We've found a better route to the top, much easier and probably quicker. Also, we've found out that the hill is actually named Zigreva. Chicera Neagra is a different hill, nearby, but lower and thus not a valid SOTA summit.
The GPS track - http://www.wandermap.net/en/route/3611955-chicera-neagra-v2-ec-572/ .
A short video taken during the activation.
Since June 2019, we started to participate in the national VHF/UHF contest. It's a new and exciting ham activity for us. As per usual, the whole thing was Andrei's idea. He did the research and gradually made better antennas and improved our overall set-up. I did the log sheets :D Yay!
For the 3rd round of the YO VHF/UHF Marathon (in June) we've operated while on a SOTA trip, so we weren't exactly prepared for the contest. The number of QSO's clearly reflects that, but it was enough to spark our interest and formulate a better plan for the next month's round.
In July we were ready to give it another go. This time we dedicated the day for the contest, no SOTA or mushroom picking. Andrei made a brand new 5 element Yagi antenna based on a design by DK7ZB. For the location we chose a hill some 20km outside the city. Shade and ease of access were the main requirements in choosing the spot. We used the FT-857D with 40W from a LiFePo4 battery. We were three operators this time, YO8SSQ, YO8AGA and YO8SBR, all /P, and we passed the mic from one another between contacts. It went OK, managing about 10 contacts each. Longest QRB for me was 487km (check the QSO map here).
Come August, Andrei and I participated in the 5th round of the YO USW Marathon. For this round Andrei built a new antenna, this time a 6 el. Yagi with better gain. We chose a different, higher and more open spot, but still near the site we used in July. Besides the antenna, the rest of the equipment remained unchanged. We made more contacts this time, Andrei "bagging" 18, one more than myself. My longest QRB (at the moment unconfirmed) was 676km (check the contacts map for YO8SBR/P). I personally expected more contacts with YO stations, but for some reason that wasn't the case. Even though there were some stations from Poland working in the contest, we couldn't hear them at all. Also, too bad Ukraine is absent from these contests, I'd expect some nice contacts with them.
In all rounds we worked mainly on 2m (144MHz) and only made minimal contacts on 70cm.
Hopefully September's round will find us in good health and good weather. Can't wait! :D
Here are some useful links:
1. The YO (Romanian) Ultra Short Wave "headquarters" - http://uus.ro
2. Online EDI generator - http://ok2kjt.net/edi/
3. EDI Map Visualizer for logs - http://www.opencontest.org/edi/
4. An interesting article about troposcatter / USW propagation - https://www.qsl.net/oz1rh/troposcatter99/troposcatter99.htm
5. More info on troposcatter (PDF) - https://www.comtechsystems.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Troposcatter-Introduction-Nov-2013.pdf
6. Earth Curve Calculator ... for fun - https://dizzib.github.io/earth/curve-calc/?d0=100&h0=2&unit=metric
7. Tropospheric Ducting Forecast - http://www.dxinfocentre.com/tropo_eur.html .
Just published a new short activity report for Hasmasul Negru.
Big Thanks! to our chasers on 2 and 40m:
You can read about our muddy adventures here. Chasers: Thanks for waiting and sorry for being late, muddy conditions and a flat tire hampered our progress.
Check the activity report and video here.
Many thanks to our chasers:
I (YO8SBR) look at mountain hiking in the temperate region, Romania - especially for SOTA - as a two season business. One season with liquid precipitation and the other with solid precipitation. I'll try to list the pros and cons of each:
My main concerns with summer trips are ticks and lightning strikes, then dogs and sunburn and then rain itself. In winter most of these problems disappear, but are replaced by others like freezing temperatures and extra equipment to carry. Still, as I put everything in balance, I prefer winter SOTA expeditions on Romanian ground (could be a very different story when talking about other regions, as altitude and position on globe can have a big impact on temperatures and weather).
As for the bears, in Romania they sometimes don't hibernate at all, so you can bump into them in any season. I think spring is the worst, because then they are the hungriest. Making noise constantly while on trails should alert and rid of most if not all bears. For extra protection you should carry bear spray - we don't. So far we've encountered bears twice. One time Andrei was walking silently in a creek and when he climbed the bank he met face to face with a bear (~20 meters between them). Both were startled and the bear decided to leave in a hurry, luckily not in my direction). The other time we heard a bear cub "screaming" and then saw the bear mother and another cub eating something on the ground at 100m range (in a meadow next to the forest). They didn't see us at first, but we made some noise and the mother stood on her hind legs to get a better look at us, sniffed the air and then ran into the forest with her cubs. The same day we saw another huge bear with two cubs walking casually on the road, but we were in the car at the time so... it doesn't count.
Huge dogs in big numbers can also be a problem. We often encounter groups of 2-3 big shepherd's dogs, but we've seen 8 or more in some cases. Sometimes lifting a stick over your head can work, but sometimes it makes them angrier. Shouting also works, but not always. We try to avoid their territory and calm them using passive actions, but when things get ugly we use a pepper spray (used it twice so far). The dogs retreat - looks like it's enough to spray one and they all retreat - and the effect of the pepper lasts only a short while (1-2 minutes, as observed) and without any long term damage, but the dogs lose interest. I wouldn't rely on the shepherds to save you. They are nowhere to be seen most of the time, but sometimes they can even be aggressive (it happened a few times already).
