Getting To France With Detours: A SOTA/POTA/WWFF Triple Activation

by Thomas (DM1TBE)

As I have written in my activation report for Klínovec, a summit in the Czech Republic, I am trying to activate places outside my home region DM, Germany – Low Mountains in SOTA or DA in POTA. With the May 1st being a public holiday, the long weekend provided a perfect opportunity for an activation a bit further away.

After a while looking around, I chose Brissetish Kopf (FL/VO-126) in France. The summit was close to the German border, hasn’t received much love with only 8 SOTA activations and was also a POTA spot for F-1697 Vosges du Nord Regional Park and WWFF Parc Regional des Vosges du Nord, FFF-0035. That promised enough QSOs for me and provided chances for chasers.

The small cluster to which the arrow points are the Vosges, actually the northern Vosges (Vosges du Nord). The cluster south of it are the higher part of the Vosges. The Vosges are a range of low mountains in Eastern France, which continues as Palatinate Forest on the German side of the border, with the highest summit being 1,424 m / 4,672 ft.

I started my journey quite early, leaving around 8am. During the drive I could not help but had to tease Thomas (K4SWL), who spent quite some time in France and, as far as I know, enjoyed it.

The French region Alsace, through which I had to drive to the Vosges, is quite interesting. The region was disputed over several hundred years between Germany and France and changed back and forth between the two. Many place names are still German, or sometimes a mix of French and German. After the World War II, the region returned to France – hopefully the last change.

I used Google Maps to drive to a parking place close to the summit, but my first attempt ended here:

Not sure why Google meant to show me this – thanks for the 30 minutes detour.

Roughly a half hour later, I arrived at Climbach, the small village next to the summit. Based on findings, the area is populated since the Middle Stone Age, that ranged from 280,000 to 25,000 years ago.

The village itself as been documented as early as 633 AD. The village and the whole area has been poor in the past, as the soil isn’t fertile and there aren’t a lot of opportunities to make a fortune.

The parking place, where the way to the summits starts, provides a nice spot for a view at the village and the surroundings.

App 200 m / 650 ft away from the parking place are the ruins of an old chapel.

Before the first wooden chapel was build here by a hermit called Richard in the 7th or 8th century, it was a pagan place of worship. After the place became a pilgrim destination, a sandstone chapel was built. It is assumed that the chapel was destroyed between 1618 and 1648, during the Thirty Years’ War, one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history.

During the ascent to the summit, I learned -again- that a shortcut is often not the best way, especially when carrying nearly 10 kg / 22 lbs.

On top, I found a boundary stone from 1856.

A bit further, an old stone is marking the top of the summit.

According to the stone, the name of the summit was “Der Brissetische Kopf” in German, which means “The Head/Peak belonging to Brisset”.  During the 17th century, there was a Brisset family living in small town Cleeburg on the other side of the mountain, who owned part of the forest. Interestingly, a map from 1907 called this summit “Klimbacher Berg”, i.e. Klimbach Mountain.

The symbol next to the elevation on the stone seems to be the coat of arms of the Duchy of Palatinate-Zweibrücken (French Palatinat-Deux-Ponts), a branch of the House of Wittelsbach. The territory over which the House of Wittelsbach has ruled (temporary) between 1072 and 1918, included Bavaria, the Palatinate, Holland and Zeeland, Sweden with Finland, Denmark, Norway, Hungary, Romania and Bohemia. This Duchy of Palatinate-Zweibrücken branch, which ruled over this region, became into being in 1444 and lasted until 1801. The map below over their territory is from 1791 with the SOTA summit somewhere in the lower right corner at the red border.

Landesarchiv Saarbrücken, Franz Johann Joseph von Reilly (1766-1820) / CC-BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

A bit further along, I haven’t been there, are still remains of the so-called Maginot Line. The Maginot Line was a line of huge fortifications and barriers built by France in the 1930s along the German border, intended to prevent the invasion of Nazi-Germany. It led Nazi-Germany to invade France via the neutral countries, Belgium and Netherlands, where the fortifications were less strong.

