lundi 18 octobre 2021

Cirque de Cagateille, Etangs Hillette et Alet

The stable and clear autumn weather invites us to stretch our legs in the mountains - Our original plan was to climb Pic de la Fourne but the shortening days also mean it's darker in the mornings and waking up early doesn't always happen! In the event we were away a little after nine and at the parking place above Ustou by ten past ten. The steep climb out of the cirque through the pine forest passed quickly and we emerged above the tree line into bright sunshine.

About an hour forty after leaving the car we were beside the Etang Hillette and tucking into our first lunch. We were both feeling strong so decided to head over to the Etang Alet and complete the classic circuit.

There were little pockets of frozen water on the path despite the sunshine, but the sky was blue and the air crystal clear.

Gerac, Pic de Freychet and Pic Seron

Ice melting off the granite slabs

At the Etang Alet we stopped for a second lunch and we saw the only person all day - a man and his dog.

Etang Alet

Pic de la Montabone and cirrus clouds

 The steep descent was uneventful and we completed the circuit withh 1100m of ascent in about 6 hours (4 hours fifty of walking).

jeudi 14 octobre 2021

Cap de Ruhos depuis les mines d'Anglade

Slightly caught out by the cold start on this walk, which was in the shade all day - fortunately I had brought my gloves, but Susie and Sandrine hadn't (I offered them mine but they refused). It's a steep but short walk with the gradient hardly changing at any point during the day.

After a couple of hours we were on the col and in the sun for the first time, but now the wind started!

We pressed on to the gendarme on the ridge, but I lost the path just below it trending right too soon. It was a bit snowy and steep and Susie decided at the gendarme that she would stay there and wait for us to return the summit.

The first part of the ridge to the gendarme

Summit from the gendarme

It was a shame because we instantly recovered the path and although it remained steep the going was easy. On the summit it was blowing strong and very cold - all layers were donned!

ice clouds blowing through the Port de Materat

Vignemale with its glacier about 100 miles away (telephoto)

Sandrine and I didn't linger long on the summit and quickly descended to lunch with Susie in the sun and shelter.

lunch spot

Faces in the cliffs

 A steep descent but over all a fairly short day with 1405m of ascent.

lundi 11 octobre 2021

dimanche 10 octobre 2021

Pic Rouge de Bassies depuis Coumebiere

We were a bit disappointed when we arrived to start our walk at Coumebiere, it was cold and we were engulfed in cloud. The forecast had been for good weather and the day before had been fantastic, but we had been unable to go out because of the arrival of gite guests.

We were a bit late (10.15) but we set off into the mirk at a good pace. When reached the crest of the ridge after the abandoned silver mines we emerged into the sun and above the clouds.

Emerging from monochrome into technicolour!

We continued to climb to the next col where views East to the Etang de Bassies and South along the ridge to our objective were revealed. Pic Rouge was still holding some snow despite being just under 2700m and was shining in the sunlight.

The ridge leading to the Peak is fore-shortened and for an hour or more it never seems to get any closer. We stopped for a first lunch at 12.15 on big flat rock in the sun.

We pressed on passing a group of 3, until at last our snowy goal was in front of us. The rocks at the bottom of the peak were teaming with marmots who were unusually not at all timid. Until the group of three, who had a dog, arrived, then up went the alarm calls and they disappeared underground.

Despite the glorious sun the last few hundred meters were snowy and in places there was verglas on the rocks.

Fantastical views and a second lunch before the return by the same path.

On the way up we had spotted a very new cabin a little way off the path, so on the way back we dropped in to have a look. I think it's destined to be for the berger (shepherd) - but it's great to see something a little more modern in design in our mountains.

Back home we had a hot bath, a couple of beers then steak, chips and a bottle of wine. It was a perfect day!

samedi 25 septembre 2021

Mont Valier depuis Col de Pause

Valier in the distance from our start point

A call from Ben late Wednesday night and a hastily put together plan to climb Valier the following day. Haven't climbed/skied with Ben for 10 years as he's been in Andalucia, so great to catch up. a bad night's sleep with my neck arthritis wasn't the best preparation and although in the end we were pretty quick, it didn't feel it and I felt like I was struggling for pace in comparison with previous ascents.

