2013. december 30.

Last activation of the year

The end of December was quite unexpected WX-wise this year, almost 20°C near Arad is indeed a surprise, but also allowed us for some hiking in the Zarand mountains in like early autumn conditions. Never would have thought that nearing the end of year I can hike in the circumstances as below (doesn't really look as my last YO/EC-145 and YO/EC-123 activation):
Following the red triangle in "mid-winter conditions"
Anyway, following a recap activation of the YO/WC-189 which is practically the same summit as YO/WC-034 I activated earlier this year, but was promoted to a 2 point summit in the meantime, the obvious next target was the highest summit of the Western Zarand mountains, YO/WC-024 (Hegyes) with its 800 meters rising well above the surrounding plains (of about 120m average altitude). Together with my brother started out to the mountain resort of Kaszolya (Căsoaia) at the foots of the summit, near the village of Székesaranyág. There is paved road in very good shape to the resort, from where we get to choose between two trails up to the summit: red triangle and yellow stripe. Both are very well marked, the red triangle following the ridgeline up to the summit, while the yellow stripe follows the valley until right below the summit, then ascends quickly up. We chose the former one (red triangle) just by random, but it turned out to be a good choice as it is the better trail of the two, almost entirely a large easy to follow and easy ascend along the ridgeline. Coming down I decided to check out also the yellow stripe, but that one is a really tough trail even on descent, well at least the last quarter near the summit, where it is very steep, and the trail also many fallen logs across so it is tedious work.
The summit is entirely covered with forest, but is marked with a large stone, so it is easy to find, and has enough room to rise an antenna.
YO/WC-024 summit
There is also another option to access the summit, and my brother was also maniac enough to explore, on can take the yellow triangle road from Solymos to Kaszolya and midway switch to red stripe which also leads up to the summit. It is about 16km long trail, but also very good shape, it took my brother 2 hours to get down on it (of course it is mostly downward, but a nice hike anyway). Here is a map of the two trails: (us going up, and the long way down):
The red triangle trail from Kaszolya to Hegyes (in red) and the red stripe combined with yellow triangle from Hegyes to Solymos (in green)

2013. december 7.

YO/EC-145 and YO/EC-123

End of November brought a chilly but otherwise very nice weather, so it was time for another activation in the Prahova valley. I chose the YO/EC-145 (Clăbucetul Taurului) and YO/EC-123 (Clăbucetul Azuga) near Azuga. The former one has many trails up from Azuga and from Predeal, however we tried another trail up starting from the fishing pond near Azuga, situated right between the to two summits. Initially I wanted to activate both summits in one day, but well I stayed too much on the first one, very good propagation, including my very first VK contact and exceptional panorama, made us to leave the other summit to the next weeked. This in the end proved to be a bad decision as next week the WX was all against us, and while we did manage to get up to the summit, I could barely qualify it using VHF before the intense snowing and the wind practically blew us down the mountain. As usual I have uploaded the photos to the G+ page so I will add here only the track we made both days:
Tracks up and down to YO/EC-145 and YO/EC-123
Looking again I think (especially summer time) they can be both activated in a day starting from the location where we parked and taking the direct route. We came down some alternative trails which had quick descents and then a long walk on the road, but it was just for fun (after we decided to do only one activation per day).

2013. november 24.


