Summits on the Air Expeditions in Korea

1 point

20120815 구성산


Rainy or not, the 815 contest is a day to be on the air in Korea. This year, not falling on a weekend or creating a longer-ish weekend, being right in the middle of the [work] week, my QTH wasn’t that much a ways a way. Kimje, in fact, via Jeonju, via Wanju. The roads do wind about. I made the effort to bring the 857, principally for the HF bands, including 7 MHz which should’ve been hot, but was not so. ㅠㅠ

Can’t say it was raining the whole time, but it did delay things a bit, and most of the operations took place inside the big red bothy bag. As a result of the WX, there weren’t many others seen on the trail. Fun was had, contacts were made, nothing was broken.


Aftermarket Ansan Activation

The second Sunday of the month is always a special one. Well, by the reasoning I’m about to present, technically every Sunday of the month is always a special one. It’s hamfest day! The second Sunday of the month just happens to usually be just a tad bit bigger and more bustling than the others, since it’s the hamfest (termed junk 정크 in proper Konglish) in Seoul, in the baseball field at Yonsei University. I like to go when I can, to pander the program and get people interested in SOTA.

Additionally, after this month’s market (July 10, 2011) was a SOTA presentation at the university, which HL1FB so graciously helped to get a room with projector for hosting the event and showing a power point presentation about the program.

Not only was that going on, but also since the main audience was the 6K0FA 청룡 Scout Troop, we planned a hands-on activity with HL1WOU (and DS2NED to help out) to make portable slim-jim antennas with the students for the 2-meter band which they could take home and use on their own hikes when operating portable.

After the antenna activity was complete, the scouts had another engagement to move on to, so I decided to head up the hill behind the University, HL/SL-008 Ansan, for a quick activation before what looked to be rain later in the evening.

It’s a nice short hill, one of the lower summits in the Seoul area, in what amounts to a city park for many who live on its peripheries. I went via one of the back access roads of the university to later descend on the opposite side by the metro station.

When I got up to the top, with a large stone tower and a few people hanging out, I thought it better not to set up the good antenna with all the dark clouds about, so I HT‘ed it so I could get out quickly when it did start.

Even more fun is that 6K2HVZ contact I had–was actually one of the scouts that had been in the group this afternoon!

Good thing I didn’t set up everything, as when I was finishing up my fourth contact, the umbrella came out! Eh, activation complete–hopefully next time it’ll be nicer out for longer. Back to the bus station it was, get a ticket and some goat cheese. Don’t see much goat cheese down in Jeolla, but we do see some goats sometimes….

Seoul On The Air 20110702


(See for the bilingual wrap up of the event, click here)

Big weekend! Thanks to a spark from HL2OLP about a month back regarding an immediate goal of his to activate all 11 summits in the Seoul Metropolitan area (fairly reasonable), especially since after a year of SOTA in Korea they all haven’t been activated yet (one would think that region would be the first to be “ticked off the list” for most given the local demographic.

Me thought to myself that along the same lines why wouldn’t it be possible to stick an activator on each of those eleven summits for an afternoon and make some QRM? Well, the idea took off, and while we didn’t fill up the region 100% we did create quite a racket!

We lost a couple of activators at the very last minute due to a quick date change (rain was scheduled for Sunday the 3rd, so we moved back one day to beat it), but there were also a few random appearances on the hills (not necessarily all in Seoul) but welcome none the less.

Another fun facet of such an event is the points potential, for everybody, not only a wide selection of activators to work from home for the chasers but S2S galore–it was basically a big party on the air–hell, even the cops came! DS1DAT was asked to leave the premises by the military police on HL/SL-004 Inwangsan (military area, open to the public six days a week). That’s pretty much a crap-shoot–nobody bothered me last year when I set up a big honkin’ Yagi up there in the evening (delivered that very same afternoon by DAT himself!).

I chose from the leftovers HL/SL-003 용마산 to activate with F4AAR Laurent–a hill which I had had yet to visit, not terribly low (though low enough to bring full QRO gear). F4AAR brought his newly acquired toy, an SDR radio (a Flex 1500) to do some testing in a hopefully less noisy environment than his flat.

We did have a decent party going on up there, a bunch QSOs in three languages, loads of S2S action, a bottle of red, a freshly made liver mousse as well as some garlic flavored frischkaese. Even though the kit was QRO, the majority of contacts were QRP, thanks to the 5 segment colinnear, we were reaching over into Gangwon-do and down into Chungcheonnam-do.

2차 was happening downtown at a nice charcoal grilled 닭갈비 place (friend’s resto) where propoganda and awards were given out to the top contact makers who showed up–a special edition SOTA hanji pencil cup designed and executed by N5ATY. DS1RDJ took the cake for the top activator (some might imply she has an unfair advantage, all the guys wanting to get a QSO with her….;) with HL1KFB coming in second of those at the restaurant.

After filling up there, we headed through a park and over to a beer joint for 3차, where the imbibing continued on well on after we had to go to catch our (almost last) bus back down to Iksan.

The consensus is that the event was a success, with a lot of people having a lot of fun, likewise with the meet-up afterwards to see all the various activators’ faces in person in one place. It’s safe to say that this will become an annual tradition every year in July for the HL SOTA Association’s birthday! See you next year on the air in Seoul! (Actually, probably much sooner than that…!)

미륵산 인 더 모닝

June 16, 2011. Just your average Thursday morning, to go out to your average neighborhood one-pointer that you’ve activated already, like, twenty times this year. In this case, it’s our local “patron mountain,” HL/JB-168 Mireuksan.

So you wake up around 4 AM or so which is normal because your average cat wants to be fed at that time. Or any other time that it wants, for that matter.

The objective, however, on this particular morning is not to feed the cats, but to witness the rising of an almost fully eclipsed moon and observe as it exits the eclipse during the following hours.

As Murphy dictates, it is cloudy outside. Oh, well, maybe it’ll clear up later.

Hop in the car while it’s still dark, hop out of the car while it’s still dark, same-same, teacher.

You don’t hear owls in town. In fact, I didn’t know there were any owls in the neighborhood here–the only other time I’ve heard them is around HL/JB-104 고덕산 just to the south of 전주. Heard them as well as some other hooting beast–though it’s too early for the quail to be out, just yet.

