SOTA W3/CR-001: Piney Mountain

A yellow and brown turtle on a rock
A turtle, who was sunning himself on a rock at the edge of the woods bordering the slope.

This summit is about an hour north of the Washington, DC area (outside rush hour periods). As mentioned by other reviewers on the SOTA site and clearly visible on GoogleMaps, it is about one mountain away from Camp David, but I can’t say that this had any bearing on the activation.

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SOTA: Some New Jersey Summits


Screen capture from Google Maps with a pin marking each SOTA site. Routes between these sites are highlighted.
Google Map of all the SOTA sites in New Jersey and one possible route between them.

Every year, I spend a lot of time driving through New Jersey, but this year I thought I would stop there (being originally from New York, this takes some willpower).

As usual, I spent a while mapping out the sites before the trip. For the sake of efficiency, I divided them into three categories based on my expectation of easy access.

Best laid plans

My plan was to string as many SOTA sites as I could together in each pass on the way back and forth between Washington, DC and New York. As often happens, I had to modify the plan substantially as the weekend unwound — due to changes in travel plans, I had to abort one day of activation. In the end, I activated two peaks: W2/NJ-001, New Jersey Highpoint, and W2/NJ-003, Kittatinny Mountain. In this post, I’ll talk about these peaks, as well as the others that remain on my to-do list.

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SOTA: W3/CR-003

A boulder-strewn area surrounded by trees. In the distance, the western horizon
Operating position, with view to the west, towards the Potomac River and Virginia.

I was in the Washington, DC area for a day, and couldn’t resist activating Sugarloaf Mountain — it is just too convenient a SOTA peak to ignore. Everytime I’m in the area, I think about going up it, but often summer weather has foiled those plans. Not this time, though. It was a sunny day for my 45 minute drive out from Bethesda, MD to the trailhead.

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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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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: 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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I have a few days of meetings in Paris before returning to Madagascar and before arriving, I mapped out a couple SOTA peaks near Paris. I was not sure when I would work them in since my only free time will probably be in the evenings, but I have already operated from one: FL/NO-120.

I had some confusion about the name and designation. There area references on the sotawatch website that list F/NO-120 as “Buttes de Parisis”, and Google points to older versions of the website that also referenced that peak.  The French SOTA website indicates that as of February 1, 2017, there was a reorganization of France into the FL and F associations, so these websites just need to catch up. I had planned the trip back in January 2017, hence my use of the older term. For logging purposes, since the Nord-Ouest summits now fall under FL rather than F, I used the FL/NO-120 designation. Oddly, the name seems to have changed to “Fort de Cormeilles”, which is a historical building in the area. In any event, the GPS coordinates are the same.

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