Summits on the Air Expeditions in Korea


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.

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!