Autumn Activations in Southern France

I had a 4 day business trip to Lyon at the end of October and so I took some extra vacation before to visit my sister who lives near Nimes to say hello, drink wine, truffles, saucisson and other culinary masterpieces and also bag a few summits. I was horrified when I saw the WX forecast as it was for rain and biblical amounts of it. In the end the WX was overcast when I arrived and a level of rain that caused Noah to get his boat out one day (65mm in 3 hours). But after that the sun came out, the skies were brilliant blue and them temp was a pleasant 22-24C. Normal service was resumed.

On all summits equipment used was an old FT817 with 500Hz CW filter, a trapped EFHW for 40/30/20m, Palm Paddle, 5m pole. Power was from 3x 18650 LiIon cells recovered from an external laptop battery pack. Operation was predominantly CW due to CQ WW SSB taking place over 2 of the days.

F/CR-220 (Mont Bouquet)

This is near Uzès. I’d been out at a hunt with my borther-in-law since 5.30am where the targets where Wild Boar, Moufflon and smal Deer. (26 boar, 4 moufflon, 4 deer bagged by the 32 hunters). There was, of course, a huge communal breakfast, an aperetif (where France was drunk dry) then a meal of spit roasted deer along with wine and cheese and desserts and champagne. Which was good but as I was driving (and on back to front roads) I could only taste the booze. Activation started later than expected due to the activities at the hunt.

Mont Bouquet is a drive on summit with plenty of commercial towers at the top. I wasn’t sure how much space for parking was available and after all I had eaten, I parked on the road up about 15mins walk from the top. A little exercise better than none.

Panorama from the top. It was thick fog at 5.30am. Driving LHD cars is not difficult after 30mins acclimatisation till you have to do in the dark and thick fog with directions being given in Franglish!

I was hoping to set up at this bench and sit in the shade. No chance, non-stop stream of visitors and I’d have been in the way. Also seen is one of the many towers.

Typical limestone cliffs that are seen in this area. You can see how flat the ground is once you get out of the hills and it explains why after heavy rain you get so much flooding, not much slope and some distance to the sea.

F/M0FMF/P antenna set up. Essentially an inverted L with the far end tied off in the trees.

Homemade 3x 18650 power pack. The cells can be removed for transport through airport security.

An 18650 USB power pack. This opens and you can insert the LiIon cells. Works as a powerpack and charger but looks like all the other powerpacks the airport security guys see. Does not draw attention to what is in your bag.

Loads of parking at the top and the big mast. None of these commercial setups generated any noise problems on 40/30/20 SSB or CW.

F/CR-335 (Rochers de Raous)

This is located close to the Abbaye Saint-Michel de Frigolet near Graveson (near Avignon). There’s loads of car parking for the Abbey and it’s a 25min easy walk on good tracks to the summit. Being Saturday it was mad busy with walkers, runners and mountain bikers.

Looking West, the big city is Nimes and the outline of Pic Saint Loup F/PE-281(activated by me in 2015) can be seen in the far distance. A bit hazy sadly.

A zoomed shot onto Abbaye Saint-Michel de Frigolet

Topping up my tan. Last time I was down in this part of France I was eaten alive by mosquitoes etc. I brought my Smidge with me. If it stops Scottish Midge then French flying critters stand no chance. Worked well. I like how the sun shines off my bald head!

Antenna rigged as end fed inverted V.

A view to the next summit: F/CR-256 (Chaîne des Alpilles)

F/CR-256 (Chaîne des Alpilles)

Only a short drive to this summit near St. Remy de Provenance. There is a huge (100+ cars) car park here and it was heaving with walkers, bikers and people in motorhomes. The walk to the summit is about 4km and 200m ascent so almost a proper walk. It was now 24C so whilst not much of a walk, I was one hot and sweaty activation by the top.

This is in the Alpilles Mountains, a small set of bumps on the huge plains down in this bit of France. Lots of limestone and it was visually very good. Now my French is poor but I like to practice till the locals pleade with me to stop and they speak English :slight_smile: Today nobody spoke English and I was the “talking map and guide”. Most of the people out strolling had no maps of the tracks and I had Oruxmaps running so I had to give directions out in my poor French. I’m not responsible for anyone who got lost!

This the view looking back to near where the last photo was taking having walked around the big gorge.

F/CR-007 (Mont Ventoux) about 60km away.

Panorama from the viewpoint.

F/M0FMF/P antena as end fed inverted V. Navigation beacon for the local airport in the background. Tug planes were towing gliders up all afternoon.

A look out in the general direction of Italy over the rest of the Alpilles before the ground returns to flat plain again.

Major microwave link station. No interference observed on 40/30/20m CW

F/CR-257 (La Montagne)

This is a drive on summit North of Montelimar which I activated on my return to Lyon. There were technicians working at the summit itself so I parked a bit away. Plenty of space to get off the road. Antenna was strung in the bushers as an inverted L.

Lots of these things again. No noise problems on HF.

Panoramas from the view point. Ground is no longer flat plains.

F/MC-256 (Le Pet du Loup)

This was the last almost drive on near to Viennes which is only 45km from the airport in Lyon where I was returning the hire car. I found the big walkers car park when I was leaving. That would have made it easier than where I ended up parking and nearly got stuck in some soft muddy ground. Only a 10min walk to the top. From the real car park probably 25 easy minutes.

Antenna rigged as inverted L

The trapped EFHW worked well. The 817 showed no SWR indication on 40/30 and just 2 or 3 blocs on 20m. 20m is more critical of position and nearby items. I worked VE2JCW, N4EX and KA1R for DX stations and 9A,CT,DL,EA,EI,F,G,GI,GW,HB9,I,HA,SM,LA,LY,LZ,OE,OK,ON,OZ,PA,S5,SP,SV,YO,YU Luc’s @on7dq idea of using USB powerpacks to get LiIon cells through airport security works wonders. I had 3x USB packs with me which chage the cells slowly but thoroghly and my old LiPo/LiIon charge too.

As usual, activating in France is fun. But after a week of excess at my sister’s QTH, then a week at a conference etc. I could do with a holiday!