Summits on the Air Expeditions in Korea

4 points

경각산 surprise quickie

We love it when plant managers and presidents come to visit–that means no class! Taking advantage of the situation, I headed out to where the border of Wanju-gun and Imsil-gun lies atop HL/JB-087 Gyeonggaksan. I literally followed the border up the hill, as the highest trail head (310m) is located at 불재 (Fire(?) Pass) (35.72117°N & 127.14650°E). (There is a charcoal factory located there…)

Going up this trail is actually quite pleasant, no scrambling involved, not even really steep. You can reach the top in under an hour, dilly-dally time included. At the top, somebody dropped a big metal box with a camera sticking out of it (fire watch) adorned with oodles of ribbons.

I chose to activate in the old little watchtower, to catch a view as well as stay out of the breeze. (653m ASL, 35.72555°N & 127.16272°E) Actually, this stilted hut is quite a nice perk on this peak for winter activations.

Trying to travel light, yet nail this one, I took the FT-857 and the mobile whip…if the whip would be lacking, I could always crank up this rig to resolve any issues 😉

In total, I made five contacts, some closer, some farther (up to Boryeong, down to Jangseong), some being hard to come by, taking an hour before deciding to pack up after seeing one lone wanderer (the only one of the day).

Finally Moak–20101204

It’s the pre-Krampüs special:

모악산 is always there, whether or not you can see it off in the distance through the haze. I’ve been saving it in my “reserve” of closer summits for when I don’t have the time to stray too far away. It’s one of those more recognizable summits (like Maisan, or Mireuksan and the like). Some are easily identified by sheer height above the others, their isolation from the range, physical shape or man-made structures installed upon their summit(s).

HL/JB-048 Moaksan fits into a little bit of everything of the above: like Mount Mireuk it’s a tad-bit distanced from the others, it’s high (on the order of almost 800m, which it does actually hit if you are standing on the rooftop of the KBS broadcasting building on the summit), and it’s got big blocks of concrete and more antennas than you can shake a stick at.

True, these huge block structures are painted in camouflage, which by definition, has its purpose in trying to hide something or pretend it’s not there, but I’m sorry folks, even from 30 km (or more!) away across the plains I can see that pile of glowing equipment without my glasses. Need I mention I can’t always read the bottom three rows of those eye charts (which, just this very week I did, at the DMV in Jeonju).

So, with all that said, this was kind-of a last minute activation: I was (once again) at the DMV in Jeonju to pass their video-game-esque course test, when I thought I’d go out afterwards for a quickie one-pointer activation on one of the nearby summits, keeping it to one point while waiting for the winter bonus to kick in after next week for all things two points and above. There are some shorties just to the west of Moaksan on the order of 400m, and on my way to a no-namer, thought to myself “self, UK SOTA has its bonus period already starting this week, maybe ours does, too.” So, I pulled over, pulled out the ARM I have in the trunk to verify, and, d’oh! It does! Looking at the cloudless sky it took no more than ten seconds to decide on going to the eastern trail head on Moaksan instead of this little no-namer.

Wait. Stop press–this isn’t fair, even though it may not have a name a present, it doesn’t make it any less important. It is, after all, probably twice the height of Namsan in Seoul, though probably doesn’t see even 1% of the visitors Namsan does. Alas, we’ll give it a number, HL/JB-159. Great, now it’s nothing more than a number! Whatever, it won’t be happy until I personally go up there to find out if it has a name…

Anyways, I thought this’d be easy–on a day like today (I was in short sleeves from halfway up on the mountain, including summit), a Saturday, almost afternoon, it’ll be easy to get some good contacts. I was feeling especially perky, and even brought up the Yagi. Damned good thing I did! Up top, I couldn’t hear a thing. I called CQ with the HT for ten minutes from top of the KBS building, sent out some SMS spots, nothing. Completely illogical.

I decided to move over to 남봉, the southern summit with a helipad, less folks crawling around, more ease in setting up the Yagi, and still in the AZ at 775m. Moseyed on over there, at the same time finding out by text that DS1SED was also on his way up to the summit, as well as hearing on the phone that people could hear me–I just couldn’t hear them. Bizarre. Set up the antenna, and started calling.

During the next hour, only five QSOs were managed–all local. Switching over to the VX-170, I discovered that there was S2-S9 noise on most of the channels, and on some I could hear the TV/radio audio quite clearly. That’s my problem–it must’ve freaked out the V-6R or something. I found it odd I couldn’t even get DS4RDY–who’s always very overpowering and crystal clear…he evidently could hear me. So, QRM-wise, this is not a recommended radioing summit, except during a blackout–but then what would WX conditions be like up there? Plus, the site appears to have multiple generators…it doesn’t look like that’ll be happening too soon…

I broke down the setup at 3 PM, and took the ridge trail back down (slightly longer, and the windy conditions of that morning were gone). In the end, that little quickie turned out to eat up the whole day…either way, I can say I’ve done it now. With those QRM conditions up top, I’m not sure how eager I’ll be to go back too soon, though.

