Saturday, 30 July 2022

SOTA Tour - Czech & Bavaria June 2022 Part 1

In late June I embarked on a twelve day intensive SOTA tour from Prague, activating en-route across the west side of Czech Republic to Munich, south to Friedrichshafen and then back to Prague via the Bayern area.  I was accompanied on this road trip with my friend Victor Mitchell, who holds the callsign GI4ONL. We attended the "Ham Radio" convention at the enormous exhibition centre there, on Lake Constance, (Bodensee). When operating in the Czech Republic as well as using our own callsigns OK8CDX and OK8VM, we were permitted to use the special callsign OL15SOTA, thanks to Mirek OK1CYC.

There were difficulties with transport on this 2022 summer tour caused by rail strikes and airlines cancelling our pre-booked flights, however we were not impacted either by delays at the airports or in excessive car hire fees charged by our usual provider in Prague, Ren+plus, low cost car rental.

We activated 36 summits on this tour in the Czech and the German Alpine and German Low Mountains Associations. Many of the summits were non-descript and in featureless woodland, however several were outstanding and are worth writing about. 

My flight to Prague was on Tuesday 21 June from Manchester, however there was a rail strike that day so I travelled to Manchester by train on Monday 20 June and stayed in a city hotel overnight, using the Metro Tram to convey me to the airport on Tuesday morning. There were no delays at the airport and I easily passed through security with the radio gear and batteries etc. Some hardware such as my wire antenna and pole were packed into the suitcase and carried in the hold. The padlock on my suitcase mysteriously dissapeared during the flight, however the contents of my suitcase, which included a Thinkpad laptop were still there when I opened it up after my journey....

Our Kia Ceed hire car - Prague airport
I had time to spare at Prague, arriving at 4.00pm and then awaiting the arrival of Victor from Dublin at 9.00pm. However I was able to fill my time by signing up and paying for the hire car, an almost new Kia Ceed estate, before I enjoyed a beer and some KFC from the fast food outlet within the airport. Victor arrived almost on time, and he drove for around 25 miles in the direction of Germany to our first night hotel at Krušovice. 

The first activation took place next morning, 22 June, on the six point OK/PL-090 Vici Hora, where I used the special callsign OL15SOTA. Mine was the 30th activation of this summit. By around lunchtime we entered Germany, activating DM/BM-323 Entenbuhl and then the drive on summit, DM/BM-321 Fahrenberg, on our way to our pre-booked Bavarian Gasthaus in a village not far from Munich.

Next day, Thursday, we drove to Friedrichshafen, activating three summits on the way in the Allgau Alpine area. Friday morning we drove to the Messe for the Ham Radio event and the first person I met before I went inside was my friend Luc ON7DQ from Belgium, thank you to Luc's YL for allowing me to use her photo:

Victor and I attended the show on Friday and Saturday, which was not so good as many of the larger traders, such as Yaesu and Kenwood, who did not attend. The high point of the show was meeting the many SOTA activators and chasers and my friends in Chiltern DX Club where I helped man the club stand. We were ready to leave by mid afternoon on Saturday though and restart our SOTA Tour by returning immediately to the hilly Allgau area. We had time to activate Altringenberg DL/AL-272 and Laubenberg DL/AL-273 before reaching our Gasthaus on Saturday evening at Isny im Allgau. We had a "good drink" shall we say, that night - enhanced by a free glass of Schnapps!

The next day we got on with the job and activated four summits in the Allgau before reaching the massive DM/BM Bayerne Mittelgebirge area where SOTA points are easily earned from the many wooded summits. Our final day in the Allgau was very hot, but early morning it was a delight to be activating the Auf dem Falken (Also known as Falkenstein) DL/AL-271, which turned out to be a wooded ridge and just 1 Km to the summit where Victor found himself on the edge of a fenced off large drop, while I continued on the ridge for 500m to find an area in the woodland clear enough to spread out my 40m link dipole without fouling the trees. Victor also used a dipole and could get sufficent length out on the precipice for 30m band operation. Parking was at 47.593 10.300, track is uploaded to SMP and SOTL.AS:  

Victor's view from DL/AL-271 was better than mine....

Victor DL/G4ONL/P ready to leave DL/AL-271

This was our Bavarian lunch at the Alm on DL/AL-171 Eisenberg later that Sunday.

