26 May 2015

SOTA activation: YO/EC-090 Malaia and YO/EC-093 Siriu

Oh boy, long time I didn't post anything on the blog. There have been some subjects I would've loved to write about, there is another SOTA activation report I need to get out there as well, but the work volume lately was terrible so no more blogging/ham radio/twitter. Nevertheless, this story needs to get out there fast and while it's still fresh, because it was really good.

YO/EC-090 Malaia Peak (1662m, 8 points) and YO/EC-093 Siriu Peak (1657m, 8 points) are two nearby peaks in the Siriu massif, located about halfway between the cities of Brasov and Buzau. Almost between the two peaks there is a periglacial lake called "Eagles' Lake" or "The Bottomless Lake", wich makes for a touristic attraction point in itself.

Eagles Lake seen from Malaia peak
The two names for the lake have their own associated legends; it's called "Eagles' Lake" because in the spring the eagles come down to the lake to drink it's water and get younger, also bringing their cubs by the lake to teach them how to fly. What I can tell you is that i've seen countless eagles circling the air above the lake, probably attracted by the (small) fish, snakes or frogs.

The legend associated with the "Bottomless Lake" name is even more interesting - a shepherd tired by his life decided to give it up and seek a better future for himself, throwing his crook into the lake and leaving the sheep and the places behind. One year later, while travelling the country, he saw his unmistakable hand-carved crook floating on the Danube river, instantly getting homesick and returning to his sheep.

Florin YO9IPF proposed this trip almost 4 weeks before on the SOTA ROMANIA Facebook group and it was because of me that it got delayed so much - all my weekends were full up until May 23rd. It proved to be a great choice in the end, Csaba YO6PIB had the weekend available as well (and he took a few friends with him) and Florin managed to pick up a few more local hams - veteran operators but not too familiar with the SOTA program yet: YO9GSB - Dan and YO9RAO - Mihai.




After meeting up in Crasna (570m altitude) around 08:45 (again, I'm responsible for the delay - sorry guys !), we took a 15min drive on a forest backroad to the so-called "insertion point": about 860m altitude and ~7km away from the lake. We still had a long day ahead of us and a little after 9:00 we had our boots on the ground, going trough the forest on what seemed to be an easy hike at first.






Of course, as we needed to gain some altitude we hit a steeper slope after about an hour, wich was supposed to last "10 minutes" the whole 40min it took us to pass it. The broadleaf forest started changing to pine forest and when the slope got milder we were already 1. sweating and 2. getting some good vistas.



I even got the chance to catch a glimpse of YO/EC-049 Ciucas peak that I activated last year - planning to do it again this year but there are still large patches of snow:

 
At a certain point, we had the chance to see what lightning does to a huge pine tree:



This was a pretty recent event, but somebody hurried to cut the tree so it won't block the road - wich is used by a fanatics with (proper) offroad vehicles to get to the lake for a barbeque.


Finnaly, we pass the tree line and it's like you're in another land altogether: higher altitude, sunny and we almost see our targets in the distance - couldn't get both in one picture though. Walking the plateau seems somewhat refreshing after the steeper hike, I get 4G signal and upload a picture on Twitter and we start making plans on how to split up, who goes to what summit, when we switch summits etc.
 

Me and YO9IPF, YO9GSB and YO9RAO pick YO/EC-090 first and Csaba YO6PIB and his friends go to YO/EC-093; the plan is to get a feel at the top and if we have enough time and resources we switch summits, so all of us could activate both summits and get some S2S inbetween. Afterwards we realise that the split isn't even (Csaba is the only ham in his team) but this is more about fun than chasing every last point so we're happy nevertheless.


