Geneva - A City Break with unexpected benefits

Not a SOTA holiday
At some point last year we’d accumulated enough British Airways Avios point for a free flight somewhere in Europe. Geneva seemed to fit the bill, so flights were booked from Aberdeen, flying to Geneva via Heathrow. We booked an Ibis Budget Hotel for the week, located at Petit Lancy, just a few km from the city centre and located right on two main bus and tram routes, one from the airport and the other leading straight to town. I didn’t think any more about it for a while, however I did mention to Mo that the radio would be going!
Paul @HB9DST had commented on something I posted on the reflector and soon after, emails were exchanged. Paul was extremely helpful and pointed me to summit reports on his excellent page: HB9DST – HB9SOTA As a result we decided to hire a car for a couple of days. It also became apparent to me just how close Geneva was to the French border, hemmed in by France on three sides.

Radio kit would be minimal. KX2, Carbon 6 mast, EFHW & 49:1, 5m coax, 41’ random wire & 9:1, Yaesu ft-3d handheld with RH-770 stainless whip. As well as the radio internal battery, I carried a 4200 mAh LiFePO4. This meant I didn’t need to carry any battery chargers. This all went into my 15l Mammut pack. For air travel, the mast and guy pegs went in the hold luggage. As for hill gear, we packed winter boots, snow shoes, trekking poles and warm down jackets in a separate holdall.
I updated the Garmin Explore app on my phone by downloading all of France and Switzerland from I then went web surfing and found a nice hiking topo map of the Alps. That went onto an SD card and straight onto my Garmin GPS 66i. This was all a bit last minute. We left the house the moment after the topo had downloaded!

Sunday 3rd March 2024
We arrived at the hotel in mid-afternoon and went straight into town. The weather would typical for the week ahead – cloudy and about 10°C. It was so cloudy that we could only see the bases of the French summits that contain the city on each side. Dinner was fondue. Glad to get that out of the way! Somehow, Mo had developed a heavy head cold. This was likely to curtail our plans in the week ahead.

Monday 4th March 2024
Exploring the city. We walked about 8 miles. Geneva is a super clean city with free public transport passes via the hotel. Bikes, trams, e-bikes, scooters, e-scooters, buses and cars all compete, seemingly chaotically, in the same road space. I studied the road layouts carefully as we wandered around. Mo, blissfully unaware of my anxiety, took in the sights. Tomorrow I had to work my way through all of this in our hire car. Looking ahead at the weather still showed cloudy conditions for most of the week. Thursday however, looked like it would be special. Really special. That got me thinking.

Tuesday 5th March. Tour de Gourze 927m HB/VD-044
Another cloudy day, with rain forecast and Mo still suffering, so no snow-shoeing today. I found a less energetic outing. Tour de Gourze is about 50km up the west side of Lake Geneva. A drive on summit with a cafe at the top. I planned a morning activation. We’d then continue round the lake to Montreaux and complete a loop down the east (French) side back to Geneva. Getting out of the city and onto the autoroute was no problem. The car had android auto, so happy days! We arrived at the parking for Tour de Gourze via a 5km extremely steep and narrow road. Coffee and cake, then radio time.

Tour de Gourze

The summit was grassy and wooded, with a medieval tower atop. Plenty of room in the trees, and a picnic bench, so I set up here, after exploring the tower.

a pleasant operating spot, for a change

The EFHW brought me contacts on 40m, 20, 15m and 10m, with the usual 40m UK chasers appearing on 20m and the usual 20m EU chasers appearing on 40m. 15m brought my first dx, @NX4TT in Florida and then I managed a 10m S2S with Simon @GM4JXP who was holidaying in Lanzarote. We’d both booked holidays and only realised a week before that we were away at the same time.

That done, and with permission from Mo, I went to the top of the tower to see if I could rig an antenna from the steel guard rail at the top. I had something very special in mind for Thursday, mainly for Mo, who had never been in the High Alps. It would call for some innovative antenna rigging using my available kit. The tower test worked and I added a few more to the log, as many as the EFWH on 40 and 20m, despite the compromise wire and arrangement. That gave me some encouragement for Thursday, but not a huge amount. I’d anticipated many more challenges for that day.