The summit was activated by Peter DL/ON4UP/P two weeks later.... 

We never go directly from Gasthaus to Gasthaus on these SOTA Tours - so to encompass the four activations on this day my Google Timeline shows we drove just 62.9 miles and wallked 8.9 miles climbing the four summits, 12 points earned and 4 SOTA Completes for me:

Now go to Part 2 and the next thrilling installment!

SOTA Tour Czech & Bavaria June 2022 - Part 2

Monday 27th June was a long driving day - 200 miles driven by Victor from a start point hotel at Marktoberdorf. We walked 3 miles all told to garner 22 points on five rather non-descript, but easy to access summits in the Bayern (DM/BM) District towards the end of our journey:

DM/BM-378 Sulzbuck (4)
DM/BM-352 Sclupfelberg (4)
DM/BM-217 Buchberg (4)
DM/BM-351 Dillberg (4)
DM/BM-256 Poppberg (6)

We drove for around 150 miles, well beyond Munich, before we reached our first of five summits. DM/BM-378. Google map of our days journey to the village of Lintach, near Amberg:

When we arrived at our Gasthaus in Lintach the attached restaurant we thought was open was closed - the fraulein proprietor said this was "due to Corona". It hadn't re-opened since the start of the crisis, so we had no choice but to take a shower and then drive back to Amberg where we found something to eat in a restaurant on the edge of a park. It wasn't so good, unlike the previous meals we had enjoyed in Germany.

Tuesday 27 June was a far more interesting day, when we travelled to Gasthaus Fidelis in the village of Grafenweisen where we stayed for three nights. This was a perfect location. Grafenweisen is centred in the DM/BM area ten miles from the Czech border. There is an excellent restaurant at the Bahnhof owned by a lovely hard working Pakistani chap, and a plethora of  high scoring easy to access summits in the DM/BM area that kept us occupied for three days. Summits shown below are within 25 Km radius of the village: 

Overshadowing Grafenweisen is the summit of DM/BM-368 Schwarzriegel (10 points), the towers of which can be seen from many miles away. The place is called sektor F, and was an intriguing cold war eavesdropping intercept station used by the west. The site has been sold off and is open to the public. There is an elevated viewing platform (293 steps!). I'd like to go back and further investigate as our SOTA itinerary would not permit us the time to do this on our tour. The next day we visited the east side former Soviet bloc eavesdropping site in Czechoslovakia (as it used to be) on Cerchov OK/PL-088, but that is another story. The two cold war listening sites are only seperated by around 25 Km. 

Whilst planning the tour I found a walked track in the SOTA Mapping Project from my friend Markus HB9DIZ. The walk from the top of the Hohenbogen chairlift into the activation zone of sektor F I would grade as "easy", here are some photos:

€11 return ticket up to the start of the walk into sektor F and Schwarzenriegel DM/BM-368

Hohenbogen Chairlift €11 return fare

The towers in sektor F
The suntanned Victor DL/G4ONL/P at the top of the lift

My operating position on DM/BM-368 - about 400m from Victor's

This summit was in my top five of the 36 visited on the tour.

However earlier in the day whilst the dew was still on the grass, we activated DM/BM-349 Hungerleite, also called Rotbuhl (673m). Less than a 10 minute walk to the summit from the car park. No one else there that early in the morning.

DL/G4OBK/P station on Hungerleite DM/BM-349

I found another comfortable seat on this summit, while Victor operated on the 30m band amongst the trees around 200m from me. He only managed to make 5 contacts (albeit in eight minutes), compared to my 17, however Victor got the best DX QSO of the tour at 06:37z when he worked S2S long path with Andrew VK1DA/P who was activating in Australia on the summit of VK1/AC-043. Andrew had a good day DX wise, as at 06:28z he worked my friend Terry G0VWP in York on 7 MHz SSB! 

The day went like this, with five summits activated for another 34 points:

DM/BM-349 Hungerleite (6)
DM/BM-309 Hochwald (6)
DM/BM-368 Schwarzeigel (10)
DM/BM-304 Haidstein (6)
DM/BM-030 Rossberghutte (6)

Distance driven 68 miles distance walked  7 miles (+1.5 miles on chairlift)

Now go to Part 3

SOTA Tour Czech & Bavaria June 2022 - Part 3

Three and a half days left on this tour back from Friedrichshafen to Prague - where we do go next?