About twenty/thirty minutes into the hike there were other hikers on the trail, not many yet at that hour. It’s early enough that I might go for some HF, even though band conditions haven’t been the best lately.

Get some good European contacts on 20m & 17m, good signals coming out of England, Germany, Portugal and Italy, but the German station couldn’t hear me (above the megawatt Japan stations he was busy working).

As time moves along and HF dries up I move up to VHF, but not before hearing my name…

It’s not even seven o’clock yet and Jerry sees me as he’s coming up the summit on one of his thrice-weekly fitness outings to Mireuksan. What a pleasant surprise!

Though, he’s off as quickly as he came, he does have to go to work, after all. I, too. Just a wee bit later. The kicker is that he’s in my first class of the day!

Alas, after working the locals and non alike, one last bit of HF and I also, am off. The clouds didn’t clear in time, and by now the eclipse is officially over. At the very least, I got some good radio play and DX in a no-stress fashion. On a work day, at that!

Namsan and the QRM monster

So, you say, he definitely didn’t get a full night’s sleep–it was after midnight when he arrived back in town, right? Then there was a taxi ride across the city from Seoul Station over to Dongdaemun, and a few hours snoozing on the floor in the motel room (we sqeeze all that we can in there!)…

Well, let’s just leave it that after getting up and out, bustling over to Central City terminal to lock up the bags for the day and get some tickets for back home, back over to Myeong-dong/Namdaemun market, this time, I was still itching to walk about the park instead of the market with nothing specific to buy this Memorial day holiday.

What’s there to do in the neighborhood? Grab a bottle of water and head up to HL/SL-009 Namsan, bypassing the crowds waiting for the cable car and jetting up the steps. After all, it’s been just about a year (minus a month) since I’d last been around on this one pointer.

Once on the “summit” there are crowds and whatever you’d expect to see on a weekend, so I went slightly to the east to have just a wee bit of space to make some contacts. I must mention at this point, one of the ulterior motives for this 미니산행 was that DS1SLM was up activating HL/SL-001 도봉산 so I thought I’d oblige, give him some points while gathering some of my own…

In coordinating with SLM getting the contact was proving to be on the difficult side, in fact he claimed he could copy me quite well, though I could just barely receive him (we were both operating via HT). After a while, it dawned on me that my receiver was being overloaded from the broadcast tower, which Namsan is. Proceed to find a better place downhill, behind some object to provide some RF “shade”…this was hard, I was putzing around behind trees, stone walls and the like, when almost giving up, I tried heading back up the hill to under the tower.

Last year, without thinking, we simply sat down in the shade with some cold drinks (thanks, Zoom!) in the terrace café under the N-Tower, overlooking the city, the river, up to HL/SL-002 관악산, etc. Duh, we were perfectly in RF shade, directly under the antenna firing out horizontally. QRM was at peak S3, but mostly S0.

It was from this QTH that I had my final activating QSO with DS1PRD, across the river, discovering that he’s actually from the Iksan area! After that, I gave a few more CQs at 1W with no response before the battery was fully dead (remember that ultra-long hike yesterday?).

I’ve never really had the time to piddle around Namsan Park (still haven’t), so decided I’d descend via a different route, going more to the east to take the rubberized road down (the first time I took it, I went the wrong way). To this point, I still haven’t figured it out, actually. It’s not straight up or down, there are maps prominently posted along the way, but half of them in braille, not even any Korean side by side. In the end, I took a nice “short cut” of wooden stairs cutting through a ravine leading down through the trees.

This wasn’t before first paying a visit to the geographical center of Seoul, conveniently located smack-dab on top of the city’s mountain. Depending on who you ask, it could very well be the center of the universe ;p

In addition to the cable car, another means of transportation to the top is a fleet of electric buses which happen to have a charging station located a few hundred meters down summit.

Alas, a good way to unwind the rest of the way at the end of a three day weekend. Though, in all seriousness, my recommendation to future activators is just to chill on the terrace in the shade for a leisurely “armchair activation.”

Half-holiday at 계화

A Wednesday morning. No class. First day of June. Sounds like an opportune situation to get a head start on some good figures in the stats!

Technically, this should’ve been a double activation, first a quickie at HL/JB-199 계화산 then a quick scuttle over to HL/JB-196 석불산 not more than 4km away and just as short. However, the more that I try to operate in Buan or Gunsan, the more I’m starting to believe the Saemangeum might have an effect similar to the Bermuda Triangle…you’d think being way out in the open and away from everything there’d be nothing between me and those QSOs!

Well, I must’ve spent the first three hours of the activation draining my battery calling CQ on 20m, likewise on 40, a little bit on 17, and also on 2m. No love. The wind took down the buddistick twice, maybe, and keeping the big collinear up, well, let’s just say I was kept on my feet. Also, the tuning was knocked out as my phasing spacers were tugged this way and that.

Of course, when I was packing up the antennas and ready to bag the whole activation all together (not a single QSO!) I hear someone calling on the highway from across the summit where I was…quick-like get over there to answer!

There was then the rush of a half dozen contacts, running continuously (everybody on lunch break?), everybody asking if I had had lunch yet (nope, but was meaning to ASAP). In the end, the activation was saved, but I had nowhere near enough time to even consider heading over to Seokbulsan! It’ll be next time, then perhaps I can hit the filming studio they’ve got over there, too.

Just for the fun of it

On the theme of getting out when there’s a chance (we’re not speaking of skipping class or anything, here), I went out tonight (20110516) at 6 PM local time for a bit of 야간산행 action at good ol’Mireuksan JB-168 (well, it wouldn’t be quite so brilliant to wander about at night on a trail I’ve never broken before, eh?).

I took a bit of everything, gear-wise, to the top to play around with in the moonlight. This means the newly built 5 segment collinear for 2 meters, as well as the buddistick kit for HF to take advantage of the evening hours. While setting up the HF kit, I checked into the local Jeonbuk net (every Monday night at 8), easy with the HT from a height like that (can’t do it from the 10th floor at home, have to go up to the 15th or 16th floors to get above the HAAT created by all the flats so ubiquitously arranged about).

