lundi 31 mars 2008

Summer migrants return

First nightingales have arrived and this afternoon I saw a Hoopoe for the first time ever at Quelebu. Snow has slowly turned to rain here today, though it continues to snow above 1200m or so. There is now nearly 2 metres of snow at 2000m.

dimanche 30 mars 2008

Snow again

Spent the last couple of days finishing off the field no1 clearance and starting the fencing. Just one more bonfire and and the electric fence wires to add.

This morning there was a strong south wind, at about two this afternoon it was over 30 degrees in the sun, it's eight in the evening now and we have heavy snow falling! Gales forecast for tonight

vendredi 28 mars 2008


With about a metre of fresh snow over the last week we were looking forward to the powder at Baqueira and today was forecast to be the first clear day. Justin, Jason and I were up at dawn with passports this time, but oh no, during the night it must have pissed down, so this morning there was no powder only mush (and about a metre of it). It was raining early in the morning but the sun came out later - long enough to give us all burnt faces. A good ski but not good snow and offpiste was 'off the cards' with high avalanche risk (a lot of avalanches visible today at the resort) and deep heavy snow.

mercredi 26 mars 2008

Chicken update

The Chickens were very quiet today, no cock-a-doodle-do, in fact at 12.00 they still hadn't ventured out of the hen house. I forced them out so they could drink and feed, but they went straight back inside afterwards. I noticed the Sussex had had her tail feathers bitten off, so that rules out a bird of prey. At 3.00 the cockerell made a faint crow from inside the hen house. The old hen I ate last night was pretty tough. I cut up the remaining cooked meat and put it in a risotto tonight.

This morning dawned fairly clear and I cleared a path above the new field no 1 extension (for a fence) and got about halfway through clearing the terrace bank before the rain arrived at about 3.00. It's snowing above about 1100m and will probably turn to snow here tonight/tomorrow morning. Friday now looks best for skiing.

mardi 25 mars 2008

Chicken on the menu

It was warm, windy and wet last night and by the morning most of the snow at Quelebu had gone. After restocking with wood I let the chickens out as they had been in the run for the last 4 days because of the snow. When I went to put them away this afternoon there was no sign of them. I found the little brown hen hiding in the straw in the barn and obviously traumatised. Later I found the cockerell in much the same state. I put them both in henhouse and searched high and low for the other three chickens without success. Then I found one of them in the field, she'd been attacked and killed though only a small amount of one breast had been eaten and she'd been slightly disembowled. Whatever killed it had strong enough teeth or beak to bite through its ribs. At dusk thankfully the other two hens returned.

I doubt it was a fox or the carcass would have been taken and eaten, a martin or stout would have gone for the throat and she'd been grabbed by the rear. The most likely candidates are a dog (which instinctively chased and killed the hen but then didn't really know how to get the feathers off and eat it) or perhaps a bird of prey which was unable to carry the hen off because it was too heavy. As the most the carcass is intact it's tea tonight, Amazingly the hen had three or four fully formed yolks inside her and dozens of smaller developing yolks - a genuine egg production line.

lundi 24 mars 2008

More snow

Snowed for the second half of last night and all there's plenty here. Possibly more to come tomorrow. Probably some skiing mid-week.

Took Paul back to the airport - there is no snow in Toulouse but it's bloody cold.

dimanche 23 mars 2008

Cirque d'Anglade

With snow falling last night and continuing today, climbing in the high mountains wasn't on but we thought we'd go to try to find some ice or at least reconnoitre some possible cascades for another year/colder weather. With between 30 and 50cm of fresh snow at 1500m we donned snowshoes and headed up to the Cirque d'Anglade above Salau. A guy in another 4x4 arrived just as we were about to leave for the Cirque and asked us to 'be careful as a bear and its cub were currently in the area'. Given Paul's reputation as an 'incident' magnet, we thought twice about leaving the car!
It was a pleasant stroll up through the woods and the Cirque was much more impressive than I had supposed. Alas the cascade wasn't sufficiently frozen to make climbing possible but I think it would be an excellent climb when in condition - perhaps 4-5 pitches at 70 degrees.

A foreshortened view looking up the cascade

A spot of dry-tooling before heading back to the car - we've called the route "weekend at the beach house/drinks at the tennis club"

Another short video from Paul, up in the cirque heading for the cascade, the bottom of which just appears at the centre top of the opening shots.

samedi 22 mars 2008


A barn once in fields now in the forest near Cominac

The snow was falling last night, on and off throughout today and seems to be forecast for much of next week. Paul and I had a lowland walk today and depending upon conditions will probably go snowshoeing tomorrow in search of ice.

vendredi 21 mars 2008

Couloir de Tartereau

Couloir Tartereau

Paul about halfway up just after the first 'narrows'

