Wednesday, 8 May 2019

OK8CDX Czech Tour May 2019 - Day 8 Final Day

Wednesday 8the May 2019:
OK/ST-041 > ST-042 > ST-044 > ST-035

This was our last half day of activity before going to the airport. The Hotel Na Vyvjoi Havlickova in Vlasim served breakfast at 7.00am, so we were able to to depart promptly. I was operating just one hour later owing to the proximity to Vlasim of our first summit Kostelik OK/ST-041. The summit was reached in a five minute walk from the lane up to top of a steep sided wood. The track is available in the SMP. I logged seven "early birds" from my slatted seat amongst the dead leaves on the Kostelik summit:
Six of the seven were the usual suspects who I had worked many times, including my friend Terry G0VWP who lives in York near to my home QTH:
The four X two point summits chosen today were in a line on our way back to Prague Airport - which is on the north western side of the city, we started from the south east side of Prague in Vlasim. All four summits were easy to access. 

Our next conquest was 10 Km from OK/ST-041 Kostelik and this was Brezak OK/ST-042. This summit was more interesting and comfortable, with seating provided for the operators, however we were both affected by high levels of QRN from the installations on the summit tower, which was open for climbing as a viewpoint for the public. We know there was an FM Broadcast station transmitter on the tower as you can see the photo of the foundation stone below:
Victor OK8VM walking to the summit of OK/ST-042
High wooden tower on OK/ST-042 - a two point summit
Radio Sazavz 89.3 FM Foundation stone - one of the emitters of heavy QRN perhaps on HF?
We moved on another 10 Km to our third summit and found another uphill woodland walk, this time on a gravel track. OK/ST-044 Cerkansky Chlum was an unremarkable summit, not even worth a photo with the activation taking place in long grass with trees more sparse than on the first summit. I took longer to qualify than Victor so he set off back to the car before me, something we always tend to do whether it was he or me who finished the activation first. We always set up two seperate stations so as to work at least two bands, two modes and work as many as we can in the short time we spend operating on each summit. Once again the track is available in the SMP. 

Our final summit was OK/ST-035 Pecny -  almost a drive on, with just a 200m into the woods adjoining a well fenced astronomical site on the summit. The footpath around the site is well within the activation zone at 540m ASL. No photos were taken here. There were plenty of folk around as it was a Bank Holiday. After the activation we got changed into our normal travelling clothes and then headed for the KFC at the Globus Hypermarket complex on the outskirts of Prague.
We overcame the language barrier at KFC Globus Center and "went large" with a 3 pieces classic chicken meal
We had plenty of time for a meal, to refuel the car, put it through the car wash leaving us sufficient time to reach the airport, just a few miles north of the Globus Centre. There is WiFi in the departure lounge at Prague Airport, so that allowed me time to enter my SOTA log for the day whilst waiting for my gate, by that time Victor had gone to his gate for the plane to Ireland. Mine was EasyJet to Manchester. 

Stats

Distance driven by GI4ONL/OK8VM = 960 miles
Distance walked = not calculated
52 unique summits activated for 174 Points (12 x 1 - 12 x 2 - 13 x 6 - 15 x 4)
Bands used: 20m CW/SSB - 30m CW - 40m CW/SSB
Total QSOs OK8CDX / OK8VM = 1180 Contacts (39 S2S)
Cost of Tour each - £££s - a three figure sum - would rather not know!

We hoping to go back later this year and do the same again in a different part of the Czech Republic. 

OK8CDX Czech Tour May 2019 - Day 7

Tuesday 7th May 2019

The plan today was to leave our hotel near Chotebor to drive north and west in an anticlockwise arc visiting one summit in the OK/PA region and six in the OK/ST, in this running order:
PA-031 > ST-093 > ST-094 > ST-091 > ST-097 > ST-101 > ST-090
The route would finally land us into a very nice posh (but affordable) hotel chosen by Victor in the town of Vlasim, 20 miles from the Prague Vaclav Havel Airport:
Six of the summits were close to each other apart from the extra summit to the north, ST-097. They were a mixture of legally "drive on - close to the road", and "walk to" summits. The hotel was almost an hour drive south of the final activation on ST-090, which was necessary to place us in the right location for the early morning activations on our 8th and last day. After 7 days and almost 50 activations we were both finding erecting the stations repeatedly, almost automatic. I calculated it was taking around 8 minutes to set up from arrival, 10 to 15 minutes operating time and then 8 minutes to pack up and walk off the summit. We spent more time driving in effect, than operating and walking, but that is what SOTA is like in the Czech Republic in the area we favoured...

