Activation of EA1, EA2, EA3 and (impossibly) C3 Andorra

When I mentioned to my very good friend Harry that I wanted to do a SOTA trip to northern Spain, he reminded me that his mother has a cottage in Cambrils, an hour south of Barcelona. And during the month of December it is typically vacant, so we had free use of it. It was the perfect base of operations for this project, and the price was perfect! Further, Harry has spent so much time in Spain that he is fluent in Spanish. He›s also a language instructor by profession, primarily German as a second language, often helping people become fluent enough to pass the requirements for getting a Swiss passport. (see

On Monday December 4 we flew from Zurich to Barcelona and picked up a rental car. On the way to Cambrils we stopped at a nearby SOTA, EA3/BC-080. The drive to the summit gave us some beautiful views of Barcelona. After making a few wrong turns, we did make it to the summit and got in a sundown activation.

Tuesday we headed west, past Zaragosa, into the eastern reaches of the EA1 association. We stopped at EA1/SO-033, which is located in the middle of a wind farm. Thus, there were access roads leading almost up to the summit; we elected to park at a utility building and walk the last half hour to the summit. Fortunately it was a dry day, otherwise the dirt road would have been very muddy and difficult to navigate with the car.

After the activation we proceeded to Pamplona, where we were staying overnight. There we also had one of the highlights of the trip. An evening with Ignacio EA2BD. He›s lived there almost all his life so knows the city very well. Not only did he give us a quick tour of the city, he also took us on a “tapas tour” and he knew all the best places to stop in, ad we ended the evening feeling very good. The next morning we followed him up to a nearby drive-up summitEA2/NV-092. We were far from alone; it is basically on The Way of St. James, a pilgrimage route leading to Santiago de Compostela. We finished the activation in the early afternoon, and Harry and I returned to Cambrils for the night.

Ignacio EA2BD and Paul HB9DST during their tapas tour of Pamplona.

Thursday turned out to be quite an eventful day. We had C3 Andorra in our sights, but we were looking at how much snow was in these mountains and what the weather forecast looked like. Things seemed favorable, so we decided to try to activate the most popular summit in Andorra, C3/AD-010, which is in a ski resort just west of Andorra City. From reports and Google Earth, it looked quite feasible to get up. The first stumbling block was the horrendous traffic in Andorra City, which cost us more than an hour sitting in the car going nowhere fast. Finally we got to the ski area, and on the map you can see a lift of some sort going directly to the SOTA summit –wouldn’t it be great to ride up instead of hike? We stopped and using his Spanish, Harry asked if we could ride the chair lift up and down. The response was an emphatic “No. Only people with skis or a board can ride the lift. Those are the rules. No exceptions. We don’t even sell single-ride tickets.”

Oh well, nice try. We drove up further to a restaurant not terribly far from the summit. We decided not to hike along the ski slope (being used), but instead we looked at a map and saw there was a snowshoe trail where we could gain some elevation, and then there was a clearing we could follow up to the ridge line and continue to the summit. Further, the snowshoe trail was relatively clear of snow. We hiked along the trail for about 30 minutes or more when we came to a fence blocking off any further progress with a Danger! sign. It was clearly impossible to go any further unless we wanted to become criminals, and besides the way up the clearing to the ridge did not look easy. Discouraged, we walked back to the restaurant parking.

Snowshoe trail blocked, no further progress to AD-010.

However, Harry can be very persistent, and he was not yet to be denied. We drove to the main office of the ski area, and Harry started explaining what we wanted to do, asking why couldn’t we ride the chair lift up? The Customer Service Manager listened to him, but she gave the same reply as we got earlier – not possible, we don’t do it. Harry, turning on his considerable charm and power of persuasion, started pleading, explaining that he was with a companion from the USA, who is working on a life project with radios,very very much wants to get to the summit – and worse of all, he is slowly going blind (All of which is absolutely true.) The CS Manager was touched by his story and started making a number of telephone calls, even calling in the General Manager. After some discussion, they agreed to allow us to go up and down!!

We then asked for the price of the lift tickets. They again reminded us that there is no such thing as a single-ride ticket for the chair lift, so we said we would purchase the full-day lift tickets. “No, no, that would be far, far too expensive for what you will be doing!! We’ll let you ride for free!|”

Next problem, it was now 15:45, and the chair lift shuts down at 16:30. Could we complete our project in time? We of course said yes (only need 1 QSO, preferably more than 4). A staff member had us jump into a ski area service vehicle, drove us to the chair lift bottom station (about 2 km away) and explained to the operators they should let us ride up, which they did. From the summit station the activation zone is a 2-minute walk up a gentle slope to a small meadow. I just had to make sure was on the EA3 side of the border because I didn’t have a C3 guest license (and they are not part of CEPT). I was QRV by 16:05, and unfortunately had to leave the pileup calling at 16:15. We packed up and made it to the base station a few minutes before 16:30, where another member of the staff picked us up and drove us to the main offices.

