SOTA F/MC-233: La Plane

This is a drive-up peak about two and half hours from my house outside Bordeaux, just about due East along route A-62. A paved access road runs to a series of commercial radio towers at the top of the hill, but I pulled off the access road a bit earlier and set up on a grassy field separated from the antenna site by a row of trees. This was a very relaxed outing and I set up a table, some folding chairs and had a nice picnic lunch with F5LGB, who accompanied me from our club station, F6KPW.

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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.
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SOTA: F/MC-178 (Roche de Vic)

This was the middle-of-the-day summit on my tour including F/MC-263 and F/MC-192, and it turned out to be the most comfortable of the three.

The site shows up on various online maps because there is a chapel on the summit and I have the impression that it is a landmark that probably draws tourists during the summer months. At the base of the hill, there is a large gravel car park, and although a number of cars came and went, I was the only one who went up the hill.

The view up the hill from the parking lot. The path up runs along the trees to the left. There is a picnic table behind the trees on the right.

I think other people probably struck out in different directions on hikes or made use of the picnic tables near the parking lot.

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SOTA: F/MC-263 (Lacoste)

I left the house near Bordeaux in the early morning and returned after dark, but I succeeded in activating three sites clustered just east of Brive-la-Gaillarde: F/MC-263 (Lacoste), F/MC-178 (Roche de Vic) and F/MC-192 (La Ramière).

The shaded area with dotted border at lower left is the north-east corner of the FL/SO area. If you wanted to add one more summit to a trip like this, you could consider FL/SO-004, which is in that corner. I might have done this if it were mid-summer with longer daylight time.

The journey commences with MC-263, which is a grassy hilltop with a commercial antenna tower at one end, but plenty of room to activate at the other end. My GPS calculated directions correctly, taking me through a hilltop village with some narrow streets. The final road to the top was dirt and gravel, but no problem, although after a recent rain the top of the hill itself got muddy.

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SOTA: EA2/ZG-011 (San Caprasio)

This was the third of the three summits that I activated after renting a car in Zaragoza, the first two sites were EA2/ZG-065 and EA2/ZG-060. Of the three, this one was the most remote and the road quality from EA2/ZG-060 to EA2/ZG-011 and then back to Zaragoza was the worst of the trip. My rental car was not an off road vehicle or even a crossover model, but it did have a bit higher clearance than some of the other cars in the line up at Hertz. I think that helped because the center hump was pronounced at some points and I drove a couple segments straddling some deeper crevices.

However, it turned out to be more than worthwhile to tolerate a few kilometers of white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel: this summit yielded my longest S2S contact (with New York, USA) and I think my only SOTA QSOs between Europe and South America (multiple stations in Brazil).

The site is visible from a long way off and coming around this turn in the road. Not only is it a prominence, but the summit also overlooks a deep valley.
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SOTA: EA2/ZG-060 (Monte Oscuro)

The second summit on my whirlwind tour of the outskirts of Zaragoza was the weather radar site at Monte Oscuro. After leaving EA2/ZG-065, the roads quickly transitioned from paved to dirt, but the general condition of the road was pretty good. I would just recommend taking it easy to avoid some of the larger ruts. The final bit of road to the peak transitioned briefly to concrete, probably in an area that had eroded. The peak itself, though, is a dirt road loop with the upper part of the loop passing the radar.

I did not see any signs indicating that the area was off limits, but there is a chain across the top of the road, so I assume no unauthorized vehicles should go past that point.
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SOTA: EA2/ZG-065 (Monlora)

I had a business trip, which included Barcelona and Zaragoza, Spain. When the visit to Barcelona got cancelled mid-trip, I diverted to Zaragoza a day early and rented a car so I could get far enough outside the city to activate some SOTA peaks. I managed plotted a trip to three sites: EA2/ZG-065, EA2/ZG-060, and EA2/ZG-011, the first two of which had never been activated. I am glad to report that I managed to reach all three sites and get the car back to Zaragoza-Delicias train station in about ten hours. This trip is doable in a short visit with a rented car, but since many of the roads involved are dirt, you would only want to try this in dry weather. I think some of those roads could challenging if they turned to mud.

The summit is not subtle. This is the view from east of the summit.
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SOTA: G/SC-003 (Beacon Batch)

I visited Beacon Batch around nine in the morning on a chilly weekend in January. There is a convenient parking area near this site and the name is particularly encouraging: the Burrington Ham Parking Lot (51.319928N, 2.734174W). However, in this case, not everyone parking there was a ham. Despite drizzly weather and temperature just below freezing, there was a lot of activity in this area: hikers, bikers, horse riders, even an orienteering group walking around with compasses and maps, so the parking lot was almost full when I arrived. I would suggest getting here early on weekend days. It is possible to park along the verge, and if you do so, I would recommend picking a straight part of the road uphill from the car park, so you have a better view of oncoming traffic (and vice versa).

There were a few ancient barrows off the side of the trail on the way up to the summit.

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SOTA: G/SC-010 (Dundry Down)

This was the third summit of the day, the first two being G/SC-008 (Win Green) and G/SE-001 (Walbury Hill). When I arrived, the town was smothered in thick fog and the winter sun was low on the horizon. Getting here was not difficult, I typed “Dundry Down Carpark” into Google Maps, and that brought me to the carpark at the trail head, just a bit uphill from the town church. Coordinates for the carpark are 51.399084N, 2.639259W.

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SOTA: G/SC-008 (Win Green)

Engraving on the summit marker.

Since my office is based in Sussex, I’ve been focusing on G/SE, so this was my first foray into the south-central area. Win Green has been described as a very popular site, and that was the definitely true on the day I went there. The whole hill top is surrounded by fences, so a really excellent place for dogs to have a chance to run around.

Parking is no problem – typing “Win Green Visitor’s Car Park” into satnav should get you there, or for those who want their coordinates old school: 50.983630N, 2.110948W.

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