A few summits were worth taking the camera out for, notably OK/ST-091, which was a clear hill on top off an escarpment that was a ten minute walk from the car:
Parking place for the Skoda Fabia hire car at ST-091
Victor GI4ONL/OK8VM enjoys the view on the walk up to ST-091 Oškobrh - 285m, 1 point
Later that day we came upon the most unusual summit of Chotuc OK/ST-097, where the top of the hill is a cemetery. I made a short video in the graveyard itself, where we decided to operate outside of, to respect the dead:


It was approaching 6.00pm local time when we finished on our last summit of OK/ST-090 Zaluznik. A short walk of 200m from the car took me to an area where there were beehives. As there were no bees visible at that time I admit to using one of the hives as a tie off point for my dipole:

Beehive tie off point for an inverted vee on OK/ST-090 Zaluznik
Just 10 minutes on ST-090 netted me 10 contacts on the 40m band in Morse and Voice. before I packed up the station and we headed to the hotel in Vlasim. Victor managed to scrape up 4 contacts in just 4 minutes, although he had to walk further up the road to find a place to set up his station.... 

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

OK8CDX Czech Tour May 2019 - Day 6

Monday 6th May 2019

ST-012 > JC-084 > JC-060 > VY-015 > VY-043 > VY-013 > ST-025

Our last day and night to come based at our hotel in Rozochatec near Chotebor before moving closer to Prague. We stayed for five nights at Rozochatec. The only issue was that breakfast was served at 8.00am - we would have preferred it one hour earlier. Otherwise an excellent hotel, which was formerly a castle. Large rooms, good showers, nice simple breakfast - all we needed. There were a few other walkers staying there over the weekend, but the hotel was othewise very quiet
Breakfast at Rozochatec
We drove south again to revisit the OK/JC area, allowing us to pick off a few more SOTA completes. We activated 7 summits with only OK/ST-025 Horka not being SOTA Complete for me. Hopefully someone will go there then when I am home for the chase, although no one had activated the summit in the previous 3 years prior to our visit, despite it being virtually a drive on....

With such a busy schedule attempting to visit as many summits as possible the average time spent operating on each summit today was just 10 minutes each on the 40 metre band in CW/SSB, with Victor again concentrating on 30 metres CW.  It was a cold damp day with hats and coats being necessary wear. As on previous days there were a few legal drive on summits, but also a few where we walked in from the road for a considerable distance. On the 3rd summit JC-060, I was able to secure a seat at a covered picnic table within the activation zone:
The most interesting summit in terms of history today was VY-015, where a lookout tower was situated - now serving as a cellular radio mast. The plaque above the locked door preventing access, was dated 1940, indicating this tower was built during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II:

Phil OK8CDX & Victor OK8VM on OK/VY-015 Svidnik - a 6 point summit I have chased six times
As we left the last wooded and non-complete summit for me of OK/ST-025 it was approaching 6.00pm local time, so we headed back to our base near Chotebor, 40 miles from the summit. 

Sunday, 5 May 2019

OK8CDX Czech Tour May 2019 - Day 5

We had been in touch with Jarek SP9MA via text message the previous day and had arranged to meet up on a summit in the morning. What better place to meet an activator in person who you have made many contacts with them than on a summit? After the previous day's early finish due to the rain we wanted to make up for lost time, so we were heading north with the first OK/VY summits near Chotebor, close to our hotel. This was to be our ten summit running order:
VY037>VY-039>PA-036>PA-040>PA-015>PA-041>PA-017>PA-039>PA-038>VY-072

