Norther Savonia SOTA tour 2012

Hi everyone,

The early summer went past quite fast with no SOTA activity for us… I was busy at work and had a flu of some kind for almost two weeks in June. Antti, OH6FME was busy completing the last couple of weeks of his army service.

With July came my holidays and Antti moved to the reserves. So, it was time to go and activate some hills. Also some others from our club considered joining in, but couldn’t make it this time. Already for a year I had had my eyes on three summits in the Northern Savonia that are relatively close to each other. They are Katajamäki, OH/JS-024, Pölönmäki, OH/JS-003 and Väisälänmäki, OH/JS-039.

The idea was to visit the three summits with bicycles. But as the summits are more than 200 kilometers north from Jyväskylä, some other transportation was also needed. The original idea was to take a train from Jyväskylä to Lapinlahti municipality. But as daytime trains to that direction have been replaced by busses during this summer because of track works, another option was needed. Eventually Antti bought the equipment to attach our bikes on the roof of a car, so we could simply drive to Lapinlahti.

We started the journey from Jyväskylä on Thursday 26th July, sometime after 11:00 local time and arrived at the Lapinlahti railway station at about 14:00. We parked the car there, took down the bikes and loaded them with our gear. The bike route can be seen here on Google maps: Google Maps

Starting to the west from Lapinlahti, we had to cross five bridges as the road crossed the lake Onkivesi through a couple of islands. The largest bridge is the one over Akkalansalmi, high enough to allow even the bigger lake boats and steamers to pass under it. It was built in the late nineties to replace a small ferry. From the bridge we also got the first glimpse of Väisälänmäki, but went past it on Thursday, as the plan was to activate it on Friday before returning to the car.

Our first target was Katajamäki, OH/JS-024, which is a bit under 34 kilometers from Lapinlahti on roads. Katajamäki is the highest point of Pielavesi municipality and the summit is about 242 meters above sea level. So far there hadn’t been very big hills on the way, but as we turned west to a gravel road, Lappetelänkyläntie, the terrain started to rise steadily. Then we turned south to Leppämäentie, and in that intersection there was an actual warning sign of a 15% steep hill ahead!

First, that road went over Tähysmäki, which was quite steep enough already. But as we rode down that hill, we saw something in the distance, the road going straight up Leppämäki hill. From a few kilometers away it almost seemed that the road was going up vertically… Well it wasn’t quite like that of course, but steep enough that we had to step down and push our bikes up. Too bad Leppämäki is not a SOTA summit, a break was certainly needed at the top.

Anyway, from there it didn’t take that long to reach Katajamäki. The highest point of Katajamäki, called Huikari, lies at the edge of a farm also called Katajamäki. Forest in the area between the summit and the road had been cut quite recently, so the terrain was now quite rough and covered with all kinds of bushes and hays. We wanted to reach the next summit well before dark and didn’t want to spend too much time here. So, we climbed up through the bushes just a bit to make sure we were within the activation zone and found a lone birch standing there, waiting to support our antenna.

The station was ready at about 15:20 UTC. For some reason the antenna wasn’t quite in tune on 20 meters, and we had left the Z-match at the bikes. But we could make plenty of contacts anyway. I worked CW first while Antti lit up the trangia and cooked some soup for us. After a while we switched places. While Antti was working, I noticed that two small lizards had come up to see what was going on. They were lying on the log right behind Antti’s back. Altogether we made 24 CW and 3 SSB QSOs from Katajamäki. After that we packed up and headed back to the bikes, picking some really big wild strawberrys on the way.

The way from Katajamäki to Pölönmäki was quite pleasant. There were hills, but nothing too steep. Even the final ascent to Pölönmäki summit was relatively easy. Pölönmäki, OH/JS-003 is the highest point of the town Iisalmi and the summit is 248 meters above sea level. On the summit there is a base station mast and a water tank of the local water co-op. The water co-op also supports a viewing tower and a small hut with a fireplace.

