Pyrenees SOTAs 2023: EA2/NV-012 Ortzantzurieta & EA2/NV-170 Txangoamendi

I returned to the Spanish Pyrenees in July 2023 to spend a couple more days activating the summits in Navarra, in the western Pyrenees. I was actually staying in a hotel in Bayonne, France and went back to F/PO-245 Xoldoko Gaina (which I had last activated in 2019) on 6th July. Then, on 8th July, I drove into Spain to tackle Ortzantzurieta (EA2/NV-012) and Txangoamendi (EA2/NV-170), both of which are worth 6 points.

To the start point: Lepoeder Peak

These two hills are actually very close to EA2/NV-022 Urkulu, which I activated last September but after the troubles I had driving to that summit, I instead took the road through the valley and across the border at Arnéguy, before parking up behind the small chapel at Ibañeta on the main N-135 road.

My hire care at Ibañeta

Many routes up to these two hills actually start from Lepoeder Peak, and there is a road (the NA-2033) from Ibañeta up to Lepoeder, but some research on Google Streetview had suggested it was quite poorly maintained with plenty of potholes and loose gravel, which I didn’t want to take my hire car over. I therefore opted to add about 2.7km each way to the hike to walk along the NA-2033 instead of driving it.

There is therefore very little to say about the first part of the walk. It’s a gentle ascent alongside a narrow tarmac road. Plenty of people have walked this way and there are clear shortcuts to cut off some of the hairpin bends the road takes.

At the end of the road, you reach Lepoeder Peak. This is a Col (not a SOTA!) known for being on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route through the Pyrenees, and as such it is well-frequented. For my purposes, it was also the point from both which Ortzantzurieta and Txangoamendi could be reached. In terms of timings, it took me about an hour to reach Lepoeder Peak from Ibañeta.

Lepoeder Peak, on the Santiago de Compostela trail

EA2/NV-012 Ortzantzurieta

I decided to tackle Ortzantzurieta first. This is, to be honest, a very gentle path, initially downhill from Lepoeder Peak, and then climbing back up to the summit. It took about 40 minutes. There is a gravel track up the hill to a transmitter mast, but I wouldn’t do it in anything other than a 4×4. The footpath is fairly clear and over grass, roughly following the track but cutting off the hairpin bends.

The summit is actually a little way away from the transmitter mast and there was no evidence of QRM on either 30m or 20m, which is where I was operating. I made 8 QSOs on 10MHz and 17 QSOs on 14MHz fairly easily.

My aerial set up at the trig point on Ortzantzurieta

It took about 30 minutes to descend from Ortzantzurieta back to Lepoeder Peak the way I had come, where I had a quick sandwich. It was then time to head to Txangoamendi.

EA2/NV-170 Txangoamendi

Txangoamendi is a little further away from Lepoeder Peak to the north. The first part of the walk there is actually backwards along the Santiago de Compostela route, which is a very well-made wide gravel path at this point, with regular signage. Part of the way along the route, there’s also an emergency refuge.

The emergency refuge on the Santiago de Compostela path

As the Santiago path goes through some woodland around 43.0385, -1.283 you need to leave the main track and head to the right. There’s some open land here with a signpost and a clear grass path up towards Txangoamendi.

Looking at the map and satellite imagery, it’s a little unclear whether this is a walk along the ridge or whether the path is wider. There are no sheer drops and it’s actually a fairly easy walk. My main obstacles were having to wait for first a bull to cross my path and then some horses who were blocking a slightly narrow section just before the activation area!

Txangoamendi seen from Lepoeder Peak

Once on top of Txangoamendi, there’s no trig point but plenty of flat land and I managed to get the aerial up quickly to work 15 QSOs, all on 30m (the IARU / WRTC contest had started, and so I avoided 20m). It took about 1h20m to reach Txangoamendi summit from Lepoeder Peak.

My antenna on Txangoamendi’s summit

I had initially hoped that I might be able to get back to Urkulu from Txangoamendi and activate that hill once more, but time was starting to run out and, as is typical in the Pyrenees in the summer, clouds were starting to build that could impede my descent a bit, so I decided just to return back to the car.

Clouds started to build on my descent from the summit

The total walk, including activations of both summits, took me about seven hours for the 17.2km. To help get your bearings, on the map below, Lepoeder Peak is the point just north of Burregieta, where all my routes join.

Total distance: 17307 m
Total climbing: 947 m