Big weekend! Thanks to a spark from HL2OLP about a month back regarding an immediate goal of his to activate all 11 summits in the Seoul Metropolitan area (fairly reasonable), especially since after a year of SOTA in Korea they all haven’t been activated yet (one would think that region would be the first to be “ticked off the list” for most given the local demographic.
Me thought to myself that along the same lines why wouldn’t it be possible to stick an activator on each of those eleven summits for an afternoon and make some QRM? Well, the idea took off, and while we didn’t fill up the region 100% we did create quite a racket!
We lost a couple of activators at the very last minute due to a quick date change (rain was scheduled for Sunday the 3rd, so we moved back one day to beat it), but there were also a few random appearances on the hills (not necessarily all in Seoul) but welcome none the less.
Another fun facet of such an event is the points potential, for everybody, not only a wide selection of activators to work from home for the chasers but S2S galore–it was basically a big party on the air–hell, even the cops came! DS1DAT was asked to leave the premises by the military police on HL/SL-004 Inwangsan (military area, open to the public six days a week). That’s pretty much a crap-shoot–nobody bothered me last year when I set up a big honkin’ Yagi up there in the evening (delivered that very same afternoon by DAT himself!).
I chose from the leftovers HL/SL-003 용마산 to activate with F4AAR Laurent–a hill which I had had yet to visit, not terribly low (though low enough to bring full QRO gear). F4AAR brought his newly acquired toy, an SDR radio (a Flex 1500) to do some testing in a hopefully less noisy environment than his flat.
We did have a decent party going on up there, a bunch QSOs in three languages, loads of S2S action, a bottle of red, a freshly made liver mousse as well as some garlic flavored frischkaese. Even though the kit was QRO, the majority of contacts were QRP, thanks to the 5 segment colinnear, we were reaching over into Gangwon-do and down into Chungcheonnam-do.
2차 was happening downtown at a nice charcoal grilled 닭갈비 place (friend’s resto) where propoganda and awards were given out to the top contact makers who showed up–a special edition SOTA hanji pencil cup designed and executed by N5ATY. DS1RDJ took the cake for the top activator (some might imply she has an unfair advantage, all the guys wanting to get a QSO with her….;) with HL1KFB coming in second of those at the restaurant.
After filling up there, we headed through a park and over to a beer joint for 3차, where the imbibing continued on well on after we had to go to catch our (almost last) bus back down to Iksan.
The consensus is that the event was a success, with a lot of people having a lot of fun, likewise with the meet-up afterwards to see all the various activators’ faces in person in one place. It’s safe to say that this will become an annual tradition every year in July for the HL SOTA Association’s birthday! See you next year on the air in Seoul! (Actually, probably much sooner than that…!)
What a full day! Taking the first and last buses to make three appointments around town, morning, noon and night–who says there isn’t any time to fit an activation in there, somewhere. Four hour window? No problem.
Taking the metro from 신도림 over to Seoul National University, I started on my merry little way, goal: HL/SL-002 Gwanaksan. This way takes you up the western slope, dotted with boulders, and on this dry day was actually quite fun to climb! I’m not sure I’d like to go down via the same route, but it was a fun ascent.
As it’s a bit less travelled, finding the trail head took a bit of a walk, but upon finding it there were no problems. It’s necessary to go almost all the way to the southern end of the campus, going up the Tal, seeing those college-esque sights so common on a Saturday afternoon–banners being painted, bands sound-checking for some performance that evening, though didn’t see any books cracked open on the quad. Those photographers must be very skilled to catch Homo studentis in that habitat…
Arriving at the summit, with weather radars and broadcasting equipment occupying the site, I had to search a bit to find an ideal transmitting location of my own “in the shade.” I finally settled upon a spot just 30 seconds down from the summit on the north side, off the path and under a big rock. QRM down below S3…good enough.
Travelling light and principally with other objectives for the day in mind, I only had an HT, but is certainly doable in the Seoul Metro area. I made seven contacts, easily enough, before realizing what the time was and starting my descent to meet my next rendez-vous for supper before finally heading back down to Jeonbuk. More interestingly, I’d be seeing three of those seven contacts in the upcoming weeks!
I thought I was descending towards the north where there was a subway station at the end of the ridge, but I actually was going east, going together with another group. The path was much wider and worn than that of the one I took up, I was at least halfway down before I needed auxiliary lighting to see, listening to the evening ceremony sounds of the temple on the opposing slope. This path took me right down to Gwacheon station, from which it’s a short ride with only one transfer to get to the Express Bus Terminal. Nice.
