mercredi 23 août 2017

Skies and butterflies

Approaching thunderstorm

Swallowtail butterfly

Hummingbird hawk moth (freeze frame)

Preying mantis in the polytunnel

mardi 22 août 2017

Cagateille circuit plus Cabane de Lagarde

Scarce Swallowtail butterfly

We'd intended doing a long walk today perhaps to Pic Montabone but a soirée at Philippe and Sophie's meant we weren't in bed until the early hours and so we were late getting up! We headed upto the Cirque de Cagateille anyway and decided to do the Etang Alet / Hillette circuit but in the anticlockwise direction and to visit the cabane Lagarde (which I've never been to but is used in winter when making the ski ascent of Pic Montabone).

The circuit seemed tougher in this direction (or maybe it was the heat). Overhead we saw a couple of pairs of Lammergeier Vultures (I'm sure these are on the increase as we see them almost every trip), as well as plenty of griffon vultures and a couple of marmots.

At the little lake behind the cabane Lagarde we ate lunch and cooled off.

Cabane Lagarde

The descent to the Etang Alet to join the regular circuit

Etang Alet

Etang Hillette

Susie took a dip in the Etang Hillette which was surprisingly warm, then it was down, down, down. 7 hours for the trip and we saw remarkably few people, no-one until we were nearly at the Etang Hillette.

Susie on the short scramble below the Etang Hillette

dimanche 13 août 2017

Pic Seron West Ridge

Susie and I had planned to climb one of the Couserans bigger peaks (Maubermé or Mon Rouch) but Susie ripped some skin on her foot yesterday so we opted for something more modest. I've climbed peak Seron seven times before but never by the West ridge, a route that looks very direct and interesting from Gerac.

We continued on the main track after the path for the ladders and eventually broke left to climb the lower ridge. As the ridge narrows a cairned path became evident.

Gerac below

A crazy cut-out in the felsenmeer - isard?

The South ridge is composed of huge granite slabs

The path alternates through patches of tumbles slabs which have to climbed through but the granite is covered in huge phenocrysts, which have weathered to form handy "chicken-head" holds for climbing them. 

We spotted some alpine accentors on the way up

We reached the summit (2489m) after about two and a quarter hours and after lunch decided to descend via the Etang d'Aube - Susie fancied a dip (but alas the water was too cold even for her).

The familiar profile of Mont Valier and its satellites from the summit

The Etang d'Aube, dominated by the Dent de Médé

There were quite a few people camping and bathing at the Etang de Médé. After crossing the Col de Cerda we quickly back at the car - about 5 hours plus lunch for the circuit. A quick beer and chips at the ski chalet/restaurant on the Col d'Escots was a lovely treat.

Back home Susie's flowers are in full bloom and I've been making sandwich pickle with the glut of squashes.

Colourful pickle mix ready for cooking

mercredi 9 août 2017

Devils fingers

Clanthrus archeri or "devils fingers"

Now the hornets nest is safely removed I've been able to finish scything the top terrace of the field opposite Phillipe and Celine's which was very overgrown. Like most the meadows at the moment there are quite a few devils fingers emerging - alas not edible!

Plenty of mushrooms that are though. Last night we filled the basket with chanterelles, hedgehog of the woods and horn of plenty...and then went back for seconds finding a delicious little juicy beefsteak fungus. We decided to preserve our haul and after briefly cooking them in white wine, vinegar and herbs, which shrunk them considerably and has hopefully enhanced their flavour, we packed them in a jar with olive oil.

The recent damp overcast weather seems to be retarding the ripening of our tomatoes, and has killed our melon, though we got three delicious fruit from it. Raspberries are coming on stream soon and there are a lot of aubergines starting to form.

jeudi 3 août 2017


A hastily arranged morning walk with Sheri and Michiel to Pic de Soubirou. Lovely views as always and some wildlife - a snake eagle, kestrels, vultures and a slow worm. Despite some wind, it was very hot and humid which made for a sweaty ascent!

 Merens below Soubirou

mardi 1 août 2017

Ossese, bonrepos, marterat

Susie is keen to improve her mountain fitness before our trek in September (as am I), so today we made another excursion. The rarely used trail to the cabane to bonrepos has reappeared on the latest edition of the IGN 1:25000 map, a trail I followed in descent in 2009 but have failed to find in the other direction several times. 

We started from Ossese, climbing steadily until emerging into the hanging valley above the Cascade de Lastien.

This time we found the faint paint markers towards the Cabane de Bonrepos but for the first 400m or so it was more luck than judgement that we found the correct way. There is no path anymore just occasional red paint marks often hidden below the vegetation which we managed to stumble upon.

Section of chains and cables aid the way through some steep rocky sections then its a long rising traverse across the mountainside.

At last we arrived at the Cabane de Bonrepos a tiny cabane for 3 people - one of my favourites in the Couserans.

We had a couple of options from here but decided to try and find the path to the Cabane de Marterat (another path that has appeared on the map). It looks unlikely that a path could get there through the steep terrain and there is no sign of it from Bonrepos. The climbs steadily once more towards the Col d'Aliot, but once above the steep couloir descending into the valley below it crosses the scree and skirts below the high cliffs again with markers but no trail.

Another climb upwards and some more cables and we arrived at the cabane.

All that remained now was the descent by the well trodden GR10 - interspersed with wild raspberries and bilberries! Spotted a ring ouzel on the descent.

7hrs for the trip with 5000ft of ascent.

Even the sheep like raspberries!

Traditional stone roofs at Ossese

Back home, the rams had started fighting (we haven't managed to sell Moechee yet) perhaps because the pasture was getting poor and this was accelerating the ewes were coming into season. We split him from the herd, but he soon escaped and rejoined them. So we put the sheep into the big field in front of the house - which involved some new fence building and making a new gateway through the hedge, hoping that the better pasture would retard the ewes. Today things are calmer so our fingers are crossed that we have bought some time to sell Moechee before tupping time comes.