mercredi 30 juillet 2008

Pointe de la Hillette to Pointe de Rabassère

Pointe de Rabassère and the NW ridge to its right. The horizontal section on the extreme right is seldom (if ever) climbed and required the rope, the rest was easy scrambling/walking even though it looks much harder and is part of the VN.

Finally managed to go back and climb the NW ridge of Pointe de Rabassère (2568m) all the way from Pointe de la Hillette. Penny was free, so we set off early and were at the start of the ridge in about an hour. We roped up and moving together, traversed the ridge. It was good fun 'pioneering' a ridge which has been seldom or perhaps never climbed - no guidebook description to follow, no trace of previous passage.

The start

There were some huge unstable blocks, at least three 'through routes' and some interesting route finding. In fact the ridge was nowhere particularly difficult, but often exposed.

The mother of all 'threads'

Flake anyone?

The end of the roped scrambling

The grade probably PD with sections of II+ (probably avoidable), no abseils required. Protection was there when you needed it and the granite was incredibly rough but quite lichenous.

From the summit we descended the east ridge then bagged Pic Turguilla (2527m) before returning via the Cabane Turguilla to Gerac.

vendredi 25 juillet 2008


David on 'Les Choucas'
Climbing today at Turguilla and the rain held off until 4.00pm. In fact the weather was warm and sunny for most of the day as we were above the clouds. We visited 3 sectors - "C'est quand qu'on arrive?" where we climbed Maries Celle (5b), then we moved to "C'est encore loin" climbing Les choucas (5b), L'ami molette (6a), then two excellent routes C'est pour toi (5c) and Spitonneur (6a) and finally "C'est pas vrai!" climbing Le rhum des coins (5b) which was not worthwhile.
Yaron on 'Spitonneur'
David managed to walk in and climb 3 of the routes with his repaired heels and Yaron experienced his first hanging belay!
Hanging belay on 'Les Rhum des Coins'
Away from civilisation at 1900m the site has a "belle ambiance des montagnes" and lovely rough granite.

jeudi 24 juillet 2008


Whilst I scythed, picked and froze my french beans, harvested potatoes and washed clothes, Yaron and David went to Spain to the Anisclo canyon. It's truly spectacular but I've been many times already. The Spanish side of the mountains were very hot, whilst here in France the clouds blew-in in the afternoon, and tonight it's drizzly. Hopefully a short walk in the mountains tomorrow.

mercredi 23 juillet 2008

Climbing at Auzat

Yesterday Yaron and David headed off to Foix and the underground river at Labouiche (whilst I caught up with shopping and farmwork). They spotted this great bit of art on the way.

Today we headed to Auzat for a spot of climbing on the granite (mostly 5c), with Penny and Will - it was hot on the rock.

On the way back over the Port de Lers the parapentes were out.

David's heels were still really painful but tonight we've put some compeed on so hopefully they'll be up to one last walk or climb before their holiday is over.

lundi 21 juillet 2008

Mont Valier (3)

A religious experience?
Rupert was keen to get a big mountain day in before he left tomorrow, so with the weather forecast to improve in the afternoon, I decided to take him, Yaron and David up Mont Valier from the Col de Pause via Port d'Aula and Petit Valier. Although there's only 1850m of height gain it's a long and tiring route with a short section of exposed scrambling before Petit Valier -but to my mind the best way up the mountain (without climbing).
We set off from the Col de Pause at 8.00 in thick damp cloud with poor visibility. We quickly reached the Port d'Aula (1hr 20) where conditions improved dramatically. It was one of those days when France was deep in cloud and Spain bathed in bright sunshine. Occassionally the cloud would spill over the frontier ridge and strange miniature rainbows would appear before us.

We saw the usual wildlife - marmots, isards, vultures, and a Pyrenean frog. After the scramble along the ridge in cold swirling clouds, the sky cleared a little and Valier appeared above the 'cotton wool' sea.

It took us 6hrs to reach the summit (including lunch stops) but the views with the many layers and types of clouds were fantastic and worth the effort.

David on the summit
With visibility still poor below 2500m in France and Yaron and David looking tired (too long sat behind desks), I decided not to return via the Couloir de Peyre Blanc so we returned the same way.
Col de Peyre Blanc
The return leg was at a much slower pace and we finally got back to the car after 11hrs.

Back at the house David removed his boots to reveal some horrific open blisters - amazingly he'd felt no discomfort until the last hour of the descent.

dimanche 20 juillet 2008

Visitors and mushrooms

Yaron, David, Rupert and Charlie arrived yesterday evening. Although it was the hottest day of the year so far, last night we had an electrical storm and today it has remained cool and overcast. So a walk nearby and the chance to collect some mushrooms.