PS. Evidently, I truly wasn’t alone that day (I mean, besides looking at the full parking lot). In addition to DS1SED who was on 북봉, Ji-hun was on the summit no more than 30 minutes before me (strange we didn’t cross paths, but there are many parallel off-shoots and resting places) as well as geocacher hkbaik who placed a cache on the very trail I ascended…

20101127 JB-080

Yep, we’re in full-on preparation mode for Thanksgiving here, yet I managed to get out during the period where I wasn’t assigned any “shifts” 😉 as we’re doing the gig on Sunday (as opposed to Thursday, when we were in class).

Originally, we had tagged this one as a no-name, with an estimated elevation of 680m, however, after actually going out there, and researching beforehand this place has the appelation 서래봉 and an elevation of 700m or 703m, depending on who you ask. As a matter of fact, at the summit, there are two markers, one stating each elevation. Letting the GPSr settle on the ground for a good 20 minutes told me 703m. Also, the name isn’t the clearest, as a ways to the south at Naejangsan, is another Seoraebong, and during QSO I had to explain that I was at one and not the other when questioned why I was saying I was in Wanju-gun…

Getting out to the trailhead is a simple enough affair, going out to Bongdong, passing the Hite Beer factory, then heading up one of the numerous Tal towards Odo Pass, passing an O’s Gallery along the way (expensive coffee! extremely nice place & atmosphere). No time to stop today.

Shortly after, you’ll come across a fork in the road, take the right, and find a pullover to park (access may or may not be restricted–there are chain barriers at certain points, and is an access road for dam construction in this valley). It is at 35.90747°N & 127.23684°E.

After walking along this gravelled road 600m to 35.91184° N & 127.23430°E you’ll find the map sign (below) and actual trailhead. Note, there are a few different paths and aspects of approach, as well as other peaks and sights to see (including a mountain fortress on the south side of 되실산). It is here where the real path starts, but it’s clear where to go and well marked.

Just about at the top, there’s a mini-bong with a trail junction at 35.92421°N & 127.24051°E at 630m ASL, turn left here.

Now, to start off this activation, I had a tiny panic episode: I had wrapped up the LiPo battery in my change of clothes for on the summit A) to keep it warm, reducing the cold’s impact on its performance and B) as padding. Brilliant me in quickly unrolling my dry t-shirt watched as the battery gently rolled out of the shirt, thinking “nah, it’ll stop in a foot.” It didn’t. At first slowly, then ever so quickly did I observe its rapid acceleration as it headed down the summit (I was camped on the slope out of the wind), its bounces becoming ever more spaced as its speed increased, with nothing jumping in its way to stop it. Roughly 50 to 60m downhill it wedged itself between a rock and the ground…I wasn’t too happy about this by the time I made it down to fetch the battery, but things could be worse.

OK, I made it back up, set up the setup, and started piddling around, at first on 18MHz (dead), then 14MHz (not so dead, but not responsive), and finally 7MHz (very alive, but still not responsive). Couldn’t get any replies to CQing, and my answers to others weren’t heard (hearing a few Chinese stations, the usual many Japanese stations, and oddly enough, quite a few Korean stations!

First QSO to 것대산 with 6K0MF who I heard CQing while I was scanning 40m, so I decided to answer. It was our first QSO of the day for the both of us, with decent signal for the distance. Next up were two locals, OYX and RDY. However, that fourth contact was a bit elusive: the person later engaged in a QSO with OYX couldn’t hear me (could hear him well)–he was closer to me and in the shadows of the immediate mountains. Nobody heard my CQs and my HT battery was starting to run dry.

I already had one rain squall during the activation, and I could see another coming (plus the XYL had texted that there was thunder at the home QTH–in November! ugh…), so I needed to wrap this up quickly. I hooked up the buddistick’s whip with no coil and started adjusting for SWR on 2m, finding an acceptable match (it always is shorter than it seems it should be!). Called first at 20W–no takers. Upped it to 50W–aha! DS4GOC down in Gwanju–long time, no see, not since the fourth of July activation when I was down in Gwangju! What a lifesaver. Well, we had a quick QSO, then I packed up as the rain picked up–about 40m down the summit, I heard the clap of thunder not so far off…most of the descent was with heavy rain, most of it horizontal, except for the final 150m of descent. It’s nothing that couldn’t have been waited out, but it was getting a bit chilly.

All in all, just barely successful, and a pleasant ascent, none the less. I’ll be back in the area again. 73~

JB-058 만덕산 on 20100929

This was a primarily VHF expedition to Mandeoksan, though I had the intention to go to JB-081 to do some HF, time didn’t allow given the distance to get to that summit (although it was relatively close by).

It was a nice clear (still cloudy, but with high visibility) day, so I managed to get some good panorama shots:

View to the north:

View to the east:

View to the west:

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).

HL/JN-022 불태봉 Activation

Here are some details from Sunday’s activation.  QSL cards will be later inserted when they arrive…