Just a quick recap, while I'm stranded at home due to bad weather (right now, when otherwise would be the best opportunity to some DX, but this is my luck as usual), so last time I was out on YO/EC-331, one of the many summits in Romania, which don't have any trail whatsoever to the summit and I think maybe sharing the way to access it can prove valuable to others in the area of Poiana and the summit YO/EC-011 (Keresztényhavas) one of the easiest and most activated summit to this point.
YO/EC-331 is not far away from Poiana towards Rozsnyó, and although it is rather hidden from average tourist it still can offer a quick nail of 6 points to anyone nearby. To get to the summit (assuming you got to Poiana from Brassó, just continue on the 1E road to Rozsnyó (Râșnov) right at the entrance to Poiana. After some descent the road goes through a saddle with a large opening and a few lodging houses called Poiana Cristianului.
Here is a photo of the lodge:
Pensiunea Poiana Cristianului with YO/EC-311 in the background
and another photo from across the road (taken in the dark when I was returning)
Pensiunea Petrișor
Anyway the summit is right behind the Poiana Cristianului house, in the middle of the previous photo. As you can see it is covered with woods and as I told you earlier there is no trail up to the summit. There are some tracks hovever starting from the left of the lodge which takes right were the forest begins. Looking back from there on can snap a very nice view of the Keresztényhavas, YO/EC-011:
YO/EC-011 and the ski resort below
From that point there is only one way: straight through the forest up to the summit. The climb is rather steep albeit a short one, and fortunately almost no undergrowth so it is still an easy summit I would say. At the top is a smaller plateau, but not too much clearing, still it is enough for erecting an antenna (I had the vertical with me, but I think the trees would offer also a good support for a dipole as well):
Activating YO/EC-311
 Overall it is a nice easy summit with about 30-40 minutes of walking up and 10 minutes down :)

2013. október 20.

