lundi, septembre 1

Exploration

Meteo france got it wrong again and the day dawned with dense low cloud. I set off anyway, albeit a little later than planned. The climb upto the Cabane Leziou was extremely wet and by the time I arrived I was soaked below the waist. Occasional breaks in the swirling mists gave me glimpses of the way ahead. The path to Mont Rouch has deteriorated over recent years, avalanches have removed sections of path and the cable protecting the waterslide traverse at the end of the woods, some fallen trees block the path and generally it is more and more overgrown. In the wet conditions I had to exercise extreme care on the slippery rocks and narrow exposed path.


 Looking upto the cirque containing the Cabane Leziou

 A fleeting glimpses of Mont Rouch far overhead

At the cabane, I was met by a marmot, who seemed not at all afraid of me, usually you hear a whistle and see them scampering away into their burrows before you are within 100 meters.


Cabane Leziou

I pressed on for Mont Rouch, longer than I remembered and seeming much steeper in the swirling mists. at the shoulder before the final summit ridge, the deference between the Spanish and French sides of the frontier became clear - the Spanish side was basked in sunshine! I pressed onto the summit (2857m) before deciding to return to the shoulder.

French side in cloud (Pic Maubermé in the distance)

 Spanish side in sun, Ventolau in the distance

The ridge to Ventolau which had been my objective, was much further than I had imagined and I had had enough of the wet slippery rock. The heat on the Spanish side drew me and I decided to explore. I descended steeply to the Mont Roig Refuge passing a couple of shepherds. The hut is much nicer inside than I had imagined. 


 Inside the hut

It was three o'clock and the french side was still deep in cloud, tomorrow's objective (the ridge to Cap de Ruhos) was also in doubt, but I had a plan. I had often thought making a trip to link the Mont Rouch hut with the Cabane de Marterat perhaps over 3 days. Now was my chance to explore. There were two problems: I only had a day and bit to get back to the car, I didn't have a map of the route.

I decided to go for it. I had a rough idea of where I was going. A path descended from the hut heading for Noarre. I knew that it was possible to get to Noarre from the Port de Materat but it was a long way. All I had to do was to try to quit the path and head upto the Estany de Mariola (lake) or Port de Materat long before I was at Noarre. This meant taking the second or third valley descending from the frontier. 


The path was lovely, following a geological fault line down through open mountainside then soon hot pine forest. The mountains of the frontier were soon left behind as I got deeper into Spain passing a pretty cabane (well maintained and open).


As I got lower and lower I began to get a little concerned. I could no longer see the frontier mountains so it became difficult to measure my progress. At last after descending to 1700m I reached a small wooden bridge across a stream descending from the frontier. Either this was coming from the Estany de Mariola or from the Estany del Port below the Port de Materat. I searched both sides of the bridge but couldn't find a path heading up. This was strange as I was sure there was a path descending from the Port de Materat ( I'd followed it 20 years ago with Oliver Woodward when doing this part of the HRP).

I had two choices:

1. Ignore the stream and press onto to the next one (which surely must be from the Port de Materat complete with path), or
2. Follow the stream without any path and so reach the Estany de Mariola (from which I could eventually climb over a shoulder to reach the Port de Materat).

The first choice seemed logical but if this was the valley leading to the Port de Materat afterall and I pressed on, the next valley would take me to Certescan, a very long way from the car and no hope of making it back in time for me flight home! I decided to play it safe and struck off up into the woods trying as best I could to follow the stream. the going was tough with rock outcrops and tangled pines but after 30 mins I reached the treeline. There on the other side of the valley was a path coming from a car park at end of a track emerging from the forest! I headed across and yes this was the road head for the Port de Materat!

In 35 minutes I was at the Estany del Port and 20minutes later at the Port de Materat (2217m).

 Estany del Port with the Port de Materat and France beyond

A few hundred meters below the Port on the french side was the Cabane de Materat. It was 7.00pm and after 11 or 12 miles of walking and nearly 8000ft of ascent I was tired. The sting in the tail was that I had to descend a further 150m to fetch water, then carry it back up to the hut!

