Summits on the Air Expeditions in Korea

6 points

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!)

20121231-start-small-cropped

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.

20121231-summit_shot-boys-small-cropped

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

20130101-sunrise-small-cropped

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.

20130101-morning_camp-small

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.

20130101-ready2go-small-cropped

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…

20121231-GB-068-log

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HL/JB-027 샤티미 연셕샨!

The KMA does it again! The Tuesday morning hour-by-hour forecast had happy little suns all morning except for one hour when there was supposed to be a little rain. In fact, it was the exact opposite. At first it was sprinkling, but me, having checked the weather ahead of time, put off going up the trail until about 6:30. It was a constant drizzle until around the point on the map below where you see the track splitting off into a Y. From then onward, it was a full-fledged downpour! Upon arrival at an outcrop about 100m south to the summit it just stopped, giving me time to set up the 5 segment collinear and let my rain protection drip dry for a bit.

HL/JB-027 연석산 is located just to the west of HL/JB-017 운장산. Their proximity would make for a great double (or triple, if you include HL/JB-020 on the other side, there) activation, especially if you start a little higher up at Piam Pass, hit Unjangsan first (I believe the West Summit might actually be within the Activation Zone, maybe?), then mosey along the ridge down towards Yeonseoksan, to finish up around Yeonseoksa Temple on the 55.

This was a QRP activation, using only an HT with a LiPO pack to power it along I made some pretty good contacts, even down to Jeju! That made my day, especially not having to go at it with 50 watts like in the spring (from much closer to Jeju!) Otherwise the contacts were pretty much in line with what I can usually get (though not bad at all for a weekday morning). It wasn’t even half an hour that it started to rain again….time to break down!

Before making the actual descent, rather, on the way, I decided to verify the second AZ just to make sure it conforms with the rules, and well, it does. It’s not as spacious as the primary Activation Zone, but it isn’t too bad. I continued down along the way to make a tight loop while going down the same valley in which I came up, now once again, in the pouring rain.

I should mention that this valley has some fabulous chilling spots, from Madang Rock (Yard Rock, pictured above) to some swimming holes and water falls farther down, there are some nice nooks and crannies. If I weren’t already soaked to the bone by the time I made it back down I would’ve seriously considered taking a dip!


Sur le BS–pour 200 points!


For my first ever activation in Busan, and final activation for the long weekend, I chose to pick my fight with 금정산 HL/BS-001, the highest summit in the Busan metropolitan area. Activating this summit, Godangbong, pushed me over the 200-point mark–and it’s surprising how much more quickly that second batch of one hundred points seemed to pass by than the first one (though the time frame is roughly the same)!

고당봉 is located at the northern end of Geumjeong fortress, and I chose to access it via Beomeosa temple, first taxiing it up to the temple then catching the path there for the remaining 3 or so kilometers to the top, passing through the north gate, aptly named 北門. Skipping the bottom leg of the trail was partly because of time constraints as well as to not use all my energy before the next day’s (Sunday) ARDF event also being held at the fortress. I now know that this was a good move since down below it was much hotter, even as far up as the temple, but once I was about 200m higher than the temple the temperature was much more tolerable and fresher.

For the walk itself, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the particular reviewer who had covered this part of the “Busan experience” in the Lonely Planet Korea took, let’s say, a negative stance, basically dissing anything and everything about the mountain and surrounding fortress. While from my only previous experience of Busan I can’t say I gave the best evaluation of the city either, however when wandering around this area (for two days, at that! Including the ARDF on Sunday) I have to say that I liked the fortress, and found the facilities to be perfectly adequate. I was duly impressed by the city’s efforts at renovation, plus the “solar trail markers,” but I’m still trying to figure out why, exactly, they were solar (I wasn’t around late enough to see if they lit up or anything)… Maybe the person was expecting a cable car to the top, a kiddie train, and a changing of the guards enactment to videotape with a shaky hand never to watch again as grading criteria.

This was planned to be a VHF-only outing for a couple of reasons, one with the intention of a S2S contact with DS2NED on HL/CN-004 O-seosan, and also to make some local contacts in the area. Additionally, since it was a Saturday afternoon, chances were good that somebody else out and about on a mountain somewhere would have an HT turned on.


