Sunday, 22 March 2015

Benelux Tour Day 4 ON/G4OBK/P + PA/G4OBK/P

Day 4: 24th March 2015

ON/ON-026 > ON-029 > ON-028 > PA/PA-003 > PA-002

We split our five summit day today between Belgium and Netherlands. 

ON/ON-026 Le Mont d'Henri-Chappelle

As we were 'room only' at the Hotel Van der Valk in Verviers we got an early getaway and proceeded to ON-026 where a main road passes over the summit at 354m. I'm sure there are better places to operate, but with a tight schedule planned for the day, including a meeting with Lutz DL3SBA, we opted for the most convenient place - in what looked like the car park of a college. Using 20m and 30m it was too early for inter EU contacts, with only 7 being made on 30m. I moved to 20m and completed just one contact - with VK5CZ on the long path. 

Nick ON/G4OOE/P operating on 40m in the car park of the college on the 40m band
After 20 minutes with no answers to CQ calls we went QRT and drove into the small town of Mont d'Henry Chappelle itself for our breakfast - two coffees each and some lovely pastries. It was then when we saw this sign, showing that the town is within the 25m activation zone at 339m ASL: 

Apart from my contact with VK5CZ this was a disappointing activation in many ways, but we made up for it later in the day when we met up with Lutz, DL3SBA and his fabulous dog Noah. We left the patisserie in Chappelle and made for a suburb on the northern outskirts of Liege for our penultimate Belgian summit. 

ON/ON-029 Terril Ste-Barde et Tonne

We parked the car G4OOE in Rue Naniot, a suburban street adjacent to the hill we had to climb:

The hill was a landscaped wooded spoil heap of compacted coal dust. It was clean though for sitting and we chose two operating positions a few hundred metres apart on distinctly separate hillocks.  As usual we kept in touch with our 2m handhelds. It took just 13 minutes to reach the top. 
Spoil heaps in Open Street Map seem to be shown in black whereas quarries are shown as white...
This picture featuring Nick gives a flavour of what it is like on top of ON-029:

I was only on the air for 10 minutes here. 12 stations were logged, with only two on 20m. Condx were lousy and when the CQ calls failed to produce after a SOTAWatch spot I gave up and closed down my station. Next stop - an even bigger spoil heap with a most interesting name and for both of us, our last Belgian summit...

ON/ON-028 Noordelijke terril Waterschei

Driving north now to the industrial town of Genk to a large car park which serving Genk Football Club, one of the most successful clubs in Belgian Professional Football that play in the 1st division. We parked towards the back of the car park nearest to the hill, which was the largest pile of lightly wooded black spoil I had ever seen, and we were to climb it - our last of 17 Belgian summits:

Looking at the hill as we approached it we favoured the path slightly to the right. This turned out to be steeper than it looked and quite a struggle to reach the top without falling backwards!  We came down on the better path to the left side which I would recommend. This is the GPX track I loaded into the SOTA Mapping Project:

Nick climbing the last steep section to the summit:

We knew it was likely that Lutz DL3SBA was likely to be on the summit, but from where we stood on the car park he couldn't be seen. As we climbed up the final section a head and shoulders appeared above us, and yes, it was Lutz our German friend and his Bernese Mountain Dog Noah...

Left to Right - Lutz DL3SBA, Noah, Phil G4OBK and a passer-by who liked having his photo taken!

Lutz is one of the top German SOTA 
activators and we'd had so many contacts on the radio. As usual Nick and I had carried up our own stations and this was completely unnecessary as Lutz had his powerful station already set up for us to use. This was a Kenwood TS480 (Power used - 50 watts) and a high dipole. As Lutz prefers phone to CW I got out my small Palm Key to give some variety to the activation and made 12 contacts in Morse before handing over to Nick on SSB who made 47 contacts all on 40m in less than 30 minutes, dealing with a huge pile up until it concluded with no more stations calling at the end. Here is Nick enjoying using the Heil boom-microphone headset and PTT switch favoured by Lutz: 

After a lengthy session operating and chatting we left Lutz to finish the activation and arranged to meet him later in the day on our next summit - over the border in the Netherlands. On the way to the border we stopped off at a McDonald's for a fast food burger meal lunch... We were both satisfied having activated every Belgian summit now - which was one of our goals on this Benelux Tour. 

PA/PA-003 Observant (Sint Petersberg)

Peter ON4UP (SOTA Association Manager for Belgium) is a useful guy to know and he told us about a good place to park our car when we went to activate PA-003. We approached by car from the  village of Kanne via Casterweg and Silexweg until we ran out of road near a football pitch. There was room to park at the end when it became a rough walking track. If you decide to go that way you'll find details in the SOTA Mapping Project webpage.  From there we found an excellent walk route to the summit - it took around 15 minutes a great picnic area with tables overlooking a quarry and the big concrete works just south of Maastricht - a famous place because of the controversial treaty which was signed there by country members of the European Community in February 1992.

Setting up and operating in comfort on PA-003:

The top was lightly wooded and there plenty of places to fix our antenna to. We just set up one station and shared that and we were well into the activation when Lutz arrives carrying two bottles of excellent German beer for us to drink! 

We found the trig point before leaving the summit... and then Lutz DL3SBA and Noah arrived with a surprise - the German beer. I operated for 20 minutes and Nick did around the same before we closed down. It was getting towards the end of the afternoon and with little daylight remaining we needed to move to our last summit of the day. We completed 68 contacts between us on 20m, 30m and 40m in CW and SSB...

I made a short film of Nick operating CW on PA-003. He wasn't aware at the time that I will filming him, click the   YouTube link below to see a true pro in action using Morse Code:  

PA/PA-002 Vrouwenheide

The summit was well past Valkenburg where we had our hotel booked for the night. We drove south of the town of Ubachsberg and turned left in the hamlet of Mingersborg to arrive at a parking place near a wood which was the summit. A short walk took Nick to the trig point in the wood. I found a place in the roots of a large tree to set up my station about 100m away. It was cold, starting to rain and the light was going as it was dusk. I worked as quickly as I could and logged 63 stations in 40 minutes. My best DX was RV9DC in Ural Russia on the 20m and 30m bands and K4MF in Florida on 20m CW. 

The last summit of the day done we made our way to the Hotel Walram in Valkenburg. This turned out to be a coaching hotel located in a historical tourist town full of restaurants. We chose a restaurant after a walk around the town in the rain, but it turned out to be quite expensive. One day to go then and after a discussion and considering the weather forecast, which was not good with heavy rain to come, we decided to stay in the Netherlands next day and complete the country by heading north to activate PA-001 and PA-004 before heading for the ferry at Rotterdam Europoort...

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