Summits on the Air Expeditions in Korea


Bringing in 2013…

HL4ZFA / 익순 / 6K5ZLH / DS1OUY
(HL4ZFA / 익순 / 6K5ZLH / DS1OUY)

After a bit of run-around, incurring numerous delays (none resultant of my actions–we had actually arrived in Daegu for lunch at 11:59 AM!), we were at the trail head parking lot below 지남문 Gate of HL/GB-068 가산산성 Gasan Mountain Fortress, 익순 (무햄) and I. The event: New Year’s overnight activation, double points, risking life and limb out in the elements….eh, in the time that we were waiting in the parking lot, in the car, each time we opened a car door and the wind took away the heat, we questioned, “why, again?”

가산산성 지남문

Before actually getting on the road, I flexed my , exercised my seniority, that is, on 익순. Last time I went on an overnighter with him in tow (fall 2011, JN-001 Nogodan & JB-001 Banyabong) his pack was totally QRO, the thing must’ve weighed 25kg…well you can imagine the results of such folly.

As it was still daylight, I didn’t need to take out my flashlight to interrogate him on whether or not he needed to bring this or that: this tent here? we’re only five and we’ve already got two. Out with you! (Every morning he curses the condensation that collects on the interior of that shelter. Well, that next morning, he would not. Besides, upon arriving at the summit later on, I discovered that somebody else did bring a third tent!)

A full kitchen mess kit? Dude! We’re boiling water to reheat vacuum packed meals and making ramen–be gone you useless mini-pots!

First aid kit, splints, gauze up the wazoo, aerosol cans of something or other, and a bottle of alcohol. Me: “Do you know how to make a splint?” Him: “….no” Me: “버려!”

A second, heavy cast aluminum hand flashlight. “Why?” “Emergency” “Look, we’re five, with five lights–I don’t think all of them are going to die in the next 24 hours unless we get Blair Witched.”

And so it went on, until he was under 15kg–victory! (For now!)


So, we get to Jinam Gate, wait for the others. One was already here, somewhere. Somewhere being over another pass to the west at another trail head. ZLH and OUY still heading up to us. Get a call, “we’re here–where are you?” “We’re here, where are you?” Ah, they were a little higher up, right at the trail head (no advertised parking). Quick, QSY to that QTH.


Get bags ready while waiting for the final member of our team, divvy up the food supplies, anybody need anything else? OK, quick cup of hot coffee–“1, 2, 3: kimchi!” Let’s go.

The trail going up is actually quite pleasant, no steep inclines, actually, most of it is passable with motor vehicle. Despite the moon not having risen yet (was to right upon starting camp setup), the starshine and city lights combined with a snow covered terrain didn’t require our personal lighting to safely navigate along the trail–it was quite pleasant. Note: this primarily works for the ascent since your back is to the lights, whereas heading back down at night the lights are in your eyes and inhibit your night vision ㅠㅠ


By the time you get up towards 중문 the carriageway goes away, and a bit further up, though not difficult, poses just a tad more inconvenience because you’re back out in the wind, and your nicely packed base is covered in drifts–this was only the last 2 or 3 hundred meters, though.

As you can see, we make it to the top, take a couple of snap shots, and head down right below the ridge to set up camp within the activation zone, as the next day was a contest day with the goal of extended operation, we’d want to do it in comfort, right? The wider, grassy clearing was too chilly to use, so we spent a bit of futzing around with ground cloth configurations in this smaller space between the trees.

Once that was out of the way, most were hungry as the evening wore on–luckily we had an extra burner since even though I made the extra effort to keep a gas canister warm, my burner seemed to had frozen or blocked up after an initial flame for a few seconds. Nothing coming out–nada.

With “cooking” underway the antennas (HF & VHF) were successfully erected, with low SWR, and after sausages and noodles, there wasn’t much sense in jumping up and down in place outside….for me, anyways, so I retired to my quarters and started listening to the bands.

Band conditions were not in good shape, even for receiving, so I gave up at around midnight–preferring to save battery power for the morning. 2m was fairly dead, too, and DS1OUY was working that as it was…..just a bit close in proximity to co-operate.

We all slept fairly late, or even if it wasn’t sleeping, stayed in late enough, until 7:30 for the most part. There was the sunrise (see illustration to the right). I was not intent on seeing it–WX was much, much windier than the night before ( = colder), and starting to snow again, but leaving enough in the clear for the sun to poke through at the beginning of the year. Moreover, once you start that in and out 갔다왔다 갔다왔다 you lose all of your nice heat.

No thanks. Not interested. Got at least three more hours of operation left (to make at least four contacts before and an additional four after 9:00, read: midnight UTC).

Click here for the GPS log!

ZLH already had his 2012 points for Gasan, so it was just me working 2m and 40m until 9 o’clock, to cash in.


9 came and went, I gave him the mic at 9:01 for him to start CQing anew. For almost 15 minutes. Nobody.

“Gimme that thing.” I called and almost immediately got 6K5ZFU. Too bad.

“Now our comrades are cold.”

“Eh? Duh, it’s winter.”

“They wanna go.”

“F-me. We haven’t even activated yet, neither have they. I’m OK.” (I’m still in my sleeping bag 😉

아이구. Such an anti-climax after all the hubbub involved with driving over, the hike, waiting through the night, and then this. Whatever, we’ll just have to go back later to take care of business.


