After yesterday’s activation of EA/NV-012 and EA2/NV-170, on 9th July 2023 I again drove into Spain to activate the two 6-point summits of Saioa and Zuriain. These are very easily activated as a pair and are almost always done together.
To the starting point: Col de Sagardegi
The starting point for this walk is on the NA-1740 road at the Alto de Artesiaga. This is in theory a pretty viewpoint with a fairly large carpark, but today was a very cloudy day and so visibility on the road was quite limited as I drove through the fogbanks, and there wasn’t much to see when I parked up at all.
Most published routes for the pair of summits are in a loop, starting by ascending the northern or north-eastern sides of Saioa, then descending the southern slope to head towards Zuriain. With the low cloud, I struggled to find the (slightly less obvious) path up the northern side of Saioa, so instead I opted to continue on the obvious route to the Col de Sagardegi between the two hills and then to activate them both from there. It took about 35 minutes to reach the Col de Sagardegi from Artesiaga.
The route to the Col de Sagardegi is a lovely wide stony path at first but becomes a little muddy as it goes through a forest. Around 43.043,-1.55374, you leave the main path to the right to start heading up to the Col (note the red and white marker in the photo below, showing the path).
By the time you arrive at the Col, there is little more than a grass track but I was now well above the cloud layer and there was a lovely clear blue sky.
From the Col, and as shown on the signpost, it’s a short 30 minute climb straight up the side of Saioa. This is a reasonably steep grassy path, but with no problems as long as you have hiking poles.
At the top of the hill, there is a very wide grassy activation zone with plenty of space to set up an HF antenna near the trig point. I made 18 QSOs on 30m from here. Incidentally, if you noticed the model of a space rocket next to the trig point in my photograph on yesterday’s hill, it is part of a local initiative where different hills have different models to brighten up the summits. Saioa has a model of a typical Basque house.
After descending Saioa back to the Col de Sagardegi, it’s about a 40 minute climb to Zuriain. This is slightly less steep but also slightly longer in distance. Most of the height gain comes while heading south, and then you turn more south-west and head along a mainly-flat wide ridge before reaching Zuriain’s summit. As you go over the ridge, the path is slightly less obvious but is marked by short posts in the ground with red and white markings on them. The last few meters are then over some loose rocks following a fence-line, again without particular difficulty as long as you watch your footing.
Zuriain’s summit is much more rocky but the fence-line provides a useful point for bungee-ing an antenna pole, thereby avoiding having to get the guying kit out. This allowed me to quickly make another 15 QSOs on 30m. By the way, the model next to the trig point on Zuriain is a lighthouse.
As I was operating, I became aware that the typical Pyrenean afternoon cloud was starting to form and cover the area around the Col de Sagardegi, so instead of trying any other bands, I decided to pack up quickly and head down. I’m glad I did as once I started to descend back down towards the Col, I quickly found myself in thick fog and having to watch my navigation a bit more carefully.
I had originally hoped to activate the four-point summit of Larrakarte (EA2/NV-173), which is just over the road from the Alto de Artasiaga during the afternoon, but the route up that hill was completely covered in cloud and, worried about descending the mountain road in the fog, I decided to abort that plan.
The whole 10km walk, including activation of both summits, took about 5 hours and made for a lovely hike.
Total climbing: 666 m