Summits on the Air Expeditions in Korea


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!

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!

Fivesome upon Five Peaks on the fifth


Literally “Five Peaks Mountain,” was our destination on Saturday for this joint activation. HL4GKR made the summit selection a few weeks back and we were accompanied by HL4GHT as well as HL4/DK4YO and his XYL to HL/JB-139. GKR was already familiar with the area around this specific mountain, and was actually activating last month on the fifth from here, giving us both S2S chaser points between the two.

(in the shot above, left to right: VLA / GHT / GKR / XYL / YO)

This peak falls right into the bottom of the two point bracket with a little over 510 meters in height. There literally are five different peaks, each accessible along the trail which runs down the Honam range. Due to this, there was actually a fair amount of traffic coming through. At the bottom we passed two tour coaches and on our way back down another one.

We took the most direct route up to the highest peak not passing by the others, which was about 3km long each way. With the exception of a few icy patches on north facing slopes the trail was in good condition after last weekend’s rains and the dry week following.

The first contact of the day was between HL4GKR on his HT and DS4OVT over in Gimje. We then started to set up the antennas (two: I brought both the 6 element yagi for VHF as well as the Buddistick for HF so we could have multiple OPs on at the same time) and boil the water for the ramen.

After eating lunch we were immediately on the air, GKR on 2m and I on 20m, me making the first four contacts in quick order (there was a contest going on) all from Japan, which is rather odd as I normally don’t hear Japanese stations on 20. I then gave up my post for others to play HF–many stations were heard, Colorado, Guam, Philippines, Australia and China, amongst others.

In the meantime, the others were chilling out on the summit in the warm sun and light breeze–the weather was better and warmer than down in the valley. GHT did a little bit of operating on 2m as well but didn’t activate.

After 3 hours on the summit and a couple of hours of operation at full power the batteries weren’t dead but we were thinking of descending before we were. I brought up a brand new 12Ah SLAB which supplied a good lot of time running HF at 100W.

At 3:30 we started heading down to find another bus load of people in the parking lot where we started: with three or four tables set up drinking makeoli and eating pork and raw manta ray. We were invited over for a cup and a bite to discover a bunch of them were also over here from Iksan, one guy even from Yeong Deung-dong. Actually, on the way up we met many Iksanites on the trail.

To conclude, everybody made it up and down, two of us activated and everybody had a pleasant time. We all piled into the car and headed back to Jeonju where we split off. There is talk of a summertime overnight activation in the air, though….

High: Frequencies & Paragliding 경각산 20110219

It was a foggy morning at a lone gas station…

Nope, it’s not the opening line to a scary story but the beginning of the day as we started out from Geumma to go down to HL/JB-087 Gyeonggaksan. Being the weekend with no classes lined up for the day and good propagation forecasts for 20m I prepared for an HF activation on this second visit to 경각산. I had briefly toyed with the idea of taking two cars since Ji-hun was coming along to do something different than a loop as this summit lies on the well established trail along the Honam Range, more A to B but rejected that in the end.

We started at Bul-jae Pass (310m) taking the trail I took last December up to the 660m summit operating from the stilted box out of the wind. My first priority was mounting the 20m buddistick vertical above the roofline of said box and arranging the counterpoise where it wouldn’t touch one of the many branches in the way. This was a delicate situation as the intermediary mounting on my broomstick had broken, being simply cast metal it was a bit brittle (not part of the buddipole kit–that’s strong plus it’s all machined and not cast).

Once I was up and running scanning 14MHz things looked pretty sparse, a couple of Russians, Chinese and an Indian calling CQ who faded out very quickly. Hmpf. I tried calling CQ at a few spots on the dial with no takers when I heard Chinese station BG2BLM calling CQ 1200km up north in the vicinity of Harbin. We had a nice QSO half in English half in Chinese and then I moved on to answer BH1JNE only to exchange calls but not complete the contact….

