jeudi 24 mai 2007

Port de Materat

Yesterday a walk with Sandrine my neighbour. We had loosely planned Pic de Seron but Sandrine brought their young border Collie and there's a section of via ferrata (not suitable for dogs) so we changed to the Port de Materat (2217m on the spanish border). The path climbs through a succession of hanging valleys with tremendous high waterfalls and deep ravines everywhere you look. The waterfall at the head of the Valley Ossese (see 04 Feb 2007 blog post) is only the start. After 3-4 hours we reached the col and gazed into Spain as the storm clouds began arrive.

On the descent we decided to take a different path via the Cabane de Crusous and the Cabane de l'Arrech - clearly marked on the map but alas not on the ground after the Cabane de Crusous. By the time we reached the Cabane de l'Arrech it had completely disappeared and we tried to follow the map for the steep descent. At first we traversed too far north and were marooned on a high steep face. Re-tracing our steps we finally found the correct descent to the river. Here there was no way across. Perhaps at the end of the summer the river is low enough to boulder hop across or maybe there was once a bridge. Imagine the rapids in the film "River Wild" or "Deliverance" only a little smaller. After some initial abortive attempts to find a place to cross we decided there was only two ways out: either retrace our steps to beyond the Cabane Crusous and then follow our route of ascent back to the car (600m of pathless ascent and a long way), or try to find a way up the Ravine to a higher bridge. We plumped for the later but after maybe an hour of successively more difficult and precarious traverses high above the torrent below it was clear we were getting nowhere. In fact we risked ending up getting trapped on some crumbling ledge unable to reverse our ascent! Cautiously we managed to return to the crossing place. It was already 5.30 and we now had little opportunity but to attempt a crossing.
Sandrine managed to get across using submerged boulders and a fallen tree without being swept away (after a few hundred meters the river crashes over a 120m vertical cascade). I quickly followed but we still had to get the dog across. It tried to follow but was nearly swept away, just managing to hang onto a rock and then clawing its way back to safety (still on the other side of the river to us). There was no option I had to recross, then standing knee deep in the water braced against the fallen tree I managed to attach the dogs lead, then man handle her across. Wet, but glad to be finally across, an hour an half descent took us back to the car - a long 10 hour day!

Today the blue tits which have been nesting in the wall of the house finally left the nest - but only as far as the garden. The parents are still feeding them, but there are 3 or 4 baby birds in the undergrowth not yet able to fly. I hope they make it through the next few days without the neighbours cat getting them!

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