Mont Afrique, Bois de Pierre Saux, Montagne de Saint Laurent: Three quick SOTAs around Dijon

With only a couple of exceptions, I haven’t been able to get out to activate any SOTA summits for nearly 2 years. Now only have we had the Covid lockdown, but then over the winter I have faced another (non-Covid-related) medical issue, which stopped me getting out.

Now that I am recovering, and with some of last year’s leave needing to be used before the end of April, I decided to take a quick city break to Dijon via the Eurostar. While I was there, I hired a car for a day to do a circuit of three of the very easy SOTA summits in the area.

Mont Afrique FT/VL-040, 4 points

Mont Afrique lies just to the west of Dijon and is only about 20 minutes drive from the train station. The hill overlooks the town and is the site of the main radio and TV transmissions for the area. There is ample parking at the foot of the main concrete mast and from here it’s just a 10 minute walk along a surfaced path to towards the summit itself (although the hill has a fairly flat top with a large activation area, so there is hardly an ascent involved). You walk past another mast, this time for civil aviation, and the summit area is just beyond that. There is woodland all around the path but there are occasional clearings forming firebreaks, which have some space to set up. It would be a challenge to erect a low bands antenna, however, and the ground is very rocky so I had to gently tie off on trees, rather than using tent pegs. However, the bands were surprisingly quiet given all the other services in the vicinity.

The path from the main concrete mast to the smaller civil aviation tower on Mont Afrique
The path from the main concrete mast to the smaller civil aviation tower on Mont Afrique
Set up in a small clearing just off the path

I made 9 QSOs very easily from here on 20m CW, all within a few minutes of setting up, so this was a nice easy start to the day.

Bois de Pierre Saux FL/VL-007 (6 points)

The Bois de Pierre Saux is a large expanse of forest just north of the hamlet of Détain-et-Bruant. The quickest way to get here from Mont Afrique takes you north, around the A38 motorway, and then south to Détain, but I opted to take the slower and more scenic route through the Burgundy vineyards and the iconic places such as Fixin and Gevrey-Chambertin. This takes about 45 minutes to drive but allows you to make the day into a circuit.

There isn’t much to Détain-et-Bruant. I didn’t see a single business, and it’s just a rural farming community. I parked on a grass verge near the start of the path at 47.1738N, 4.7936E. The walk through the forest is on a well made forestry track and it took me about 30 minutes to reach the highest point. The ascent is gentle and you are only climbing about 60m. There is a barrier near the start of the path but this is only to prevent unauthorised vehicles on the forestry track. Pedestrians are encouraged.

The path through the forest to Bois de Pierre Saux
The path through the forest to Bois de Pierre Saux

The summit itself is probably the most civilised SOTA summit I have been to: a shelter complete with benches and a roof to protect you from the sun has been constructed around the wooden trig point. On a weekday with nobody around, I was even able to use bungee cords to attach my mast to the shelter.

The shelter at the summit of Bois de Pierre Saux

Again, I was able to make 7 QSOs very quickly on 20m CW before having my lunch in the shelter and returning to the car.

Montagne de St Laurent FL/VL-052 (4 points)

At only 557m ASL, calling this a mountain is a bit of an exaggeration. It is, instead, a hill just outside the village of Mesmont. You can reach the village via the decent D8/D33 roads from Détain-en-Bruant in about 20 minutes, and there is sufficient parking on the verge in Mesmont itself.

Once you have parked up, find your way to the church and, at the back of the church, the start of the road up the hill. This is only a short road but actually relatively steep: you climb about 75m in the 10 minute walk to the top on the tarmaced surface.

The start of the road at the church in Mesmont

At the top there isn’t very much space. There are densely packed trees, a chapel and graveyard and a carpark. I set up my kit just at the edge of the carpark and used a couple of the trees to tie the antenna off. This was a surprisingly busy carpark with a couple different cars arriving during the half-hour I was on the hill.

I set up on the edge of the carpark, just outside the cemetery wall
I set up on the edge of the carpark, just outside the cemetery wall

The main notable thing here was just how noisy the band was on 20m. There seemed to be an S6 noise floor, which I assume must have been something in the chapel. Nevertheless, I was able to work another 7 stations to pick up the 4 points for the hill before heading back to the village and along the A38 motorway to Dijon.