To stretch out after finding a frequency and spotting myself (data charges, here we come!), I used 20 meters, with the buddistick grounded through a nearby tree, and as my second contact just barely heard a GW call through the noise, though after working it this way and that we managed to get the bare details through, GW4BVE in Wales who could evidently hear me quite well (54) is quite the accomplished chaser. Immediately after I had another rough QSO with an Austrian station. When BVE later came back his signal greatly improved to 57, but couldn’t catch any more European calls on my end.

To wrap up on 20m I had a couple of contacts in the more usual circles of Taiwan and Russia, in Taiwan being another 100th anniversary station (just chatted with one on Saturday) and in Russia up far north above Japan.

Back onto 2m with the 5단GP and made some pretty decent contacts up into Cheonan, Seoul, Daejeon and locally. The contact with the Seoul station reminded my why I picked up the book for the Korean license test on Saturday–I must’ve been involved in a ten minute conversation with this station (not a new station, either, holding an HL call!) and not once during the whole time could he grasp my call (not an issue of signal quality, either, to hold a QSO talking of the hike, weather, with all copy on everything else, etc). All the more reason to study!

Things started calming down after ten o’clock, and then this threesome arrives rather noisily at the summit–college aged, out for some exercise, but no water! Sure, you can have some…in the end when I had packed up we made the descent in parallel meeting up at some points where the paths crossed on the way down.

Not bad for a Monday night on the C course!

낏대봉 no-namer & the 5단GP

Today we had some business to take care of in Jeonju, me picking up a book, my XYL learning some hanji techniques. What a perfect opportunity to tackle a nice short summit nearby…I can be in and out in just the afternoon. HL/JB-155, a no-namer with no precise altitude known was a prime candidate, to find out some answers.

Mistake number one: just because it’s a lowly no-name one pointer doesn’t mean it’s going to be a nice, quick outing! Getting out there was easy enough, it’s not even a five minute drive from the Hanok Village in Jeonju, where turning off the 17 before it meets the 21 to go up a small valley I stopped to ask some locals that were hanging out just what is that there hill called? Ggitdaebong was the answer. Big help that is, as it’s one of the generic hill names that one can often encounter in Korea. Whatever, I’ll find out better, perhaps, if there’s a marker on the summit or something. (none of this info is on any maps I could find, and the summit height isn’t marked, but some other arbitrary summit height is marked, etc)

I continued up the road past the smallish reservoir as far as I could go, ending up at one of a few grave sites. Normally there are trails in these areas, and there in fact were. I took one that led to one of the other sites, trying to go up as quickly as possible and avoiding detours, as I had gotten pretty close (~700m lateral distance) to where the summit was. (Mistake #2, the closest start point isn’t necessarily the easiest or quickest).

Heading upwards on the trail which was, in fact, going in the complete opposite direction of my goal, I turned off onto another track leading directly up. Just barely a track. Luckily the undergrowth hadn’t started in quite yet, but the ground wasn’t terribly firm. After some ways, I did hit what looked to be a main trail, especially since it ran along the ridge line. This kind of trail would’ve been more convenient to have found at the bottom (wherever that may be, still being unknown at this present time).

Progress now was much more quickly paced, until I got within 50m altitude of the AZ and a junction, the choice to go towards the highest summit (and descend to get there) or up to this particular summit. I chose the former, though now I wonder if the trail would’ve been better if I had gone by way of the latter….the trail itself wasn’t an incline rather ran along a steep incline so it was a foot track barely one body wide, easily eroded, and not very clear. To make a long story short, at some point I had to scramble up to the ridge to get back on top of things, displacing more topsoil than I really felt was appropriate.

Afterwards, I was back on the fast track, walking along something definitely more worn, even passing a junction that I believe goes down to the temple on the north side of the hill. Then I found the summit, even going to the next mini-bong to make sure that it was the real summit. Surprise, surprise, the actual height of the summit is higher than our original estimate that went into the database, clocking in at around 502-504m ASL. Following that nasty-ish hike up, it was a rather pleasing discovery as I feel if someone were to make all that effort to get to the top and only claim one point it would be wrong. So, when the next ARM update comes out, the scoring, name, as well as lat & long for HL/JB-155 will be adjusted accordingly.

Seeing as one of the goals of this particular trip was also to test out my newly built 5 segment collinear antenna (5단GP) for 2m designed by M0GIA (ex. M3FVB). His design was originally for a 4 segment antenna, but figuring I had a ten-meter pole with which to raise it I could lengthen it by one segment, also as I wanted to construct it from one single wire and the length I could get my hands on was 10m long, it was just long enough for five radiating elements and four phasing segments.

As the wire wasn’t very stiff, I formed the phasing elements with plastic from some cat litter containers (the green portions in the photo above of the antenna). The matching section is made of two segments of threaded stainless stock to allow for easily fixing the contacts after tuning. The wire itself is .75mm2 stranded copper (~20 gauge?).

I set up the 5 segment antenna alongside the 2 segment Diamond NL22 (8dB gain, no ground plane mobile whip), for comparison (additionally I had an extra HT for reference.) Like I said, I was expecting an easy hike and for the testing wanted to put forth all possible conditions, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought three rigs! ㅋㅋㅋ

At first CQ I started swapping things around while talking with DS4OVT in Gimje, though honestly he wasn’t paying too much attention to my outgoing signal and was more distracted by the differences in how the different rigs’ mics sounded (once again, the VX-170 gets dissed 😦 though that was in comparison to the FT-857’s stock mic (just wait until I set up the base station with an SM57!) however in some of the operating conditions it sees I’m not going to mod that mic and decrease its water-proofed-ness). I’ll have to have somebody on the receiving end record throughout testing next time to see with my own eyes what’s going on.

Post Script Edit:

The following Monday (May 16) I took the 5단 GP to HL/JB-168 for a spin, with only 5W DS3OMA was receiving me 52 (and I he 55 with his 10W) in Daejeon, 45km away. However, just the other week, June 15, using the Diamond 2 segment mobile whip, I was receiving him 51 (no changes in his system), and he I at 52, yes, still the same report for my signal but I was putting 50W into that antenna! In the first case, I did stretch my legs in testing with him up to 50W which he says did peak at 59, so that must indicate something done correctly with that antenna!