Tomorrow, a bigger walk in the mountains hopefully.

vendredi 18 juillet 2008

Port d'Aula, Port de Salau (Mountain bike)

Climbing out of the cloud

It's been quite a while since I was last on the mountain bike (years) but I've been harbouring a plan to cycle upto the Port d'Aula (2260m) traverse the spanish slopes to the Port de Salau (2087m) and descend to Salau and then Couflens.
Today was the day and together with Ian and Barry, an early start was made. The thought of 1700m of ascent was a bit too daunting so we drove to the Col de Pause (1527m) to kill some of the height gain. We were soon above the clouds but the early morning sun wasn't too hot, so the ascent was lovely.
The rocky track which leads to the Port d'Aula is at an unchanging gradient from start to finish and we reached it in a little over 2 hours.
The first section of switchbacks leading to the Cabane d'Areau
On the Spanish side things change dramatically - no paths, no waymarks, just steep slopes to traverse on narrow sheep tracks. perhaps 10% of the 5km could be ridden the rest was pushing, dragging or carrying the bike. Awkward, but not too demanding. Another 1hr 30mins saw us at the Port de Salau and the start of 1400m (4500ft) of descent.
The Port d'Salau

We managed to ride 90% of it. In fact the trickiest part was the path between 1450m and 1300m where many rocks made the going delicate - more so after one of my feet slipped off the pedals and the other shin received an almighty whack from it - drawing blood and I'll have quite a bruise!
Stopped in at Les Myrtilles when we arrived in Salau for a couple of beers before pressing on back to the car.I won the prize for the ascent, Ian for the descent and Barry got a special prize for sheer determination in the face of adversity. All in all a grand day out.

mardi 15 juillet 2008

Wrestling with the Hay

The upper terrace

The middle field

Another hot day (two in a row) and after two trips to St Girons (I can never manage to guess correctly all the plumbing components I need for a job first time around) I have finally finished getting all the hay in. The last field has three Giant Haystacks and the last one, which I have just finished, must be the Big Daddy of them all - about 12 feet high. It was all I could do to throw the hay up onto the top of it.

Big Daddy

dimanche 13 juillet 2008


The rain stayed away for most of today, so after scything field 4 (long overdue) I quickly knocked up a table from a couple of old shutters. Then down to the hayfield to build a haycock with the second day's hay and to rake the third day's hay in windrows and turn it. Hannah, Saskia and Natasha then arrived, baskets in hands, to pick some cherries if I would show them where the cherry trees were. It didn't take long to fill the baskets - just as well, as the rain started shortly afterwards!

samedi 12 juillet 2008

Ariege Monsoon

Jeez - will it ever stop raining?

vendredi 11 juillet 2008


Spoke too soon, the hay making rain-dance does it again.

jeudi 10 juillet 2008

Heat, Hay and Flies

Summer seems at last to have arrived and I've been busy making hay in a field in the woods below the house. It belongs to Paul in the village, but he's happy for me to use it and store the hay in his barn nearby too. After the cool and wet May and June, the sudden heat has hatched just about every fly in the Ariege. It's worst down in the woods and so hay making has been hellish. I think the cut grass attracts the flies. It' bad enough that there are a million flies swarming around you, going in your eyes, up your nose, in your mouth, but most of them are clegg flies (a type of horse fly, the female of which is a voracious blood sucker) so you're being bitten too. There were a few massive horse flies (I've seen smaller birds - really scary) and some hornets too - so I decided to build a mesh hood for protection. I now look like a cross between Ned Kelly, the Elephant man and member of the Klu Klux Klan! But it does the job. It's a big field and it'll take three days to cut. So far I've cut 2/3rds, 1/3 is drying and 1/3 is in. Last stint of scything tomorrow. I start at 6.00 each morning but by 9.30 the grass is getting tough, the scythe needs peening and I'm knackered.

Managed to nearly cut my ring finger off at the first joint when I smacked it against the edge of corrugated iron roof. Saw the two bones, some tendons and cartiledge - thought it might need stitching. But instead I used some of the vet's "miracle spray" which worked wonders on the sheeps foot and it's done an equally miraculous job on my finger. Still quite sore and swollen but it fused back together in 24 hours and seems to be working as it should - though with some discomfort.

lundi 7 juillet 2008

Where is the summer?

It's the second week of July, the number of decent summer days this year I can count on one hand. It's 1o degrees and I'm sat in front of the fire reading book. It was warmer for most of the winter and certainly sunnier. What's going on!

dimanche 6 juillet 2008

Et Voila!

Bon appétit!