Hello everyone, we kind of tuned out for a while there. Lack of time and life got in the way. We're still using the BitX40 and we're happy with it. I know this is not full report as promised, hardly a half-assed report. What we can say is that the rig does its job well. We've activated a lot of summits with it and so far not one summit was left unactivated. It's true that in some cases we thought nobody will hear us, so, yeah, it can get tough. For some reason we had more problems during the summer than in winter (this is true even for the activations where we used the FT-857). Maybe it's because in summer there are a lot of thunderstorms going on, as we could hear a lot of crackling and popping during most summer activations - sometimes it was so bad we could hardly hear anyone over the noise. The lightweight of the setup is great for bicycle activations too, as we've tested it in three expeditions to date and we're pretty happy with it (at least I am, because YO8SSQ carried everything, haha!).
We also got a uBitX, but didn't assemble it yet. We expect even better results, since it has a bit more power and band flexibility - this alone should go a long way.
We fell behind with our activation reports, but you can check what's to come on the list below. We've also tested the BitX40 for the first time on 17 Dec. Stay tuned for a full report.
12 Nov 2017 - YO/EC-203 (Ioresti) - 8p
19 Nov 2017 - YO/EC-467 (Rosu) - 6p
26 Nov 2017 - YO/EC-460 (Poreica) - 8p
01 Dec 2017 - YO/EC-297 (Magura Runcului) and YO/EC-318 (Runcul) - 6p
03 Dec 2017 - YO/EC-336 (Bodea) - 6p
10 Dec 2017 - YO/EC-031 (Seredna) - 6p
17 Dec 2017 - YO/EC-007 (Giumalau) - 8p
23 Dec 2017 - YO/EC-203 (Tomnatec) - 8p
In late October and early November 2017 we (YO8SSQ and YO8SBR) took 2 weeks off to visit some relatives and activate some summits out of our usual area of action. It was a fruitful week and also good exercise for my foot.
To keep things as organized as possible, I will talk about each summit in a separate post. Check Expeditions to view these reports. GPS tracks, conditions, info and pics/clips will be included for each. The summit list:
22 Oct 2017 - YO/EC-628 (Pietricica) - 2p
23 Oct 2017 - YO/MC-246 (Măgura Poienei) - 6p
25 Oct 2017 - YO/MC-197 (Dealul Furcilor) - 4p
26 Oct 2017 - YO/WC-201 (Sântimbru) - 1p
26 Oct 2017 - YO/WC-006 (Piatra Secuiului) - 6p
26 Oct 2017 - YO/WC-026 (Dealul Sândului) - 4p
27 Oct 2017 - YO/WC-021 (Măgura / Kis Magura) - 4p
29 Oct 2017 - YO/EC-304 (Vârful Mare) - 6p
01 Nov 2017 - YO/EC-236 (Muncelu) - 8p
05 Nov 2017 - YO/EC-185 (Bivolul) - 8p
IARU HF 2017
Since I'm stuck home with a broken ankle I thought to try my hand at the IARU HF contest. I entered as a single-op, low power, SSB only, non-assisted (i.e. no use of clusters) participant. I used a Kenwood TS-850S and an end fed antenna built for 20m. The setup squeezed out a maximum of 75W on 14 MHz and much less on all the other bands. I was active for a little over 13 hours, worked 210 contacts, the bulk of which were made in the 20m band. I used SD for logging and the calculated score by SD was around 26k, while N1MM gives me 28k and some change. Might be less when the big guys from ARRL will put my log through the wringer.
It was a nice experience, even though I really felt the need of a 40m capable antenna, as I could only make one measly contact in 7 MHz. This next weekend I'm trying to participate in the RRTC and see what happens.
On 15 July I participated in the RRTC, an 8 hour contest. Again, I entered as a single-op, low power, SSB only participant and used the same setup as in the IARU contest. It was a weird day radio-wise, as I couldn't hear any station except in the 20m band. I worked with any station that I could hear and that could hear me. At the end of my 7+ hour shift (I spent about 1 hour taking various breaks) I "bagged" 71 contacts. I felt more tired than I was in the IARU HF, maybe because of the relatively short time I had at my disposal. In the IARU taking breaks didn't feel like I was wasting precious time like it did in the RRTC. I walked away with a head ache. The band was noisy and all that static and faint signals finally got to me. Indeed, I'm a lousy contestant, having participated in 3 or 4 ham contests in my life (these two included). Here are the results.
Contesting can be fun and tiring at the same time. For some it's a way to spend a weekend when it's raining outside, for others it can be something they planned and prepared for for a long time. In my case it was pretty fun, but also a bit frustrating. Spending long hours trying to pick up callsigns from the static can be exhausting. A decent antenna in a good location can make a big difference and until this happens I'll probably stay away from contests.