First in line is YO/EC-252 Piatra Arsa and this time the 10-minute walk from where I could park the car to the lodge at the base of the mountain turned into a 30-minute one, since because of the snow I couldn't park on the side of the road, let alone enter the road leading to the lodge. So I had to park further away - in a small motel's parking lot, plus once I entered the woods the snow wasn't exactly making things easier.
There were older human tracks as well as various animal tracks in the snow, but nothing to worry about - it looked like lonely dogs or other small animals. In the meantime, I turn on my handheld and listen for some activity, quickly find a nearby repeater I didn't know about with two guys in a QSO. Wait for them to finish and then call, none of them came back. Fortunately though, a call does come back: my friend Petronel YO8SEP, who was also in SOTA mood about 135km away, hiking towards YO/EC-012 Hasmasul Mare. Apparently we were both supposed to be at the peak in about 40 minutes, so we schedule a S2S contact.
I quickly reach the old lodge - wich seems to be closed for winter, and here the human tracks pretty much stop. Just clean snow ahead, with some animal tracks here and there.
The snow is knee-deep on this part of the hike and it would be impossbile to pass without leaving significant signs, it appears nobody's been around here for months. Look what I'm leaving behind:
As the terrain was much more difficult than last time, i decide to take a good advice I got from Csaba YO6PIB and don't take the "straight up" route, but go for the longer, easier and in this snow - safer one. The views aren't that breathtaking on this side, but I can live with that ... and my body in one piece.
Seeing animal tracks again, this time some small ones are fresh:
It seems the sun is waiting at the summit, not much more to go:
But it gets a bit steeper at the end:
Just a few meters from the summit, the tracks of a big animal, probably a buck. They seem older though:
And two other ones going the same direction, one is small and seems to be running, the other one (on the left) is larger and has paws (but walks in line so it's not a bear), probably a lynx ?
Anyway, the summit, marked by a small squared stone:
And my radio bag, feeling right at home over here:
I try to call for Petronel again on VHF but he doesn't answer, he's not on the cluster and 14.285 is jammed by an OTH radar, so I go to 14.315 and spot myself on the cluster. The guys pick me up right away with very good reports, I manage 37 QSO's in about half an hour and then look again on the cluster. Petronel is spotted on 14.300, I go there and I can barely pick him up - he doesn't even move the S-meter; after a few attempts he picks me up as well, so we get the desired S2S. All this time, a friend of mine from Bucharest (about 160km away) couldn't copy me at all in spite of his beam antenna.
Returning to the car took a bit less than anticipated - I just followed my own tracks back trough the snow, and concluded my Timberland boods weren't really made for hiking in knee-deep snow. Socks were completely wet, so I MacGyvered a quick dryer:
I said about the second summit - YO/EC-241 Fitifoiul that it was the easiest one I did at that point. In the meantime I also activated Seciu peak wich has a restaurant on top of it and a road that leads to it, but that's a 1-point summit while this one is a 6-point one. Considering the seasonal 3-point bonus, YO/EC-241 in winter remains probably one of the easiest 9-points you could get around these parts.
I began my hike behind the hotel you see in the picture above, it's a decent asphalt road that passes by and the access is easy. The region is touristic and there is a forrest road crossing right at the top of the summit, tourists or rangers with all-terrain vehicles pass by daily so it's pretty far from the wilderness I experienced just a few km away earlier.
A forrest ranger even stopped for a few seconds to say "good day" and probably to check me out - they're looking out for poachers and they can never be too careful.
This time I haven't installed my antenna right at the crossing but a few meters outside the road, there was a piece of wood there I could attach it to.
I also discovered that raising the radials above the ground/snow improves performance significantly compared to just leaving them lay on the ground/snow, this time I got about twice as many contacts as last autumn and the reports were much better. I had to use whatever nature provided to keep the radials in the air:
All in all, my first real winter SOTA activations and a great experience; I also found out I need other boots for winter.