In reply to K7ATN:
Friday, july 12th. I go through my daily routine of cleaning up my e-mail inbox. I open the SOTA-reflector daily digest mail, and since I’ve been out of the radioamateur-“game” for over 8 months now, the cursor automatically moves towards the “discard” button … until my eye catches the title of the first topic : “ON/K7ATN on 15-july”. ON, that’s here in Belgium ! Hmmm, let’s check what’s going on. And so I discover by chance that Etienne is planning a SOTA activation in Belgium. Wow, what a great opportunity to meet a foreign SOTA-guy. And since monday is our weekly day off at our shop, maybe I can drive up to one of the hills he’ll be activating ? I check the entire topic on the SOTA reflector, and I notice that Peter ON4UP (our SOTA Area Manager and member of the same radio-club as I) also has contacted K7ATN by mail. Hmmm, who knows, maybe Peter had the same idea and if so, maybe we can team up ?
So I contact Peter by e-mail, and a few hours later, we agree that I’ll be picking up Peter at his place on monday morning at 9:00 (all time-indications are in local time, that’s GMT+2) and we’ll ride towards Signal de Botrange ON/ON-001 (SdB) together.
Monday, july 15th, 8:45. I haven’t found the time to get all my radio-stuff together (see above, I’ve been non-active for a while and everything is packed and tucked away) but for some reason, I grab the SOTA flag that has been laying around at home before heading towards Peter’s place. Maybe I can wave the SOTA-flag around while the others are activating
10:20 : we have planned to meet up with Etienne around 11:00, but it looks like we’ll be there about half an hour early, even with the GPS sending us through some very small villages : “I’ve been to ON/ON-001 several times, but never via this scenic route” says Peter …
And then, while overtaking a slower car on one of the uphills in the Hautes Fagnes National Park, all of a sudden my car breaks down : the engine is dead, and there’s a big yellow warning light on the dashbord saying there’s an engine failure … It takes me a while to find the carpapers an contact the road assistance office, and when I finally get hold of them, it appears that I’ve muted my cellphone without knowing it : the lady can’t hear me, so she hangs up. 5 minutes of listening to some stupid waiting-tune for nothing ! So before calling them again and loose another 5 minutes (at least), I try to restart the car. And whaddayaknow : it starts ! The yellow warning light is still there, and the engine doesn’t seem to run on full power, but I don’t care : I don’t hear any funny noises, I’m happy we’re driving again, and it looks like we’ll get to SdB after all !
11:00 : we’ve arrived at the SdB carpark. Biiiiiiig sigh of relief
Etienne is on the road, somewhere between the German border and Belgium’s highest point SdB (694m) so Peter and I head towards the tavern next to the carpark and install ourselves on the terras with a dark Leffe and a coke light. We get hold of Etienne on the SdB repeater, and he tells us he’ll be arriving soon, just another 15 km … Just when we plan to order a second drink, Etienne arrives and meets us on the terras : we explain that in this hot and sunny weather, you can’t really over-hydrate so he joins us for another Belgian beer before heading out to the trigpoint - which is about 25 (horizontal) meters away from where we’re sitting :-). Peter and Etienne even take the time to get up the 6m high concrete tower that has been built and thus reach 700m above sea level - and I’ve got the pictures to prove it. Etienne surprises us by handing us two selfmade “commemorative” caps, so when we find out that he doens’t have a SOTA flag yet, I don’t have to think twice and hand him the SOTA-flag that I took with me.
12:30 : OK, enough of this playing around, it’s time to get to work. But not before we get out the horsefly-repellant (no grassfleas or musquito’s today, only big stingy horseflies). Peter ON4UP/P sets up his vertical antenna and starts of at 20m SSB : conditions are pretty good apparently, because he gets 21 QSO’s in just over 20 minutes. Etienne ON/K7ATN/P starts on 40m CW, and pretty soon he tells me “there’s hundreds of them” :-). In the meantime, I take care of installing Etienne’s SOTA flag and taking pictures. No QSO’s for me today : during the last 8 months, the mike-fever has gotten hold of me again
After about 20 minutes, Peter and Etienne decide to switch bands : 40m SSB for Peter (with another 8 QSO’s) and a handfull of 20m CW QSO’s for Etienne. And just before breaking up, Peter tries out his 6m antenna a manages to make the first 6m SSB QSO @ ON/ON-001. This calls for a celebration, and pretty soon, were at the terras again, drinking
15:00 : Etienne planned on activating another summit, Baraque Fraiture ON/ON-010, and we decide to join him. That is : if the car holds … Luckily, it does, and about one hour and several “scenic” kilometers later, we arrive at Baraque Fraiture. Note to myself : check GPS routing settings
16:00 : last time I was here at ON/ON-010, we activated this “summit” from the trigpoint, which is situated in a (at that time) damp pine forest, with lots of ants and little musquito’s. But since then, Eric ON5CMB has found a very nice patch of open moor-like land and that’s where we set up. Peter decides to try 2M SSB, a first for this summit. It takes a while before the first QSO is made, but then things improve and half an hour later, 7 QSO’s have been made.
In the meantime, Etienne gets his radio and 20m antenne installed. He also struggles to get the first 2-3 QSO’s, but eventually manages to get enough QSO’s in his little logbook to have a succesfull activation. Or does he ? There’s a certain chaser named Roy that’s missing in Etiennes logbook, so it doesn’t really qualify as a succesfull activation, now, does it ?
Oh, and what did I do at ON/ON-010 ? Well, I got promoted to antenna-monkey (yeay :-)), took pictures again, and made sure the most important part of Etiennes SOTA-gear - the SOTA flag !!! - was installed. It’s still a bit new for Etienne, he needs to get used to it so we’ll forgive him
17:00 : time to get back to the car, and euhm, hydrate a little more. There’s a tavern near the carpark which serves La Chouffe : hmmmm, nice
Before leaving for home, Etienne, Peter and I make a last stop at the friterie for some really good “belgian” fries, and it’s well after 19:00 when we get in the car and drive home. And guess what : the yellow warning light is gone ! Still, I guess making a phonecall to my car dealer might be a smart thing to do … Etienne is going to Brussels and we’re going the same way, so we agree that Etienne will follow us untill Leuven, from were he’ll get to Brussels in no time - I hope …
All in all, I had a really great day, It was really nice to meet up with Etienne K7ATN and Peter ON4UP, and I hope both of them have had fun as well. Now if only I can find the time to unpack all my SOTA-stuff and get over that mike-fever again …
Thanks for reading,