Anyways, between making some more QSOs on 2m, and then some on 20m (with a 100-anny Taiwan station, not my first, not my last!) and back on 2m again, I made a contact to remember with DS4GOD on HL/GJ-001 무등산. The kicker is this: normally the top 200m or so is closed off, being a military installation and all, so unless you’ve got connections, activating is out of the question. Well, today, for the first time in 46 years, during a six-hour window, the general public was allowed to reach the summit and it was at this time that I had a contact with DS4GOD as he was on top of this mountain. I’m so jealous–had I known ahead of time, I would’ve gone down there myself to activate! Either way, I caught some “SOTA DX” thanks to him!

I packed everything up while waiting for DS1SED/p4 to reach the summit of HL/JB-017 운장산 (I had already heard from him on his way up) to make a S2S before heading down on my own. We had our final contact, agreeing to meet later on in the evening as he’d scooter on back to Jeonju quickly enough after he activated (a last minute affair, on his part).

Playing it safe, I decided to take the beaten path down (knowing there are cliffs if I were to attempt a “direct descent” bee-lining to the car. Heading east, around the rim, it wasn’t too bad, nor was I worried with the adequate lighting I had on hand. It was more a matter of not taking too much time to be back in town to, like, eat, and stuff. Well, after making my way down, going under the newly constructed 27 expressway (Wanju-Suncheon) I arrived at the village just to the south of where I originally drove through to get to the trail head. As chance would have it, there was an old guy walking out of his house, heading right on over to that next village to have dinner at his son’s house. Well, ahem, he just couldn’t keep his hands to himself–groping towards my privvy-parts and asking me if all “Americans” were this “well endowed.” I dealt with this for about the five minutes it took to get back up to the other road with which I was familiar, discreetly fanning him away, listening to him explain how his son studied abroad, how he’s the same age as me (not the old guy!), etc. I did make it back to the car, and headed back into Jeonju to a schnitzel joint to dine with my XYL and some Parisians she met at the hanji shop.

2차 was meeting DS1SED to hang in a 휴게실 out in 효자동 for some beers and squid (outside of which was that tree converted lamp post you see up and to the left). It had been a while since last meeting, so was enjoyable. Going back home we took the 나티 대리운전 service which was more comfortable than the normal joe’s you call to grind your gears and get speeding tickets for you.

Riding the South Sea

Children’s Day 2011 makes Friday into a sandwich day, then Buddha’s Birthday the following Tuesday has the same result on Monday. Therefore, it wasn’t completely crazy to take advantage of that, at least on one end or the other (if we took both off I’m not sure we could handle six days straight with no class!).

So, Thursday at 7am saw us riding down route 20 towards Jangsu to continue onwards to Jinju and finally Namhae Island (IOTA AS-081). We were originally thinking of Geoje Island then ferrying it over towards Busan for Sunday’s ARDF, but then remembered about the German Village we wanted to see, researched where it was, and changed itinerary.

A word about said Deutsches Dorf, don’t bother. Yes, there are some pretty residences, but you won’t see any Germans. Only Koreans. The signage is in English/Korean, the café doesn’t even have a streudel on the menu, let alone any coffee specialties besides a sweet potato latte (which is more typisch koreanisch than anything else) and there aren’t any restaurants. I was told there was a food court inside the plant-art park (admission fee required), but heard the best I could expect would be a 돈까쓰. Insulting.

We then left the traffic jam back there at the 독일마을 for some nice seashore cruising ascending and descending the cliffs, finally stopping at 마늘 나라 garlic museum, then lunch further on, then turning back towards Sangju “Silver” Beach to find lodging and have fun. I took a spin around the beach on an underpowered ATV (like riding a chainsaw with wheels) then we were both bored, so gee, there’s a mountain nearby, it’s short, and the weather’s nice. Can we squeeze that in before dinner? It’ll be short….oh, ok.

The village of Mijo where GN-274 Mangunsan is located is only 4km away from Sangju, so it took only 10 minutes to get there, we found a road going up the hill, but didn’t go up due to the signage (military? something?) but the school janitor at the gate said go up anyway. Or waved to go up, or some gesture. Wasn’t much of a talker. So, we turned around to hit the village to get some cold drinks (thanks Zoom, you’re a good friend!) and ask there. Same response, just go on up. We go up, get to a space with the building, some basketball courts, barbed wire, etc. The young guy on duty shouts down something, then an older guy is coming out on his way home, says yeah, there’s a path off to the side I can go on, but preferring not to have the audience I ask about others, and well yes, there are, further down (by the school) as well as the other side of the hill, etc. With this info, we head back down following him and park at that lower trail head (see wikiloc map below).

It’s a short hill and it is really a short walk getting to the top, but it’s got some nice views to the surrounding coasts and islands (when it’s clear). Immediately upon arrival at the summit, I hear a Japanese station calling CQ. Now, this is right when I get up on top, still carrying backpack, looking for a site to set up, on the HT at 55. I call back–he says I’m 59. This is still from the HT with only the duckie antenna. The station is 8J400MK, a special event station 460 km away celebrating the 400th anniversary of the completion of construction of Matsue Castle in the Shimane Prefecture, Japan. What a way to start out the activation–2m DX!

From there I try calling some CQ on the HT with no results so go about setting up for HF operations, set up the buddistick for 40m and go at it there, contacting only one portable station. 20m on the other hand was a bit more happening, and logged northern Russia and south-eastern China. All the while, I hear somebody on another mountain, but can’t seem to break in with the HT. Now I set up the FT-857 for 2m with DS4QBE’s 2-section whip, and he gets me perfectly fine, but he’s at the end of his battery, so the QSO was a bit one way and on the rough side with DS4GKA/p on HL/JN-332 Museonsan in Yeosu.

After one last 2m QSO with a fellow on his way to Samjeompo (also on Namhae Island), I quickly packed up to head back down so we could go for dinner. The activation wasn’t as short as it should’ve been, but it was still as fun and just as interesting. This last shot (below) is of Mijo Village from the trail head.