So, you say, he definitely didn’t get a full night’s sleep–it was after midnight when he arrived back in town, right? Then there was a taxi ride across the city from Seoul Station over to Dongdaemun, and a few hours snoozing on the floor in the motel room (we sqeeze all that we can in there!)…
Well, let’s just leave it that after getting up and out, bustling over to Central City terminal to lock up the bags for the day and get some tickets for back home, back over to Myeong-dong/Namdaemun market, this time, I was still itching to walk about the park instead of the market with nothing specific to buy this Memorial day holiday.
What’s there to do in the neighborhood? Grab a bottle of water and head up to HL/SL-009 Namsan, bypassing the crowds waiting for the cable car and jetting up the steps. After all, it’s been just about a year (minus a month) since I’d last been around on this one pointer.
Once on the “summit” there are crowds and whatever you’d expect to see on a weekend, so I went slightly to the east to have just a wee bit of space to make some contacts. I must mention at this point, one of the ulterior motives for this 미니산행 was that DS1SLM was up activating HL/SL-001 도봉산 so I thought I’d oblige, give him some points while gathering some of my own…
In coordinating with SLM getting the contact was proving to be on the difficult side, in fact he claimed he could copy me quite well, though I could just barely receive him (we were both operating via HT). After a while, it dawned on me that my receiver was being overloaded from the broadcast tower, which Namsan is. Proceed to find a better place downhill, behind some object to provide some RF “shade”…this was hard, I was putzing around behind trees, stone walls and the like, when almost giving up, I tried heading back up the hill to under the tower.
Last year, without thinking, we simply sat down in the shade with some cold drinks (thanks, Zoom!) in the terrace café under the N-Tower, overlooking the city, the river, up to HL/SL-002 관악산, etc. Duh, we were perfectly in RF shade, directly under the antenna firing out horizontally. QRM was at peak S3, but mostly S0.
It was from this QTH that I had my final activating QSO with DS1PRD, across the river, discovering that he’s actually from the Iksan area! After that, I gave a few more CQs at 1W with no response before the battery was fully dead (remember that ultra-long hike yesterday?).
I’ve never really had the time to piddle around Namsan Park (still haven’t), so decided I’d descend via a different route, going more to the east to take the rubberized road down (the first time I took it, I went the wrong way). To this point, I still haven’t figured it out, actually. It’s not straight up or down, there are maps prominently posted along the way, but half of them in braille, not even any Korean side by side. In the end, I took a nice “short cut” of wooden stairs cutting through a ravine leading down through the trees.
This wasn’t before first paying a visit to the geographical center of Seoul, conveniently located smack-dab on top of the city’s mountain. Depending on who you ask, it could very well be the center of the universe ;p
In addition to the cable car, another means of transportation to the top is a fleet of electric buses which happen to have a charging station located a few hundred meters down summit.
Alas, a good way to unwind the rest of the way at the end of a three day weekend. Though, in all seriousness, my recommendation to future activators is just to chill on the terrace in the shade for a leisurely “armchair activation.”
Activating HL/GW-001 설악산 on June 5, 2011 was an endeavor that took about 25 hours. HL1KKC and his Korea QRP club arranged this trip, last time having done it in 2007. After having trucked up to Seoul and meeting 6K5ZLH (who also had to find his way up to the Special City), grilling and eating some porcine flesh on the sidewalk with N5ATY, we took the subway to the other end of Seoul to meet the others at 11 PM and hop on their bus that they had out for the excursion. It was well arranged, we arrived and literally thirty seconds later it was like “here’s your beer, the meat’s on the bus, hop on and grab a seat.”
You’ll note that the departure time was quite late–that being because our hike started quite early: 3 AM. We arrived at the Hangyeryeong Rest Area sometime around 2 o’clock to eat and get ready (this wasn’t our point of departure, rather our final arrival point later on that day). The place was crawling. No place to park, the food stands open and running, the bathrooms steaming, traffic not flowing, really. It was hopping more than those huge pullovers next to eight lanes of traffic at the same time!
We got back into the bus and started on our descent to O-saek Yaksu (it is lower) twisting and curving along the road until hitting this other “rest area” though not the area proper. There was a good quantity of people milling about, and even though it wasn’t quite three o’clock yet, the trail was open and one could just barely see the lights bobbing up the hill in the trees.