We were looking forward to meeting Jarek, on what was to be an interesting day with fine weather, when we were to stumble across two VHF Contest stations located on VY summits and then go on to complete our first activations in the OK/PA Pardubický region.  
When we arrived on VY-037 we found the first contest station - sited in an ex-military portable building, sporting a 20m high mast with an extremely long 2m Yagi antenna. As I operated in the woods around 100m away I could see the antenna turning, so after I closed down on HF I knocked on the door of the unit and introduced myself with the help of my G4OBK QSL card. The station is OK1KCR Club Station Chrudim, and they have been operating contests on VY-037 since 1950 when their licence (pictured) was issued. It was OK1MHV who opened the door - OK1PI was sleeping after completing the night time operating. OK1FCR was the operator and OK1FPL was the old timer in this photo:
Left to right: OK1FPL, OK1MHV, OK1FCR operating club station OK1KCR station Manager OK1PI was sleeping


The contest station OK1KCR running QRO on 5th May 2019. The station is on the summit of OK/VY-037 Vestec.
There was another VHF contest club station amazingly on the next summit, VY-039 and one of the operators approached me while I was operating. We had a brief chat, but in different languages brief it was.... My mistake was not taking a photograph.  We then moved on to the summit of OK/PA-036 where Jarek SP9MA/P was waiting for us. We had a nice meeting, did our operating and then left the summit to Jarek to erect his antenna and continue with his own station.
Victor OK8VM - Phil OK8CDX - Jarek OK/SP9MA in the woods on OK/PA-036
The next summit was OK/PA-040 Ochoz. When we got there we were looking at a similar situation to Hensbarrow Beacon G/DC-008 in Cornwall where a china clay slag heap was built, causing the summit to relocate. In the case of PA-040 this was a large dump, probably around 25m higher than the previous highest point (behind the radio mast in the picture).


We set up in the activation zone and not on top of the rubbish heap.

OK/PA-015 was next, a drive on summit. We operated on either side of a small copse near to an enormous TV transmitter. The QRN (Static interference) from the sender was very high on HF and I struggled to hear the chasers calling me. Victor suffered the same on 10 MHz on what was a brief activation: 


The next few summits were typical of the region in woodland, but OK/PA-039 was nicely in the clear, with far reaching views to a large quarry and as is often the case in Czech, there was a radio mast on the summit:

Today's tally was 222 contacts between both operators from 10 summits using 7 MHz CW/SSB and 10 MHz CW. After we left OK/PA-036 Jarek SP9MA went on to make another 12 contacts there. It was great to meet him. 

Saturday, 4 May 2019

OK8CDX Czech Tour May 2019 - Day 3 & Day 4

Our second and third full days, and a late start on day 3 for several reasons. We therefore decided to extend our day and operate into the evening to make up for the lost time at the beginning of the day. We headed south west of Havlickuv Brod and Jihlava into the heavily wooded Vysocina area on both days. All summits activated are shown on this map, running order on day 3 was:
VY-028>VY-029>VY-017>VY-066>VY-021>VY-012>VY018>VY-025:
  
OK/VY-028 was our first summit and it was raining, so my KX2 was operated inside this plastic case:

Most of the wooded summit areas were easy to reach using the car, however our 3rd summit (OK/VY-017) involved a reasonable walk to the summit from the parking place by the side of this small shelter, Victor OK8VM/GI4ONL is pictured by our Fabia hire car:
And here we are after the activation on the summit:
We then drove a few miles to OK/VY-066 Kobylí hlava where the summit was in the clear out of the woods at the top of a farmers field, and another easy 4 pointer: 
The next summit VY-012 was a little different. We parked near the gated entrance to a holiday / wellness centre and walked up tracks to a radio mast. I set up close to it. The track is in the SMP:
Our last two on Friday were VY-018 and VY-025. Both were unremarkable summits close to asphalt roads. In the case of VY-025 this was the only summit out of 52 activated during our tour that was not SOTA Complete for me. It was 19:30 local time when we finished operating on VY-025 so it was straight to the Pansky Dum bar and restaurant in Chotebor for our dinner and beer (non alcoholic for Victor being the driver).  Considering our late start we had a really productive day with 8 activations  and 204 contacts between us on the 20m, 30m and 40m bands. 

