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.



 By the time we got close to Sibiu we already got hungry again, and we had to stop for some food - especially since we had a long hike ahead of us.

Csaba and Hans enjoying the local beans & smoked ribs soup, in bread
Finally, sometime after lunch we arrive at our "insertion point": the Balea lake, on the famous Transfagarasan high-altitude road. Transfagarasan is the second-highest altitude road in Romania (after Transalpina) but it's the most popular, being one of the most appreciated and spectacular driving roads in the world, a true motorist's heaven. It crosses the Fagaras mountains between the two highest peaks in the country (Moldoveanu and Negoiu) and was built in the early 70's by communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu as a strategic military road, a response to the russian invasion of Cehoslovakia in 1968. Considered an insane undertaking, a few hundreds lives were lost (as well as a large number of equipment) during the 4 years it took to build it, although the authorities only admitted to 40 deaths due to work-related accidents back then.

Transfagarasan - considered by british motoring show Top Gear "the best road in the world"
Our plan was to activate YO/MC-007 Vanatarea lui Buteanu (10p) in one huge group, all of us going together on the summit at once. The hike from ~2000m to 2507m is steep and having the last year's experience, Petronel YO8SEP suggested we could take another path, wich seemed to be easier. It was, at first:

The Mountain Goats now lead the attack
But 30 minutes into the hike and we realise why most people don't choose this way to the summit: there is a steep slope, covered in small rocks that are hard to grip.

Snow in August on the way to YO/MC-007
This is how it looked like when climbing:

Petronel YO8SEP found a place where he could rest
Finally, we reach the crest and it's already a big victory:

Hans PB2T enthusiastic about getting read of the steep rocky slope

We are above 2400m and the view from here is superb, this is the region that concentrates most of the 10-point summits:

Fagaras mountains

The last part to the summit is the most technical (and dangerous) and me, Sorin YO2MSB and Margreet K2XYL decide no to risk it, specially since I wasn't trusting my Trimberland boots' grip anymore (not really made for mountain climbing). The rest of the guys went ahead:

Fresh Mountain Goat Csaba YO6PIB can't be stopped ...

... and he conquers YO/MC-007
Activation of YO/MC-007 goes on without problems, we even manage a few 2m FM QSOs and we start descending on the other, easier route.

A few mountain flowers and a few SOTA activators
View of the Balea Lake, where our cars are parked
The initial plan included the virgin summit YO/MC-049 Fantana (10p) as well for this day, but seeing the conditions in the field it was obvious it can't be done in the time we had, as we barely managed to arrive at the Albota Resort less than 1h before sunset. Besides acommodating tourists, they grow fish (mainly trout), thanks to they farm they manufacture alot of very tasty traditional dairy and meat products, the bread, vegetable and most of the drinks are also manufactured there (and trust us, they are really good !), plus you can do alot of outdoors activities available, such as horseback riding, offroad ATV driving, fishing, etc.

The basins where they grow fish, at Albota



Just hungry people waiting for food
Day 4

On Thursday we were supposed to arrive in the small touristic town of Busteni and pick up two other activators on the way. First of them, Adrian (Adi) YO6HDF, joined us as we passed trough the city of Fagaras. Me YO9IRF, Zoli YO2BP, Csaba YO6PIB, Silviu YO6PSX and Petronel YO8SEP went a bit ahead because we needed to purchase a few more things for the upcoming 2 days, while the rest of the group visited Adrian at his home in Fagaras.

Adrian YO6HDF and Sorin YO2MSB

Adrian wanted to join us last year in the Marathon as well, but he caught a bad cold just a few days earlier and couldn't come. He was so sorry he couldn't come that he decided this year he won't miss it no matter what.

In the meantime, the rest of us got a bit ahead, and after waiting in the traffic for a few tens of minutes we got to Busteni. The plan was to take the cable car to the Babele plateau in the Bucegi mountains and there to activate YO/MC-008 Bucsoiu (10p), YO/MC-006 (10p) and YO/MC-009 Costila (10p). Whaen we arrived at the cable car, guess what:

People waiting in line to take the cable car to Babele
It was a huge line, going around the whole building, at least a 3 hour wait ! After consulting with the rest of the group we decide to try an alternate route: drive to the Piatra Arsa cabin (via the Transbucegi road) and then hike for 1.5h to Babele. One hour and a few tens of km later, at 12:40 we arrive at the entry to the Transbucegi road only to find out that it's closed between 12:30 and 17:30 for ongoing maintenance. 10 minutes earlier and we would've passed ! The alternate route is 60km longer trough a gravel mountain road, wich would delay us even further, so we decide to gamble and go to Pestera instead of Piatra Arsa and take the cable car from there to Babele (hoping the waiting line there is much smaller).

Florin YO9IPF was also on the way to meet us and while he was stuck in traffic we updated him on our options. While on the way to Pestera the rain started and we were a bit worried about the next two days we were supposed to spend above 2000m altitude, but once we got close to the destination the weather cleared. It proved to be a good choice, since the waiting time at the cable car from Pestera was less than 15 minutes, and once Florin YO9IPF caught up with us we were up on the plateau pretty fast.

In the meantime, the rest of the group who was behind caught a lucky break - Adrian YO6HDF knew somebody at the cable car in Busteni who understood the importance of our activities and put them on a "priority transport", so they managed to arrive at the first summit YO/MC-009 about 2h ahead of us.

The first part of our group, on YO/MC-009

We managed to get our chaser contacts and hurried up to get up on the summit as well, while they were moving to the next one, YO/MC-006. When we arrived the weather was looking much worse, although we didn't get any rain.

Installing HF equipment on YO/MC-009

Yes, that is a 80m tall broadcast tower; in the past it was used for low-VHF TV retranslation with 20-50kW output power and it was guarded by a military unit. Now it's guarded just by fences and it's power has been severely reduced, but it's till enough to mess with a Baofeng's RX side when nearby.

Silviu is still sick with the selfie virus

Florin YO9IPF and Csaba YO6PIB at YO/MC-009

Paper logging, still a good choice for SOTA

Once we were done with Costila YO/MC-009, the other team was already arriving at Omu YO/MC-006, the tallest permanently inhabitated point in the country and the place where we were supposed to be accomodated for the night. We got the S2S contacts via VHF and then we left to catch up with them - the hike was around 1.5h and we wanted to get there before it gets dark (and really cold, at these altitudes).

On the way from YO/MC-009 to YO/MC-006
Luckily we arrived about one hour before it got dark, enough time to have a sip of local strong drink called "palinka" just to warm up before we start the HF activation of the summit.

All the YO SOTA Marathon 2015 team on one summit
As we were finally all of the team in one place, of course we had alot to talk about, while we took turns at the radio. We worked on 20m and 40m SSB and 30m CW, with KX-3 and inv-V linked dipole. Some of us kept going well into the night, and the antenna remained installed until morning.

Petronel YO8SEP and Csaba YO6PIB activating from YO/MC-006 at night

Next part: YO SOTA Marathon 2015 - the story IV

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

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