On the small summit meadow of C3/AD-010, looking down on the chair lift summit station.

There, of course, we went in and profusely thanked the CS Manager and her boss. We offered a nice, fat gratuity in thanks, but they refused. “Don’t you have a Christmas party, or a coffee fund?” No and no. But I pointed out to the GM, “You people pulled off the impossible, didn’t you?” With a grin, he responded, “Yeah, I guess we did,” and then the staff did accept our quite generous contribution, saying they would purchase candy or a similar small gift for everyone who was involved – drivers, chair lift operators, managers…

It was a great end to the day – except we sat in a traffic jam for 2 full hours on the way home! Actually a small price to pay for what we accomplished.

The next day, Friday, we drove from Cambrils to a bit north of Barcelona to EA3/BC-048. It’s an interesting hike up to a very interesting monastery church on the top of a cliff, well worth a visit. Then on Saturday, we were closer to home and activated EA3/TA-003, which gave us the afternoon to get the cottage in shape for our departure on the next day.

The final ascent fo EA3/BC-048.

As you can appreciate, none of this would have been possible without the help of my friend Harry. He›s not a ham, but I now consider him an honorary member of the SOTA community. And thanks to him, I now have 97 associations in the log!

de Paul HB9DST


Hi Paul,

Thanks a lot for your inspiring report, very interesting, especially the difficult to reach summit in C3, but activated from the EA3 side!

And good to know that there are at least two alternative ways up to La Mola (EA3/BC-048), that I activated three years in a row, because the hike and the nature is so beautiful.

Many greetings also to Harry, seems you had a lot of fun!

73 Stephan



That’s a great story Paul and I’m happy that your activated Andorra.

You are relentless in your journey to activating a 100 associations with Madeira recently under your belt and now northern Spain and Andorra. What is not to love about that part of Europe?

Well done…I still hope that our calendars align and can be with you on association 100.


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I’m happy for you that you managed to activate C3… sometimes everything just has to be right - for it to work!

I wish you a nice time in Spain.

73 Armin

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A great story Paul - what a thriller to read your adventures! I had negotiated with some chair lift and cable car companies in the past, but your story goes beyond that. You had to play all relevant registers of our SOTA organ to make this happen. My take-out from my experience was nearly always: a swift exception procedure for SOTA winter walkers takes tension out of the topic. Already had two free rides in expensive ski resorts so far, same experience here hi.

. . . happy to read (and probably follow) that extra-class SOTA story in the near future!

Enjoy these life stories, looking forward to cu again once you’re back to HB9.

Vy 73 de Markus HB9DIZ



It was a great pleasure meeting Paul and Harry in Pamplona and joining them to a Sota activation of EA2/NV-092 (did you know this one was the Complete number 524 for you? You were chased by EA2IF/P S2S from this summit back in 2021).

I had a brief encounter with Paul earlier this year at Friedrischafen ham fair, and I couldn’t expect to meet you again in my town.

It was a really nice time to chat and see you next day in action for a fast deployment and activation. You have really skills after so many adventures globetrotting the world!

All the best for you and your nice friend Harry. I’m glad you finally completed your targetted new associations, despite the huge difficulties in C3. I keep that info in mind; should I have a chance I better go there in summer time!

Take care and looking forward another chance to see you… anywhere!

73 Ignacio


Very cool! Glad you had a successful adventure.

Looking forward to activating again with you!

73, Mike

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Hi to all ,im EA2WS OP IVAN (im Rookie )IN92eb Square in north spain aprox 300km to madrid 150 km to the bórder france (Pirineos montain)TUDELA CITY In interesting (SOTA ON THE AIR )Tanks 4 YOU profesional Job and this activación FB and thanks for paciente and Great Job hpy XMSS Days also 2024 paz love many Dx /contest and experiencia vhf-Uhf and digital modes etc etc … see you on the frecuencia you SWL My call please caló me 4 posivility QSO our Mabye short hi plasure also to … regards Thank 4 raedme … cult arounD the worlD Stay safe 73s /44 ivan

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Hi Paul

I finally came around to reading your report too. What a great report! It really shows how exciting SOTA can be, particularly when one has the pleasure of your company. And it is yet another example that persistence pays off. So it seems to me that you will be able to accomplish your goal of 100 activated associations before the end of this year!

Good luck and 73
Fritz HB9CYX