Two SOTA activations in the Swabian Alb – And a broken JPC-7 antenna

by Thomas (DM1TBE)


I live very close to the Swabian Alb (also known as Swabian Jura or Schwäbische Alb in German). The Swabian Alb is a mountain range in German region Swabia. It ranges from Bavaria in the northeast 200 km / 140 mi to the Swiss border in the southwest.

Thomas Römer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Swabian Alb is a high plateau, which falls slowly to the southeast but with steep cliff-like edges to the northwest. You can follow the northwest edge of the Swabian Alb by looking at the map of the SOTA summits at

The topology limits the possibilities to cross the Swabian Alb, so the course of the routes are more or less unchanged since thousands of years. I live close to an old Roman road. And where an important road was, there isn’t a castle too far away, since the medieval noblemen were quite keen to get its share from passing people and goods.

During the Cold War, important passes received mechanisms to place explosive charges. In case of an advance of the Soviets and its allies, it was planned to blow these roads up, as there was usually no alternative way around.

First Activation: Plettenberg

The Plettenberg (DM/BW-046) is a summit at the edge of the mentioned Swabian Alb, about halfway between Stuttgart and the Swiss border. It’s 1002 m / 3287 ft tall and has a quarry on top.

The quarry uses a ropeway…..

… to transport the stones to the plant.

The way from the parking place to the activation zone was rather short with 300 m /  1000 ft.

But the incline of 70 m / 230 ft over this short distance made it a bit difficult for a big man like me. From reading the numbers it might sound easy, but it looks like a wall with the trail starting in the middle of the picture:

The trail is called the Russian Trail (“Russawegle” in the local dialect). It was built during the second World War by Soviet prisoners of war, commonly referred to as Russians by local Germans, independent of their actual origin in the Soviet Union, as a shortcut between their quarters and the quarry. The prisoners were used as slave labor and were a replacement for the local workers, who were drafted by the German army. The actual way isn’t what I would call a comfortable ascent to the summit.

But if you reach the summit, you can have a beautiful view over the foothills of the Swabian Alb. The “wheel” indicates what you can see in the different directions.

Jochen (DG1PSI) and I made today’s two activations together. He built a JPC-12 vertical and I used the JPC-7 in a dipole configuration.

The PAC-7 allows you to configure your dipole in different angles, like this V-shape at in of my previous activations.

You can change the angle by plugin the two metal antenna arm holders with its metal pins in the holes at the side of the centerpiece.

It then looks like this:

However, on one of those “dipole arm holder” the metal pins broke.

This is very disappointing and should not happen. Luckily, it allows you to screw the arms in the middle thread in the centerpiece and get a straight dipole. But that destroyed my plans to build a Delta Loop by connecting the ends of a V-shaped dipole. Maybe I should go back to Buddipole and look at their VersaTee.

After this issue was solved, we started operating. Jochen with his Icom IC-705 and I with my Elecraft KX3.

We had only limited time available, so I called CQ, spotted me and worked through the pile-up. I did not spot me again and ended with 10 QSOs after 9 minutes, well above the 4 QSOs required for a SOTA activation.

Log Analyzer by DL4MFM, Google Maps

Second Activation: Gespaltener Fels

The second summit Gespaltener Fels (DM/BW-147) (translated Cleft Rock) has it name from … I guess you know … from a rock that looks cleft.

As mentioned above, the ways up to the Swabian Alb plateau were used since thousands of years. The roads at our parking place is one of those and included in old maps such as this > 150-year-old map with our SOTA summit at the cross-marked place and the serpentine still nearly the same.

The way to the top was longer with 1.6 km / 1 mi and less steep than to our first summit, but easier and picturesque.

The actual activation zone is in the upper right corner of the next photo.

Due to the “incident” with my dipole, I used the antenna in its vertical configuration.

I found a nice place for my transceiver and me, and started operating. It was the first t-shirt-warm day of the year, so I really enjoyed it to be there.

I had some issues with mobile phone reception, so it took a while to spot myself. At the end, I had 4 QSOs on the 30-meter band and 7 QSOs on 20-meters in my log.

Log Analyzer by DL4MFM, Google Maps

The way back was as enjoyable as the way up. Although we didn’t have much time, the activations were very nice.

5 thoughts on “Two SOTA activations in the Swabian Alb – And a broken JPC-7 antenna”

    1. Hi Philip,

      I have the Buddipole antenna. The reasons why I prefer the Chinese copy are the coil and the counterpoise. The coil is way easier to adjust. The counterpoise is not elevated and does not require adjustment by length. In total, the Chinese copy allows me to easily reproduce the setting for a specific frequency. The JPC antenna became quite popular, and the reason is not only the price.


  1. As always, great field reports!

    I love the fact that the Swabian Alb is such a barrier that even today the same historic passages and gaps are used.

    I hate it that you had the antenna troubles, but fortunately you could configure it as a vertical to keep the momentum.

    Thanks again–always a pleasure to read your reports, Thomas!

    Thomas (K4SWL)

  2. Outstanding report, especially the pictures and problems experienced during a SOTA activation.
    My great grandparents emigrated from Endingen (Balingen-Endingen) in the 1880s. I lived in Stuttgart two years and visited the hometown a few times since then. I plan to work some activations on my next visit!

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