As sometimes happens we had already deviated on this tour plan. On our way down to the Ham Radio I over-estimated our capabilities and we ran short of time, so the planned activations of DL/BE-094 and DL/AL-149 were dropped from our planned schedule which you can read below in the two worksheets produced for the tour: 

(Click for a bigger picture - then go back):   


I'm publishing these worksheets to give readers an appreciation of what goes into planning these SOTA Road Trips abroad. The column headings should be self explanatory. We program our car satnav with lat/long coordinates to get us to a safe and legal parking place. Our days start at around 08:30 local time when we leave the guest house and end at around 18 or 19:00 when we get back there or arrive at another place for the night. On this tour we stayed over the 11 nights in eight different places, seven German, one Czech, with an extra night for me at the start in Manchester and and extra night at the end for Victor in Prague. 

As the worksheet shows - Weds 29 June - we deviated from the above plan and made better progress than we anticipated. So this is what we activated on 29 June:

DM/BM-047 Grosser Arber (10)

DM/BM-261 Wolfgangriegel (10)

DM/BM-262 Rabenholz (8)

DM/BM-295 Abendberg (8)

We wanted to make up for the two summits we missed going down to Friedrichshafen and on this day we pulled one back. The plan was restructured then day by day as went along, as DM/BM-047 was pulled forward from the 30th, and BM-368 had already been pulled from the 30th and done on the 28th. The standout summit on this day was the one where we used the Gondola up to BM-047 Grosser Arber. The cable car station is below the activation zone, but it was only a short walk to the summit. I'm afraid I only took the one photo as the weather turned nasty and it rained. Victor turned left on the top path. I turned right and found some shelter with a bench for operating under the eaves of a deserted ski-club hut:

The 40m band was unusable due to QRN - maybe it was the proximity of my link dipole to the metal roof of the building or the LNB in the satellite dish close by. I stayed on 20m and the mix of CW and SSB produced a healthy 25 QSOs. 

The weather improved after we got down the hill and we made our way to a mountain alm at Frath below DM/BM-261.  I don't have any photos as this was a non-descript wooded summit, but it was an enjoyable walk of 2 Km each way with 140m of ascent, chatting as we went as we do:

Victor DL/G4ONL/P waiting for his lunch back at the Alm in Frath after DM/BM-261

My lack of photos for the other two summits tells me they weren't exciting.... I think one was where we both got bitten to death by insects. So I will proceed with a write up of the next day - Thursday 30 June when we activated these four summits, after making a late decision to venture over the Czech border late afternoon that day, to activate a summit we had planned to do the following day:

DM/BM-296 Hadriwa (10)
DM/BM-002 Proller (10)
DM/BM-259 Weigelsberg (10)
OK/PL-088 Cerchov (10) (See Part 4)

On the German side I thought Hadriwa and Proller were stand out summits. I liked walking the path up to the summit of Hadriwa, after leaving a track the easy scrambly rocky path was sparse of trees and a really enjoyable climb. I didn't take any photos, but here is the route. I left Victor on the highest point and ventured a little further on to find a site with good seperation from trees:

We left and headed for an alm below Proller DM/BM-002. Clear views from the top of this 10 point summit, after a short steep climb that took us 20 minutes. Conditions on 20m were very good either side of 10:00z. They were even better for Victor - when I packed up and went to find him he was smiling from ear to ear working a big pile up on 30 metres! I took my shirt off and basked in the sun for 15 minutes or so, not a pretty sight! Put it back on though for the BM-002 summit photo:
Phil DL/G4OBK/P  Victor DL/G4ONL/P

Summit Cross DM/BM-002
Walking down from Proller DM/BM-002
There's plenty to say about our 4th summit that day, OK/PL-088 Cerchov but I'll leave that for Part 4. Our last evening in Grafenweisen was interesting though. Mrs Dachs, the proprietor of Gasthaus Fidelis is a musician and we were treated to a few tunes from her band in her garden before we ventured to the restaurant in the village:

Our final night of three then at the Pizzeria Diavolo in Grafenwesien, where we once again enjoyed lovely food and the hospitality of the owner, seen here with us as we left:
Part 4 will follow our progess on our last day through the Czech Republic via Plzen and back to Vaclav Havel Airport, Prague.

