Thursday, May 9, 2024

HL/SL-006 Guryongsan

 It was getting close to the end of our time in Korea, but there was still time for one more SOTA activation. We were back in Seoul, so I picked a summit that was easy to get to from the subway. This peak is south of the Gangnam neighborhood, made famous by the song.

The trails were well signed, and seemed pretty popular.

From the Yangjae Citizens Forest station exit 3 I walked south along the road. There is a busy road to cross, then a few buildings, then I stepped into the woods. Based on the maps I was expecting a well marked trail. But instead I found an unmarked, not well used path. It was going the right direction, and in the spot I expected, so I followed it. After a quarter mile or so it intersected with a much nicer path.
Occasional glimpses of the city.

This trail was obviously what I wanted, and what I had been expecting, so I followed it up the ridge. There were a fair number of people out for a hike. Like the other hikes I had done here, it was much more humid than I was expecting. I'm really spoiled living in California. It did feel like it was going to rain, but I never felt more than a few drops.  
Weather station on the ridge.

At one of the intersections there was a big sign telling about the Seoul Trail that circumnavigates the city. It seemed like it could be an interesting thing to do if you lived there. Shortly before the summit is an excellent view point. I stopped for a few pictures before continuing on to the high point. The summit was unremarkable. Just below, near a tower, was a bench I decided to sit at. It was slightly difficult putting up the antenna through the trees, but I managed well enough. On the air I worked Korean and Japanese stations.  
Seoul: Namsan on the left, Lotte Tower, Bukhansan

Once HF was packed up, I walked back to the viewpoint to see if I could get anyone on 2m. I got two more stations, then headed back down. This time I took the nice trail all the way to the bottom, where it came out between a few buildings. It would've been hard to find that trailhead without knowing about it. 
Trailhead: Yangjae Citizens Park subway station, exit 3.
Website: SOTA Site.
Route: Head south along the road, crossing the expressway. In between the buildings there is a trailhead, or the one along the main road. Follow the trail to the summit.
Red Tape: None.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

HL/BS-026 Jangsanbong

 During our Korea trip we spent a few days in Busan. This lovely city is nestled among the hills on the southeast coast of the peninsula, and as you'd expect for a hilly city, has some good SOTA opportunities. Naina was in need of a nap, but I had plenty of energy, so I headed out one afternoon for a walk up a local peak. I chose Jangsanbong because it was reasonable close to a subway stop on the 2 line, and our hotel was also on the 2 line.

From Haeundae Beach, I think thats the summit I went to.

We only got one SIM card for the trip, and it was in Naina's phone, so I had to navigate the "old fashioned" way, with just the maps downloaded to my phone. It was not hard, since the phone maps will show you where you are using GPS. I got off the subway at the Kyungsung Univ.-Pukyong Nat'l Univ. stop, then went out exit 3. A u-turn at the top of the stairs then left turn had me heading down the right road.
The summit hiding behind the buildings.

I walked past Pukyong National University, following the main road. At a three way intersection I didn't have to cross, and beared left. Shortly after this there was a busy expressway crossing, so I had to wait for the walk signal. The area on the ocean side of the expressway was much less busy, and felt less built up. The road kept getting smaller and smaller, until it was two lanes with no median. I crossed at a crosswalk shortly before the sidewalk ended.
Helpful(?) map of the park and mountain. I followed the green path, more or less.

As you pass the last buildings, the road gets much steeper. Some meters of climbing later I passed a nice looking building, then a parking lot. There are bathrooms in the building, which was nice, and at the far corner of the parking lot was a trailhead. It was late Sunday afternoon, but the lot was nearly full, and I saw many people out in the park. After a quick glance at a map board, I decided it would be easier to just follow my phone. 
Paved trail on the way up.

The trails in the park had impeccable maintenance. The steep parts were paved or had steps, and the trails were wide. It was nice to be off the city streets. At the top of the first climb, where I got onto the ridge, there was a free outdoor gym. People were using it. This was to become a theme. I followed the main trail up the ridge. Every once in a while there would be a small gap in the trees and a view of Busan, but don't come here if you're expecting views. 
Marker at the summit. I'm not sure what its marking though.

Just below the summit there is a turn off to the high point. I walked through another gym, also in use, to the summit which was an open field. There was a big X in the field, with a path around the perimeter. There are some benches next to the main trail at the junction, in the activation zone, but I decided it would be easier to put up a wire in the open field on top. I used the bushes to hold the pole, and was soon on the air. I thought I'd get a lot of Japanese stations on 40m, but I only got two. I was getting worried as I switched to 20m, but it turns out 20m was probably a better band for getting Japan. I also managed to get a chaser in New Zealand. 
Views of Suyeongman Bay and Busan. Haeundae Beach is on the right, below the three towers.

Once I had packed up I took the same route back down. I passed a viewpoint I had missed on the way up, and that small detour was worth it. The trees had been cleared enough to see the harbor, Hauendae Beach, and parts of downtown. The soft evening light made the scene beautiful. I managed to get through the city, ride the subway, and get back to the hotel just before dark. Though I wasn't too worried once I got to the streets since I knew they'd be lit.
Post-activation soju.

Trailhead: I started at the Kyungsung University stop on subway line 2, but if you have a car you can get much closer.
Website: SOTA Site.
Route: From the Kyungsung University stop on subway line 2, follow the main road towards Pukyong University, across the expressway, and up past the church to the parking lot. Then take the main trail up to the summit.
Red Tape: None.
Video: Coming soon.

Monday, April 29, 2024

HL/SL-009 Namsan

 We were in Korea for vacation, so naturally I wanted to do some SOTA. Korea is a mountainous place, and it looked like there were plenty of choices. The first summit we did is in the middle of Seoul, literally. The geographic center of the city is on the side of the plaza on top.