We continued our tour around the lake. At Montreaux, I got the chance to see something I’d wanted to see for a long time. We also had lunch at Montreaux and I received a CHF40 parking ticket, despite having entered my registration and paid the parking fee. The parking warden was having none of it! The French side of the lake was less interesting. The rain came on and we hit the outskirts of Geneva at rush hour. HB9 bagged. What’s next?

Freddie, Montreaux & Lake Geneva

Wednesday 6th March 2024. Camp des Allobroges 899m F/AB-529
A friend of Mo had suggested we take a drive south to Annecy, France. This we did and I threw the radio bag in the car – just in case! We used the autoroute to get there and spend the morning exploring, under clearing skies. With the afternoon forecast looking decent, we decided to take the slow road back to Geneva, via some lovely alpine pastures and have lunch at Col de la Croisette. Le Grand Piton (1379m) F/AB-485, one of the French summits that overlooks Geneva, was nearby and would make an excellent short walk for views and a SOTA.

We arrived at our lunch stop and the four way intersection of minor roads, only to find that the one to Le Grand Piton was still closed due to snow. OK, plan B. The other summit that overlooks Geneva is Camp des Allobroges F/AB-529. Not too far away, but a steeper and longer hike. I’d do that instead. Mo, still choked up and suffering, decided so sit it out and explore the village below the peak.

After lunch we took the short drive north towards the village of Monnetier. F/AB-529 is such a diminutive peak, relatively speaking, that we looked down onto it as we drove down the hairpins towards the village.

Camp des Allobroges

The narrow village streets didn’t allow for any parking at the start of the trail, so instead we parked beside the church and I set off from there, initially up a steep concrete road that soon became a track.

the route starts up through the village

I did my good deed for the day and carried an elderly ladies shopping up the hill for her. Her house sat on a seemingly 45° incline and was the highest house in the village. I was attempting to follow a trail I’d marked on my Garmin topo, however there were so many earthy paths that I soon left the planned route and just followed the one that seemed to go up hill.

Soon I reached woods and what I think is a trig (metal triangular frame with steel sheets on three sides). An opening in the trees here revealed a fantastic view of Geneva and the weather was improving by the minute. There was a handy log to sit on too. Perfect.

my summit operating spot, overlooking Geneva. Fountain just visible!

I managed to erect the mast in between trees, but as I moved it slightly to attach the base of the pole to a sapling, the apex of the wire caught a high twig and lifted off the pole! There it remained, so I dropped the mast and thought I’d worry about how to get my EFHW back later on.
A WhatsApp and a spot brought in Simon again from his daily summit. 10m and just about doable. A couple more (USA) on 10m and then I worked down the bands, stopping at 20m. I didn’t want to be too long up here, so once I’d managed to free the wire with a sharp tug, I got packed and headed back down, getting back to the car 90 minutes after departing. The main annoyance now was having to retrace our driving route all the way back up to our lunch spot to take the road back down to Switzerland and Geneva.

When we got back to the hotel, I stripped out the bag and re-packed it with the essentials that I hoped would bring me success tomorrow. Mo also packed a bag. Hers was mainly filled with gloves, mitts, hats and down clothing items.

Thursday 7th March
An early rise saw us fed and away from Geneva at 0820. We took the autoroute around the east side of the city and over to France. Early cloud was soon replaced by blue skies. 80km and just over an hour later, we arrived in frozen Chamonix. The temperature was -4°C. We had plenty of time for coffee and a bit of window shopping before our departure time. The place was absolutely packed with skiers and boarders, with everyone out to enjoy the conditions. Mo spent the morning with one eye on the shop windows and the other craning to the high dramatic skyline that surrounded us.

We arrived at the téléphérique station in plenty of time for our 1140 departure, but there was half an hours delay. Eventually, we boarded the first of two cable cars we’d need to get to our destination. It was rammed with skiers. Every one of them was wearing a climbing harness, with an axe, one ice screw and a sling. Intriguing. They were in small groups and each group had a guide. I wasn’t aware of any skiing up there. Later investigations via Google revealed that they were all embarking on the longest off piste ski run in the World.
Two cable car rides later, the latter of which was an almost vertical winch up a face, and we disembarked. The skiers all went off in one direction, leaving a much smaller group. Mo and I had done our homework, so headed straight out over an airy bridge to take an elevator up through the rock to our final destination. We exited onto a large viewing platform. We were on the summit of The Aiguille du Midi at 3842m (F/AB-015).

