A Struggle to Qualify on FL/VO-001

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.


It was still busy when I was there around 1700 local time. You could see right across the Rhine valley and well into Germany. Would be great for 2m/70cms and up S2S contacts from there.


Maybe this was me. I was there two days ago and struggled around this spot with my phone and finally had to use APRS to spot successfully.

Then on my way back, I moved up to the view point, where I got a very good 4G reception. Thanks to that, I made a 2m FM contact with Stefan @HB9HCS who was 170km away in the Alps (canton Valais) on a first activation on HB/VS-249. Both signals were 9+ and we both were using a handheld. I worked him before at the monument on 40m SSB, but with a much lower signal strength.
I also did other S2Ss on 2m FM from there, e.g. with Tabea HB3XXX on HB/BE-118 or with HB75SG on HB/SZ-019 both about 150km away and both with very good signal strengths.

To be honest, this summit is not one that I like very much, but for VHF/UHF probably one of the best in the Vosges.

UPDATE: Despite the radar and the two antenna masts in close vicinity (without mobile antennas), I had no problem with the front end of my FT-2DE. This is an exception, because usually I struggle with this handheld, even when I’m a kilometer or so away of an antenna, especially when the 1m long half wave telescopic antenna is in use.

73 Stephan


G0RQL is Don

73 Phil

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Thanks for spotting that. Blame my dyslexia. I originally wrote R0GQL which I spotted immediately but only corrected the first character!


John, it would have been great to meet you up there for a joint activation!

If you still stay in this area with your camper van, and are looking for a nice place for the night close to a summit, I can recommend the following parking places, where I saw parked camper vans in the past:

  • Le Molkenrain FL/VO-017: 47.85599,7.13616
  • Kuppelthannkopf FL/VO-095: 47.80641,7.04264
  • Buchberg FL/VO-103: 47.78692,7.02487

On the way between these summits, in case you have to fuel up cheap, I recommend the petrol station at 47.82041,7.08285 between Bitschwiller and Thann (I always have to smile when I see the plaque of Bitschwiller :wink:

Have fun and 73, Stephan


Well done qualifying the summit John. I know the feeling when conditions are poor… in my case when 2m wasn’t playing ball and I had to resort to HF which was not planned.

On Tuesday I was listening around and I actually changed rigs to check that I hadn’t got a problem. Conditions were so bad that tuning across the entire 200kHz of 40m, not one signal was heard… not even FT8 on 7.074MHz.

Thanks for the write up and super photos. I hope you get a pile up on your next activation!

73, Gerald


Thanks for the write up and pics John and also for persevering under very difficult conditions. Enjoy the tour. 73 Don.


Stephan, that is very kind and very helpful except we decided yesterday to move on and this morning travelled south west. There are a few SOTA summits where we are, beside Le Doubs river (see map below) but I won’t be visiting any and we will move again tomorrow into the Jura. The Vosges would be an excellent place for a dedicated SOTA trip and I might look at returning to the region next year.


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You’re welcome John!
The region around the Doubs river seems very nice, but I’ve never managed to visit the French side of this river. There is simply too much to be discovered.

Enjoy your stay and 73, Stephan


Nice piccies John. I don’t know what it’s like for other chasers in this country but I haven’t heard anyone for days/weeks. oh I can hear other chasers but activators are very few and far between.

Best 73


Pretty much the same - one or two per week except local and s2s contacts.


Hi John,

FL/VO-001 is important summit for me because I earned my 10 MG there on July 07th this year.
During activation of FL/VO-078 WX was fine and quiet - below view from there to FL/VO-001:

but when I reached FL/VO-001 terrible hurricane was occured and I erected my mast about 5m from the wall, inverted L was directed along the trail sticks.

Below photo is taken before mast erecting but I marked mast place in red:

From time to time I had problems with network but the log is fine for me: SOTA Database

The most disturbed for me were military fighters flying a few times very low over the mountain and generating a terrible noise.

73, Jarek


Well done for getting the four contacts. I would call that a success. Two weeks ago I faced what felt like a complete RF blackout on F/AB-495. It took nearly 45 minutes to scrape four cw contacts across 40m and 30m. I’ve never experienced such a struggle.