SOTA: F/MC-192 (La Ramière)

This was the final of three sites near Brive-la-Gaillarde that I had activated on a day trip starting near Bordeaux; the other two peaks were F/MC-263 and F/MC-178. What sets this site apart is that I was not only activating a summit, but a prehistoric megalith (I’m not aware if there is a program for that, but probably).

My first inclination was just to follow a road towards a commercial antenna site near the summit, but when I looked at the site on OpenTopo, I saw a point of interest within the activation zone, the Dolmen du Puy de la Ramière. The map also showed paths leading from roads to the dolmen. A quick check with GoogleStreet view showed me that there are signs along the street and a parking lot next to the trail head, so I decided to take the trail to the dolmen and pick an activation spot in the woods a bit off the trail.

OpenTop Map showing the SOTA summit (red marker) and to its right the Dolmen du Puy de la Ramière and related trails.

For background, France has more than its share of megalithic structures that date to the neolithic period. For example, the large, vertical rocks (menhirs) that stand upright (pierres levées) or have fallen (pierres couchées) over time. In some places, these occur in large arrays, although they are more often solitary towards the south in France. Other structures include tumuli (earthen burial mounds) and, as is the case for this activation, dolmens (covered alleys, usually with walls and roofs of flat rock, also serving as ancient burial sites).

The car park is visible from the streets that pass it, and it should accomodate up to about six cars (shown here as the blue dot).

A screen capture from my phone.

There is a sign at the corner of the parking lot that provides some information about the trail. In addition to the dolmen, the trail also loops past a second site, the Pierre Gravée du Boscoudet (the Carved Stone of Boscoudet). The sign mentions that the trail is somewhat difficult, but I would say that at least the part from the parking lot to the dolmen was not bad at all aside from being a little slippery from recent rain.

An instructional sign next to the parking lot

Just past this sign, the trail climbs initially and then becomes mostly level as it forks, with the right side of the fork leading to the dolmen. At the fork, the commercial antenna tower can be seen in the distance.

At the top of the hill, the trail forks in this direction towads the dolmen

After following the trail a short distance further, the dolmen comes into view as an earthen mound with a sign next to it.

The dolmen viewed looking eastward.

The dolmen does not have (any longer) a roof, so it appears as a long trench cut into the mound, with stone walls. Some dolmens have carvings, but this one does not (unless they are under all that moss). The sign next to the dolmen provides additional information.

I saw a few people in the late afternoon along the trails, mostly walking their dogs.

I did not want to distract anyone from the dolmen site, so I walked off a short distance, uphill towards the clearing.

Between the dolmen and the field I encountered this wooden lean-to structure? Maybe kids built a fort? Maybe it is meant to be an historical recreation? There were no signs near it, so I assume it’s unofficial. I wouldn’t want to spend the night there in any case.

There is a fence between the woods and the clearing, so it would be possible to lash a pole to the fence.

Some of the posts are visible on the right. I set up an operating position to the left of the path, with the antenna hung high enough to be above surrounding terrain in all directions.

However, there are many trees, so I just tossed my end-fed antenna over a branch and started operating.

Conditions were good, and I had a total of 39 contacts, the bulk on 20m, but some on 10, 15, and 17 meters as well. My end-fed antenna is built for 10, 20, and 40 meters, so the other two bands deserve some comment.

My end-fed antenna is from LNR (originally from PAR) and I’ve only had two over the last eleven years – they are extremely sturdy. After a lot of abuse and a few repairs, I lost a chunk of one of these antennas to an unforgiving tree, so I cut the remaining wire to a half-wave length for 15 meters and used the broadband matching box with that wire. I had lost the original grey insulator, so I made a new one out of a plastic pen barrel. I terminated the wire with a metal tab so that I could slip on another meter or so of wire to convert the 15m antenna to 17m.

So, on this activation, when I was done trying 40m (no contacts), 20m, and 10m, I lowered that antenna and hauled up the 15m antenna. When I was ready to switch to 17m, I lowered it again and stuck a bit more wire on the end (sort of a drooping L configuration). This system worked well – minimal SWR on the radio’s display and full power output.

The original (on the end of my functioning 10/20/40 antenna)
The replacement end insulator, courtesy of BIC.

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