On Wednesday 30th July, we headed back over the German/Belgium border, into Belgium and activated Summits on the Air (SOTA) peak Signal de Botrange ON/ON-001 and World Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF) area Hautes Fagnes-Eifel ONFF-001.
It was about a 90 minute drive from Prum through the mountains back into Belgium. The countryside was spectacular as we passed through a number of small villages. It was hard to believe that this was summer, as the landscape was so green.
Signal de Botrange is the highest point in Belgium, climbing to 694 metres (2,277 feet). It is worth a total of 8 SOTA points and is located at the top of a broad plateau, and a road crosses the summit, passing an adjacent cafe.
Map courtesy of googlemaps.com
Map courtesy of googlemaps.com
In 1923 a six metre high Baltia tower was built on the summit to allow visitors to reach an altitude of 700 metres. The tower was named after Baron Herman Baltia, a Belgian military officer (1863-1938). A stone tower was built in 1934 and this reaches 718 metres.
Above: – Baron Herman Baltia. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.
A meteorological station was located at the summit for many years, but in 1999, it was replaced by a nearby automatic station of the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium. The summit experiences extreme temperatures and these are usually lower than at any other place in Belgium. Fortunately on the day of our activation, the weather was overcast but fine.
The summit is located within the Hautes Fagnes (High Fens) covers 12 municipalities of Belgium and was established in 1957. It is the largest nature reserve in Belgium, with an area of 4,501.2 hectares (11,123 acres). In winter, the area becomes Belgium’s premier cross country ski resorts.
We operated from the edge of the carpark and attached Eddy’s end fed antenna to the 9 metre squid pole which in turn was attached to a nearby post. Again for this activation we used the Kenwood TS-50.
There was a nice large flat rock nearby which served well as an operating location. As we were close by to the main carpark for the nature park, there was a lot of traffic. I was surprised at how many visitors there were to the park, considering that it was a week day. We certainly did attract some odd looks as people arrived and prepared to head off for a walk into the park.
Whilst I was operating my tolerant wife Marija went for a walk along the boardwalk at the rear of the cafe, and took some photos of the 700 m marker. The actual trig point is a short distance from here.
I commenced on 40 metres and remained there for the duration of the activation. My first contact was with Luciano I5FLN, and this was followed by a steady flow of callers from Europe and the United Kingdom.
Again, it was a little too late for propagation to Australia on 20 m. We had enjoyed a bit of a sleep in at the hotel and a nice breakfast, so we had just missed the window for long path propagation into Australia on 20 metres.
I managed three WWFF park to park contacts during the activation:
- OK1FHI, OKFF-010
- DL1ASF, DLFF-127
- DG6LAU, DLFF-040
Fortunately there were no equipment issues during this activation. Everything went very smooth. After an hour of operating I ended up with 51 contacts. All on 40m SSB. The following countries were worked:-
- Czech Republic
Another very enjoyable activation. My second in Europe. It was time to hit the road again, and journey north through Belgium back home to Ghent in northern Belgium.
I would like to thank Marnix and Eddy for their time and effort in allowing me to activate the 2 summit/WWFF areas in Germany and Belgium. It was a hug he amount of fun.