YO/EC-312 and YO/MC-035

Yesterday was another great SOTA day, along with two friends first visited YO/EC-312 (Secăria) and Lake Paltinu then on the way back home made also a little detour to YO/MC-035 (Măgura Sultanului).
Secăria hill is situated between the village with the same name and Doftana valley on the western coast of Paltinu lake (a reservoir built on the Doftana river) accessible from the county road connecting Valea Doftanei with Comarnic. Coming from Brașov we took the obvious choice of going trough Comarnic and taking left to the 101S road towards Secăria. We actually found the road quite easily although there were no markings, it is mostly the only road to the left in Comarnic. However it turned out to be not the best choice, as it happened to be under serious working (I'm guessing communal water, maybe) anyway quite hard working even in saturday, andwe had to wait quite a bit and of course a road being digged up was not that easy to drive through. Except this the road to Secăria is in really good shape and hopefully when the working is done it will be a good drive all the way.
Driving along is also quite fun, lots of serpentines going up the ridge, then going down into Secăria village and after that again going up. The YO/EC-312 hill is at the other side of Secăria village, the road reaching it's highest point right under the summit, right next to some cell phone towers. There is also good spot for parking the car (on the photo taken from the summit you can also spot my car if you have good eyes - it's one of those darker pixels):
Phone towers
From there we can take the road going to the right which takes us directly to the summit. The road is actually deserving an old quarry, it even has markings of forbidden access but still it is pretty much a go, nothing much is left there sadly. The road to the summit is an easy 1.3km hike with about 150m altitude difference, so about a half an hour later we were already at the summit. The usual marking for the highest point is a few meters to the right of the road:
Summit stone
Of course a few photos on the summit before getting into action: here are my two companions with Paltinu lake in behind:
Fluky and Make
After the photo session, it was about time for some on the air action, setting up the antenna and turning on the radio. As it turned out there was quite a stir with lot of Jamboree stations in the air, so I had to find some unusual QRG upper in the band (20m) but after a quick self-spot (fortunately the phone towers from down the road were close enough for data connection) the big pile-up formed up almost instantly. I already forgot how good propagations can be on such clear summits. Initially I had quite hard time getting anything out of the madness, so again have to apologize if getting back so slowly to you. But things were calming down ok, except for the wind which was getting ever worse. Here is a pick of my shack on the summit with the antenna which was perfectly vertical so imagine the wind:
High winds bending the antenna
Fortunately the guying hold out firmly, so I had a chance for another big pile-up on 12m as well, I think the band is getting ever better with each activation I'm having, just hope the tendency holds on.
After about two hours on the summit, and running out chasers it was about time to pack, and also I didn't want my friends to wait just for nothing, they were really interested in the beginning, but the cold wind made everyone anxious. So took down the antenna, took some last photos from the summit:
Paltinu lake
Baiului mountains with Secăria in front
After we got down to the car, we headed to the other direction, continuing the road down to Valea Doftanei, and from there towards Câmpina, so we had a chance to visit the Paltinu lake from up close. The lake has some marvelous color, too bad I cannot reproduce it on photos but here are some tries:
Azure lake
The summit from where we came can also be seen (is the last one to the right):
YO/EC-313 seen from the coast of Paltinu lake
 And from a little bit away (it's the furthest behind):
Paltinu lake
 On the coast (which is also a good picnic site) we had some lunch, and also a curious guest:
 The road to Câmpina continues down next to the dam, it's quite impressive view from down below:
Paltinu dam
As we were early in the afternoon, and anyway arriving to Câmpina, we headed out towards east of Câmpina, through Poiana Câmpina and then Provița so we could make another visit to a SOTA summit, making a double activation (I'm getting to like these). This one however is a little bit more adventurous. The road to Provița is excellent in condition, and also from somewhere the middle of the village there is a bridge through the Provița river (also paved) taking us to Plaiu. Of course we first missed out, and only after consulting the GPS managed to get back. Up in Plaiu the paved road continues towards Sultanu but before exiting the village, we have to take right at about the third road. These are not paved any more, and we had to leave the car not too much away from the junction, continuing on foot. The good news is that the road exits from the village and continues along up to the summit. Here is a picture from where we exit the village, the summit is still quite far away:
YO/MC-035 in the distant
 It is bit long hike, about 3km and 350m altitude, took us about an hour walking before reaching the summit:
Up on YO/MC-035
It was a little bit late, so quickly set up, and of course immediately found SV3IEG/p on SV/ST-088 fighting through his pile-up, I also could barely manage to get through with a couple of s2s calls (it was actually another chaser, I think Don, G0RQL who alerted Dinos about me, so many thanks to him as well). After that moved up, and spotted myself to dive in quickly into the pile-up. We were in bit hurry, as the road was quite long and wanted to get to the car before sunset, so after about half an hour I called QRT (no 12m this time, and sorry for any other chaser who did not fit in). We did manage to get down to the car and still in the twilight to have some more adventures towards home. As it turned out we were continuing towards north from Provița instead of going back to Câmpina, to shorten our way to Brașov, however the paved road between Provița and Adunați actually misses itself by a couple of tens of meters, but between them is the river and the old carriage road through the riverbed. Having no other choice we also crossed through the riverbed, wasn't a too big challenge but anyway whoever wants another activation of YO/MC-035 I would advise taking the road from Câmpina and then back. After this intermezzo there was no other problem back home.
Thank you all the chasers for another pleasant SOTA trip, amongst them to S57MS and S52Q having also some multiple activations on their own (caught them both times), SV3IEG (mentioned earlier), DM1LE and DM7MM for the very nice S2S QSOs.

2013. október 13.