 Cabane de Materat

The clouds were still boiling on the French side and after some dinner I soon hit the sack. I had a poor nights sleep and in the morning was on my way by 8.00am. 

After some descent from the cabin, the way home involved climbing once again to reach and cross the Col de Crusous (2217m) steep on both sides. from here I descended to the Mines d'Anglade and then follow the road back to the car, which I reached without incident by 12.00.

Col de Crusous with it's crazy pinnacle

samedi, août 30

Day with the tractor

This morning I took the tractor to some of my land in the woods at Gabach. A couple of big beeches fell there 18 months or more ago and though I logged one, the other has been waiting for me. After cutting, splitting and stacking 60% of it, I headed deeper into the woods to collect some wood I split and stacked a long time ago. Five trips with the tractor and it's safely stacked nearer the road and under cover.

In the afternoon, it was more field topping at first with the scythe, then with the topper and tractor in the field below the woodshed. It's a steep field and I cut about half of the top and bottom tiers...the rest is too steep for the tractor or at least too scary for me on the tractor!

Tonight I'm packing for a two day trip to Mont Rouch, Pic Galena, Ventolau, Montareino and Cap de Ruhos.

jeudi, août 28

Took Susie, Jasper, Ruby and Jordan back to the airport yesterday, I have 5 days here alone. Hope to top all the fields before I leave and get a two day trip into the mountains on the Spanish side of the chain, behind Mont Rouch.

 First field topped, took most of the day and it was a scorcher today.

Another mushroom hunt this evening and found a new area rich in mushrooms not too far away. A wide selection on offer, including some trumpet chanterelles (first time I've found these) and some to avoid!

 
False death cap

 Slimy beech cap

View of Quélébu from the other side of the valley


mardi, août 26

Tour de Mont Valier


Before Susie and the kids arrived there was just time to finish the cupboards in Jasper and Ruby's bedrooms, build a ski rack and make a knife and spice rack in the kitchen. 

Monday was Philippe and Sophie's wedding and in the evening there was a soirée at Gouteto, interrupted by a massive thunderstorm.

On Wednesday I picked up Susie, Jasper, Ruby and Jordan. An afternoon mushroom hunt took us to Aliot and because of the number of fallen trees blocking the paths we ended up on a rather 'longer then planned' trudge through the forest. Good training for the up coming trek in the mountains and full basket of mushrooms to show for our efforts - horn of plenty, chanterelle, hedgehog of the woods.

 Snack break

The end of the path!

Coral fungus

Chicken of the woods

Saturday we headed off for our three day tour of Mont Valier. Our packs were heavy with tents, sleeping bags and three days of food. Ruby was a bit under the weather with a cold but everyone was determined.


The climb of 3500ft to the lakes at Milouga is steep and unrelenting and an emergency stop for hot chocolate at the Cabin d'Aouen was called for. The clouds stayed just above us as we climbed higher with views to distant peaks.


Finally we reached Milouga and after a short search found a fantastic camping place. The clouds cleared to reveal Mont Valier above us.


At night the sky cleared and the temperature dropped to zero, everyone survived but some were warmer than others!


Jasper, Susie and I were up early and ready to go - not so Ruby and Jordan. Eventually, many hours later (11.00), we started our climb towards the Col de Pecouch 2478m.


Ruby was finding things especially tough and I found myself carrying two packs on the ascent.

Susie crossing the vast granite wilderness above Milouga

 Mont Valier and Valieret

Finally after lunch we reached the Col. I ferried the rucksacks down the exposed first section from the col then we continued down to the Estanous Refuge.

On the Col

 At the Estanous Refuge and a well earned cold drink

We continued down to the Etang Rond for a second night under canvas. The Mosquitos were relentous so an early night for everyone. The temperatures were much warmer and everyone was warm enough.

In the morning, we had to decide weather to continue to the Etang Long and over the Col de Barlonguere or descend via the Riberot. Another late start determined our fate and with the hot weather it was a wise choice as Jasper suffered with little too much of the sun.