In the meantime, we saw many paragliders appearing about us, which for Gyeonggaksan is actually normal, elsewhere close to the summit is a prepared launch area popular with many. During the afternoon there were around fifteen or sixteen visible in the air, as you can see to the right (with HL/JB-048 Moaksan looming in the background). About half of the group was on 144.04, using a DS5 call which I only heard once the whole time and not completely. When calling no one responded. The others had radios also, but not on 2m…maybe FRS or something.

While looking around some more on 20m I heard a very clear voice in English, catching only the tail end of his CQ call–CCY. Quickly replying he came back but there was something up with my audio a bit though my signal was nice and strong, so I did manage a short contact with Bill ZS6CCY in South Africa–he had his antenna aimed long-path over South America towards Japan.

My last contact on 20m as the battery was dying was with JI1HAC in Chiba, a satellite city of Tokyo. Initially I started out with an unnecessarily high power of 100W with him, dropping to 50W then to 30W during our long QSO. Kindly he helped me with reports in correcting my audio “problem” where I hadn’t as of yet fiddled with the stock setting of 50 for the SSB mic gain on the FT-857, I lowered that to 30 greatly increasing readability.

With the LiPO off duty I swapped out antennas to the QBE‘s 2 section diamond whip for some 2m HT action with the VX-6. I proceeded to make three contacts locally ending with HL4GYT who ironically enough, appears to paraglide himself and frequents this very area. He informed me he was coming out the next day (Sunday) to Gyeonggaksan and would be on 144.240, his regular frequency for this activity. I’ll definitely see if I can hear him tomorrow!

In the meantime: the view on HL/JB-140 치마산.

GN-007 鷄冠峰 on 20101017

Alas, I’m back out in the wild again after a couple weeks’ worth repos–I went down to Hamyang to check out this less frequented ten pointer called Gyegwansan. This area is quite convenient for me, as just recently (at the end of 2007) this new section of highway 20 was opened–it goes right from Iksan IC (technically, Iksan JC, 2 km south of Iksan IC on the 25) down to the 35 at Jangsu, in the heart of the mountains, at the bottom of Deogyusan National Park, and likewise this area makes good apple country.

–utz! Not so quick, there! For a few reasons:

Finding the trail head wasn’t an easy task, in fact, going up, I didn’t find it. I was half following a deer track (with some recent prints), some gullies, and found an older marked path (white paint on trees) which may be what was on my older map on the gps…after about 200m of ascent (up to about 700/800m) I finally found “the real” trail, or at least, that which is most beaten and ribboned.

The other trail was passable, though slightly overgrown, and more difficult in some places (even though it ran 50-100m down the hill parallel to the beaten path). Maybe two minutes after getting on this main path, did I come across an older couple out looking for 산채, wild mountain veggies. They asked me why I was going up so early (it was already an hour after sunrise)…ahem, I almost didn’t make it down to the car before sunset!

As of April 7, 2009, Hamyang-gun (county) announces the change of Goaegwansan 괘관산(掛冠山) to Daebongsan 대봉산(大鳳山), additionally of Cheonhwangbong 천황봉(天皇峰) to Cheonwangbong 천왕봉(天王峰), and naming of the western peak as Gyegwanbong 계관봉(鷄冠峰).

This is to reflect locally familiar names to this mountain and its peaks, as well as nomenclature of Korean origins, whereas Goaegwansan and Cheonhwangbong were assigned during Japanese colonial rule, Cheonhwang 천황 giving hommage to the Japanese Emperor, as opposed to Cheonwang 천왕 to the Korean. Gyegwanbong refers to the shape of the mountain’s profile which resembles a chicken’s crop.

