YO/EC-480 (Dealul Frumos, 1048m, 6 points) and YO/EC-312 (Secaria, 1149m, 6 points) were some of the many summits I've been planning to activate for some time now, and when I told Florin YO9IPF they're part of my upcoming weekend plan he immediately agreed to come with me. The weather forecast didn't look too good but hey, we were two men on a mission and didn't plan to be stopped by a few drops of rain.
Finding Florin was fortunate, as it's pretty hard for a SOTA activator to have an activation partner: friends or girlfriends may come with you for a hike now and then, but not many have the patience to wait until you do your radio thing. Romania is not a very big country but there aren't that many activators yet (SOTA is growing very fast here though), so we definetely jump on any chance we get to do team activations.
We met near Ploiesti and in 30 minutes we were already at the base of the first summit (YO/EC-480) after passing trough the city of Comarnic. There are basically two choices if you want to get to YO/EC-480: either you choose the easier but longer route that starts from the DJ101S road, or a steeper but shorter one from DC2C. We chose the first option, the hike ahead of us looked easy and it actually was.
We used the time to talk about radio, SOTA equipment and such - we both were working with similar equipment centered around the Yaesu FT-817.
Some patches of snow here and there reminded us why we're getting the seasonal bonus for this activation, and the threatening clouds above were trying really hard to make things worse.
On the right (nearby) is the first summit we were going to activate, on the left (in distance) is the second one.
Once on top, the weather looked as grim as you could expect, and we hurried to lay out the antennas. We chose to install two antennas just out of curiosity, about 50-70m apart:
The inclined one is mine and the other one in distance is Florin YO9IPF's setup. Since I finished installing first, I went ahead and spotted myself on 14.285 and by the time I got back to the radio (no reliable GSM signal on top, I had to go a back a little) people were already calling for me. Had the chance to hear alot of the "usual suspects" when it comes to SOTA chasing and after about 20-something QSO's I stopped and invited Florin to take the frequency. By the time I packed back my stuff in the bag he was going full swing:
The hike back to the car was uneventful, and while we were driving to the base of the next summit (YO/EC-312 - also an entry point from the DJ101S road) I noticed friend Csaba YO6PIB was on air about 50km away from another summit; we hurried up a bit hoping to get a S2S with him.
The area surrounding YO/EC-312 was/is a clay/limestone quarry and the path was filled with the softest stickiest mud I've ever met, wich slowed us down a bit; after some time we decided to not follow the regular path and go a bit "offroad":
After some steeper portions we finally see the summit, about 10 minutes away:
On top, we installed also both antennas planning to use them on different bands and not at the same time.
Things went smoothly from here as well, alot of people on the air and each of us quickly gave points to about 20-30 chasers.
After we were done with the chasers we took some time to hunt for S2S - there were several stations on the cluster but we could only hear and work ON6UU/P up on ON/ON-016. It must've been a bit confusing for him to work YO9IRF/P and YO9IPF/P from YO/EC-312 one after the other, hope he got all the letters right :).
Surprisingly, the view from the top if not half as bad, the summit is overseeing the village of Secaria in the nearby valley.
This activation was my first field test of the new Sanyo Eneloop rechargables I'm using inside my FT-817nd, in an effort to optimise weight of the whole radio bag. As the original Yaesu 1400mAh rechargeable couldn't really hold a charge (anymore), I chose to install in the Yaesu FBA-28 battery holder (remember to cut the green wire so you can recharge) a set of 8x Sanyo Eneloop Tropical, rated at "min. 1900mAh":
Why Eneloop ? It's simple, general consesnsus is they are by far the best NiMh cells out there. Why only "min. 1900mAh" ? First of all, they rate their capacity at a minimal value and the real usable capacity is usually in the 2100mAh range. Secondly, higher-capacity Eneloops have a bit higher internal resistance (side effect of acommodating higher capacity in the same limited volume) and the usable energy doesn't really increase too much in a high-current load such as this. Thirdly, the FT-817nd charges the internal cells at about 250mA wich is perfect for a 10h cycle with these cells if you want a long life out of them. And the last reason, ~2000mAh is enough to activate 3 summits without needing to recharge, wich is the most I'd probably need in one day (for longer trips, I have external batteries).
PS: yes, I know the fruity colors look ridiculous, but they're the same as the regular white Eneloops and I got this pack considerably cheaper :).