Evidently somebody had reduced control over their personal climate during the night because of a missing layer with insulative properties that belonged between a certain sleeping bag and a snow covered, frozen ground. I did double (triple) check at the cars before to see if anyone needed anything. Hey, I even had a second thermarest in my trunk. Foo foo. Can’t dispense TP for the whole globe now, can I?

Packing up went fairly well and quickly–departure, leading to descent, eventually below the ridge and out of the wind, corpses were once again warmed and more relaxed. In the end, even after leaving “early” and not taking too much time in getting down, we had to be back to amazing Iksan sooner than later, so lunch with the locals at the base was not an option.

Perhaps next time. I still don’t have those points for this year, after all…



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.


Another 74 in 24

You know you’re in a farming town when you’re out in the street at 5:30 am and you see more people out than you’d see at lunchtime…folks milling about, rambling down the street on their tractors, etc. Sangju decidedly has two crowds: the locals and everybody else (tourists and whatnot). I wouldn’t expect to see the others out of doors until after nine. In fact, my little tourista 😉 wasn’t up until ten, let alone out the door.

Sangju beach from the top of Geumsan

Anyways, I left the “Big Pine Motel” (sounds really redneck, eh? literally : 큰솔장) early to get a quick [unplanned] activation in at HL/GN-074 금산. The intention was to do this yesterday, but due to the holiday and everybody who was out, I couldn’t even get to the main parking lot, or even the ticket booth! Traffic jam at Geumsan! We just turned around. This morning, cruising up the road, I had the place all to myself, saw very few souls, and not until reaching the upper parking lot. That’s in fact the reason why this was set aside for a quickie not to get in the way of things too much: there’s a nice road leading up to a secondary parking lot at about 600m ASL.

Now, why a mountain would have a lot that high up is beyond me, but the Bori-am Hermitage there is quite the popular destination. I know, the engineer who planned the place with paved roads and parking lots should be shot as he clearly couldn’t bother to look up hermitage in the dictionary. The point is, it is still quite convenient to be able to get up that far and walk the last kilometer/ascend the last 100m if one is pressed for time. Moreover, I’m sure if one’s in the loop with one of the monks, you could probably get past the barriers and even closer.

Seeing the sign extolling the dangers of lightning (first time I’ve seen one of them around here) reminded me of our return to the warmer months, bringing with it mosquitos, spiderwebs and thunder bolts to chase you off of summits and foil activation plans…

Around 6:30 I arrive [very comfortably] at the summit, Mangdae, with a nice stone tower built to hold signal fires. Fun, as I was there to do some myself. Even though the weather wasn’t as clear as it was yesterday, I could see quite well down to Sangju, as well as to HL/GN-274 만운산 where yesterday’s activation was (view above).

I figured that since it was so early, VHF wouldn’t be my best bet to get contacts, so proceeded to set up the buddistick for 40m. Ironically enough, all of my QSOs, HF or otherwise, were domestic, starting off with DS1SED/4, we went through some tests going up to 100W and down to 5W where he could still copy me quite well though might night get many takers as I called CQ. I made one closer contact to Daegu at a full 100W as he had trouble copying me, then the rest of those I talked with at farther distances I had the luxury of going at only 20W with good reports all around.

Once eight o’clock rolled around and the summit activated on 7 MHz I decided to turn to VHF for the last portion of the activation before heading out, as the people were increasing in number and just maybe a smaller antenna would be less weird (who am I kidding, right?). I started calling CQ and had a steady stream of takers near and far (even YOP on one of his routes!) at varying power levels including DS4GQZ on the rooftop of his office with his HT in Suncheon and over to Busan, also.

During the course of the VHF portion of the activation I met one inactive ham on the summit, though hopefully he won’t be inactive for long! After packing up, I took a detour to check out the hermitage, then continue on my way out. The ride down was uneventful (brakes still good, low gear descent charged my SLAB 😉 but the traffic was already backed up at the ticket booth a good half mile.

Back at the Big Pine Motel I had my second cold shower of the stay (I had already mentioned this to the owner last night, it still wasn’t fixed/turned on/joke finished/whatever this morning but I stink/stank/stunk). Afterwards it wasn’t the first time I looked up the hill asking myself why we didn’t try overnighting at the 찜질방 in Sangju. Evidently we weren’t the only ones to be disappointed with Sangju’s Silver Beach. At least we saw goats, though! Also had an assemblage of sashimi for lunch up the road!

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.

Another new activator in HL!

At the last hamfest at Yonsei University I had the chance to meet HL2OLP, a new activator out in the hills of Korea. He’s been primarily activating on HF and CW in the Gyeonggi area around Seoul and Incheon.

He’s been making the rounds at HL/GG-094 삼성산 (Samseongsan), HL/IN-021 철마산 (Cheolmasan), HL/IN-006 계양산 (Gyeyangsan) and most recently HL/GG-015 북한산 (Bukhansan (Baekundae)) on April 20. Speaking of Bukhansan: DS2SHC will be operating from 백운대 on April 30 (this upcoming Saturday)–you can listen for him on 144.840 FM after 11 AM.

Chang-shin Kim(HL2OLP, 김창신) has so far contacted Korean stations as well as ops abroad, including: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

I look forward to having a S2S QSO with him in the near future! Good luck, Chang-shin!

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

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…