Once again, certainly not a major mountain but in Belgium terms it is - i.e. it is the countries highest point. The lowly remains of a once mighty volcanic area, this particular peak once called de Hoge Venen. Located in the pleasant, forested Parc Naturel de Haut Fagnes in eastern Belgium, the ascent of Signal de Botrange can provide a good if not spectacular introduction to Belgium nature.
Unfortunately (or for some the opposite) a road runs across it's tree covered summit between Eupen and Malmady. It is a round hill like summit rising in the Belgium Ardennes and adorned by a tower or the 'Signal of Botrange'.
A day long route purely to ascend the mountain would be hard to come by unless you began well away from the summit itself, but there is pleasant walking in the forest. One pleasant (if not short) route would be to start at the nature centre a couple of miles south and walk through the forest tracks to the tower area. An easy walk for old and young!
If thats not enough, go explore the lovely Hautes Fagnes area (meaning high marsh) but remember - bring a rain coat! Don't despair on a rainy day - the Fagnes gain a delightful quality when mist covered and rain dashed.
The Belgium government has built a tower 6 metres high next to the summit that places whoever climbs it at exactly 700 metres above see level.
One alternative would be to drive, or take the bus from Eupen (they leave every hour from the bus station) southbound over the N6 towards Malmedy. There are plenty of train connections with Eupen from Aachen in Germany or Liege in Belgium. The road will pass over the summit (easily spotted with the tower). Two miles south is the Nature Centre where bags can be left if need be and a cup of coffee obtained. It has one or two interesting artefacts on the local nature but the screaming school parties may hurry you on. Then walk to the summit on the road or better on forest tracks. Other alternatives would be using the N672 from Verviers or the N6 north from Malmady. Buses will pick you up on the road next to the nature centre when leaving - hitching is difficult because the traffic really shifts along this road and probably won't see you!
Not a sausage required in terms of permits. An all year round peak but summer is probably the best choice - a sunny winters day would be good. Plenty of wildlife in the area including deer and foxes but unlikely to see much unless you go into the woods themselves. The nature centre has a lot more information than me.
For up to date information on public access and closing of some of the areas in the park call the Natuur Centrum 00 32 (0) 80 44 03 00. It is open from 10:00 to 18:00 hours every day.
When To Climb
All year round and summer is best, although don't expect good weather all the time as slightly less that 1.5m of rain is said to fall on this spot during the year.
Camping and Lodging
Best to stay in Eupen or Malmady or any other town in the area and there are several camping sites in the region.
A good option is to stay in Robertville (a few kms south of the summit). From here you can plan a whole day walk all the way up to Signal de Botrange - going trough some of the nicest parts of the park.
The weather can change quickly in the Ardennes, so it pays to call ahead to the local tourist office for the daily ski bulletin. For information in the Eastern Cantons call 080/22.76.64. For conditions in Liege province call 041/22.42.10. For Namur province, contact 081/40.80.10. Or watch the weather reports on Belgian television.
All year round: 6.1 °C
In January: -1.0 °C
In July: 16.0 °C
Annual average precipitation: 1400 mm
Average number of rainy days per year 172
Average number of days with snow per year: 43
Average number of foggy days per year 175
According to geological studies the Hoge Venen region (which is Dutch for Hautes-Fanges – not the name of the mountain), and in fact most of the Ardennes, originated from a relatively fast geological uplift in the Miocene period. So, even though there is still some volcanic activity in the area, the origin of the uplifting is not volcanic.