Double the stakes

For the second weekend, after the previous successful activation, another long aspired hill was on the list. Even better two summits, next to each other near the villages Bikfalva and Lisznyó. These summits are also right next to my way home, so always figured high on my list, and hardly could wait for the new ARM to kick in.
Let's start with YO/EC-386, Küszürűs-tető or Kövespont-tető, not exactly sure, above the village of Bikfalva, at the westernmost end of the Bodzafordulói mountain range. The trail start at the end of the village, next to the Mókus-panzió (also has a good parking space) with very clearly marked trail:
Trail markings
Initially the trail follows the red triangle, however later on a special marking for ruins in red also joins the trail. During the trail we touch some old ruins of watchout towers, here is the first one:
The ruins of Csigavár meaning "Snail Tower" received its name from the remains of what it seams a spiral staircase in the base of the tower. The red ruin marking at some point leaves the red triangle, but it's worth following it, as it shortcuts some road, and also goes right through the summit going towards other ruins on the other part of the hill. The red triangle avoids by left the summit so at some point has the left anyway.
The actual summit is just the very same forest with quite clean meadow, it is easy to find the geodetic stone:
Summit point
 and there is still enough space to rise the antenna:
Spot the antenna
Here's another clue (hope it's better)
Well after turning on the radio it was a real joy, I caught and extremely good propagation to western Europe, I hardly could face the pileup. Time flew like nothing, and I were nowhere near the end of the pileup. So when things started to calm down, I decided it was time to pack up, so I could catch the other summit before to late.
Going down I chose to leave the trail going south on an old carriage road
which took me to a nice clearing giving a very good view of Piliske summit (YO/EC-271), a summit I definitely have to visit in the near future:
From the ridgeline of the clearing another trail marking (blue triangle this time) can be joined taking down to the village right to the spot were we started.
Being a rainy season lately, lots of mushrooms were to be found in the forest, right at the trails also. Unfortunately I'm not an expert so I usually don't pick those (although I wish I new them, cause I bet there were some very fine ones among them). Still I definitely know this one is not edible, looks nice tough:
Fly agaric
After arriving to the car, I headed to my next target, Lisznyó, a village right north of Bikfalva. Above the village rises YO/EC-426, being the in the same mountain range with YO/EC-386, between them only with Lisznyó valley. A little bit north of the village, there is a country road, up to almost the top of the hill, in somewhat good shape, so a compact car can also go up in there.
At the end of road awaits a nice panorama of the Háromszék basin and most of the time also amateurs of different kind of sports but also requiring some hilltops:
Trying to take off
Fortunately the actual summit is about 60m above, so we don't mangle in each other business to much. From the point were I left the car it is nice easy walk to the summit along the ridgeline, right next to the edge of the forest. This edge is on the eastern half of the hill, and unfortunately the actual summit is right inside the forest, however out of the forest is almost level with the summit, well within the activation zone. I also sat well away from the forest to give me a nice clean takeoff angle especially to the west.
It was kinda late, sun started getting really low:
Shack on YO/EC-426
so I quickly tuned up the radio, and it was a mess on 20m: the scandinavian contest has started since and there was almost nowhere I could wedge in. So I moved on to 12m and voila: I had an almost fully fledged pileup, I never experienced the band so wide open, made quite a personal record on 12m QSO-s. When the situation was calming down I also looked around on other bands, to give chance to chasers not in the skip, even managed to get a piece on 20m as well.
At some point however I made a quick QRX to take some photos of the last glimpse of the sun:
Sun is going down behind the Fogaras mountains
Shack in the sunset
After that turned back to the radio to work the remaining chasers and eventually cutting short when the sky started turning like this:
Quickly packed up, and managed to get down to the car before getting to dark
Overall another really pleasant activation, even better a double activation, enjoyed every last moment of it.

2013. október 6.

First weekend after ARM extension

Of course I could simply not let the very first weekend of the new ARM version to go by without going to what is probably the easiest and the closest hill: Lempes. The newly designated YO/EC-428 was always tickling me as I was passing by whenever exiting the city, so it was a natural choice to be first in the long list of second generation activations.
The Lempes hill is just north of Brassó, it is the southern ending of the Barót mountain chain, being separated by this by the Olt river giving birth to a special fauna protection site with many rare plants and also a high diversity of animal life. It is also a popular touristic and camping site for locals.
An unmarked but very clear trail follows the entire ridge of the hill, from Szentpéter village to the county road linking Botfalu with Szászhermány. The latter point is closer to the summit, so I also take this road: right after the first big corner coming from Szászhermány is a good camping site to the left of the road, the ridge trail also starts from there.
Although unmarker, the trail is easy to follow in the clean forest lawn with very gentle slope:
In the woods
After about 20-30 minutes of hike we arrive to a nice clearing giving a good view to the Barca basin:
View of Brassó between the Nagykő (YO/EC-008) and Keresztény-havas(YO/EC-011)
From the clearing another 10 minutes is the hike to the proper summit. Of course we always be careful not to crush one of these beauties:
Violet blossom
At the summit we can find the remnants of an ancient fortress, mostly identifiable by the remnants of the moat encircling it. The whole summit area is covered with woods, not really helping the propagation, but exactly at the summit the forest is much rares, giving sufficient space to rise the antenna, on the other hand because of more sunlight getting it the meadow is bu contrast with up to here is rather dense.
Antenna at the summit (not too much clean space)
However propagation still was ok, I also could make myself comfortable sitting on a fallen log so everything was given for a perfect SOTA day. I even had some visitors on the nearby tree:
Curious on radiowaves
All an all I had a really great time, wonderful weather and nice pileup, even had some DX opening on 12m to NA crowning the first activation of the extended SOTA list.