The tower is visible from a lot of places in the city, including this traffic island in Myeongdong.

Our hotel was in the Myeongdong neighborhood, near the Hoehyeon subway station. From exit 1, head uphill through the neighborhood. There was a flight of stairs just below a busy road, which we crossed to enter Baekboem Plaza. The tower on top was visible from here, and it was easy to follow the path to the bottom of the staircase. 

From the plaza. Still some blossoms on the trees!

Since the summit is easy to get to in a big city, there were a lot of people out. The stairs up to the top were wide and paved. There are plenty of benches, and even a few viewing platforms on the way. It was hazy as we ascended, but we could still see Bukhansan a few kilometers away to the north. We were glad it was cool out, it probably would have been a miserable hike in the summer.
Base of the stairs.

You know you are close when you see the cable car terminal. This is also where it goes from busy to crowded. Once you make it up the last few stairs, there are plenty of benches around the plaza and under the structure. We sat for a few minutes taking in the scene. On one side the fence is filled with locks that couples have attached. There was even a vending machine to buy your own to add.
High point of Namsan.

We found a bench out of the way, and I got on 2m. I had been warned that Korean hams are chatty, and they were. It took a couple of minutes calling CQ, but I soon had a long conversation with someone who couldn't quite get my Korean callsign (HL1/AA6XA). The slash seemed to trip him up. After a long chat I got two more stations in the log. Some more CQ calls didn't get anyone else, and we were getting bored and hungry, so I packed up. I thought about trying HF, but there really isn't anywhere to put up a wire without getting in people's way.

At the geographic center of Seoul.

We took the stairs back down, then turned onto a different road to get to the bibimbap restaurant near the base. It was a tasty and well earned lunch. 

Trailhead: We started from Hoehyeon Station exit 1, but there are myriad routes one could take
Website: SOTA Site.
Route: Make your way through the streets to the base of the stairs, then up the stairs to the summit. Or take the cable car.
Red Tape: None.

Friday, January 12, 2024


 This little peak is across the road from Lava Hot Springs. Since it was the winter, and there was snow on the ground, I parked in the empty lot at the corner of Center and River streets. From here it was a short walk up River Street to Highway 30. After making it across, I walked up the dirt road to what seemed like a good spot to go up the railroad embankment. I crossed the tracks and was on my way.

Looking up, across the tracks.

The hike up the hill is steep. It was not, however, steep enough to need traction in the snow. Most of the hill just across the tracks is either State or BLM land, so no problems with access. And the scary cliffs you can see from the highway are easy to bypass. Near the top of the ridge I crossed a road, leading to a hut. It wasn't really the direction I wanted to go, so I continued up to the ridge, then across towards the summit. 

Nice views to the west on the way up.

It was a lot easier hiking on the ridge, since it was much less steep. The highest area had more snow, but not enough to make walking difficult. I tagged what appeared to be the high point in some rocks, then went over to find a spot to put up my antenna. On the air I made plenty of contacts, and had great cell service on top. 

Antenna on the summit.

Going down was easy, I just followed my footprints. The steep section was a lot more fun, since I could slide a little on each step to get down faster. At the bottom I carefully crossed the tracks and highway again, and walked back down the road to my car. Overall, it was a fun hike and a great day to be out in the mountains.

Trailhead: Big parking lot at the corner of Center St and River St. In the summer you can probably park on the dirt pullout by the tracks, across the highway.
Website: SOTA Site.
Route: Walk up River St, cross the highway and train tracks, then head straight up the hill. On the ridge, follow it over to the high point.
Red Tape: I didn't see any signs, so you're probably ok.
Video: Coming soon!

Saturday, January 6, 2024

W7I/SI-190 Camelback Mountain

 At first glance, there is no way to get to this peak without trespassing. However, intrepid hiker, this is a public way. A corner of BLM land crosses West Buckskin Road at approximately 42°52'11.0"N 112°21'32.0"W. This is where you should park.

Heading up the hill.

Since it is only a narrow bit of public land at the road, you have to go straight up a rather steep hill. I lucked out and went after a few warm days had melted all the snow from this south facing slope, but it would be treacherous with snow or ice. After climbing a couple hundred feet in way too short a distance, you reach the top of the first hill. The summit is visible, as is the sub-peak you have to go over. Fun. 
At least there are nice views on the way up. 

There are no trails here, but the brush is easy to go through or around. The climb up the sub-peak is steep, maybe a little less than the first climb. On the top you have to drop again before the final climb. Its a real roller coaster of a hike. The final push isn't as bad as the first two. 
Looking south, I think.

The summit is long and narrow. It was pretty windy when I was up there, but the lee side of the hill was also the snowy side, so I decided it would be warmer to sit in the sun and wind. As I was putting up my wire, it broke at the feed point. I didn't want to take off my gloves, so I put it away and did an activation with only the whip. 20m was wide open, and I got a decent pileup. A few people got some extra QSB as the wind blew the whip over and I had to put it back to vertical.
I was able to fix it once I got off the mountain.

To get back, just retrace your steps. The downs seem even steeper than when you went up. Crazy how that is. Back at the road, with tired knees, I got back in the car and drove back into town. It was a fun hike. Maybe someday a spot with better access will open, but until then I'm glad there's a place it can be done from.

Trailhead: (42.86945, -112.35832). There is a pullout here with space for about two cars.
Website: SOTA Site.
Route: Head straight up the hill, staying on BLM land. Head over to the sub-peak, then up to the main summit.
Red Tape: I didn't see any signs by the road, but try to stay on public land.
Video: Coming soon!