Day 4: VY-002>VY-011>VY-010>VY-022

There was rain forecast again as we headed out to our most southernest point of the tour - Javorice OK/VY-002. Finding a sandwich en-route to eat later was difficult. We stopped at a couple of convenience stores but they didn't sell them. It would have to wait. Not far from the village of Svetla a small herd of Chamois guided by a single Ram crossed the road right in front of the car! It took us a few seconds to realise what they were. I had only seen solitary Chamois before on three occasions, so seeing a group of around ten was a surprise... The long drive and pleasant walk of around one mile each way to VY-002 meant we were starting our first activation later than expected:

There was a large transmitting mast on the summit of VY-002 so we stopped short on the track to avoid the chance of interference from the comms installation. The weather was fine but it was going to change. Here is Victor OK8VM strolling back to the car:

We then went to VY-011, which we approached from the north (see track in SMP), however VY-010 Kremesnik was more memorable as there was a hotel on the summit. Surely if we ever return to the area this would be a great place to stay? I went in to the bar and the staff gave me a couple of postcards when I told them I intended returning there sometime:
We set the stations up behind the hotel in the woods, and although there were people around, no one bothered us.  While on the summit it started raining, and it persisted as we arrived at VY-022 which is a "drive on" summit near an activity centre. We operated in the woods on either side of the tarmac road and got pretty well soaked. After that the rain continued so we decided to call it a day and head back to Rozochatec Hotel.  After a hot shower and a couple of hours rest we went back to the Pansky Dum restaurant in Chotebor - where they have a micro brewery in the restaurant itself:

Thursday, 2 May 2019

OK8CDX Czech Tour May 2019 - Day 2

de Phil OK8CDX (G4OBK)continued.....
This was our first full day of our Czech tour when we planned to leave Kourim and travel near to Chotebor and reach our main hotel where we would stay for five nights.  Directly this was a distance of 75 Kms but instead I had planned an itinerary taking in ten easy to reach summits in the OK/ST and OK/VY areas along the way. 

After a visit to a bakery in Kourim for some breakfast snacks we drove out a few miles to OK/ST-086 Krechor and then on to OK/ST-064 Vysoka. I grabbed a bench seat off the road here for my operation on 7 MHz, whilst Victor (OK8VM) went into the woodland to operate on 10 MHz from near the radio mast pictured here:
With a tight schedule planned we spent no more than around 15-20 minutes operating time on each summit, before moving on to the next one. At this time of day the 30m and 40m bands were working well for us. On all summits we set up two seperate stations and operated independently of each other.  When we arrived at our 3rd summit, OK/ST-032 Brezina, we were surprised to find an HF contest site with a caravan sited there and an impressive array of HF aerials - there was even a beverage receiving aerial supported on poles which was around 250 metres long. The contest station was not in use thankfully, so there was no QRM to affect our SOTA operations:
My 5 metre pole with linked inverted vee dipole 40m-30m-20m on OK/ST-032
What a station! Callsign and club name unknown on OK/ST-032
The weather stayed dry and we continued on with our list of summits entering into the OK/VY area. Most summits were non-descript and situated in woodland, such as this one VY-032, Orlik.  Here my KX2 is sat on the trig point, with the pole bungied to the red and white trig pole, that one finds on many summits in the Czech Republic. Victor can be seen setting up in the background about 75 metres away:

Most summits visited were graced with the presence of a radio mast, such as OK/VY-050 Vysoka pictured below (Such a common summit name in Czech, converted to English this is the word high!):
This summit had several ski-tows leading down from the summit and legal road access to the top of it. Having completed my activation on 7 MHz, Victor was still working chasers on 10 MHz so I was able to take his photo (above).  The day stayed dry and after activating VY-050 pictured, we checked in at our hotel (pictured) in the village of Rozsochatec near Chotebor:

Once that was done and we had our room keys, we went back out to activate the last two summits, VY-048 Vizab and VY-046 Fredleruv kopec, before heading for a meal in Chotebor. Not a bad day at all, 10 summits activated with 216 SOTA contacts completed between us. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