With the gale force winds due to arrive at noon and the big snow storm (which will last until Monday) forecast for the late afternoon, today could have been a write-off. But Paul and I were determined to get out to do something, so we were up at 5.30 and by 7.00 were on the 2 hr approach walk to the Couloir Tartereau (AD-) on Pic Mauberme. Its a long (800m, 2500ft) couloir that gradually steepens from 30 to 60 degrees with a couple of ice falls at the top. By 9.00 we were roped up and in the couloir. It had a lot of avalanche debris in it but that was to be expected given the temperatures recently (most of it had entered from the numerous side gullies). The snow was soft at first but soon improved and was quite pleasant to climb. About halfway up we were doused by some squalls of spindrift. As the slopes steepened some of the avalanche debris (mostly consisting of grapefruit sized ice balls) was pretty unstable and we had to climb close to the edges of the gully to make safe progress. The first ice fall was completely buried beneath the snow in the couloir and we ascended it almost unaware. The second (which ends at the top of the couloir) was also covered except for the last 10m or so. I was leading and just approaching the lowest piece of ice and thinking of placing an ice screw. The snow was very deep and soft when I heard a 'crack' closely followed by a cry of 'Shit!' from Paul below me. The snow had fractured about 2m above me, debonding from the ice below it and the whole bed of the couloir with us on it was avalanching! It was strange how the snow suddenly changed from solid terra firma to become like a liquid. In a split second I was bounding to my right across the snow which was sliding down the slope with us and dived onto my axe in self arrest in the firmer snow at the edge of the couloir. All my weight was on the axe and I waited for the jerk when Pauls weight would come on to the rope - but it never came. I looked down and he had instinctively done exactly the same thing. He told me he was waiting for my weight to come on the rope thinking I would be swept down past him (he had also reassured himself in those few split seconds that as I only weigh 10 stone he could hold my fall). It didn't seem like I had slid very far, perhaps a few metres - it all happened very fast - but later we worked out that we had been climbing about 15-20m apart when the avalanche started and we ended up about 4m apart and Paul was aware that he had been sliding too, so I must have gone 20m or more! We could have had another go to reach the last 10m of (easy) ice but as we were at the top anyway and in view of the approaching storm we decided to reverse the route as this was the quickest way down, down climbing the 2500ft. It was reassuring that both our actions were fast and absolutely instinctive (and that we carry good ice tools not whippets Jon).

The gale force winds arrive in the afternoon following our climb and dump more spindrift into the couloir

Below Paul videos my account of the incident when we were safely at the bottom of the couloir.

mercredi 19 mars 2008

The Hadfield Pyrenees Weather Curse

Paul is coming tomorrow and we were planning to climb the Couloir Faustin on Mont Valier but forecast is now for a snow storm for the whole of Pauls visit and fantastic high pressure the day he leaves. I've been thinking of all the times Paul has been to the Pyrenees and I think he has a weather curse.

Feb 2004 ski touring Troumouse - snow storm
April 2004 ski touring Aneto - snow storm
Oct 2004 climbing Aneto - snow storm
Feb 2006 skiing/ice climbing - white out
Feb 2007 visiting with Tracey and Luke - torrential rain

The good news is we always manage to get something done in spite of the weather - so looks like it'll be a 'scottish conditions' weekend.


Yesterday was my 40th. I hadn't really got around to planning anything grand, but Nina and Ian said they'd pop over with a curry and bottle of wine. Unbeknown to me, together with Penny they'd organised a surprise 'soiree'. So when I opened the door there was Ian, Nina, Penny, Andy, Sandrine, John, Pat, Kev, Emily and (a little later) Justin! They brought homemade curries, naans, rice, two desserts and of course wine, It was a great surprise and a lovely evening - thanks everyone.

lundi 17 mars 2008

Pic Soubirou

As it wasn't cold enough last night to freeze the soft snow, a couloir climb was out of the question, so instead David, Ian, Nina and I traversed the ridge to Pic Soubirou. It's a favourite as the views are spectacular, with mountains wrapping around on all sides, the ridge is reasonably narrow at the end but never difficult.

dimanche 16 mars 2008


The beginners area

Ker sector II

After yesterdays exertions a relaxing morning pottering around near the house before heading to the local crag a few miles away. There are several crags in fact from 15 - 50m with about 70 routes in all from 4+ to 7b. Ian, Nina and Penny joined us from some climbs upto 5b. Need to get a regular regime of trips to get back upto a reasonable climbing grade.

samedi 15 mars 2008

Cap Ner, Pene Rouge and Tuc d'Eychelle

David Yeates is staying for a long weekend and despite the dodgy weather forecast for today (storms in the afternoon) we decided to get a day or at least a morning in the mountains under our belts in case the weather deteriorates.

David traversing some of the lower towers

Nearing the first summit

Some virgin snow
From the Col de la Core we climbed along the crest to the south over Cap Ner, Pene Rouge and Tuc d'Eychelle 2315m, before descending to the Col d'Aubies then due West to pick up the path between Col de la Crouzette and Col de la Core which we followed back, stopping at the Cabane d'Eychelle for lunch.