The Aiguille du Midi summit area

I’d seen this place from nearby summits, but that was over 20 years ago and in summer. To view the classic Mont Blanc range of peaks from this height in winter was just sublime. We wandered around taking in and snapping all of the views. I had one eye on an HF operating spot. Only one corner would work.

It was the north east corner, overlooking Chamonix. It was unhappily close to a building, but there was no way I was operating from the south side. I don’t think anyone would appreciate me and my mast in their summit selfies. Had I left Scotland with the Aiguille du Midi in mind, I would have packed a short vertical or even my Ro-Waves 17,20 & 40m whip. But I didn’t, so had to go with what I had. Here’s how I did it.

I took the Carbon 6 pole and strapped it to the top guard rail, right on a corner. I then took a small plastic S-carabiner and fed it over the top couple of mast sections until it jammed. I then fed through the end of the 41’ random, slowly extending the mast while feeding the wire out. With the mast fully extended in a completely horizontal fashion, I had myself a top fed inverted L.

inverted L along carbon mast

Now the tricky part, attaching the radio. Last night in the hotel room, I’d taken a spare piece of guy rope, formed a figure of eight loop at each end and then tied a couple of overhand knots (loops) along its length. I took the left end of the KX2 and attached it to the pegging loop at the feedpoint of my wire. I looped my new daisy chain line around the guard rail and fixed this to the right side of the radio. Finally, I attached the 9:1 and the counterpoise, casually throwing it over the rail. My hands were shaking as I fiddled the microphone into the socket on the KX2. A bit of altitude effects, nervous anticipation and fear that I’d get found out and chucked off the summit! It all went together seamlessly and the set up was exactly as I’d practiced two days beforehand. Just as well really because it was -15°C at the summit.

suspended radio

I got my spot away using 4g, although I had my Garmin handy in case I needed assistance from the Iridium satellite. 20m was the band of choice. This was going do be a quick dash and gone! From 12:12z to 12:20 z I added 12 chasers to the log, all EU and decent reports both ways. Mo was left in charge of the GoPro. I glanced round and beamed at her as the fourth contact came in, @SKP6KEP a very regular chaser. I’d done it and the pressure was off! A small group had gathered round to observe happenings and a four year old girl took particular interest in proceedings.

on 20m SSB from the Aiguille du Midi

I told Mo I was going to chance it on 10m for a bit. She was getting cold hands, so left me and the camera for a bit. I re-tuned the radio and put my spot away. Amazingly and unbelievably @NT2A came straight back to me, 59 sent and 57 given. Ha! What a result. With no further answers, I called QRT.

activating on 10m

Mo came over and held the radio while I carefully separated it from its cradle. Just one mishap when retrieving the wire, the end weight, a carabiner, became snagged on some wire netting below the outcrop. I had to extend the mast again to free it. Soon enough though, everything was stowed. I was still shaking. With out a doubt, the most exciting summit radio session I’d ever had.

Mont Blanc has had 11 activations

Still suffering from her head cold, Mo was now feeling slightly unwell, probably due to the sudden altitude change. Hot chocolate and a waffle didn’t help, so we took the next available car(s) back to Chamonix. She was feeling well enough to visit the shop and spend some € at the bottom station, so all good.

The drive back to Geneva was speedy and uneventful and I successfully managed to avoid trams, bikes and other hard objects while negotiating the busy streets, dropping the car off 2 minutes before the office closed. Phew!

Friday 8th March
Final day in the city. We walked out to the UN area and spent a couple of sobering hours walking around the museum contained within the World HQ of the Red Cross/Red Crescent. The photo below is of the Broken Chair, a symbolic wooden sculpture, noting the impact of cluster bombs and land mines during conflict. Not the best pic, but I tried to include the massive yagi on the roof of the International Telecommunications Union building in the background.

The Broken Chair and some yagi

Looking up to Camp des Allobroges F/AB-529 from Geneva

Once upon a time I would plan holiday itinerary. These days I don’t. Our plans would have had to change anyway due to Mo’s cold and the weather. Instead, we made it up as we went along and had some fantastic days out. Of course we will return to Switzerland in better weather, definitely in summer and spend some time wandering around Swiss landscapes and summits instead of French ones. Anyway, it wasn’t bad for a city break. :grinning:

73, Fraser MM0EFI


It’s a short walk and the view is good. The restaurant at the col looked nice too. Myself and Paul did it on our return from Friedrichshafen last year. The road does seem to go on for ages but it’s reasonably easy unlike some minor Alpine type roads. Shame about the snow. We stayed just across the border in France rather than Geneva proper, it was noticeably cheaper :slight_smile:

Of course, had we still been in the EU you would not have been able to hire your car in HB9 and drive it to France unless the hire company gave you a car with French (or any EU) registration. That delightful piece of legislation nearly derailed my 2016 car hire from Basel-Mulhouse-Frieboug airport. I was able to get a hire car from the French side of the airport at the last minute but 1/3rd more than hiring from the Swiss side of the airport!