OK8CDX Czech Tour May 2019 - Day 1

On 1st May 2019 I caught the 09:11 train from Malton to Manchester Airport to catch an EasyJet flight to Prague where I was to meet up with Victor GI4ONL for another week long SOTA Tour in the Czech Republic.  Security clearance at Manchester was without issue. I've been travelling on aircraft with radio equipment and batteries now since 2014 and if anything, it has become easier with time. I put this down to the proliferation of people who are now carrying more electronic equipment and spare batteries for phones.
The flight, once underway, was the worst I have experienced.  My seat was surrounded by members of a foul mouthed stag party group. Unfortunately my earbuds were packed, so I had to listen to the intoxicated group... At one stage I managed to doze off - but when I woke up a member of the group had stolen a Twix bar from my tray table, which I had been looking forward to eating in the latter part of my flight.  I decided it wasn't worth challenging them about it so I left it. Was I glad to get off that plane!

Victor's flight from Dublin arrived a short time before mine and we met up at the luggage carousel in late afternoon. As in the past we used the affordable services of Firefly to provide us with a Skoda Fabia - our hire car of choice in Eastern Europe. Firefly is the budget arm of Hertz, and the cars are just as good, but are hired at a reduced rate. 

We were on the road by 17:30 local time and making our way east of Prague to the first of two summits, OK/ST-070 Horka. A track from the south leading to a quarry took us to a parking place by a wood. A short walk of around 200m took us into the woodland and our operating positions, where we set up two stations as we were to do on all summits visited on the tour. It takes us less than ten minutes from arriving to deploying our KX2 transceivers and link dipoles, and after the horrendous flight it was great to get on the air and make some contacts in the great outdoors...
Our plan was to activate as many summits as possible during our time in the country, so we were thankful that SOTA Chasers were happy to keep the contacts brief and "contest style" allowing us to maximize our totals. This meant we would often operate for as little as 10 minutes before packing up. In the case of ST-070 I made 11 contacts in just 11 minutes on 7 MHz CW/SSB before packing up and moving off to our second summit before dusk. This was ST-080 Na Hradku where just five contacts were made in five minutes on 7 MHz CW before my CQs went unanswered - Europe must have been eating its dinner.... 

As the day drew to a close we needed to check in to our first nights budget accommodation in the nearby town of Kourim, where despite May 1st being a Bank Holiday, we were able to find a meal and enjoy our first glass of Czech Beer in a small restaurant on the town's square.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

SOTA Tour in Czechia start on Weds 1st May 2019

A “heads up” announcement for another OK (Czech) Tour this week by Victor GI4ONL / OK8VM and Phil G4OBK / OK8CDX. This will be the 7th OK Tour by Phil, and the 5th OK Tour by Victor.

After leaving the airport on Wednesday at around 1530z we will activate two summits in OK/ST before dusk. On Thurs 02 May we will be travelling and activating as we go into the OK/VY Vysocina region where we will stay for 5 nights. From there we will activate summits in the OK/VY and OK/JC regions.

On Tuesday 07 May we will travel north into the OK/PA region and end the day in Vlasim in the OK/ST region, closer to Prague.

Wednesday 08 May will be a half day operation, when we hope to activate our last four summits in the OK/ST region on our way to the airport.

As in previous tours Victor will specialise on 10 MHz CW. I will operate on 7 MHz CW/SSB and 14 MHz CW/SSB. I would expect to use 7 MHz in the early mornings and late afternoons and 14 MHz late morning and afternoon. We will always try to use two bands on each summit and both modes. We will operate for no more than 20-30 minutes on each summit so as to maximize the number of summits visited in the week. We expect to activate between 40 and 50 summits using KX2 radio’s and link dipoles. An HB1B QRP CW radio will be carried as the backup radio.
I just discovered that breakfast time at our main 5 night hotel starts at 0600z (0800 Local time), so unless we can move this to an earlier time the predicted alert times for the summits I have listed may need to be adjusted.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Three summits in the Cambrian Mountains MW-001/007/008 - 6 April 2019