April Fool’s Sunrise @ 망해산

In trying to still catch the edge of sunrise with minimal effort (before those 4am sunrises become popular, once again) I drove out to JB-204 Manghaesan. Drove makes it seem exciting–I ended up going at quite the snail’s pace going through thick fog with about 20m of visibility, and relying on the GPS as much as my own eyes! However, within 500m of the hill’s base I escaped from the fog bank out back into the open! On the way up the hill I did see a deer.

Arriving at the secondary summit with the gazebo I took the photo above…nothing doctored, nada.

I was hoping for a roaring time on 20m but it just wasn’t to be. Of course downhill in Seosu I texted QBE to spot me (I don’t think I woke him) and he subsequently called me up and we had a short QSO. After much tuning around, calling CQ, etc I finally had a short but difficult chat to Capri, IC8TEM claiming there was lots of QSB (though I received him quite well). The highlight of the morning was a contact on 17m to K8NY in West Virginia, in fact my first QSO to CONUS from Korea. Later on while I was still tuning around I heard DS3JPG calling CQ from Ganggyeong and ended up having a conversation with him while he was relaying the info over to DS3MRA who couldn’t hear my signal farther away in Gyeryong (though I heard him quite well at my QTH).

I should mention that in the course of all of this, some guy comes on up with a cordless drill/screwdriver and starts working on the gazebo. I just kept doing my thing, until down comes the railing that was circling the floor of the structure. Then he goes away. He mumbled something about it “being in the way.” Of what, I’m not sure, but without that, what’ll keep y’all from rollin’ down the hill after too much 막걸리?

After seeing the band conditions deteriorate even further (and not having a properly insulated antenna mast mount, probably not helping my situation) I decided to head on out for a walk. Firstly, I had a short chat with two of the forest fire watch guys in their little hut on top, got some local history (there was a forest fire on that mountain a few years back, which explains the current state of affairs and all of the new growth). They also said they knew “the Derailer” and that everything was kosher with that.

After dropping off the gear in the car, I moseyed along to investigate the possible third summit within the Activation Zone as well as checking out the mountain’s trails off the logging tracks. Along the way I saw some of the new blossoms out (though the cherries aren’t out just quite yet…). In the end, that third summit is in the AZ after having bugged out the fire watch guy and his dog up there (don’t think he expected me, he radioed his friends on the other summit asking about the American wandering around the hills ;). Anyways, the GPS said it was OK.

At this point I decided to turn back and on the way to the car saw a red ferret crossing the road–though he didn’t stick around long enough to get a picture of him. Maybe next time…

오~마이갓김치! 봉황산 Joint activation

DS4GQZ/p & HL4/W2VLA/p @ HL/JN-129 鳳凰山

The original plan for this weekend was 마니산 HL/IN-001 on Ganghwa Island AS-105 for RTTY, Russian DX and IOTA. However, logistics with the intended QTH for the HL9 amateurs fell through–something was up with the villa as it had been closed all winter and just opened up two days before we were to come in and so it was off at the last minute 😦

What this means is that the weekend was freed up. Instead of heading north, we decided to head south, to Yeosu. We picked up DS4GQZ on the way down, in Suncheon. He had recently expressed interest in SOTA, so saw this as a good opportunity to meet up for a joint activation.

Yeosu is surrounded by mountains and mountainous islands, so the hard part was choosing where to activate. For reasons of proximity, height, geographic isolation and exoticness Bonghwangsan on Dolsan Island was selected with an elevation of 460m. Dolsan Island is famous for 갓김치, mustard greens kimchi, and on our way to the trail head, saw many new plants in the fields.

The trail head we selected starts from Jukpo village, and was actually fairly easy to find (with the right map!) looking for the big 느티나무 in the middle of the village as a start point, in fact could be seen from the other end of the valley. This could evidence their large size, or lack of trees elsewhere on the valley floor…

From the start of the trail, the climb is relatively steep–mostly during the first 2/3 of the hike, afterwards it levels off along the summit line. We were loaded down with extra gear today, for HF, VHF, cooking lunch and antenna analyzer to check out a new antenna configuration I tried out the night before with QBE. So the people were leap-frogging us a bit, and there were people, brought out by the good spring weather and busses, as many of them were in clubs traversing the island lengthwise down to Geumosan…not many going in the opposite direction, in fact!

So, after about an hour of walking and a few pauses at the spring and other spots, we reached the summit. This summit didn’t have a traditional stone marker as can be noticed below, but a newer sign plus a steel marker (though that was slightly lower than the actual summit, but still within the AZ).

It seems as if we weren’t the only ones looking for the top (as mentioned, up higher it wasn’t so steep) as during the activation many people would be wandering back and forth looking around for the highest point or more specifically, something to signify it. All around this area, further south, the coming of spring is showing with trees budding and even cherry blossoms (won’t be seeing that in Iksan for a couple more weeks, at least!).

Up on top it was hard to choose a relatively tree-free spot (to allow for some Yagi swing-age) but since I intended on doing mostly HF we would deal. Initially we were shooting for 20m, and for this I tried a new setup that I had had rocket results with the night before: using the two first segments of the buddistick plus the seven-segment military whip together with NO coil. The counterpoise goes about half out, though I haven’t measured the exact length yet. According to the analyzer it gives me less than 2:1 SWR and the FT-857 just loves it. No tuner. No nothing. Likewise, when I fired it up the night before, who did I hear 59+ in my ear? ZL2JBR, who couldn’t find any faults in my signal. SOLD.

The show was on for 20m, but I could only hear three stations, none of which could hear me. So, I quick altered the antenna config for 40m, and who do I hear? DS1DAT & DS1SED/4 tongue wagging with DAT at 58 and SED at 59++. What skip? Well, DAT couldn’t eek out what I was saying, only that someone was there, though SED gave me a 59. (Evidently SED was a 53 for DAT). So, that was a fun way to start the day! Moving onwards, I started to work the usual Japanese stations, first JP6SRV/p6 then 8J3KTR/p3. That 8J3 station is actually a special event station celebrating 20 years the Kitakinki-Tango Railway, Miyazu Line. Afterwards, we set up the 2m Yagi, making the fourth (and fifth) contacts with 6K5BZS in Jinju.

