenna conversation) and worked Portugal, Greece, Russia and then to my great surprise, N1GB with a strong 57 signal to my 55. Silva (as his name was) was amazed to think that an Australian had come all the way to France to climb a relatively small mountain to work someone in America using a bit of wire a few metres off the ground.
With four in the log and a long drive ahead of me, I packed up and bade farewell to my new friend. About three hours later, and a stop for linner (lunch/dinner), I arrived at my hotel in Germany, Berghotel Mummelsee, chosen specifically as it was about 100 vertical metres below a 10 point DM summit 😀
The high point in Luxembourg awaited me next, above the charming village of Erpeldange, near Wiltz. There are a couple of paths up to the top, but I followed Phil ON4TA’s advice, parked to the north of the summit, and headed up ‘An der Gewaan’, which leads, ultimately, to the summit plateau. The walk up is easy enough, about 10-15 minutes, and I reached the first summit clearing quickly. This is likely in the activation zone, but rather than risk it, I headed further up to a second summit clearing, which was clearly in the activation zone. Along the way, I disturbed a deer.
Once again, I found a clear frequency and got 21 in the log fairly quickly, including a S2S with HB/HB9BIN/P (the second for the day). As it looked like it was about to rain, I packed up quickly and descended, heading for my next destination, in France.
The walk was the first real walk I had to do to get to a summit, and it was quite nice. I recommend this summit to any visitors.
Upon leaving Vrouwenheide, I put the details back into the Satnav, and began to follow it. After a little while, I realised this didn’t quite gel with the instructions from Google Maps. My guess is this was to do with traffic around Maastricht, and instead I was sent back into Germany before I’d cut across into Belgium. As I crossed the border I was still trying to determine where exactly I was being taken – the possibility of a dodgy address had crossed my mind. Knowing I could fix any issues, I concentrated on the road, before a police car came up behind me. I was stuck behind a truck for a bit, overtook it, and the police car followed, moved in front of me, and flashed “Bitte Folgen” (please follow) on its lights.
I say this now with the benefit of hindsight, but I wasn’t entirely sure if ‘folgen’ meant follow, but when they took the exit and flashed their lights just as it seemed I wasn’t going to take the exit, I realised I was right, followed them, and we pulled over on the grass. A friendly enough ‘Guten Morgen’ was followed by my highly accented “Good Morning”, at which point he realised I wasn’t from around there. He asked for passport and hirecar details, which I happily provided, asked for my destination, asked to search my luggage, which I obliged, and then they sent me on my way. I suspect it was a random search, or perhaps I’d triggered something by going over the border and back into Germany relatively quickly, or maybe they’d seen me looking at the satnav earlier. Either way, they said nothing about why I was stopped, and I continued on my merry way, adrenaline pumping and pants moderately filled.
I quickly headed back over into Belgium, and followed the E25 expressway, which conveniently passes directly over the top of ON/ON-010 Baraque Fraiture. A turn off into the town of Fraiture, and I set up near the ski parking lot. I had a bit of trouble finding a clear frequency – my first one was clear for me, but not for a lot of chasers, but my second one worked well enough, and I got 36 in the log, including some S2S points. You won’t get a much easier 8 points than this one.
After spending too long and not taking photos, I packed up and headed off to my next destination, LX/LX-001 Steekamchen.
Work yet again had me travelling, this time to the UK, and I decided I’d take the opportunity to get a few new associations into the log. My first thought was to consider DM and maybe DL, with Grosser Feldberg and some of the simpler DL summits near Munich as possibilities. The deciding factor ultimately was flights out of London in the evening after my meetings in the UK, and that meant Frankfurt. A quick look at SOTA Maps, and an idea began forming for a 4 association tour – starting at Frankfurt, getting Grosser Feldberg in the log, up via the Netherlands, then a few Belgian summits and finally a French summit and a ferry back from Calais.
