24 September 2014

SOTA activity again, near Predeal

I was planning for about a month to go for a SOTA trip to the Retezat Natural Preserve with YO2BP and activate some nice 10-point summits; the nature is really beautiful there and I wanted to see it for some time now, plus the weather predictions looked awesome. Unfortunately, something came up that made the trip not possible, and as I already had my bags packed and got into the SOTA mood, I decided to at least do a short trip to some acessible peaks I haven't activated yet.

So, in the morning of September 18 2014 I got in the car with a friend of mine and drove to the small touristic town of Predeal (about 140Km North of Bucharest), looking to activate something in the surroundings. The initial plan was to make this a 2-day trip so I could get 4 summits, but due to various reasons it ended up as a one-day trip so I could only activate two of them.

YO/EC-252 Piatra Arsa (1258m, 6 points) was my first target: we took the car on DN73A for about 5Km, until a small road goes to the left (and on to a lodge, not sure about it's name). Even if there's paved road there is a sign that says something along "Natural Preserve Area, motor vehicles forbidden", so we leave the car and start the hike. Sure enough, 10 minutes later we are near the lodge and behind it starts a path uphill towards the peak, so we take it. We already can see some surroundings from there:

The path has been obviously passed by alot of motor vehicles, probably forest rangers with GOOD 4x4's.

At a certain the main path seems to go downhill so we take a small one that goes straight uphill.

Some portions are even steep enough that require us to go on all fours, and when we look behind we wonder how we're going to go back.

The steep climbing ends at the ridge and there's a nice reward up there: great view of the mountains and the valley on the other side.

Nevertheless, from here the hike to the peak takes less than 10 minutes and it's easy. For the first time since I do SOTA activations I happen to forget something: the fishing pole for my antenna. But I'm very lucky, as this is also the first time I activate a peak in a forest so it's easy to string the wire up in a tall tree. Tuner does it's job, I get on the air, the reports are not great but I manage to work 16 stations on 20m.

Next stop is YO/EC-241 Fitifoiul (1292m, 6 points), probably the easiest peak I've ever activated. We parked the car on the side of the road to the famous "Trei Brazi" (Three Pine Trees) lodge and took a 30 minutes walk on a forest road; the peak is in the middle of this road, at a crossing !

This time I took the fishing pole and decided to plant the antenna right in the middle of that crossing, as it had better clearing from the surrounding trees.

I managed to work 18 stations on 20m with much more consistent reports than at the first summit, and then went to wonder around a bit on 15m while we had a snack. I find a very strong JA station but the euro-pileup is too strong for my water pistol to break trough.

My setup was the usual QRP stuff: Yaesu FT-817ND, LDG Z-817, SLA 12V 7Ah and a 6.5m fishpole vertical.


22 September 2014

Ciucas X3 - a good EmComm exercise

Ciucas X3 is a once-a-year trail running event that takes place in Romania's beautiful Ciucas mountains - you might have read about them in my previous stories, as i've made two SOTA activations from the region: YO/EC-049 and YO/EC-057. There are 3 circuits (21, 42 and 105km long) across mountains, hills, forests, a village and the outskirts of a small town, some passing trough wild areas (there were even two brown bear spottings !). Over 600 runners take part in this event, plus almost another hundred staff members, volunteers, mountain rescue, gendarms - mountain division, etc.

04 September 2014

CQWPX 2014 - official results came in

As I was expecting after the claimed scores, I ranked #5 in 21Mhz single-op QRP category. This was my second time participating in CQ WPX SSB, the first one was in 2013 where I worked just for 4 hours to get the feeling for it.

This time I wanted to be on the air for the full contest, but I was really sloppy: for some reason I thought the contest starts in the afternoon and I planned to do some antenna work in the morning. When I wake up Saturday morning and turn the radio on I hear the band full of contesters so I decide there's no time to waste, I get on air and work the first 4 hours with the damaged antenna - a 42m long OCFD with a broken arm. I take a break, eat, get on top of the building, fix the OCFD and install a 7.5m fishpole vertical, take a shower and get back on the air. The break took about 3 hours but it was needed, for the rest of the contest I worked with the vertical wich proved slightly better.

I managed a total of 260 QSO's (but 252 validated), 3.1% error rate, 207 multipliers and a final score of 76797. The winner of 21MHz single-op QRP (YT1CS) had 403 QSO's and 338 multipliers for a total of 225108 points; he is less than 400Km away from me and just a few degrees to the South, so no big geographical advantage.

For next year I plan to really be on the air for the full contest and hopefully I will have a better antenna. Still aiming at single-op QRP monoband, but still not sure if I will go for 15m or another band.

24 August 2014

Yaesu FT-991 - replacement for the FT-897

Yaesu FT-991 is the next upcoming model from Yaesu, as the replacement for the recently discontinued FT-897. Highlights include 3.5" TFT touch display, a spectrum scope, 32-bit IF DSP, internal antenna tuner and C4FM.

21 August 2014

SOTA Tour YO 2014 - part III

<< Go to part II of the story

The morning at 2500+m altitude is not your regular morning: winds tend to be strong and the clouds were flying really low - even lower than us.

We had to wait until almost 11:00 local time for the sky to clear so we could depart towards our next target: YO/MC-008 Bucsoiu, 2493m - 10 points.

20 August 2014

SOTA Tour YO 2014 - part II

<< Go to Part I of the story

On the second day we woke up early as we had a long road ahead of us, so at 7 AM we were already on the way. The Transalpina road, crossing the mountains at 2000m altitude, looks beautiful in the morning sun.

18 August 2014

SOTA tour YO 2014 - part I

A team of romanian ham amateur radio operators travelling around the country on beautiful twisting roads, backpacking with their bags full of equipment and installing antennas on mountain peaks for their pure enjoyment; this is how i'd sum up this tour in just a few words. But a few words are not enough, not even alot of them wouldn't suffice; actually, you know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words ? Well, it would take about a thousand pictures to describe what an adventure like this really is, and still the feeling wouldn't be the same unless you experience it yourself.