국토지리정보원 제2009-239호

함양군 병곡면사무소 (Tel: 960-5611)

月星峯 CN-012 20100916

The rest is downhill as they say, or is that “downhump?” Going out for this early, cloudless, blue-skyed, morning activation, has put me at the 58% percentile in terms of activator scores (Weolseongbong adding 4 points to my previous 37, giving 41 points). I haven’t calculated it that much, since this has only started a few months ago. My aim is 100 points before Christmas, which should be perfectly doable, and looking at such a time frame, it actually ensures that all the summits contributing to it will be unique (except, of course, for those which I activate without making the requisite 4 QSOs subsequently adding ZERO points to my roster–and that depends on whether or not I go back at a later date to collect…)

Morning view of Mireuksan, from 바량산.
My only real grudge with this particular expedition was the timing: there happen to be many ameliorations in progress on this mountain, including signage upgrades.
Shrooms On The Air
Along 90% of the routes, there are these beautiful, shiny, new aluminum sign posts installed at all the intersections, with no signs on them! Only one on top, and one at the bottom. All of the older signs (except at the summit itself) have already been uprooted, so at a few points it really was an empty slate, and took a few wrong turns on the way up (longer trail than planned, but less of a steep incline).

Things were pretty quiet, and I saw only three other women, hiking together, this morning. More or less I had the place (with its _huge_mama_ helipad) to myself, and took advantage of this to piddle around, changing antennas and whatnot. I tried 20m & 40m to no avail, there weren’t many signals, and on 20 some guy ate up half the band with some kind of broadband data signal–and it was an extremely strong signal (S9+). So, the activation was acheived by 100% 2m QSOs, though on the fourth or fifth contact my SWR, all of a sudden, shot through the roof. With DS4OVT on the line, I had to switch mid-QSO over to HT, and made a few more contacts on that (even to Buan! with just the duckie antenna!).

By noon, I was all packed up, and started down. I took the trail that I wanted to take up down, ending up at 법계사. It was much steeper and rockier, but got me down fast (with the exception of finding the car, once again, at the bottom).

20100904 on CN-005 진악산

It’s September, and what does that mean? It means it’s time for the Ginseng Festival! So, we said we wouldn’t miss it again this year (we haven’t gone yet) and went, not without doing an activation beforehand on Jinaksan, overlooking Geumsan.

After yesterday’s activation on Cheonhosan JB-140, I was wondering what was up with the 40m out on my rig. So I did some tests with DS4QBE and DS4PQV, and turns out there is nothing wrong. Good! I’ll try again on this next activation, I thought.

Up on the summit, I set up, right by the fire services repeater (only place where I could get just a bit of shade right on top, since everything was trimmed well (due to the Helipad). 40m was relatively quiet, noisewise, and the signals were good. I tried calling CQ, even with spots, no takers. I tried responding to other calls, didn’t work either. So, I retuned the antenna for 20m and had at that.

I relatively quickly (after wasting about an hour on 40m) made four contacts, that is there were about only four stations (that could hear me) on 20m. There was an “All Asia” contest going on, so everybody was exchanging their ages ( as per their rules). First contact was to Taiwan, and the other three were all Russian stations. Got good signal reports on all of them. At this point, the XYL wanted to start heading back down the mountain, so as she left, I started to pack up the HF operation. During that time, I made one QRPp 500mW contact with a friend of a friend, who happened to be at the festival, in town. I tried looking for him later on, but he had gone to another part of town when we were at the festival. Afterwards, I couldn’t make any more contacts on 2m, so decided to head down myself.

All in all, a good activation, with a pleasant drive over and through 운일암 반일암 (rocks in a creek).

20100903 on JB-140 천호산

It’s HF testing season! I finally tuned my Buddistick this week, and decided to try it out in the wild, on Cheonhosan.

While conditions were noisy, and I could hear some strong stations, nobody could hear me. So, I retuned and switched to 20m and almost immediately made a contact in China.

I didn’t quite like the high SWR readout on 20m with my quick tuning, so moved to 2m and got four local contacts (just using a vertical, today).

The mountain was interesting, with the remnants of a stone fortress up top. Cozy trails, and didn’t see a single person. Though, could hear the continuous fire of machine guns from the training facility in Nonsan (when you’re high up, you hear everything).