Now, before this weekend, I was not aware GQZ was a new licensee, let alone hadn’t had a chance to have a transmission before. So, the fifth QSO of the day (with 6K5BZS) was GQZ’s lucky first ever contact (above)! Congratulations–it’s all downhill from here, literally! That was more than enough excitement for him for the day so he pawned the mike back off on me, where I reversed the Yagi and made my first Jeju Island full contact with DS4WHQ outside of Jeju City.

To finish up I continued to piddle around on 20m without too much success, and once it started cooling off and getting time to go, of course the band started to open up more though I still had a tough time getting a word in edgewise, especially with this one strong 57 signal from Germany, DL5RBW who was chatting up the Aussies before breakfast. We listened through four different QSOs (with VK & one in ZL) trying to break in, but with no success. Next time!

So, we packed up, headed down back to the car and drove back into the city to call it a day. I would’ve liked to have seen more but things were a bit hazy with the 황사

Third time’s the charm–just barely…

Well, three of us were supposed to go for a walk to a “short mountain” today, XYL, Ing & I. Firstly, nobody was out of bed before ten this morning. Secondly, after breakfast, around about 12:30, the girls decide they want to go see a movie. Looking outside at the nice spring day (mid-60’s, sunny) I knew I wasn’t going to the theater. So, I could select something else a little longer or higher, though still keep my senses as I knew I wouldn’t get out of the door by one o’clock. I’d pack nice and “light” preparing for an HF-only activation with the HT as backup, and be able to cover more ground at a faster speed.

My thought, in this case, was to start at JB-192 Yonghwasan then cross over to JB-168 Mireuksan. To make this possible I would drop the bike off where I intended on ending up on the other side of Mireuksan, then park over at the bottom of Yonghwasan in the lot at the Geumma Tourist Spot. Envisioning covering new sections of trail, I drove off looking for the “G Course” to drop the bike off at–firstly, the nice areal photo map at the end of the C Course has the village name for the G Course spelled wrong. Then, no one who lives around this fabled path knows anything of such a path, sure, there are [a few] paths leading up from various points but as I’ll be coming from the other end, how am I to know on my first try.

After this much piddling around, I was just going to go straight to Yonghwasan (it was past two) and drop the bike off at the pass halfway. Based on my activation speed, this turned out to be a good decision.

I started my climb from an extremely full parking lot at the Geumma Tourist Spot–full, as in people were parking down the middle of the lanes of the lot. I managed to find a spot off to the side, and left on foot at 2:30. After having reached the summit, I moved on to one of the “less populated” summits and set up my operating position at 3:30.

As I mentioned before, this was an HF-only activation and I started on 20 meters where the signals were quite strong, though many unintelligible Russians with no clear callsigns. They’ll be more intelligible next weekend for their DX contest, though 😉 However, one very readable station was T3ZAQ in Kiribati, he was working through the stations quite professionally and efficiently, and I got a good report from him though he had a tough time with the callsign at first. I overheard that the tsunami luckily didn’t give them much grief, rising only 25cm or so out there.

Almost immediately on an adjacent channel I heard another very clear station, heard VK4 somewhere in the call exchange, listened to jump in sometime but then they finished up and QSY’ed in their own directions, one the dinner table and the other somewhere unknown. Maybe about ten minutes later, I found that same voice farther up on the dial, wasn’t a VK call but a ZL call–I hung around then broke in, and was lucky enough to get this nice contact with such good band conditions after hanging around a bit more. Well, John ZL2JBR is based outside of Wellington, and it seems like the band was opening up early for him (he had had a contact to the UK beforehand).

I scanned 20m a little bit more, called CQ some, but didn’t turn up anything. Moving up to 17m, I heard our T3 station again, and looking around I caught SM1ALH as he was starting out on the air over on a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea (IOTA EU-020). He had a clear signal but couldn’t hear me that well, though he has 800W going into a beam! In the end, we did manage.

The last QSO of the day was with 9M2TO in Penang, as nice a local to be in as any. There was some severe QSB on his signal but he could hear me ok. Penang is IOTA AS-015

After packing up I tried to see if anyone was on 2m, but there weren’t any takers there. I headed down to where the bike was, not requiring lighting except on the last 800m of trail which was more heavily forested. Good news: the bike was still there (not like it’s a problem around here), I rode back down to the statue park with it’s [now empty] parking lot, packed up and headed out. JB-192 is finally activated this thirteenth of March, 2011!

Cleaning up this month’s unfinished business

Y’all may remember that (solar) New Year’s excursion to see the first sunrise on Mireuksan. Furthermore, that no points (point) were garnered (on my part) during that chilly morning.

Well, things have changed. Due to this short week before (lunar) New Year’s, I had some free time from 3 PM onwards today the last day of January, so drove out to good ol’ Samgi to wander about on some new paths and do an HT activation. Having intended on using QBE’s 2S mobile whip to augment signal, I actually broke one of my connectors (loose, not radio-side, phew!) in the parking lot before departure, so I was relying more on spotting than pure CQs this evening.

I took some alternate parallel trails to the C Course, though in essence, the same trail (but skipping a big road segment spending more time in the woods). A few dozen people were out walking, but post-activation I believe I was last one off the summit (no sightings on descent, plus arrival at an empty parking lot).

So, over the course of an hour I managed five contacts while observing the sun set. The weather was ok, trails fairly clear, and not much breeze to speak of, except at certain points on the summit. Due to the timing, most of the contacts were mobile–I’m not usually out on the trails at this time.

Anywho, it’s done. Now, we’ll see what I can do during the long (5 day) New Year’s break…

Still haven’t nailed it yet…

Well, took another visit to Yonghwasan this morning, accompanied by Gi-seung–it was his first time to this particular mountain, though we’ve been next door to Mireuksan a few times together…

The main intent this time was to try out 17m and 6m, though the band conditions were quite lousy…on 17m I could copy only one Japanese QSO but not the call, and extremely weakly DS1DAT whom I gave the freq, but he couldn’t hear me, so no contact there. On his suggestion I moved down to 40m, and quickly made a contact with JF6TLZ Taka in Japan, great 59’s both ways, and me working at 30W. On 40 I couldn’t hear DAT at all, so we had to give up on that (I don’t think I was high enough for a VHF QSO with him…and my time was extremely limited this morning (class) so I couldn’t set up and break down the yagi in time).

