29 September 2015

YO SOTA Marathon 2015 - the story IV

This article is a sequel to YO SOTA Marathon 2015 - the story III.

 Day 5

 The night we spent at 2500m altitude was a true mountain experience - 11 people packed in one small room, and most of us didn't get enough sleep. At 06:00 we were already ready to go - mostly out of boredom since we couldn't sleep anymore anyway. Some of us (YO9IRF, YO6PSX, YO2BP, YO6PIB, HB9DST, YO9IPF) decided to go and activate YO/MC-008 Costila (10p) and the rest (YO2MSB, YO8SEP, PB2T, K2XYL) went ahead to Babele and took the cable car to Busteni, from where they drove to YO/EC-011 Postavaru (8p).

The path from YO/MC-006 to YO/MC-008, just follow the crest

The hike to YO/MC-008 is a short one - about one hour, but there are some steeper parts where you need to pay a bit of attention, and we needed to come back to YO/MC-006 in order to get to Babele and then to our cars in Pestera. Heading out there that early in the morning was a bit of a gamble, since we are 3 hours ahead of GMT the chances were the rest of Europe (and our chasers) weren't awake yet, but the weather forecast didn't look good for the day and we had a long hike and drive ahead of us so we had to get going.

Taking our time on the steep uphill

Finallly, when we arrive at the summit it starts to rain - cold, depressing, 2500m altitude rain. Paul HB9DST installed his 30m CW lightweight setup and Casaba was giving 20m SSB a try.

YO/HB9DST/P activating YO/MC-008 - you can see YO/MC-009 in distance
As expected, none of the two HF activators really had too much luck, Paul got just one QSO and Csaba got two. Luckily, the other team was still in range on YO/MC-006 and we got our 4 needed contacts each with them (also S2S !) via 2m, plus I managed to find YO5PQV/P on 2m who was in a touristic camping nearby. Of course, with our luck, as soon as we finished the activation the rain stopped, but the other team relayed some info from the guys at the Omu Weather Station on YO/MC-006 that it will rain again later in the day, so we had to hurry - we had a 4+h hike to Babele and then a 2-3h drive to the next summits.

At Babele we stopped a bit to regroup, and Paul took the chance to have his picture taken next to the Carpathian Sphinx.

Emblematic natural rock in the Bucegi mountains - the Carpathian Sphinx
From this point on we had to change the original plans: since we were coming down on the other side of the Babele plateau (our cars were there) we didn't have enough time to catch the cable car for YO/EC-011. We had the option to activate the 8-point YO/EC-086 Vanturisul wich was easily accessible from our route, but that meant we couldn't catch DJ713 open between 12:00-12:30 so we had to loose another few hours for the detour. So while the other team went ahead and activated YO/EC-011 and YO/EC-331, we decided for Fitifoiul YO/EC-241 (6p) and Piatra Arsa YO/EC-252 (6p), two easy summits that I already activated this year. Unfortunately, at this point Silviu YO6PSX had to part ways since he had a previous work engagement for the weekend.

Zoli YO2BP working CW from YO/EC-241
After some waiting in the Prahova Valley's infamous traffic, we got to the second summit of the day, YO/EC-241. The plan was to set up 3 stations on the summit: 30m CW, 20m SSB and 10m SSB, and as soon as we started setting up Florin YO9IPF realised the power cable was missing for his Yaesu FT-817 - the radio for the 20m SSB setup. Luckily this was a very easy summit and in less than 25 minutes he managed to go back to the car, get the cable and come back. In the meantime I got the spare internal FNB-85 battery from Csaba and powered the 20m SSB on 2.5W, and started hunting for S2S contacts. I managed to get 6 S2S contacts with 3 different summits on both 20m and 10m before Florin came back, then I left him and Petronel to activate the summit on 20m.

Petronel YO8SEP on YO/EC-241, at the 20m SSB station

While we were busy with getting the 20m SSB station on the air, Csaba YO6PIB was trying his best at 10m SSB. Once again 10m disappointed, he only managed to get 3 contacts, 2 of them being S2S with the other team on YO/EC-011.

