Back to Seoul, and this time I organised to catch up with Jason HL4ZFA and to tackle a meatier summit than our usual Ansan/Guryongsan options. Once again, my ex-colleague Hwanii came along as driver, in return for fried chicken and beer as payment. He graciously picked me up from the airport at 0-dark-hundred hours, and we headed off for breakfast. As we drove, I discovered Hwanii had been suffering from food poisoning; not good for our planned summit HL/SL-012, which was a long and hard climb.
We arranged to meet Jason at Central City station, where we discussed our options. Jason suggested Yongmasan HL/SL-003, to the north east of Seoul, a 1 pointer at 348m. There is a car park at the base, as well as a subway station near by. We parked, headed north onto a loop track heading clockwise, and started our ascent.
It rapidly became clear that Hwanii wasn’t really in a good enough state for the climb. We took it slow, and he opted to hang back and catch up, but eventually, halfway up, as we stopped at a lookout, he realised he wasn’t going to be much cop, so decided to descend back to the car. Jason and I continued.
About two thirds of the way up is a Joseon-era beacon tower – fires were lit to warn of impending attacks – where we stopped again. These towers are dotted all around Seoul; some on SOTA summits (there’s one on Ansan HL/SL-008), others, like this one, are not.
Eventually, we made the top of the summit, marked by a trig point, survey marker and Korean summit marker. At 348m, it’s the same height as my local summit, Flinders Peak. While not as busy as other summits in Seoul, there were still a fair few people about, so we set up to the north of the trig point, but that meant I had to orient my dipole in not the best direction for Australia, Japan and basically anywhere. SWR was fine on 20m, but not so good on 15m or shoehorned onto 17m.
Jason jumped on 2m, while I started on 20m SSB, getting two contacts into Japan quickly enough. Keeping a running eye on SOTAWatch allowed me to try for S2S’ with others, so I switched to 15m to try to work VK. I heard nothing on SSB, but switching to a JA activator’s frequency allowed me to hear a VK station, although I was in the skip zone for the JA. I spotted again, and after a while, I heard John VK6NU come back to me clearly, even though he wasn’t troubling the meter much. After a bunch of effort – John having trouble hearing me – I managed to get my 319 report and give John his report, we confirmed, and I had 3 in the log.
Numerous experiments on 15m and 17m just wouldn’t get me a path back to VK, although VKs were working JA. A combination of higher than normal SWR and poor antenna orientation couldn’t have helped. I even tried with the Buddistick, which, despite making the journey last time I was on Ansan, didn’t make it this time. Eventually, I jumped back to 20m CW, and tried to get a fourth contact.
By this stage, Jason had found a 2m slim jim in my pack, which he was putting to good use, finishing with 6 contacts on 2m. It sounded a lot more, but he explained that SOTA QSOs in Korea are much longer affairs than in Australia.
After a while, I managed to get my fourth contact, a S2S with JF1NDT/1 on JA/KN-021. I wrapped up the activation with another S2S with JL1NIE/1 on JA/KN-020, and a tough QSO with JO1IAU/1, with 219 sent back to him after about 10 minutes trying to get a callsign.
We descended down the southern part of the track, the more common approach route. There are steps on this side and it’s a nicer descent (and probably climb up). On our way down, we encountered a better Hwanii ascending. He no longer looked like he was dying, although he was still struggling a little bit. He turned around rather than reach the top, and we headed back down for lunch and check-in for me.