The antennas of 4U1ITU. Normally there’s a fair pile-up of people trying to work 4U1ITU but I’m proud to say 4U1ITU chased me when I was in EA8/FU once :slight_smile:


I fasten the top end of the antenna to the railing of the ruin and operate from below near the benches. If the guying rope is long enough, you can fasten it below and only mount the stairs once :slight_smile:

Next time you are in the area, you should consider visit Mont Tendre HB/VD-032, Le Suchet HB/VD-036 or Dent de Vaulion HB/VD-039. These are almost drive-up, although on HB/VD-036 there are access restrictions during Oct-Mar (the others possibly, too). They provide beautiful views and a nearby restaurant for refreshment. I consider the Jura mountains (French and Swiss) the nicest ones, providing nice and (mostly) easy walks, good views, good operating conditions with trees, but not dense forests.

Thanks for the report, it brings back both memories of my own activations and ideas for new ones :slight_smile:

73 de Martin / HB9GVW

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For once your delay meant that I was actually in the shack at the time you were on air. Great to catch you on this one after I thought I was going to be gazumped by some callers who did definitely not have “G4” in their call sign. I just wish people would listen. :hushed:

Well done making the most of your trip and well done Mo actually letting you! I’m booked for a city break later this year, but the radio certainly won’t be going.

73, Gerald

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But now we can because we are out of the EU? The first thing the lady asked me was, “are you taking the car out of the country?”. We were, so it cost an extra few CHF for insurance and breakdown cover. The car had a Swiss plate.

Gerald, I was surprised and delighted to work you from Aiguille du Midi. Now, I know you love a Complete…over to you.

Martin, Great idea. I’ll do that next time. :wink: Thanks for the tips. Already looking forward to our next visit.

Every day’s a school day. Didn’t know the building existed until I saw it. Didn’t know it had an amateur radio station until you mentioned it.

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Yes. EU citizens cannot hire cars from outside the EU and drive them into the EU. If they do the hirer becomes liable for the taxes on the car such as purchase VAT. Yes, your mind can boggle at that. It was to do with people who lived in the EU but worked outside of the EU buying and taxing a car out of the EU because it was cheaper. So they changed the EU law to stop the revenue loss. It works in places like Geneva because you may be an EU citizen and live in France but work in Geneva. So your Swiss registered car is crossing in and out everyday because you live in France and work in Switzerland and it was OK as you would pay Swiss taxes. Normally if you buy a car in one country you live in another you don’t cross the border everyday so you get a few months to register it in your home country.

Anyway this loophole caused the whole EU rules to be changed. If you are an EU citizen hiring in Switzerland near the border (Geneva, Basel etc.) but will drive to the EU, you will find the Swiss hire company has a number of French registered cars.

It was suddenly introduced in 2016, a few weeks before I was hiring a car in Basel Airport to go to Germany. EU citizen hiring in HB9 driving into France = liable for VAT on the hire car purchase price once in France. Basel airport is in France and Switzerland and luckily Enterprise car hire has a French desk with French cars and a Swiss desk with Swiss cars. I was lucky they had cars for my dates at the French side but it cost more, a lot more :frowning:


Hi Fraser, another great report with terrific photos. Very creative in setting up your antennas, both vertical and horizontal. Well done.

Geoff vk3sq

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I read your reply three times Andy. Mind still boggling. Oh well, Yay for Brexit! :wink:

Cheers Geoff. Much relief all round when (a) it worked and (b) I didn’t get asked to take it down! TBH I didn’t see any staff the whole time we were up there.

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Excellent as always, Fraser. Really glad we managed 2 S2S.

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Reminds me of that “extreme ironing” fad from a few years back.


Extreme fishing? :grin:


Yes. How much revenue was being lost to change the law like that ?