After ramyeon, pepero and coffee we started breaking down the setup, and left the summit at 10:05 local time, while still in the AZ I made two contacts on 2m (with RDY in town and HL3QCV in Seocheon, farther off). Between the two, I planted the Bullseye travel bug and new cache for future wanderers.

We headed back down, got to the car, and got to class just in time.

I’ll be back.

PS. Mireuksan Fortress is now quite visible with all of the foliage gone…

20101119 Early morn’ @ 망해산

I came back this time, with the intention to collect.

Last time I visited JB-204 Manghaesan, it was in August, on a quickie bike ride armed only with an HT. I made only three contacts. Not very impressive…

This morning, however, I went out before six am, with the aim to get some DX. Though band conditions seemed to be good, at least on the receiving end, transmitting didn’t work out so well, and I didn’t have many (any) answers to my CQing. I was monitoring VHF, and had made some contacts there, so at least when I walked away and went to class, it wasn’t a total failure.

Next time.

Though, a little geocache was placed for those whose presence will next grace this summit…

JB-184 봉실산 on 20100925

Spotless blue skies told me to go out and get sunburned today. No, really, I actually didn’t get burned, but I did go out to Bongsilsan, located in Bongdong. I had the time to bike out there (25km, not including wrong turns, finding a geocache, etc). I had a hard time finding the trail head…there were intermittent signs indicating where to find it, differing views in the village about where there is and isn’t a path, plus a military fence at some points at the foot of the mountain. So, even though I left YeongDeung-dong at 11 o’clock, I didn’t actually start hiking until maybe 14:30.

It’s a pretty quick hike to the top, though steep and rocky, still fun. Due to my transport situation, I didn’t bring the yagi…I should’ve! I got half (two!) of my QSOs via SMS spotting, and the other two only after insistent CQing, all with the HT. Most stations were mobile, though I could hear them well they had trouble hearing me. So, since DS4QBE was going to be picking me up at the bottom of the hill to go geocaching in Jeonju with him, DS1SED, DS5DYM, DS5SQS and a whole slew of others (we were 13 around the table at the bibimbap resto) to be followed by makeoli, I had to start back down the hill immediately after my fourth contact.

I operated from the second highest summit–it was so cute–there was a mini-helipad! (there was another on the main summit, too). This second summit (of 366m) is south of the main summit, and has more “view” on the populated areas. There were some other people up on the hill, but not many (it doesn’t rank high, or at all, on the popularity lists…) it’d surely be dead during the week.

Nighttime on JB-206 오성산, 20100919

In an attempt to get some better DX, specifically on 40m, I planned a night time activation for Sunday night on Oseongsan, out by Gunsan IC. The site was chosen for ease of night access, as it has a carraigeway almost up to the top, to the point of where the weather radar is located. The rest of the ascent is a short walk to a memorial. Also, DS4QBE was to join me later (after dark).

I actually had a later start than previewed, so my departure was after dark, but after arrival at the parking lot, summit access was easy, first going up to check it out and plot where to set up, then afterwards bringing up all the gear from the car (including an extra car battery to use to power the operation).

The summit was qualified on 40m, all four contacts with Japanese stations, including a certain JR9NVB who has had previous contact with DS1SED! The following five contacts were performed on 2m, mostly long distance (except with DS4QBE who was on his way to meet me) to the Seoul area, and I had one partial contact reaching down to Jeju Island with a mobile station before he faded out after managing to only exchange calls ;(

In the end, it was a relaxing and fun night, with QBE arriving on site shortly before 11pm, with some HF and VHF ‘dx’ we didn’t actually leave until quarter to two, after breaking down the equipment. The is (was?) a geocache on site also, but this was not found, despite QBE’s best attemps in the dark.

(JB-201) Hamnasan, for real 20100917

…or not!

a moment of rest in Hamna Pass

I don’t know if it’s Ji-hun who brings bad luck to SOTA expeditions (the skies were still blue today, and no thunder) or what. I thought chance would lean in my favor, I packed light, antennawise only bringing the mobile whip clamped to the long thing formerly known as broomstick, so I was bound to 2m. There were a total of three (3!) opportunities for summit QSOs throughout the hike, as we went from Yul Pass to Bonghwasan, which happens to be the second AZ of Hamnasan, being only 5 meters shorter. That makes it AZ Hamnasan — AZ Bonghwasan — AZ Hamnasan (on the way back).

It was only at Bonghwasan that I did manage to fish out two contacts, but other than that, no one was on the air…should’ve brought the Buddistick–it was in the car, after all… These two contacts finally came about after more than half an hour CQing and spitting out grape seeds. So, after an hour on that summit, it was deemed to start heading back (we both had class in the afternoon, after all). I couldn’t pass by the last summit without calling once more, but nothing happened. Alas. Next time. I guess the lesson to be learned here is if one is to activate during the week, bring HF equipment, and more importantly, don’t mess with the smaller hills–there just isn’t enough coverage to get the few who are actually at home or mobile on a weekday morning from a one-pointer…

함라산 버스 시간표

Some summit access information. More info is found at this post.

20100815 on Oknyeobong 변산 옥녀봉 JB-166

This last week has been nuts as far as the weather, thunderstorms almost twice daily…thunderstorms are a rarity in ROK and now this year we have them in spades! Yesterday’s activation was started late, as well as today’s (from being cancelled on CB-014, moved to Byeonsanbando National Park‘s Oknyeobong JB-166, then delayed). Once I was fully operational on the summit with only two QSOs logged through the big rig and antenna, the thunder came back…well, sitting cross legged next to a metal tower on top of a mountain in an electrical storm isn’t my idea of a calm Sunday, so, I broke down the setup and switched back to the HT to get a few more QSOs to save the activation… I got off the summit in time for…nothing. Whatever it was, it had blown past, but it was already 5:30 or so, so I headed back home.

