Shoot that Swiss Boar; Adventures in Ticino

SOTA summit: Monte Bar, Switzerland HB/TI-138

Activation Date: Jan 26th, 2019

Unique: Yes

Call sign used: HB9/W6PNG/P

Portable operation: Yes

Radio: KX2

Antenna: EndFed

Band/Modes used: 40m and 20m SSB

Hike:  ~4.2 miles and ~1,750ft ascent.  (<–click left for GaiaPro track etc)

Hike and AZ profile: Well defined trail to peak and AZ is flat, exposed with zero trees

Solo operation: No with Paul HB9DST/P

Recommend: Yes

Cell Coverage: Excellent

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2019

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Teardrop is peak in Southern Switzerland on the Italian Border
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Flanked by the Italian Lake District…Lake Como, Lake Maggiore

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We’re meant to be in Gstaad today rubbing shoulders with the ultra rich and avoiding $100 cups of coffee. The big draw had been the balloon festival, not the party ones but the ones humans dangle from and float around the skies. The idea was to sit on a mountain top, stare at the balloons, play radio and have fun.

All sounds great but  today’s weather isn’t cooperating and at best we might be staring at grey skies and at worst snowshoeing through a blizzard convinced we’ve seen the Yeti.

Ticino to the rescue.

Despite snow storms across most of Switzerland, Ticino is stubbornly offering up blue skies and showing solidarity with it’s Italian roots to the south.

There are four official languages in Switzerland, one being Italian spoken by around ten percent of the population. I’ve always loved all things Italian (who doesn’t?) and a chance to see what the Italian canton of Ticino is like is all too enticing especially as this California boy  prefers blue skies over the Yeti.

A train ride, followed by another and then a bus ride followed by another has us deposited at the base of set of stairs that lead up through ancient looking Italian style building and into something out of a Fellini movie. You can’t really get lost as the Swiss have kindly stenciled white/red/white markers to guide us but we do seem to momentarily walk into a dead end and someone’s front door. Backtracking we find our trail and start out on what will become one of my more memorable activations.

Start of trail in Corticiasca. Many Swiss trails are marked with the white/red/white flag.


Farm houses clinging to the mountain side


There’s a pirate following me…..
Looking south toward Lake Lugano (Switzerland) where our train ride ended and the bus journey started

Lake Lugano is a constant eye catcher

For the entire 1,700 ft of ascent, Lake Lugano and its surrounding mountains are a constant draw. It’s simply stunning to look at. The low hanging miss contrasts the ridges and peaks and makes for a very compelling view. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve mentally declared “this is just amazing” and marvel at what a wonderful Saturday morning this is and what a fortunate person I am to be here right now. The world is a beautiful place.

Hunting for wild boar (don’t tell Obelix) using a single shot .30- 06 rifle

Just don’t shoot me!

They looked like a couple of characters. I’m understandably quite uncomfortable being in a mixed hunting/hiking area and stop to say hello to find out more of what the characters are up to. No common language available didn’t stop a few words like “rabbit” and “.22” to determine these guys are out to nab a Swiss Boar or wild pig and have single shot larger caliber .30-06 rifles. I twist their arm to pose for a snap and one of the duo is shier than expected. Bidding them farewell Paul and I joke about not being mistaken for a boar and head rapidly upwards and away wards.

Our peak but better still the wooden building is our lunch destination. How civilized hiking is in Switzerland!


View south from peak….simply stunning in my book
Looking north from the activation point into Switzerland


Windy and cold atop Monte Bar

Hey, can you take my picture?

The universal language of waving your iPhone and muttering photograph seems to work and she walks over and snaps me. She doesn’t seem over impressed nor interested why I’m immobilize and sitting next to a fishing rod strapped to a Swiss trail marker but then maybe she is just very polite and not wishing to intrude into my foibles and passions.

This is Bob in New Hampshire, USA calling…..

On our way up we stopped outside the Monte Bar restaurant and I know that Paul would have preferred to dive in for refreshments but I thought it might be better as a reward for activating and he encourages me to march right on to the mountain top and setup up shop essentially to minimize our overlap on frequencies etc.

Cell coverage is so so and I had thought that being a Saturday I might have nabbed more. 11 or so is just fine and I always enjoy being chased my Jan, OK2PDT the undisputed uber Mountain Goat times eleven (no one comes close to his activation count) and then was thrilled to close out with Bob, KD1CT in New Hampshire, USA three to four thousand miles away and a propagation god gift.

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Jan is first and Bob is furthest..not bad for 10 watts SSB into a bit of flimsy wire fluttering in the wind

This is just far too civilized….a restaurant on the trail

Having activated primarily in the wilderness that is the Western USA you become very accustomed to being self reliant and expecting little in the way of support when out and about. Happening upon the wooden structure on the way up gave a clue to it’s possible sophistication but it wasn’t until we stepped in that I was once again shown how civilized outdoor activities are in Switzerland is. Accessible only under human power has its reward and the style of the place, the views and the abundance of food (at a cost) simply fabulous. It was a reward for the activation and I even had a beer as the only drawback to a glass sided restaurant on sunny day was heat, lots of it.

Only accessible by human power….no cars or trains here
The ever present view of Lake Lugano and northern Italy


Buy that NorCal40

I think it goes without saying that if you are into radios you are into being connected. I marvel that my iPhone works across much of the world and frequently when on a peak.

I have a cell signal during the entire hike and toward the end eBay reminds me of my interest in a piece of ham radio history, the NorCal 40A. Designed in the 90s by the soon to be founder of Elecraft, Wayne Burdick this little kit radio was the foundation at some level for the K2, a legend. With seconds to go, I bid, I win and eventually upon my return to California this little gem is sitting in my mailbox. Built by a student somewhere on the East Coast, its now part of my Elecraft “collection”.

Pretty cool that I can shop while hiking….some would think that heresy in that the wilderness is a place to disconnect but not me. Keep on shopping!

Purchased from eBay while hiking down from Monte Bar….got to love mobile/cell data services


Swiss SOTA police checking our progress

My photographer is now my ride

Hike is complete, we are sitting at the bottom of our stairs and waiting an hour for the bus back to Lugano. It’s my photographer with her partner. We are all about the same age and I say hi and thank her for  taking my snap. I’m feeling benevolent and spare her the story of SOTA and mountain tops.

Trunk opens, she and her partner banter back and forth in German and then they ask me if we are waiting for the bus and would like a ride into town.

Hell yes.

We pile into the Passat and speed around corners and down the hill toward our destination. Both are married, she is a medical doctor and he a chemist researcher. They are a great couple and its with a tinge of sadness that we part at Lugano station. I think had we been staying locally we would all have headed to dinner together. Reassured once again at the wonder and generosity of humanity we bid farewell.

Refreshment today and the pointy peak is soon to be activated by us

 What a great day and the second beer tasted really good and the peak was soon to be a Monday destination.

Thanks Paul for another wonderful day. Such a contrast to snowshoeing yesterday and  quite different from tomorrow.

Maybe we’ll do the balloon festival next yes and rub shoulders with the ultra rich in Gstaad.



  1. Paul,
    I just love reading about your activations with the accompanying photos, trail maps, etc. You make me feel I was actually there with you and enjoying the hiking as well as the radio stuff. Keep it up and keep sending them to me.
    Terry K6MA


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