Csaba YO6PIB trying his best on 10m SSB from YO/EC-241
Last summit for the day was YO/EC-252, and we only went with 30m CW and 20m SSB for this one; of course, we always used 2m FM both for keeping in touch with eachother and for local QSOs, but I didn't feel the need to mention that everytime. We had some problems spotting so I wandered a bit away from the summit to find better GSM signal for spotting to work, and also have my chaser contact with the guys still on the summit :).

Zoli YO2BP activating YO/EC-252
In the meantime the other team did a good job on YO/EC-011 and YO/EC-331, we had a few S2S with them via FM and we agreed to meet at the Himalaya camp. The camp is a heaven for the outdoors afficionado, rafting, mountain climbing, horseback riding or archery being just a few of the activities you can learn and practice here.

Himalaya camp, in a secluded but beautiful mountain area near Rasnov
This was Friday evening and (except Silviu YO6PSX) the whole team was present, so we had to have a proper celebratory dinner. Petrica YO9RIJ, vice-president of EURAO and representative of the Romanian Radio Club association (ARR) joined us and offered the two fresh mountain goats YO2BP and YO6PIB honorary flags that recognise they achievements. Traditional spicy barbequed sausages (courtesy of Petrica), various wine sortiments and heated talks among friends kept us awake well into the night.

HB9DST, YO6PIB, YO8SEP and YO9IPF above Poiana Brasov

For the last day, the plan was to join Paul HB9DST, Zoli YO2BP, Csaba YO6PIB, Petronel YO8SEP and Florin YO9IPF and activate YO/EC-011 and YO/EC-331, while Margreet K2XYL, Hans PB2T, Sorin YO2MSB and Adrian YO6HDF would go on and activate the summits we did the day before. As I was feeling a bit tired after the previous night (=hungover) and had to drive 200km back home the same day, I decided to postone those summits for the winter bonus season and get some more rest.

Getting right to the top of YO/EC-011

The rest of the guys went on to YO/EC-011 Postavaru (8p) first:

Florin YO9IPF trying to blend in
HB9DST's antenna overlooking the surroundings
After this summit, Petronel YO8SEP had to part ways with the rest of the team as he had a bus to catch and a long way home, and Florin YO9IPF offered to drop him off, leaving the activation of YO/EC-331 in the hands of Paul HB9DST, Zoli YO2BP and Csaba YO6PIB. Back at the Himalaya camp, I chased their activations and thanks to Sorin YO2MSB I managed to fill in a summit that was missing from my chaser log, YO/EC-241 - the last QSO from the YO SOTA Marathon 2015. Later that day it was my turn to say goodbye to everybody and leave for Bucharest, tired but happy, soul filled with wonderful memories and a wish to have an even bigger and better one next year.

We managed 998 activator points, about 1100 QSOs and we activated 14 summits from Romania - including 2 virgin ones, in the span of a week. I didn't even count the S2S or chaser points, and we decided not to take part in the current 10m/6m challenge - this many activators also chasing echother from different nearby summits would've been disruptive for everybody else enjoying the competition. We set out to have fun and enjoy the summits and that's what we did, so I consider YO SOTA Marathon 2015 to be a great success.

It took me more than a month to put the story together and it may be that some of the details have been left out - unintentionally, of course. If you took part in the YO SOTA Marathon 2015 - either as an activator, chaser or just a friend that supported us in any way, I give you my personal thanks and please, feel free to fill in any details I might have missed by using the comments section.

Some pictures used in this blog post were provided by HB9DST Paul, PB2T Hans and YO6PSX Silviu. Thank you !