2013. október 1.

ARM v2

Finally after long struggles we have an updated version of YO ARM. Isn't that just overwhelming:
851 summits in total. Woohoo!
Expect some increased activity from these lands

2013. szeptember 2.


While I was last week at Arad, I certainly could not stand without doing some SOTA activation, so I looked around the easiest summits in the area. After a failed attempt on the easiest one (YO/WC-033) it was time to check out the next easiest and the closest to Arad, namely YO/WC-033. This time I was also joined by my brother in visit also at Arad, so was a good time also to get out together somewhere. This summit, which is actually called Hidegkút / Fântâna Rece, is right next to the Schitul Feredeu monastery giving it a fairly easy access. Being an orthodox monastery it's not surprising that there is a very good asphalt road up to it, so we can drive up to almost 100m below the summit. At the monastery there is a good parking space, where we left the car, and continued on the road turning from asphalt to a mere a forest road (although in a very good shape also). After a few hundred meters on the road we found a nice trail to the left:
Trail to the summit to the left
As it was in the direction of the summit (the road actually goes around it) we checked it out and it proved to be a good choice as it took us right to the summit. The trail is unmarked, but very easy to follow, it may be pretty circulated.
After about a half an hour of climb we arrive at the top, which is marked with a concrete column, which is also a good place to attach the antenna. The whole summit is covered with forest, and in the area there is no larger clearing, so the summit is as good as it gets.
Fortunately for us it was still ok, after installing the antenna and turning on the radio I stumbled upon LA5WNA activating a summit in Norway, and he also came back almost instantly to the S2S call. After that I moved up in the frequency and after spotting myself a small pileup was building up for me as well. Thanks again for every chaser for looking out for me, certainly me working with 5W out of a pretty thick forest wasn't an easy pick for them. After the pileup ended on 20m, I also tried 12m but the band was completely dead and I also called in vain on 2m FM, nobody in YO2 area was near the radio. Overall it still was a good activation.
Here are a few more pics with me and my brother at the activation site:
Me calling CQ SOTA from YO/WC-034
My brother, very good help at holding the antenna :)
Summit shot of the expedition team
A last note about the summit: the actual peak is at 572m, however in the actual ARM it was miscalculated at 496m so it scores 1 point instead of 2 as it should. In the next version of the ARM this will be rectified, meaning the summit will be deleted and a new 2 pointer added instead. The position won't change however so the getting to the summit will remain the same also.

EDIT: as of 1st of october, the version 2 ARM kicked in, rendering YO/WC-034 inactive, the new reference for this being YO/WC-189. Let's see who gets it first.

EDIT2: on 27th of december I did another activation this time with the new reference, and also checked out some new bike trails that appeared since our last visit. Here is a track of what I think is the best approach to the summit: (cyan: with car up to the parking of the monastery, blue: hiking mostly on the largest and easiest tracks):

2013. március 24.