 Ruby sets out from our camp at the Etang Rond

We got back at 4.00pm after several dips in the tempting (but cold) waters. It's always good to descend knowing you can eat the remaining of the food you are carrying, without worry that it might be needed later.

Back at the house we all relaxed, basking in the hot evening and watching the falling stars


Today it was a lazy day all round. Susie was sunbathing and baking, the kids playing badminton and I scythed the saplings out the field below the wood shed then went on a mushroom hunt, collecting a basket of horn of plenty. They'll be dried, to join our haul from earlier in the week, then jarred up for casseroles in the winter.

vendredi, août 15

Dartmoor

Back in the UK for 2 days for an important work meeting. Snatched a day on Dartmoor with Jasper and his friend Jordan who both come out to France in a couple of days with Susie and Ruby.

 Jasper and Jordan chimping around

View from Great Mis Tor

mardi, août 12

Les Landes

Just back from a few days camping on the Atlantic coast in Les Landes, a vast flat department of pine forest. 



Found a lovely camp site under the trees, quiet and well maintained (about 95% of the campers were Dutch). The beach was a few minutes walk away. There's a continuous fine sand beach about 150 miles long so no difficulty finding a place! To the West there's nothing until America so the waves were big and surfing popular.


On Monday we hired bikes and explored down coast on excellent cycle paths through the forest. Another (better) beach further south and the freshwater lake at Leon.


 A ridiculous selfie taken as we cycled along

dimanche, août 10

After the storm a return to summer weather. Hopefully high pressure over the Azores will return at the end of the week and we'll have 'normal' weather.

The market in Saint Girons was heaving but Susie managed to get some plants and herbs at very reasonable prices.


It was hot in the afternoon, so I fixed the solar power in the barn and finished off the towel shelves in the bathroom...just my ski-rack to build! Visits in the evening to Gilbert and Nicole, John and Sandrine.


A short trip to the Atlantic coast in Les Landes next.

vendredi, août 8

Yesterday Susie sanded and re-varnished the table whilst I made new tree trunk seats for the terrace.


A welcome return to normal summer temperatures today (32 degrees). The Dutch threesome we met in the cabane de l' Etang Hillete, came to visit in the morning, a pleasant surprise and good company. In the afternoon Susie set to work on her herb garden whilst I cleared out the workshop. A strong winds heralded the arrival of an electrical storm at nightfall - despite the weather warnings it didn't last long.

lundi, août 4

Etang Hillette

On Saturday we went to Foix to visit the African Festival going on there. We bumped into Donna, Sam, Helen, Cherie and Michael and ended up having an African meal together. This was followed by an amazing band from the Ivory Coast with drumming, dance and a Kora player. During the concert I spotted Ben in the audience who I haven't seen for years (he now lives in Andulcia) who by chance was in Foix for a few days.


On Sunday afternoon we headed into the Cirque de Cagateille and climbed up to the Etang Hillette for a overnight camp. In fact there was no-one in the cabin when we arrived so we opted to sleep there. Later we were joined by three Dutch walkers - a dance teacher, a double bass player and a mime artist. Lots to talk about.

Above the cirque

Pyrenees Lily

During the night we were kept awake by dormice, who relentlessly (and rather boisterously) tried to get at our food - they eventually managed to get into our tupperware sandwich box!

In the morning we continued our walk to the Etang Alet and then the long descent back to the car, alas it was a pea-souper all day.

Etang Hillette


Evening views from the Etang Hillete

Looking past a huge erratic to the cabin and Etang Hillette below

In the morning on the way to tthe Etang Alet the clouds part briefly

A slow worm Susie found on the descent

Yesterday we went on a mushroom hunt in the afternoon and got quite a haul of chanterelles and hedgehog of the woods, a single cep, a blusher, a puff ball and meaty russula. A brief stop in La Trappe to see the new windows in the project I'm running there and tea with Gilbert and Nicole.

Back home l'Apero with Sandrine, Alain and a visit from Georges and Lucette.