Although at first seemed an easy task, the steep uphill doesn't make an 125Kg office employee feel at home - I must admit I needed quite a few breaks to catch my breath. Luckily there was a refreshing view of the Ciucas mountains to be seen:


The guys got to the ridge ahead of me and they were already busy taking pictures left and right:


A bit of snow, wich now I'm regretting I haven't used to cool my water bottles:


On top, of course the view was very rewarding:

The guys on my team and the other summit in the distance

Ciucas mountains once again

The actual summit - about 100m away

There wasn't really a need for VHF contact with the other team: we already sensed them transmitting on 20m and the camera with 12X optical zoom and some crop could even catch them from over 2km away:


First on the air was Dan YO9GSB, who was using a Wouxun handheld with 4W and a lightweight homebrew 4-element VHF Yagi - got about 10 contacts before we were even got our HF station on the air. Using Dan's setup I even managed to have a quick chat with fellow SOTA activator Petronel YO8SEP, who was /P almost 300km away in the Ceahlau massif, unfortunately not on a SOTA summit though.


In the meantime Florin had the HF antenna up, I managed to send a spot to the cluster and we took turns working the small pileup created on 20m until all the chasers were in the log. 


Then we went to 10m where Csaba YO6PIB was calling from the nearby summit and got the S2S contacts in our log (we had VHF QSOs on 2m as well, didn't even bother to log those) and since we were ahead of the schedule, decided to come down and meet up at the lake. Descent from YO/EC-090 was pretty straightforward.


As soon as we get to the valley, we see the other team coming down from YO/EC-093 (yeah you'd need to zoom in on that):


The lake detour meant more than one hour delay, but it was well worth it: I would've given up anything for that cold mountain spring near the lake. Did I mention I drank 7 liters of liquids that day ?




Of course, it was around noon and various groups already gathered by the lake, from tired but happy mountain hikers or volunteers that came to refresh the mountain trail markings to offroad fanatics that drove there for a barbeque bringing beer and noisy kids, and even a group of foreigners (indians, I think) that were on some kind of team building trip.


After a well-deserved lake-side break that also included lunch, we were back on the road: each team going to the summit the other team visited in the first part of the day. At some point we left the offroad trail and started hiking uphill, taking rather frequent breaks as we were growing a bit tired.

Taking a break on the way to YO/EC-093: YO/EC-090 in distance, offroad trail passing around it
When we're finally on top, one of the guys takes out a bottle of beer that he was been carrying around all day: it was the best beer we ever had !


Afterwards we find out that the guys on the other team were carrying a few beers themselves, so this must be a tradition I wasn't aware about yet, wich is pretty weird since I love both beer and hiking !


In the meantime we get word on VHF from some hams about 70km away that the weather on their side is getting worse, so we get in a bit of a hurry to finish our SOTA business on YO/EC-093. While Dan is again working his VHF setup, the rest of us go at it on 20m with the Yaesu FT-817 / LDG Z-817 tuner / fishpole antenna, but not before we get the obvious S2S with Csaba YO6PIB from YO/EC-090 on 10m. Some of us get one or two more S2S, we also pass the mike to Dan YO9GSB so he could get a few HF contacts as well and as soon as there are no more chasers we pack things quickly and start the descent. A large group of offroaders are leaving from the lake, as well:


Near the treeline we meet up with Csaba's team and he gives us the QSLs for the contacts we just had (wish I thought about that, I already owe him some QSLs).


The rest of the hike back to the cars was almost silent, with some "are we there yet ?" type comments thrown from time to time. On the way we met an abandoned 4x4 that probably didn't make it back in one piece, and seeing how the guys abused some of these earlier in some beer-fueled betting-centered car-vs-mountain challenges by the lake, it's no wonder.


Drawing the line, it was a great day for SOTA: we scored some points, we saw new beautiful places, we played some radio, we had the chance to discuss future SOTA plans (wich is taking off very fast over here in YO land), some guys had the chance to get a taste of what SOTA is like, I saw the beauty in working SOTA on VHF and most of all, I think I managed to pull off my hardest and longest hike so far. Thanks guys, it was great and I wish to get together again for another trip as soon as possible !

PS: Some of the pictures used here are from Adrian F. Thanks !

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