Activating HL/GW-001 설악산 on June 5, 2011 was an endeavor that took about 25 hours. HL1KKC and his Korea QRP club arranged this trip, last time having done it in 2007. After having trucked up to Seoul and meeting 6K5ZLH (who also had to find his way up to the Special City), grilling and eating some porcine flesh on the sidewalk with N5ATY, we took the subway to the other end of Seoul to meet the others at 11 PM and hop on their bus that they had out for the excursion. It was well arranged, we arrived and literally thirty seconds later it was like “here’s your beer, the meat’s on the bus, hop on and grab a seat.”
You’ll note that the departure time was quite late–that being because our hike started quite early: 3 AM. We arrived at the Hangyeryeong Rest Area sometime around 2 o’clock to eat and get ready (this wasn’t our point of departure, rather our final arrival point later on that day). The place was crawling. No place to park, the food stands open and running, the bathrooms steaming, traffic not flowing, really. It was hopping more than those huge pullovers next to eight lanes of traffic at the same time!
We got back into the bus and started on our descent to O-saek Yaksu (it is lower) twisting and curving along the road until hitting this other “rest area” though not the area proper. There was a good quantity of people milling about, and even though it wasn’t quite three o’clock yet, the trail was open and one could just barely see the lights bobbing up the hill in the trees.
The way up was actually quite normal, just a bit longer (it is a trot up to the top, there!), we took a couple of short breaks on the way up, and upon arriving just below the summit at maybe a quarter to seven, out of the wind and waiting for the rest of the group, HL1WOU already already had a slim jim thrown up into a tree and was making 59 QSOs to Seoul, 140km away with his HT. We had to wait out of the wind, because although we may had been hot at the bottom it was actually quite chilly (very chilly?) up on top!
At about ten after seven, we had everybody amassed together again, and set out to brave the crowd on the summit. This is seven AM, not New Year’s morning, and there’s a crowd. On top of Seoraksan, Daecheongbong, there are actually two markers. For each marker there are two lines: one for the photographers, one for the photographees, naturally the two lines advance at the same rate as you have things pre-arranged with your group. Hence the two summit shots above, and not necessarily with everybody coordinated together!
I chose “the sunny side” of the summit to set up initially, it was in fact sunnier, and a bit less breezy. I actually activated from that position, making my first four contacts of the day, including with Mr. SHC who was starting out on his way to that very same summit from a different point down below!
After these first QSOs, we decided to move more over to the westerly side of the summit, finding a rock from which to operate behind, out of the wind, a decent location for the antenna, also.
Much of activation was conducted using five watts, CQing at higher levels to break through people’s squelch at home–however, for those closer contacts that were more tucked into the hills the going was tough even at fifty watts (though almost 300km away to Iksan on five watts brought me a 55 report–that’s with no GP, no Yagi, just a two segment mobile whip!)…
6K5ZLH and I operated on and off until about half past eleven local time to both activate. We were graced by some visits, first DS1RZP, then DS2SHC. We then packed up and headed down to the shelter where HL1KKC and his crew were operating, getting lunch ready, eating or napping in the sun. While down there and catching up on the news, we found out that evidently a hiker who also took to the trail that morning didn’t make it up, having a heart attack on the trail (there are some warning signs at the more popular high peaks outlining the dangers, which are more present at the “must see” destinations that see a much broad range of skill sets attempting the trail). Actually, later on in the afternoon during the descent we saw another rescue helicopter out looking for somebody–not sure it’s increased risk or simply an increased quantity that shows the normal risks that exist at any time.
At one o’clock, after having taken the group shot below, we started our descent, rather, what I thought was to be our descent. Hangyeryeong is a few hundred meters higher up than Osaekyaksu, but the path there is still a good distance. There were a few times when we passed markers indicating our elevation was “currently” 1300 meters–wait, we’re supposed to be coming down from 1700 to 800, when’s it gonna happen? We had quite a few re-ascents right up until the end (I can’t say it wasn’t an interesting trail…some of the views were quite spectacular), then four hundred meters of drop all in the last (less than) two kilometers!
Though ZLH had so graciously offered to truck the 12AH SLAB both up and down, with the 857 and other equipment I was still eager to lose that heavy load, hence my lack of excitement when the reality of the “downhill” came about 😉
At the bottom after a nice cool head rinse, tea and re-hydration spirits were much higher again.
Eventually, everyone made it down (gravity happens) and the fully loaded bus started moving west, only to pause a while later once we got out of the mountains for the obligatory 닭갈비.
As for the rest of the trip, I don’t think much was remembered by anyone, as everybody was sleeping until we got to Seoul, dropped off by Seoul Station at half past midnight…such a late arrival wouldn’t even be enough to stop me from even a mini-activation the next day…