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