SOTA: Le Pic Pelé (F/MC-036)

A Brazilian postage stamp commemorating football's Pelé
Probably not the Pelé they had in mind…

Le Pic Pelé was the third SOTA summit that I visited on April 23rd, after Les Cornes d’Urfé and Pierre Beille earlier in the day.

From aerial photos, I could see that there are at least two paths that wind up to the peak, and I marked the base of those paths as potential way points in my GPS. However, following the default Google Maps driving directions, I got to a point where my phone told me to take a left up a road that was clearly too rough for my car.

However, it did seem like a straightforward no-fuss way to get to the top, so I pulled the car over and parked in a gravel clearing, “Le Reculon”, near some stacked logs across the street from the rough road.

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SOTA: Pierre Beille (F/MC-240)

map of Pierre Beille
Pierre Beille summit (left) and closest approach along the road (right)

To find this peak, I went with the summit coordinates provided on the SOTA site and looked on GoogleMaps for the nearest road. The road I found runs to the east of the peak and is unnamed.

It was a relatively short ride from Les Cornes d’Urfé, but I should mention that the access road is mostly dirt and narrow in some places. It winds through a logging area, through a dense pine forest. Every now and then, there are large piles of pine trunks. As I drove down the road kicking up dust, I got to the point due east of the summit and then went a bit more without seeing any trails towards the summit. However, when I backtacked about 200m from the position to the east of the summit, I saw where the road branched upward.

Location of the side road, with rental car parked on the right.
Looking northward, the side road is on the left in the shadows.

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SOTA: Les Cornes d’Urfé (F/MC-243)

Map of the region near Park Naturel Régional Livradois-Forez showing Les Cornes d'Urfé, Pierre Beille, and Le Pic Pelé.
The unactivated peaks to the west of Lyon.

As mentioned, I had a day and a half to explore the area around Lyon, beginning Saturday afternoon with Le Grand Felletin.

On Sunday morning, I got up early and pointed the rental car west towards a cluster of unactivated sites, two within the Livradois-Forez Regional Park (Pierre Beille and Le Pic Pelé), and one just a bit closer, Les Cornes d’Urfé. I started with that latter site, which is easily found by searching for the medieval castle of the same name. If I had a more little more lead time for this trip, I would have obtained in advance a topographic map of the area (IGN carte topographique, série bleue 2731, Noirétable), which is sold online.

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SOTA: Le Grand Felletin (F/MC-033)

sign post pointing towards the Grand Felletin
Directions towards Le Grand Felletin, about half way into the woods from the parking area.

I was in Lyon, France for a conference and had late Saturday and all of Sunday to devote to SOTA activity. During a 24-hour period, I activated four previously unactivated peaks in the Massif Central region.

By the time I got the rental car on Saturday afternoon, I figured that best case scenario, I might be able to activate two peaks during the remaining daylight. The two I had in mind were Le Grand Felletin (F/MC-033) and Le Pet du Loup (F/MC-256). Some online hiking posts detail the approach to Grand Felletin, a two-point peak with some interesting geology. Both are to the southwest of Lyon, and I plotted a route that could take me back past Pet du Loup, which looked like a roadside peak.

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2017 PODXS 31 Flavors Contest

The psk31 amateur radio contestFor a change, I have stayed put in Madagascar for a few weeks in a row, and on the weekends, I have taken part in a few contests: the PODXS 070 Club’s 31 Flavors digital contest, and two CW contests: JIDX and CQMM. In this post, I rant on about what it is like to work psk31 from Madagascar and then review my experience in this year’s 31 flavors amateur radio contest.

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Cheap Radio Email

“Station 2” set up for digital modes including pactor.

Being in a remote location with limited infrastructure and occasional disasters of various flavors, I thought it would be a good idea to have some options to get email on and off the island without relying on local communication providers. There are some satellite phones around, but a limited number, and bandwidth is still costly. I have found two ways to get email off the island using amateur radio: APRS via satellite and via HF. I managed both with equipment already on hand and no additional expense.

Both systems rely on some sort of gateway receiving station to route the email to the internet. I’ll focus on HF because it is more robust and more likely to be available at any given time of day.

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SOTA: EA3/BC-016 Montalt

On my second day in Barcelona, I had to choose between activating an historic two-point peak, Sant Jeroni (EA3/BC-012) or trying one of the four one-point peaks along the coast to the northeast of Barcelona, EA3/BC-015, 16, 17,  and 18.

Sant Jeroni is the site of a monastery and is well-described online. There is a funicular railway that runs some distance towards the peak, and the peak can be reached by stairs from two sides. Early Saturday morning, I decided that I would rather find my way up some local trails than deal with the press of tourists at a popular site.

Some SOTA peaks near Barcelona.

On the previous day, I had tried to take the rental car up EA3/BC-015, and found that I could not get very far up the mountain road. I was concerned that the same would be true of all of the peaks along the coast, but thought it would be fun to try anyhow.

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SOTA: EA3/BC-008 (Turó de L’Home)

Before arriving in Barcelona, I spent some time looking over SOTA maps and came to the conclusion that none of the peaks were within a reasonable trip by public transportation, but that quite a few are within an hour and a half ride by car. The Turó de L’Home topped my list — its point value was higher than other peaks, and there are hiking articles online that describe a parking place and a reasonable walk to the top.

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Tropical Cyclone Enawo

This storm is already intense and predicted to hit the north-east side of the island tomorrow morning with hurricane force. For the last three years, we have been lucky with storms tracking to one side or the other of the QTH, but the track for this one cuts straight down the center of the island and should pass near the capital city, Antananarivo. The prediction has been consistent and is now close enough to be sure that we will experience some rough weather in the next few days.

To that end, for the first time, I have lowered the hex beam antenna. I collapsed down the telescoping sections of the heavy duty 10m spiderbeam mast and threw some additional guy lines over the central plate to which the arms attach. The wooden support beam goes two meters into the ground and is surrounded by buried concrete, so I am not worried about the base, but I do expect the fiberglass arms to be battered about. I considered dismounting the whole antenna, but that would have required more manpower than I have readily available, so it will have to ride out the storm.

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SOTA: ZS/WC-043 Maclear’s Beacon

Over the last two weeks, I have traveled in South Africa and Botswana, primarily on business, but with a little time set aside for radio fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive regulatory clearance to operate in Botswana in time for the trip, so I left the radio in my suitcase there (despite the bilateral agreement on amateur radio between the US and Botswana, to operate, US hams need to file with BOCRA, which takes some time). However, in South Africa, I operated from Pretoria and Cape Town, visited a local ham club, and activated a SOTA peak.

While I would prefer to activate less common SOTA peaks, when traveling I often need to consider what is in range of public transportation. Table Mountain is a 50 Rand ride on Uber from downtown Cape Town and is also a stop on some hop-on/hop-off bus tours. Two hanging cable cars run from the base of the mountain to its top. There is a long path up as well, but as I was lugging more equipment than usual, I decided to take the cable car, which was something like 250 Rand round trip (about $20; pricey, but it is, after all, a tourist attraction).

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