Drizzly today, so a short walk in the woods to collect supper - chanterelles, hedgehog of the woods and a few small ceps. Together with some of my home made bacon I think probably a risotto is on the menu.

samedi 5 juillet 2008

Pic de Lasaugede

The upper part of the route viewed from Pic Soubirou last winter

As the weather forecast for at least the first half of today was good (rain arriving in the late afternoon) I decided another day in the mountains was called for. Three peaks to the west of Certescan were the targets - Pic de Lasaugede 2760m (the Spanish call it Tuc de l'Estany Blanc), Pointe 2696m, and Pointe 2771m which appears to be called Pic de la Une locally (the Spanish call it Tuc de la Lleia) though it has no name on the IGN map.
Starting from Ossese I climbed above the Cascade Lastien, but I failed to find the path to the Cabane de Bonrepos - in fact there is no path, only some red paint marks to show the way traversing the steep slopes above the cliffs, and occasional cables to protect the route. Knowing that I'd gone too far I decided to head straight up the mountainside, hoping to intercept the correct route. It was precariously steep and I was just beginning to think that it was a foolish idea when I came across a good path traversing the slope, there were no red paint marks but it appeared to be going the right way. Alas, it became clear that this wasn't the path when I eventually rejoined the stream at Fonta. Oh well, nothing for it but to climb the mountainside again. After much searching for red paint marks I decided I might as well use the map, compass and my nose to find my own route to the cabane. The tiny cabane (about 4 feet high) was within sight when the red paint marks miraculously appeared. I was met by a berger (shepherd) and his dog who were staying there - transpired he was a mountaineer and ski tourer too (he skied down Cap de Ruhos when he was 15!) - we exchanged a few stories before I pushed on.
The going for the next part was easy, now I had the paint to follow, though there was no path and the going was fairly rough. Some fantastic granite spires loomed overhead, if they were in the Alps every part would have a climbing route on it - I doubt they've been climbed here.
All too soon it was time to leave the paint marks behind and just use the map to find a route up through 'Aliot' to 'the prison' the local name for the upper cirque. The going was similar to the nearby french route to Certescan, a mixture of bilberry, roche moutonées, snow and large blocks of granite. I scrambled up onto the rim of the cirque over snow and compact granite slabs. The ridge was very narrow and the final climb to Pic de Lasaugede over a chaotic mass of huge granite blocks. The views to nearby Pic de Montabone and Certescan were fantastic and below on the Spanish side was Estany Blanc (wrongly called Lac Gueroso on the IGN map) with its ice just beginning to melt.

The Spanish sides of Pic de Montabone (left) and Certescan (right) viewed from Pic de la Une. I climbed along the horseshoe ridge on the left.

Estany Blanc
I spotted two walkers (tiny specks) climbing to the Col de Certescan - I crossed it many years ago with Ollie on the HRP.
The ridge to the next two peaks was narrow and exposed, but once I'd got my head used to it, it was a very enjoyable scramble which took about an hour.

The first section of the ridge from Pic de Lasaugede (left) to Pointe 2696m (right)
From Pic de la Une I descended the huge scree slopes on the Spanish side before crossing back through the Col de l'Aliot and into France.
The view over Pic Marterat to Mont Rouch (middle of the picture with the obvious snow couloir running diagonally upwards to split the French and Spanish summits)
By now the cloud was nearly upon me - The day had started without a cloud in the sky, but all day I had been watching a sea of cloud, slowly advancing towards the mountains. I checked my position on the map, set the altimeter then I was engulfed. Visibility was about 10m. No paths, no markers, difficult terrain. With just map, compass and altimeter I managed to navigate all the way back to the red paint markers once more. By a combination of luck and skill I arrived at one of the few additional cairns between the paint marks (otherwise I could have easily missed them). I was pleased,but the going now was desperately slow. Even though I had the paint marks to guide me safely down, they were at 15-20m spacing and with 10m visibility it often became a trial and error search in the mist to find the next mark. After the hut, I had no prior knowledge of the route (having failed to find it on the way up) and things were even slower - especially as here a wrong turn might send me over a cliff! Eventually I made it down and regained the path to the car but it had been another long day (10 hours) with more than 2000m of height gain - again.

mardi 1 juillet 2008

La Vie Ariegeois

Yesterday I was up early to cut the hay in Dédé's field (beautiful grass which after some light rain the night before was easy work for the scythe), then back home to finish the drawings of John and Sandrine's gites. A meeting at 12.00 with their builders which became a long lunch. Then back to the field to turn the hay. In the evening more fruit harvesting - wild cherries and strawberries.
Today up early to turn the hay with Minsou (Dédé's wife - I think they're both in their 80's but she insisted on helping). Then back home for l'apero with Philippe and Celine and all the neighbours (10 of them) to celebrate the completion of their outbuilding behind my house. A short siesta to sleep off the drinks (it was very hot today - 33 degrees in the shade) then back to the field to turn the hay again. A big storm was brewing and as the hay was already dry I decided to proceed immediately to gathering it into two haycocks. Minsou arrived again to help and as the thunder and lightning continued around us we finished getting in the hay - of course once it was in, the storm passed - with not a drop of rain!
The haycocks - probably need restacking so they're a bit steeper sided when the hay and the weather have settled.

Back to Dédé and Minsou's for l'apero, then more locals arrive, le Suisse, his wife Evelyne, another couple from Biech and the Mayor. Finally at 8.00 it's time to stagger home slightly pickled.