I have been busy with other things recently and haven’t been on the radio for several weeks which explains why what I thought would be a quick activation today turned out into a bit of a struggle.
We are currently touring in France and after crossing the country fairly quickly we have slowed down in order to explore the Vosges region of Alsace.
Yesterday we started to drive south down the Route des Crêtes which is a road running down the ridge or spine of the Vosges. The hills here are called “ballons” and the highest of them is Le Grand Ballon and conveniently you are allowed to park your campervan/RV just below the summit. This photo was taken as the sun set last night.
A quick walk of under fifteen minutes took me to the summit this morning. What was quickly obvious is the whole summit is heavily protected and fences keep everyone on the paths. You can see the fences here together with the radar installation on the summit.
I thought I would have to set up beside a path as I did at a WWFF reserve in France earlier this year but fortunately, there is an open area around the memorial which is above the 1400m contour of this 1424m summit according to the Locus mapping app.
This is the memorial viewed from my activation point. It was taken as I was packing up and people were starting to arrive. I had the peak to myself for the first half hour.
My equipment was my usual IC-705, AH-705 tuner, SotaBeams Bandspringer and Decathlon 6m pole. Fortunately, the ground would accept pegs for guying but you could always lash your pole to a fence post.
I had read a recent activator had failed to get a network connection and I had the same problem but restarting the phone solved this and I was able to spot myself on 40m SSB.
I called CQ, and again, and again…
Then finally the unmistakable voice of Don G0RQL came through but he could hardly hear me although we eventually completed the QSO with 55/33 reports. Manuel EA2DT followed but again he struggled to hear me, I was 44. DL6FBK heard me a little better at 55 and finally IK2JSB was 59 to me and 57 the other way.
A change to 20m got Don again but I was still weak at 53.
I tried 18m and 15m but drew a blank so I decided to close down. Four QSOs was enough but being unaware how poor HF conditions are at the moment I had expected more.
This is the view from the summit of the Route des Crêtes running south and eventually down to the plain beyond. This was the way I drove out after descending on foot back to the campervan.
A slightly disappointing activation but successful in its way and I was blessed by excellent weather, warm and with hardly any wind.