Anyway, I hope you and Mo sang the theme from “The Champions” when you saw the Jet d’Eau in the lake. :slight_smile:

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HaHa! It did the job though Pete. :slightly_smiling_face:


Me too Simon. We will have to coordinate all our foreign holidays going forward. :grinning:


The Jura Mountains are easily accessible from Geneva, Switzerland and have several ski stations too. There used to be a ski bus from Saint-Genis-Pouilly, Ain to Col de la Faucille (F/JU-003) and La Vattay stations, but I do not know if it is still operating. HB/VD-023 Rochers de Naye can be reached with train from Montreux.

73, Jaakko ac1bb/oh7bf

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Andy, I’m lost with this one. The music seems to be related to Thunderbirds according to Tidal.

I guess it’s a reference to the spy tv series (late 60s early 70s) which featured the fountain it its opening credits. I was very young when it came out. You may not even have been born. Andy may have been older knowing it I guess.


The Champions was an ITC TV series from 1969 originally. It was part of a stream of successful TV shows produced by Lew Grade in the sixties and seventies including The Baron, The Avengers, Man in a Suitcase, Randall and Hopkirk (deceased), Department-S, The Persuaders, The Protectors, The Saint, Danger Man & The Prisoner. Most of these had world wide success making Mr. Grade quite a bit of money.

50-60 years later these programmes still collect fair old audiences on daytime TV and re-run TV channels mainly as people who were shorts wearing kids or young adults when they were first shown get to relive their childhoods. I know you weren’t there but the sixties had both the “swinging sixties” with music, young people being liberated, free sex, mini skirts and mini cars. But mainly most of Europe was still trying to pull itself out of the remains of WWII. So most people had fairly humdrum lives and tedious jobs etc. Lew Grade’s masterpiece was to produce programs that offered excitement and glamour with stories of espionage, secret agents, playboys, police/criminal drama. But real glamour cost money so most programmes had a tiny amount of location footage and most were shot in England.

So a typical program would start with some kind a long shot of a famous well known view of a foreign (non-UK) city, such as Istanbul with shots of bustling traffic and people and the city name in a caption. In the case of Istanbul the next shot would be on set in Borehamwood of English men with bad Turkish accents all wearing makeup to make them not look like pasty faced Brits. Oh and someone would be wearing a Fez! A must for anywhere in the East :wink: Set the scene of the crime/espionage/supernatural event then cut to our hero Simon Templar (The Saint), McGill (Man in a Suitcase), Jason King (Deptmartment S), John Drake (Danger Man) and off we went on a somewhat formulaic adventure with pretty girls in nice clothes and casinos and posh hotels and richer women in fur stoles. All the stuff that people in tedious jobs never got to experience, their holiday being maybe a week in Margate or Blackpool etc. Not quite the same as being on a beach at St. Tropez. with a sports car parked at your hotel. Oh, and most criminals were stereotypical foreigners so casual racism was endemic :slight_smile:

And thus to The Champions, a series about a UN crime fighting agency based in (gosh) Geneva. To sell better in the US, most ITC series had an American leading actor, Stuart Damon. Also there was a strikingly attractive female lead, Alexandra Bastedo 'coz sex sells. The lead characters all had psychic powers, don’t ask, and used them to solve impossible crimes. All of these series had very distinctive theme tunes such that people of my age onwards can still sing them now with little or no prompting. Man in a Suitcase’s theme was used by Chris Evans for TFI in the 90s, why not it’s a classic and cheaper to use that (which many people knew) than pay for something new.

The Champions credits starts with character shots superimposed on the Jet d’Eau and then shots of the Lake Geneva shoreline (hey, that’s a line from a famous song!) and more shots of Jet d’Eau. The effect of ITC programs on a kid in shorts at the time when world travel was truely exotic was that I never expected to see that fountain. It was actually last year I saw it for the 1st time despite having been to Geneva many times, mainly the airport, car hire desk then off somewhere else. And yes I remember seeing it in-the-flesh as I drove with Paul M0SNA through interminable Geneva city traffic and saying “Hey there it is and humming dum-dee-ar de-de-de-dum-dee-ar de-de-de-daaaar”.


Thanks Both. Born in '71, so too late for this, however I watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which must have been from the same era.


Mid to late sixties for UNCLE. They took the babe-glamour several notches higher. Most of them get repeated a lot now on UK channels like ITV4 and Talking Pictures.