Madarasi Hargita - the holy mountain of the Székely people

Very expressive are the thoughts of the greatest Székely, Orbán Balázs in the description of the Hargita
"Here, touched by the greatness of nature, ascended above the nothings of the world, one can really feel close to God"
( the translation is made by me, the original phrase is "Istenhez hiszi magát közel a természet nagyszerűsége által meghatott, a világ semmiségei fölé emelkedett ember", I hope I got it close )

This mountain is in the center of Székely Land, in between the seats Gyergyó, Csík and Udvarhely, but one can catch a glimpse on Maros and Háromszék as well, so no wonder that this mountain plays such an ample role in the Székely folk literature. Throughout time on the top of the mountain the Székelys rise many monumental poles ("kopjafa" - carved wooden poles traditionally used by Székelys as funeral or memorial symbols), and many visit the mountain to pay tribute to the ancestors.

Of course since I got the SOTA fever I wanted to visit the summit and also do some activations from there.
Actually I already did it last year in the summer, but somehow between all the hiking and vacation time and everything I missed out to write about it, but at least here is a photo of last year activation with my antenna not far from the monumental poles I mentioned
A tribute to time and "frequency"
Anyway this weekend another chance to visit the mountain came up, when some of my friends planned a skiing trip to the base of the Madarasi summit. In recent years in the area of the Madarasi hut (some 200m down from the main summit) a skiing resort has started to build up (fortunately towards the other side of the mountain) with increasingly easier access. This also means that reaching the summit become relatively easy even in winter periods. Anyways we packed up and headed out to the mountain Saturday morning. There are two routes to reach the resort, one from Ivó (Izvoare) the other one from Szentegyháza (Vlăhița), both are forest roads, but the first one which was for long time the only access road is in worse shape, recommended only for 4x4 vehicles, the latter one on the other was recently improved and it is quite easy even for normal cars, even though in winter period snow chains are required. We of course took the Szentegyháza road (as its also closer to my hometown), which is a long boring road at the beginning, with the last part having some very steep and windy ascending portion, and because the fresh snow chains have to be put on. The weather wasn't on our side either with very thick fog and chilling wind covering up everything before us. Still it was okay for skiing, and in the pension we staying for the night was very warm.
I planned for a sunrise activation for Sunday, climbing to the summit before sunrise to take some nice pictures, but unfortunately the weather did not improve until the morning, the thick fog still covering the entire mountain I decided that it doesn't worth to go up in the dark if I can't make some good photos. Thus I was heading out 2 hours later than planned, still in thick fog but at least with light as well. Something like this:
Fog over the Madarasi
The trail to the summit is an easy one from the hut, in summertime is a well marked path (blue triangle), in the winter however all the markings are covered with snow. Fortunately due to the popularity of the summit there are always widely used tracks making it easy to follow even in fog. The ascent is about 45 minutes with 180m of elevation but no steep parts on it.
The bad weather continued while I arrived to the summit, with a chilling wind and on the more exposed parts with some slight to heavy snowdrifts. I had to find a spot a little bit down from the summit behind some group of pines where is was somewhat protected from the wind and dig into the snow for my "shack".
Started working on 20m, but in the beginning contacts were scarce, I did hear plenty of station around the band but none seemed to pick me up. And then in an instant the weather improved drastically, the fog all disappeared in no time  nice clear sky and sunshine offered me a great panorama around, and also contacts started to come in. The only inconvenient remained the cold (something between -20 to -10°C) which did get into me finally and decided it is time to go.
Of course not before taking some more photos, the weather now permitting some great scenery. Here is a couple of shots of my activation site:

Digged into the snow
I spent some more time taking pictures of the snow covered pines, which offer some really nice to really strange formations, here is one of my favorites (I call it "Dragon-rider")
Some more you can find as usual over here.
And for the end a panorama of the summit with all the monumental poles:
Madarasi Hargita
Overall it turned out to be a great day, really enjoyed the activation, and even though I had less contacts than usual, still had the satisfaction of contacting 2 new countries for me from SOTA summits: 9H and GD and of course all the nice chats with the already being regular chasers. Thanx to all of you for contacting me on this special summit for me, and hope to hear you soon from other great summits of YO land.