I was in Cardiff for a few days and took time out to drive north near to Aberystwyth on the Saturday to activate three summits I needed for SOTA Complete. The three needed uniques were GW/MW-001 Plynlimon (Chased 21 times), MW-007 Banc Llechwedd-mawr (Chased 7 times) and MW-008 Drosgol (Chased 6 times). I left Cardiff early morning and was walking at 8.55am after what was a 150 minute drive to the side of Nant-y-moch reservoir (Parking at SN775879). Parking place is pictured just off the road end:
I've used the GPX tracks shared in the SOTA Mapping Project by Simon G4TJC before in Wales, and found them useful and reliable, so for this walk I had linked the tracks provided by Simon for each summit together and imported them as one into Viewranger - the mapping app on my phone. The route is an unusual one as it relies on two footbridges which have to be crossed twice each. I was prepared for a challenging and long day on pathless moors so I dressed and booted up accordingly. The weather was near enough perfect, albeit a little misty to start, sunshine later and wind on the summits up to around 30 mph. Fortunately all three summits had good stone shelters and piles of stones on them.  Here is the route I took:

I was carrying my usual 2m QRO FM equipment which consists of a Yaesu FT1500M, 7amp LIFePo battery, Yaesu VX-170 handheld, 4m fishing pole and 145 MHz end fed dipole. With the higher power I felt I was guaranteed to qualify all three summits. Progress seemed slow and I put this down to what I was carrying and my heavy 4 season boots, which proved essential later when traversing several boggy areas. Even with these on I finished up with wet feet for most of the day, when I veered away from Simon's track on my way up to Plynlimon from the car. Wet but not cold feet fortunately, as there was enough heat in my feet through walking to prevent them getting cold... It took me 78 minutes to climb up to the shelter on MW-001 Plynlimon, and I settled there operating the radio, resting and taking photos for 45 minutes:

The large and shapely Nant-y-moch reservoir seen from Plynlimon
Back on the route from the col at SN789873 I found sheep runs that led me down to a track running north west of Llyn Llygad Reservoir (pictured) on my way to the first footbridge:
Approaching the bridge which was within my vision, I came across this ruined farmhouse at SN783890:
The first bridge which crossed Afon Hengwm at SN779891 was reached at midday, so it was time to sit in the warm sunshine for 20 minutes and eat my lunch:

The first bridge over Afon Hengwm at SN779891
The pathless route up to the summit of MW-007 was pretty tough with 200m of ascent over a distance of 1 Km, but I got there eventually and set up the FT1500M for a 30 minute session behind the pile of rocks. The summit was not particularly well sited radio wise, but I qualified easily before moving off towards Drosgol MW-008, seen on the right of this photo taken from Banc Llechwedd-mawr MW-007:
Twenty minutes after leaving MW-007 I was looking down on the second gated footbridge, which crosses Afon Llechwedd-mawr. I think it is time the Ordnance Survey marked these two vital river crossings on the 25K map - maybe they already have.... I was using the 2014 version of the map....
Climbing up the other side towards MW-008 Drosgol, I spied this impressive and very remote farmhouse to the west of me:

An ice floe in a pool approaching the top of Drosgol
45 minutes from the footbridge I was in the comfortable shelter on Drosgol, my third and last summit:
It was just after 3.00pm and I stayed in the comfort of the shelter resting and operating for an hour - almost exhausting my 7 amp battery whilst in QSO with Welsh, English and Irish stations. It was then back down to the 2nd footbridge and away across the moor to the 1st footbridge which was reached at 5.15pm. From there it was a half hour walk on the track until I reached the car, tired but rewarded with my three SOTA Completes. Driving back along the side of the reservoir I couldn't resist stopping to take this photo of a highland cow in its prime out of my car window:
On my walk I saw no other person and the only people spoken to where radio amateurs on VHF.  I stopped off on my way back to Cardiff for much needed fast food at the BK in Builth Wells. With five hours driving and such a challenging walk overall, I felt I had stretched myself to the limit, however next day I was in fine fettle for the drive back home from Cardiff to North Yorkshire. 

Summits climbed:
Plynlimon 752m (MW-001) > Banc Llechwedd-mawr 560m (MW-007) > Drosgol 550m (MW-008)
Distance walked: 8.75 miles
Total Ascent: 2910 feet
Contacts made:
MW-001: 12 (S2S with Simon GW4TJC on NW-068) 
MW-007: 5 (S2S with Simon GW4TJC on NW-064)
MW-008: 11 (S2S with Simon GW4TJC again on NW-064)