Although Ben lived in the Ariege for many years, he had never been up, so it was extra special that we had perfect weather and mountain to ourselves for the entire day.

On the Spanish side of the Cuns d'Aula

On the section leading up to the col de Peyre Blanc, there were still the remnants of the recent snow on the ledges but we were in short sleeves for virtually the whole day. Ben was first to the summit by a few minutes but we were both under 4 hours.
Looking down the couloir Peyre Blanc

A longish lunch before the return by the same route. The short uphills were tiring but we back at the car and just as little rain started in little over 3 hours. 22km 1300m ascent and 7hrs 10 moving time...10 mins quicker than last time!

summit panorama

climbing up from col de Peyre Blanc to the scrambling section

mercredi 22 septembre 2021

First dusting of snow


The recent rains brought a first dusting of snow on Monday night.

    Perhaps at last I have found a tractor at a good price?

dimanche 19 septembre 2021

Half marathon

After months of training, Susie just ran the Bristol half marathon in 2hrs 25mins and raised about £400 for the charity MIND - well done darling!

lundi 13 septembre 2021

The great european tractor swindle

So after wasting over a month of my time the french division of Argo tractors who own Landini, Valpadana and McCormick, eventually got back to me and kicked their concessionaires up the arse. Another two weeks passed before the only concession who is allowed to sell me a tractor eventually confirmed that there weren't any tractors to sell me! Argo didn't have any stock. The tractor is due for revision in 2022 so they aren't going to acquire any more either...nor will they tell me what the price was when they did. Other farmers here tell me tractor prices in France are 30% more than in Italy, Spain, Poland or Denmark for example, which is why more and more people import. When an organisation is trying to keep the prices that they charge a closely guarded secret, you can be damned sure you're getting ripped off! Despite the so called free market in the EU, claiming back VAT for import/export transactions remains extremely difficult and most sellers are unaware of the VAT rules governing sales of new equipment for export...there's a risk of paying the VAT twice and not being able to reclaim it all. This area of uncertainty coupled with price secrecy, gives the distributors the ability to rip off the consumer. 

My current tractor was a bargain but remains a 'grey import', unregistered in France. Even for a small new tractor, a grey import can save 4000 euros and as I rarely drive on the public highway there is little incentive not to make my next tractor a grey import also.

mercredi 8 septembre 2021

Paul Faux (aka Paul de Tachi)

It is with great sadness that we heard that Paul - great friend, mushroom hunter and character - died this morning. He was 98 years old. He'll be greatly missed.

You can read about his extraordinary life (in English and French) here

mardi 7 septembre 2021

Turon d'Ars

For Sheri's birthday we planned an journey into the upper reaches of the valley above the cascade d'Ars....A journey up the Ars!!! It's a long walk from Aulus so we dumped a car there and headed in a second car to Gerac from we started the walk.

A couple of hours saw us past the Cabane and Tuguilla and on top of Pic de la Croix des Lauzes (2349m).

Helicopter airlifting a shepherds shelter from just below Pic des Trois Comtes

A steep descent amongst boulders eventually took us to the bottom of the valley d'Ars and the cabane called Turon d'Ars. A well appointed new cabane with mattresses, blankets and a wood stove has replaced the old round stone shelter the Orris du Turon d'Ars.

The brown turf roof of the Cabane du Turon d'Ars (centre bottom)

After lunch and bubbles at the Turon, an excellent path leas to the highest and largest lake in the valley where Susie and Breezy swam and the rest of us waded in to cool off.

From here a scrappy path in in creasing heat eventually lead via three more lakes to the top of the cascade d'Ars and the long but easy plod to Aulus.

Cascade d'Ars

Susie Al and Breezy had a beer in Aulus, whilst Sheri and I went in her car to collect mine from Gerac. A long but enjoyable day.