SOTA Tour - Czech & Bavaria June - July 2022 Part 4 (Final)

Concluding my blog of my trip with GI4ONL to activate summits in Germany and Czech Republic...

After visiting the former NATO / American cold war radio monitoring site on DM/BM-368 two days previous we had a chance in the late afternoon of 30 June on our last day staying at Grafenweisen in Germany, to visit and activate Cerchov OK/PL-088, a summit over the border in the previously Russian controlled sector in the former Czechoslovakia. I hadn't researched the summit and did not know this was a former intelligence gathering site until we arrived on the summit, which was in fact a "drive on". The legal access road lat long is via the junction at Capartice 49.412N 12.788E. The road is paved with tarmac, then slabs and setts.

Victor at the bottom of the intelligence gathering workplace (closed 1989)

There were two large structures on the summit, and numerous sheds and buildings. The Bistro in a large shed was closed - we were told this by Palo OK1CRM who we met there by chance.  There were other surprises awaiting us on the summit. Palo was the station manager of the OL7P contest station and is a CW man like me. He showed us around the station which was in the same large shed that housed the Bistro. The station is set up for VHF Contests and contains several home brew linear amplifiers. Here they are:

Palo OK1CRM and the 2m amplifier stack     

My inverted Vee on 5m pole fixed to trig pole
The activation of OK/PL-088 produced 19 QSOs on 20m - 16 CW and 4 SSB.  The UK stations worked were M0BKV, GM0GAV, GI0AZB and GI4OSF. As I was packing up a lovely girl who was exploring the summit came up to me and we got chatting. Her name was Pauline and she was on a walking holiday from Hamburg. 

Pauline had walked 15 Km from the nearest town in Germany, Waldmunchen, that afternoon - we offered her a lift back there and she accepted, dropping her off on the outskirts of the town. We proceeded back to Grafenweisen for our final night in Germany, before travelling the next day (01 July) to Plzen via these four OK/PL summits:
OK/PL-019 Skarmanka (6)
OK/PL-028 Korab (6)
OK/PL-093 Ulikovska Hora (6)
OK/PL-094 Smrci (2)

These four summits were all rather similar non-descript wooded summits and as a result no photographs were taken. Plzen was a large city and booking the hotel in the midst of it was an error on my part. It wasn't very good. We would have been better finding a hotel in a village outside the city. 

Our final day meant travelling to Prague and activating two summits on the way, OK/PL-035 Radec, which was a pleasant walk on track and path to a hilltop with a comms site there. The final summit OK/ST-021 Krusna Hora was a pleasant walk, which we did as a circular walk from the car park. The GPX file is on the SMP website:
Observation tower on OK/ST-021 Krusna Hora

We had no time to climb the tower. My activation was confined to SSB only as my Palm Paddle key stopped sending dots on the previous summit. Turned out when I got home and checked that the dot contacts just needed cleaning and adjustment. First time I have needed to touch it in 4 years and 100s of activations. After finishing on OK/ST-021 we motored to the Globus car wash and KFC we use every time we have been to Prague and then headed for the airport to hand in the car. 
The journey home was not the most straighforward. I took a Ryan Air flight to Stansted. No hassle getting through security at Prague. Due to a rail strike that day by Greater Anglia Trains I had to catch the train to London, make a bus journey across London from Liverpool St to Kings Cross station and then train to York from there via LNER. 
Terry G0VWP picked me up at York and drove me the 30 miles back to the home QTH for which I was very grateful. I was home just before midnight, 02 July. 

36 SOTA Complete summits activated over 11 days
691 QSOs
204 SOTA Points

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Catterblog to become an archive

I made a decision at the end of 2021, that despite continuing to activate for Summits On The Air in 2022, I would no longer report details of all my activations.

"Catterblog" will however remain available for use as archive material. I hope the details herein may be useful to anyone in future who is planning to access and activate any of the summits I have visited and written about. 

I will continue to save and upload any fresh track and route information in GPX format into the SOTA Maps and SOTL.AS websites to assist others in planning routes. 

If I do any especially interesting activations or SOTA Tours I may return to the blog and write them up, but time is short these days so we will see....

73 de Phil Catterall G4OBK

March 2022