Close to the peak, some trees were felled, which made it easier to hang up a wire and provide a place to operate.

I hung my end-fed half-wave antenna for the 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10- meter bands. As usual, I have used my Elecraft KX3 and my BaMaKeY TP-III with old-styled pen & paper and a 4Ah LiFePo battery. Oh, I have never mentioned it, but I always have a RigExpert Stick Pro with me for easier adjustment of my antennas as the KX3 does not provide an SWR sweep as the Xiegu devices or the IC-705. I had a telescopic fiberglass mast and a foldable seat with me, but didn’t need it.

The place was pretty quiet. Only this guys seemed to be interested in what I was doing there.

I usually activate in CW only as I am trying to learn CW, but I am still struggling. However, I have been asked for an SSB sked and then offered SSB in a chat group with local SOTA activators and chasers. Someone spotted me for SSB, and it led to a big pileup. The activation ended with 62 QSOs, a personal record. Almost all QSOs were on the 40-meter band, a try on the 30-meter band yielded in just 2 QSOs.

Log Analyzer by DL4MFM / Google Maps

The log has been uploaded to POTA and SOTA, and accepted by the French WWFF admin. So the activation was a great success for me.

POTA detour to Pfälzerwald DA-0016

On my way back, I thought that I could end the day with a quick activation of the Pfälzerwald / Palatinate Forest, in the mentioned continuation of the Vosges on the German side of the border. It was a drive of less than 20 minutes and next to the parking place was a bench, just like an invitation to operate.

The place promised support from “above”.

And from the bench I had a nice view.

The weather looked difficult, but it remained dry during my activation.

I quickly built the JPC-12. After ten minutes with only 3 QSOs on the 20-meter band, I switched over 30, where I received an additional 15 responses to my CQ calls. Unfortunately, I was disturbed multiple times on the 30-meter band, at least one time was intentionally.

But where there is shadow, there is light. I made a nice CW contact with Damian, SP9LEE, a regular reader and writer of the activation report POTA in Poland: Damian activates five parks in five hours here on We had a friendly e-mail conversation afterward. The call sign sounds pretty unique.

I consider the day as a great experience, I enjoyed it very much and looking forward to the next long weekend with such an opportunity. As someone grown up behind the Iron Curtain, the concept of wide open borders impress me every time I cross one and barely notice it.

7 thoughts on “Getting To France With Detours: A SOTA/POTA/WWFF Triple Activation”

  1. That’s it, Thomas! Next time I’m in Europe, I’m hiring you to do a multi-country POTA/SOTA/WWFF rove! What a luxury to be able to play SOTA in a different country as a day trip! Funny, but when I lived in Europe, it all felt so normal–the scale–then when I moved back to the States, I realized just how fortunate I was back in Europe to travel through so many countries with ease!

    That’s simply amazing that you also worked our friend Damian (SP9LEE)! There’s something amazingly fun to hike to some remote spot, set up a radio, and make contact with a kindred spirit.

    Thank you for sharing your field reports with us, Thomas!

    Cheers & 72,

    1. Believe me or not, but I’m always happy as a child when I discover I am (or was) working with someone that I recognize from! March/April was just perfect in that context, because 15m was open for trans-Atlantic path, and it resulted with a bunch of North American stations in the log.

      Thomas K4SWL, beware – I’m still hunting you! 😉

  2. I agree with Thomas, Thomas (feedback loop?) and ‘echo’ his sentiments. Another great report, and activation!

    de W7UDT

  3. A wonderful report Thomas, so rich in detail! It was pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing the trip with us, and for all your efforts researching the area and writing your post.

  4. It’s always a pleasure to read your posts. Thank you for the details and a bit of history of the places.


  5. Thanks, Thomas, for the wonderful report! I enjoy all of the report’s detail, but most particularly all the fascinating local history that you include.

  6. Great report, many thanks. I’ve visited that region and agree it is a nice area.

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