The way up was actually quite normal, just a bit longer (it is a trot up to the top, there!), we took a couple of short breaks on the way up, and upon arriving just below the summit at maybe a quarter to seven, out of the wind and waiting for the rest of the group, HL1WOU already already had a slim jim thrown up into a tree and was making 59 QSOs to Seoul, 140km away with his HT. We had to wait out of the wind, because although we may had been hot at the bottom it was actually quite chilly (very chilly?) up on top!
At about ten after seven, we had everybody amassed together again, and set out to brave the crowd on the summit. This is seven AM, not New Year’s morning, and there’s a crowd. On top of Seoraksan, Daecheongbong, there are actually two markers. For each marker there are two lines: one for the photographers, one for the photographees, naturally the two lines advance at the same rate as you have things pre-arranged with your group. Hence the two summit shots above, and not necessarily with everybody coordinated together!
I chose “the sunny side” of the summit to set up initially, it was in fact sunnier, and a bit less breezy. I actually activated from that position, making my first four contacts of the day, including with Mr. SHC who was starting out on his way to that very same summit from a different point down below!
After these first QSOs, we decided to move more over to the westerly side of the summit, finding a rock from which to operate behind, out of the wind, a decent location for the antenna, also.
Much of activation was conducted using five watts, CQing at higher levels to break through people’s squelch at home–however, for those closer contacts that were more tucked into the hills the going was tough even at fifty watts (though almost 300km away to Iksan on five watts brought me a 55 report–that’s with no GP, no Yagi, just a two segment mobile whip!)…
6K5ZLH and I operated on and off until about half past eleven local time to both activate. We were graced by some visits, first DS1RZP, then DS2SHC. We then packed up and headed down to the shelter where HL1KKC and his crew were operating, getting lunch ready, eating or napping in the sun. While down there and catching up on the news, we found out that evidently a hiker who also took to the trail that morning didn’t make it up, having a heart attack on the trail (there are some warning signs at the more popular high peaks outlining the dangers, which are more present at the “must see” destinations that see a much broad range of skill sets attempting the trail). Actually, later on in the afternoon during the descent we saw another rescue helicopter out looking for somebody–not sure it’s increased risk or simply an increased quantity that shows the normal risks that exist at any time.
At one o’clock, after having taken the group shot below, we started our descent, rather, what I thought was to be our descent. Hangyeryeong is a few hundred meters higher up than Osaekyaksu, but the path there is still a good distance. There were a few times when we passed markers indicating our elevation was “currently” 1300 meters–wait, we’re supposed to be coming down from 1700 to 800, when’s it gonna happen? We had quite a few re-ascents right up until the end (I can’t say it wasn’t an interesting trail…some of the views were quite spectacular), then four hundred meters of drop all in the last (less than) two kilometers!
Though ZLH had so graciously offered to truck the 12AH SLAB both up and down, with the 857 and other equipment I was still eager to lose that heavy load, hence my lack of excitement when the reality of the “downhill” came about 😉
At the bottom after a nice cool head rinse, tea and re-hydration spirits were much higher again.
Eventually, everyone made it down (gravity happens) and the fully loaded bus started moving west, only to pause a while later once we got out of the mountains for the obligatory 닭갈비.
As for the rest of the trip, I don’t think much was remembered by anyone, as everybody was sleeping until we got to Seoul, dropped off by Seoul Station at half past midnight…such a late arrival wouldn’t even be enough to stop me from even a mini-activation the next day…
So then, at the last minute we planned a day trip up to Seoul for this second weekend of February: the XYL would do some foreign food supplies shopping and I would hopefully meet up with a friend or another and hit a summit not yet hit.
Well, it seemed all possible peeps who could have maybe accompanied were either busy or out of commission, as unfortunate as that sounds, it allowed me to push my limits a bit and try to tackle two summits while out this time. For the occasion I chose HL/GG-044 수락산 and neighboring HL/GG-084 불암산, both two pointers and qualifying for winter bonus. I was thinking of HL/SL-001 도봉산, which has been on my to-do list for a while but was hesitant with the temperature not wanting to dilly-dally too much on that summit to scrape up contacts since from the standpoint of the city, it’s in the “shadow” of HL/GG-015 북한산 a bit…
Saturday morning we hopped on the first bus out of Iksan at 5:30 rolling into Seoul around 8–we grabbed a quick breakfast then went our separate ways, there are a few trail heads I could start at and I chose the one ascending from Jangam Station which passes by 석림사 temple. It took almost an hour to get to that point, so started my walk at about quarter after ten.
After leaving 장암역 and passing through the small neighborhood across the street host to many temptations but not limited to steamed corn and 닭발, as well as basically “last chance for eisen or turn back” stands if you forgot yours.