07 September 2015

YO SOTA Marathon 2015 - the story III

This article is a sequel to YO SOTA Marathon - the story II

Day 3

In the second morning at the Tara pension in Ranca the restaurant personnel already got used to our early morning routine, so the restaurant was already opened a bit earlier and the kitchen was already fired up. We had a long drive ahead before getting to our next target, so we wanted to be on the way as soon as possible. Crossing the Transalpina road for the 4th time in 3 days, we met these guys just sitting in the middle of the road:

Donkeys begging for some food, just by the road
 This is actually an usual sight on some part of Transalpina (we met them last year as well) and they're very used to the people - who usually give them some treats. As I had all the food stashed in the trunk, no luck for them this time.

04 September 2015

YO SOTA Marathon 2015 - the story II

This article is a sequel to YO SOTA Marathon - the story

Day 1

As there were enough of us and we wanted to take advantage of the S2S possibilities as well, we split into 2 teams: Team 1 was YO2MSB, PB2T, K2XYL and HB9DST, with YO6PIB joining in on the way to the first summit, YO/WC-207 Piatra Goznei (8p). This was K2XYL Margreet's first SOTA activation and she got her first QSO (wich was also S2S) with Petronel YO8SEP.

K2XYL Margreet having her first QSOs, from YO/WC-207

The second team was me YO9IRF, YO2BP, YO8SEP and YO2BP and we went for YO/MC-096 Muntele Mic (8p) first. We used VHF to keep in touch with the other cars and Zoli YO2BP was my co-pilot:

28 August 2015

Yaesu's new HF radio, FT-410

Yaesu FT-410 seems to be the latest HF radio to surface from Japan, and from the looks of it it's the successor of FT-600 to fight the Icom IC-718 and Alinco SRT-8/9 series. It's still not FCC approved and probably still has a long way to retail, but it's nice to know what to expect in the following months.

The Yaesu FT-410 is a pretty basic radio, operating in the 30kHz-30MHz* range (160m to 10m amateur bands), 100W AM/SSB/CW, with first IF at 67.899MHz and a seconday one at 24kHz that goes directly into DSP. Judging by that arrangement, it may just be an FT-450 without FM and in another casing.

YO SOTA Marathon 2015 - the story

This was a natural evolution to the YO SOTA Tour 2014 from last year, only this time we decided to make it bigger, better, longer and harder. We added summits and regions, we increased the number of points, we got much more activators to join in and we were on the air for longer, on more bands and more modes. We got the chance to spend more time with people bound by the same passion, field-test alot of radio equipment, antennas and logging methods and give the chance to alot more chasers to log in a contact with a summit from the mountains of Romania. We were there when in cold rain at over 2000m altitude, two of our friends became the first activators in Romania to surpass the 1000 points limit at the same time, qualifying for the "Mountain Goat" status. I would call the YO SOTA Marathon 2015 a success. And this story will probably be the longest post ever on this blog.

Most of the team, at the rendez-vous between YO/MC-052 and MC-050

23 August 2015

Icom reveals first SDR, IC-7300

Saturday, August 22nd 2015, during the Tokyo Ham Fair 2015, Icom revealed their first Software Defined Radio (SDR) HF transceiver, the IC-7300, sporting HF+6m+4m coverage, 100W, touchscreen TFT display and an internal antenna tuner. More than 12 years after the SDR technology became comercially available for amateur radio and after dozens of smaller companies have used it successfully in their products - some of wich are now at the third generation SDR products, one of "the big three" amateur radio equipment manufacturers finally decided to move their technology to the 21st century, too.

07 August 2015

YO SOTA Marathon 2015 starting this wekend

The long awaited YO SOTA Marathon 2015 will be officially starting on Monday, August 10th 2015, and compared to last year we will up the stakes: from 8 to 16 summits, from 80 to 136 points, instead of 5 activators now we will have 12 activators split into 2 teams and the whole thing will last 6 days instead of 5. This should also be a chaser's delight: the summits point average is 8.5, we will be active on both SSB and CW, we will work until the last chaser and all the activations will be spotted on the cluster.

For me this will be an even larger challenge since I plan to activate 4 more summits in the weekend before the marathon starts. So expect alot of SOTA activity from Romania starting tomorrow !

For more details about the YO SOTA Marathon 2015, you can download and check out this presentation.