Signal de Botrange – 2,277ft
Eric and Matthew Gilbertson
Date: August 7, 2010
Belgium’s Signal de Botrange was the only high point of the summer that was actually “on the way” to anywhere else. Given that we were at Vaalserberg, the highest point in the Netherlands, in order to get to Kneiff (highest point in Luxembourg) the GPS-calculated shortest route took us right over the top of Signal de Botrange. We put our faith 100% in good old Garmin and didn’t buy any paper maps because we would be in Belgium for such a short amount of time.
We passed through a bunch of little French-speaking towns and started to climb. And man, we certainly climbed. We hadn’t recorded the elevations of the high points, just the GPS coordinates, and we had thought the summit was about 1000ft, the same as Vaalserberg. After climbing about twice as far as we expected we were finally greeted with a sign: “Signal de Botrange – 694m.” The hill had actually been 2000ft tall.
A little tourist shop and restaurant had been built on the broad summit. We were disgusted that a building would be the highest point in Belgium. But we rode around back and discovered a tall curious-looking staircase to nowhere. We walked to the top and a stone block read “Altitude 700,00m.” Now it made more sense, the staircase had been constructed just to put the elevation at exactly 700m.
Now we were faced with the difficult challenge of how to get a picture of both of us. Nobody else was close by to take the picture for us so we would have to put the camera on a time delay. We didn’t have a tripod so we had to improvise. It was an extremely challenging angle to capture. Finally I came up with a solution: I took a plastic tray from the restaurant, duct-taped the camera to it, and propped it up with a bike bag. That way it was a single-degree of freedom system that could attain the desired angle. On the third try we got the picture we were looking for.
Pretty soon a couple of other people stopped by. They looked up at the staircase. And they looked at us. Then they walked away. I couldn’t believe that someone would come so close to being on the roof of Belguim and then just walk away from it. Once again we collected our rocks along with our jumping and juggling pictures and we were on our way.
It was pretty hot out but we had a nice couple of miles of solid downhill to cool us down. It’s amazing how much fun a downhill can be. On the odometer a mile of uphill counts the same as a mile of downhill. But downhill to cyclist is infinitely more desirable. The knowledge that every uphill will be rewarded with a downhill is the only reason that makes climbing hills tolerable.
We raced through small rural Belgian towns on our way to Kneiff, highest point in Luxembourg.