Next on the tour is 노강서원 Academy followed by 석림산 Temple itself, where you can see this very statue on the left.
This is the point where the trail actually starts and you leave concrete. For this portion, it runs along the southern side of the valley (the north facing slope) which means it was actually quite slippery, there had been enough thaw to have some water flow outside the stream on the banks then refreeze, so extra caution was needed. As a matter of fact, there was an ice-climbing/ice ax lesson underway in the middle of the frozen stream–being conducted in English which I thought to be very interesting. After a while and the trail reverting back to the other side of the stream, the trail condition improved very much.
Now, I arrived at the summit at exactly noon, and it was fairly crowded, with many people having come up from other trails. An appropriate spot was scouted out after the obligatory stele shot, exposed yet out of the wind (there was almost a nest-like depression in the rock) and out of the way.
For both of the activations today I didn’t spot myself, instead relying on the population to support my cq calls–and for this first hour basically had a steady stream of contacts without having to revert much at all to the main calling channel, but switching once to the HL9 calling channel at 145.6 to dip my toes in that stream and have a QSO in English (weird!) 😉
At 1:30 (when I realized what time it was) I packed up quickly to get along to my next goal of the day, with the day’s supper appointment later on in mind. As I was weaving between the many rocks on top of this hill (they’re huge!) I started talking to the members of the 건실회 hiking club as I was taking a panorama photo of said rocks. We had a few laughs, took a few photos, then started heading down, later splitting paths as they descended and I continued along the ridge towards Bulamsan.
Continuing along the ridge with a gentle descent was pleasant enough, until I came to a fork where some others were coming up from the wrong way, I inquired as to which direction for my goal with them responding to go down their trail–well, Alice, it wasn’t the right one, but it did lead down to Heungguk-sa Temple with an impressive collection of statues. I then reascended and continued along the correct route, over the pass road and up 불암산.
Of course, this story wouldn’t be complete with something rolling down hill, so, on my way up to this summit I had paused for a snack (MRE “snack bread” in fact, a modern day “pilot biscuit”) and washing it down with some caffè corretto. However, as I stood up to move along, did I hear the metallic contact with rock as the thermos slipped out of the still open back pocket and down the path. Luckily there weren’t any human targets in its path, and I didn’t have to mosey too far down to fetch it.
Now the ascent from the northern slope of this summit can please or displease you depending on your personality, circumstance or time allotment. It was four o’clock as I crossed over the pass, with an hour of climb time, and then an hour and a half before sunset. This is one of those multi-bong climbs, where you think you’re reaching the summit and it turns out to be a minor summit, you go to the next and alas, it’s just another bong, and so on and so forth. When you’re watching the clock it isn’t the most pleasant surprise.
Finally, got to the last one, up the stairs to the pile of rocks on top and found a nice crevice where I could operate from out of the wind and have the antenna mounted higher up and exposed. I made it a point to make this activation short due to the light situation, rapidly got five contacts, packed up and re-descended. Below this major summit was a 막걸리 tent and as there were multiple routes and even two that go to two subway stops I asked about which stop to head towards, Danggogae or Janggye, with another person there who had just asked the same thing. Janggye was it so there was no hesitation as we [very] quickly departed.
Going down on the west side was much more convenient with no ice at all on the trail (sun exposure) and we had a chance to witness the sunset upon Bukhansan. We chatted along the way down but I had to forgo the 막걸리 at the bottom as it was already almost seven with another hour of subway ahead of me before I could even consider dinner 😦 but it was quite enjoyable. Next time, definitely. 73–
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.
Just barely squeaked by with 4 QSOs (it was at dinnertime and my antenna was polarized the wrong way)…it was a trial for the new antenna I just received that afternoon from DS1DAT made by DS1DFK.
I also discovered that there’s a fortress wall on top of this mountain, as well as a mini-military installation. Emphasis on the mini. Obviously no photos of that. However, we do have some shots of the fortress renovations underway…
In the self portrait of me above you’ll note the “old” summit marker (“old” dates back to 1994, in this case). New is, well, new, as in 2010. Take note of the RFID component…
Good to know: The mountain is more or less “closed” on Mondays and days following holidays to protect the nature and let it rest (and to kick out the partyers who overstay their welcome). There is military there, so don’t be put off by the fences, barbed wire and cameras…That’s on the approach from Gyeongbukgung Station (which seems to be the main approach, but not that evident) as opposed to Muakjae Station (shorter ascent, harder to find trail head).
There will be a video in the future, of course.
73 de HL4/W2VLA/p1