David in the deep soft snow on the way to Cabane d'Eychelle
Me breaking trail, in the centre of the photo Cabane d'Eychelle

The weather looked pretty doubtful early in the morning but the higher we got the better (sunnier) it became, although the wind was very strong particularly on the crest. Snow was soft at all altitudes which made for some heavy going. Down at lower altitudes it's murky and raining.
Santa's little helper

jeudi 13 mars 2008

Hot Again

Amazingly warm day today 30+ in the sun. More work and fires on the upper terrace plus some wood splitting at chez Philippe and Sophie. Paulette came over with an old photo of my house (when it was a barn) in 1947. Paulette is the little girl in her mother arms. The barn is clearly thatched, though here it is a bit longer as it is both the current house and ruin which were a single barn then.

mercredi 12 mars 2008


Tuc de l'Adosse (1669m) from the house, piercing the clouds

Low cloud today so no point in looking up couloirs. Instead I finished clearing the upper terrace. A few bonfires to light, some clearing up of the terraced boundary and fencing still to do - but most the 'grunt' work is now finished.

The two terraces of the new field no 1. The green in the distance behind the trees is field no 2 and on the horizon (top right) is the barn.

mardi 11 mars 2008

Rain and Frogs

Managed to get out for a short walk at 8.00 this morning, then an hours scything before the downpour started. It rained heavily until about 4pm when I managed to get another hour or so's work in (logging and scything). The rain was enough to put some water in the pond and let the frogs breed - though I doubt the water will stay long. The weather is brighter now and there's fresh snow above about 2000m. Here's the view from the house across Pentussa (Cominac) to Pics de Montabone and Bonrepos.

As David Yeates is out at the weekend and itching for some climbing, I might go out and check out some couloirs tomorrow.

dimanche 9 mars 2008


Looking down to Gerac and beyond Pic des Certescans

It's been on and off sunshine and snow showers for the past few days. This morning was forecast to be sunny with snow/rain arriving in the afternoon - so I thought a short tour might be nice. After a couple of runs down the main piste at Guzet (icy as always in the morning and still the only run open there alas), I dropped down to the Col d'Escots and skinned up to Gerac. Then up towards the col between Freychet and Pic de Cerda. The snow was lovely up there and the ski down was a joy - so I skinned back up and did it again. A party of two tourers who ascended Pic de Cerda were the only other people I saw. Then the clouds rolled in and the rain was approaching so it was time to return to Guzet. The snow was warm and sticky and with no glide on the skis it was hard work descending from Gerac - I actually carried them the last few hundred metres to the Col d'Escots. At Guzet it was sleeting and the pistes were now heavy and wet - so I headed for home even though it was just 1.30.

jeudi 6 mars 2008


Decided to head off for some skiing today with Jason and Justin. We left at the crack of dawn bound for Spain (Baqueira). The weather didn't look too bad despite the forecasts but just across the spanish border at Bossost there was a road block. For the first time I have ever known the Spanish decided to check passports! Amazingly Justin and I had ours but not alas Jason. There was a bit of a debate about free borders within the EEC, how we lived just a few miles across the line on the map and would be spending euros in Spain - it went to a show of arms - the spanish policeman had a machine gun so he won. A quick jaunt over the Col de Portillon and we were back in France heading for the ski resort of Peyragudes and Les Agudes. Not skied there before and although fairly small there was lots of off piste and with all the fresh powder (40-50cm) we couldn't resist. I was having a bad ski day but still managed some runs down in the untracked powder and started gettting the hang of the powder 'bounce'. Weather was bloody cold in the morning but warmed up over lunchtime. By the end of the day every inch of snow was tracked out.

mardi 4 mars 2008



After spending the last 6 weeks in a teeshirt and shorts the snow finally arrived this morning. Yesterday the chainsaw 'died' after 3 years of use and abuse (fortunately just after I'd cut some logs for the house). Spent this morning stripping it and eventually found the problem - a plastic part in the oil pump - now on order but it'll be Friday week before it arrives. More snow tonight and tomorrow then some more skiing - yippee!

dimanche 2 mars 2008

Another beautiful clear, sunny and warm day today (although it could snow Tuesday night if the weather forecast is to be believed - weather will deteriorate tomorrow apparently). Spent most of the day working on the upper terrace which is now 3/4 clear, the three biggest acacias are logged, half the field is raked clear and everything has been burnt. Then a slightly more relaxed afternoon in the sun.

Tomorrow I'll probably get logs in for the house then start collecting the logs from Philippe and Sophie's which have been stacked for sometime but now seem to be attracting unwanted attention as they're right next to the road!

samedi 1 mars 2008

Out on the bike

Decided to go out on the bike this morning. I rode to St Girons to the market - 22.5 km and mostly downhill - then after a spot of browsing I rode back - nearly all uphill including the steep 450m climb from Castet d'Aleu. There in 55mins back in 1hr 20mins, not too bad considering its the first time on a bike in very long time.

A spot more field clearing in the afternoon, then the owners of the ruin next to my house and the barn opposite came over to fell a lovely mature walnut tree. Why? I don't know. Shame as its nuts were a delight in the autumn. There's an enormous mess now but I 'd rather that than the huge bonfire he started building is ignited, as it's very close to the house and my thatched roof!

Birch syrup is finished and tasty - quite treacly.