Upon arrival at the peak and photo shoot I set up the 2 segment mobile whip I was to use and set about scanning the dial, firstly looking for DS2NED. While scanning the lower segment of the 2m band (in SSB) I came across a signal, which was actually HL5BSS having a QSO in AM with someone else who I couldn’t hear–I tried to make contact but wasn’t too successful. Though that was an interesting experience. Moving back up again in FM, I came across NED‘s voice, and sure enough it was him, coming in 58 from the top of Oseosan. I got in line and had a quick contact with him before he took a break to have a bite to eat, said he could pick me up at about 57 over there. Not too bad, as it’s almost opposite ends of the country!

Over the next couple of hours I had a steady stream of contacts all around, west to Gimhae and Changwon, north over Ulsan and Gyeongju all the way up to Pohang and towards Daegu, not to mention down town with a bunch of locals. I also had some QSO’s with a bunch of OPs who I’d see on Sunday at the ARDF race, including a few who were out setting up the course around the fortress for the event in advance. I would’ve kept going but was already late for the planned dinner arrangements so had to cut things off at 6 o’clock (and the battery wasn’t near dead yet!) and head down the hill back into town…


Upon approach to the north gate in scaffolding, it was plain to see people were hard at work here. There was a caterpillar moving rocks up and down the wall to the east of the gate. On the other side (the inside) was the indication (on the right) indicating the phases of renovation that the fortress is undergoing (will undergo) until 2026 (that’s a ways away!). There was also a stone shop where they were cutting and chipping new stones for the fortress walls. It seemed as if they were using a rock saw for the basic shapes then chipping them down to size in addition to giving the blocks a more rustico appearance.

While at this workshop I got to see the “forest fire horse,” a man (ranger?) riding the trails on the horse sporting a “산불조심” emblazoned banner over its mane.


Taken from another sign whose image I couldn’t get to come out in the photo:

Its tip composed of a huge granite mass, this peak of Godang-bong was named after Gomo, a goddess of heaven, who according to a legend based on Taoism, came down here to become the goddess of the mountain (there is still a praying place called Gomodang near the very top). This is the highest of about ten peaks on Mt. Geumjeong with a huge dragonhead-shaped stone called Yongduam at its breast part and a shallow well called Godangsaem at its southern waist part. At its eastern waist part lies a spring called Geumsaem or Geumjeong [金井] (which literally means ‘a golden spring’). A legend says that a golden fish came down from the world of Brahma [梵天:Beomcheon] in a five-colored cloud and lived in the ‘golden spring.’ The names of the mountain (Geumjeonsan) and the temple (Beomeosa) originated from this legend.


경기-015 북한산–the Everland of mountains

Arriving at Bukhansan Fortress for the last 50 meters of ascent, I seriously felt like I was waiting in line for a ride at Everland–a long line of people snaking up (and down) the summit, inching along at intervals, to push past the protest monument at the summit and shoot a summit photo…yes, up to that point there had been many people on the trail, or rather, expressway, leading up the mountain. Just at the trail entrance where we entered, we let a group of 81 pass before weaseling out the geocache located there and signing the log.

Even though I brought the Yagi, I quickly discovered there wasn’t much real estate on the summit to put it together, so this was an HT only activation. It was my first activation using the newly acquired VX-6R, but man, that thing gets hot quickly! I had taken out the battery and was using the LiPO externally to power it, but it was still hot to handle, subsequently causing me to lose the PTT mid-transmission sometimes…had I been using a better antenna, I could’ve lowered the power (in my tests with the lower power settings, the signal reports were not good).

I managed to have a double eyeball at the summit itself, as is evidenced above, with DS2SHC (with whom I’ve made a S2S before, from Songnisan) and HL1IWZ. SHC happened to be at the bottom of the mountain and responded to one of my CQ calls, informing me he’d be up top within the hour. Additionally, I had two S2S contacts (both to GG-044!) with HL1KFB and DS1RRG.


20100807 CN-002 대둔산

Had a nice leisurely stroll (!) up Daedunsan early this morning (before the cable car was open) to find this modern monolith on the summit….





Squirrels On The Air? (yeah, I know it’s not a squirrel, but how could I resist?)




Looking North…