This summit choice was brought about by a QSO w/DS4PXG yesterday on JB-204, inviting me out to JB-166. The Buan KARL Branch has a U/V repeater on a fire camera tower on that summit, and since the camera only has power during fire season (spring/fall) other sources are needed throughout the year. There was already a 50W solar panel and 100W mini-wind turbine, and today they were carrying up and installing a 100W solar panel to add to the charging array. So I got to climb the tower and make my first QSO of the day from up there via HT down to Gwangju (55km south). After the install was finished, everybody headed back home and I stayed on the summit to install my setup and make some more QSOs…but that didn’t turn out so favorably, as you know.

Images and video forthcoming…

20100718 Mireuksan JB-168

Time for a Sunday walk–went up to 미륵산 with the new Yagi antenna from DS1DFK. I wanted to take advantage of the more leisurely situation and try making some SSB contacts. I tried calling CQ a couple of different times on different frequencies but to no avail. I then whipped out a bungee to change the polarization of the antenna, called CQ then got a steady stream of takers for the next few hours.

For the whole operation I was running 10 watts to extend battery life, and acheived some moderate distances, in addition to some QSOs around town, despite the antenna pointing away (even at 90 degrees off). The site for the morning was just a bit down from the main summit, on a mini-summit which had an alternate path around it, greatly reducing the traffic around me (but that didn’t stop some from letting a ya-ho loose from where I was…).

SL-004 Inwangsan on 20100710

Here’s a more “real” activation (still only 1 point, but the fact there wasn’t a rubberized two lane road going to the top somehow changes things!) on Inwangsan (인왕산) (Wikipedia reference)

Just barely squeaked by with 4 QSOs (it was at dinnertime and my antenna was polarized the wrong way)…it was a trial for the new antenna I just received that afternoon from DS1DAT made by DS1DFK.

I also discovered that there’s a fortress wall on top of this mountain, as well as a mini-military installation.  Emphasis on the mini.  Obviously no photos of that.  However, we do have some shots of the fortress renovations underway…

In the self portrait of me above you’ll note the “old” summit marker (“old” dates back to 1994, in this case).  New is, well, new, as in 2010.  Take note of the RFID component…

Good to know:  The mountain is more or less “closed” on Mondays and days following holidays to protect the nature and let it rest (and to kick out the partyers who overstay their welcome).  There is military there, so don’t be put off by the fences, barbed wire and cameras…That’s on the approach from Gyeongbukgung Station (which seems to be the main approach, but not that evident) as opposed to Muakjae Station (shorter ascent, harder to find trail head).

There will be a video in the future, of course.

73 de HL4/W2VLA/p1

HL/SL-009 남산 운용 –20100710

truly extreme SOTA here--out in the elementsSaturday morning stroll up Namsan–to make a leisurely 6 QSOs via HT with one S2S with DS1DAT who was with DS1DFK activating HL/SL-002 Gwanaksan. Namsan is popularly known as the site of the N-Tower.

A video will be uploaded shortly–stay tuned!


20100701 – HL SOTA 첫날, JB-208 새만금 월영산 198m

It’s official! After months of work, HL SOTA is finally online! To celebrate the fact, I went out first thing Thursday morning, July 1, to conduct an official, first activation. Fate would have it that 0000 UTC is 0900 KST, so activators getting in line for the “first activation” really had no trouble being up for the occasion to make it truly the first.

I decided to go out to Weolyeongsan on the Saemangeum, but as I didn’t know the area very well, had gone out for reconnaissance the day before to look for the trail. Here are some stills: (got no stills for the actual activation, only a movie which will soon be out).

You can also see that I happened to catch them draining the Seawall, and can somewhat see it (the actual day of activation, nothing could be seen it was so foggy!)

After having a QSO with DS1SED/p4, he managed to convince me to go for lunch (I was planning on two other activations in the area, but things weren’t biting and my main battery was dead, so that was abandoned).

We met up in Iksan, grabbed some extra supplies and headed towards Mireuksan. We took the KT access road up to the antenna site, then walked the rest of the way to the summit. I cooked up some ramyeon while he set up his yagi. We quickly ate then proceded to make three (only!) contacts. Needless to say, the summit wasn’t activated, but chasers still get points.

Since I had to be at work (it was a Thursday, after all!) we had to quickly break down and leave. We’ll be back again, that’s for sure….

20100425 JB-201 함라산 Expedition

I decided to take a break from databasing this Sunday and go out for an investigative walk on a hill I’ve never been on before to collect some information. Hamnasan is a longish mountain that is part of a longer piece of stone running along an approximately north-south axis to the west of Iksan. The Geum River runs parallel to it, and as a matter of fact, further upstream, it has managed to cut its way through this rock. The linear trail forms the “Iksan Circumferential Road” because of its length along the ridgeline. In English, it’s not such a romantic name as “익산둘레길,” but that doesn’t stop it from being a pleasant walk.

This particular morning that I went, sun was already beating through the leafless trees, producing a dry warmth and baking the pine needles at the same time to create nice wafting drafts of pine scent. As up here the cherry trees were still blossoming, it was an interesting experience to pass under any cherry tree and almost feel a throbbing in the air–from the swarms of bees in the trees! It’s at a lower frequency than the locusts, but just as strong! At the actual recognized summit of Hamnasan at 241m, there are two _very_ large cherry trees not far from the helipad, and from the vibration in the air it almost felt as if there could be a helicopter landing, it was so impressive!

The linear 익산둘레길 is traversed by miscelleneous other trails, notably at 숭림사 temple, giving access to the trail, another access at the Yul pass (율재) where the 723 passes over (through). I say through, because recently (about 5 or 6 years ago), construction was completed on the 숭림사 생태통로 which is actually a “wildlife bridge” built over the 723 (they tunnelized the road at that point) to allow wildlife to pass safely over the carroserie. This is a main point of access to the trail, as convenient parking was built at this site at the same time, also there is a bus from Iksan that stops here a few times a day (it’s a good hour’s ride from the university on that bus, whereas by car about 25 minutes, or even under an hour by bike from the edge of town).

Another point where the main trail is crossed is at another pass, giving a wide, well groomed trail descending in both directions down the mountain, towards the Geum River to the west and east downwards to Hamna-myeon village.

After that, the trail continues southward to Bonghwasan, at 236.3m it lies within the Activation Zone of Hamnasan.