This plan started to develop traction in my mind, until I looked at the cost of a one-way car rental, which was more than twice the cost of the rental itself. Three times the price for a one way trip suggested I needed to head back to Frankfurt. This suggested I could get in Luxembourg instead of France, although I found an easy option just over the French border – a quick jaunt then back to Frankfurt? It’d be a very full day with a high risk of missing a return flight, but it’d be five Associations (DM, PA, ON, LX, F). Five! By chance, I had a German who sat behind me at work, who, on reviewing my plan, called them insane and got to work injecting sanity back into proceedings.
For starters, we looked at reversing the loop – not a bad option in actual fact, but didn’t quite line up with available hotels. Instead, I headed north west, and stopped at Heiligenroth, near Montabaur, about an hour north of Frankfurt. This cut an hour off my travel time the next day, and I suggested instead extending this further, but once again, Mark, my sane German, decided this was a dumb idea, and Heilegenroth it was. I’d never admit that he was right, but I’m not sure I’d have wanted to travel too much further than Heilegenroth that first night. The net result of this was postponing the DM summit to the next day, prior to my flight.
The hotel was cheap and cheerful, but morning came far too quickly, and a cheap breakfast eaten quickly meant I got on the road roughly at my planned time. I’d been given an SUV instead of the Volkswagen Golf sized option I’d paid for, so I was pleased by this (for now), set the satnav going, and headed off for Vrouwenheide, just over the Netherlands border. The drive up was fairly straightforward (Autobahns are fun!), and the satnav sent me via Koblenz in order to avoid traffic, which seemed to work out nicely.
When I’d put out my plans on SOTAwatch, I received an email from Phil ON4TA, who was keen to meet up for a joint activation. He told me where and when, and said there’d be a station set up ready to go. He wasn’t wrong. I arrived at Vrouwenheide about 10-15 minutes later than planned, but Phil said I made good time, which suggests he thought my original schedule was optimistic! In any case, he kept his promises, and there sat an 857 hooked up and ready to go, complete with clear frequency (of which there are not many in Europe on 40m).
The calls came in quick and fast, and it wasn’t long before I had 18 in the log, all on SSB. I had a quick chat with Phil afterwards, before he basically told me to get going if I was going to make my schedule. Ever the gentleman, I took my leave, and jumped back in the car, heading for my next target, ON/ON-010 Baraque Fraiture
Thank you, Phil, for the enjoyable activation of PA/PA-002, the conversation and the equipment. Much appreciated, and should you visit VK, the favour will be returned!
A ‘quick’ trip down to Portland gave me an opportunity to try activating a few summits along the route – Mt Clay (VK3/VS-051), which I activated over lunch, and Mt Leura (VK3/VS-050), which I tried to grab on the drive back. This was partly to be a test of equipment to be used in my European sojourn in a few weeks time.
Mt Clay is at the end of a dirt road, with relatively easy access from Portland. There was a lot of water on the road on the way down to Portland, courtesy of the several inches of rain that’d fallen over the previous week, but this wasn’t a big issue at Mt Clay. I attached my dipole to a new travel pole and tried to get it up in the air.
Higher than I’d like SWR meant I wasn’t getting a great signal out, but I managed to get 8 contacts, 6 on CW and 2 on SSB. I packed up and continued home, stopping at Mt Leura on the way.
This was to be an opportunistic activation, 15 minutes, and again I was plagued by the high SWR, despite being able to get the antenna much higher and straighter this time. No contacts were made, and by now it was getting late, so I continued on. Some interest on Mt Leura in what I was doing, particularly by an older couple. The “Have you heard about mobile phones” ‘joke’ came out too. Any reports of a bearded man punching an elderly couple hard in the face in the Camperdown area are not to be regarded as true.
Later testing showed a DC resistance of several hundred ohms across the coax, so yet again something was wrong with the feedline – it’s RG-174 so you basically just have to look at it and it’s broken. Other examples of the same length were closer to 2-3 ohms DC resistance. I swapped out cables and had no troubles in Europe with SWR.