When we arrived at the summit, it was already about 22:00 local time and it had been quite a long day. Therefore we decided not to put up the HF station until next morning. Instead, we had a look around the summit and climbed to the small tower to see the view as the sun was setting. The tower isn’t very high, but as the trees on the summit aren’t that tall either, it doesn’t matter. With the 2 meters handheld, we could open some repeaters and also got one direct QSO to OH7RJ in the city of Kuopio, about 60 kilometers south. After that we decided to call it a day and we hung our hammocks inside the hut.

After breakfast on Friday morning, we started our operations by hanging the dipole as inverted V adjusted for 80 meters from the tower. Some cooling equipment in the base station was making some noise on that band every now and then, but that didn’t cause too much trouble. But the noise levels in the potential chasers’ home stations seemed to be quite high, as they had some trouble hearing us. But Antti got three QSOs anyway.

To serve the hungrier chasers abroad, we adjusted the antenna for 30 meters as a sloper down from the tower. We also moved the operating position down to the ground. On second thought, we should have stayed in the tower, as the ground level was getting quite infested with hungry mosquitoes… Anyway, we made 16 contacts on 30 meters and one more domestic QSO on 40 meters before we decided to pack our gear and go on with our tour.

The road down to the west from Pölönmäki was quite curvy, as it went round a couple of farms and hills. At some point we passed a horse and carriage going the other direction. After a short while on paved road we turned towards Väisälänmäki and faced the last steeper hill of our journey.

The third and final summit was Väisälänmäki, OH/JS-039, which is located across the lake Onkivesi from central Lapinlahti. The summit is 220 meters above the sea level and 134 meters above the Onkivesi. Väisälänmäki is one of the Finnish National landscapes, as recognized by the Ministry of the Environment. From the ministry website:

“In 1992, 27 national landscapes were designated around Finland, in areas that particularly represent the special natural and cultural features of different regions.
These well-known landscapes have great symbolic value and widely recognised significance in cultural and historical terms, or in the popular image of Finland’s natural landscapes. No particular administrative significance was attached to the national landscapes.”

On the summit there is an old Savonian village. Back in the days it was common to set up villages on top of the higher hills in the area and there have been fields on this hill since the 18th century. In the past, the landscape has also inspired many Finnish painters. Nowadays the hill is a relatively popular tourist attraction. There is for example a path around the summit depicting the natural and cultural sights of the area and a viewing tower that reaches above the treetops on Linnamäki, the highest point of the summit. Every year the Finnish championships of cow calling are held at Väisälänmäki.

The road ended about 200 meters before the summit, at the “Cow hut cafe”. From there, we pushed our bikes up a bit further along the path and parked them at a small shelter. From there the last few meters were too steep for bikes. We didn’t waste any time but set up the HF gear for 80 meters. A bit after 12 UTC the station was ready and Antti started with a few domestic contacts while I worked a few stations on 2 meters FM. The landscape over the lake Onkivesi and the surroundings was indeed very nice.

The mosquitoes already troubled us on Pölönmäki a bit, but it was Väisälänmäki that was truly swarming with them. At first we tried to set up the station in the tower, but we didn’t have a long enough feeder cable to do that comfortably while hanging the antenna in a reasonable way. So we ended up working on the ground with jackets tightly worn and the one not holding the mike or key trying to keep the insects from eating us both up. After 4 QSOs on 80 meters and 2 on 2 meters we adjusted the dipole for 17 meters and worked a total of 21 contacts on that band.

As the pileup ended, we packed our things and started the way back down, visiting the “Cow hut cafe” on the way. I must say they served quite a delicious piece of cake at a very reasonable price. The rest of the trip down Väisälänmäki and back over the bridges went without problems as did the drive back home to Jyväskylä.

As a whole the tour was very successful. The weather was just fine and conditions on the bands were quite ok as well. Thanks to all chasers for joining our tour!

Some photos can be found at SOTA tour in Northern Savonia 26.–27.7.2012 | Flickr

Jaakko, OH6FQI