lundi 25 septembre 2017

Col d'Arraing

Yesterday we took Moechee our black ram to Christian and Hilde's. They have 9 female ouessants so hopefully he will be having a good time for the next couple of months. William our white ram should have a bit less competition back at Quélebu...we will see.

As the weather was fantastic we went for a long walk with Christian, Hilde and their son Jacob from their home in Artigues upto the Col d'Arraing. Great views to the Western Couserans, most of which is hidden behind Mont Valier from our view point.

 The skyline from left to right - Pic de Lampau, Mont Valier, Petit Valier, Pic de la Pale de Clauere, Pic des Trois Comptes, Barlonguere, the deep notch of the Port de l'Esque, Pic de port d'Orle, the Port d'Orle, Pic des Cingles and Mail de Bulard.

 Mont Valier and Petit Valier, Pic de Tremuls in the foreground.

Pic de Midi de Bordes, Pic de Montgarie and Mont Valier behind.

The porch over the back door is at last almost finished, slates and guttering finished, just missing 18 inches of lead flashing.

samedi 23 septembre 2017

House martins

We don't usually get any house martins here, but this afternoon suddenly there were about 150 house martins swooping all around the house for about 15 minutes. Then as quickly as they arrived, they were gone. Obviously en route to their winter residence in Africa.

mardi 19 septembre 2017

What to have for dinner?

Plenty of orange birch bolettes, birch bolettes and ceps out there plus a few girolles.

A disappointment today that after a long meeting with the mayor of Massat (apart from about 25 years in total his family have been the mayors of Massat since 1792!), Susie still cannot use the only space in Massat suitable for dance - La Salle Polyvalante - for her dance classes, so she's had to cancel both the adult and children's classes.

dimanche 17 septembre 2017

First snows

Rain over the last few days has given the mountains their first proper dusting of snow. Alas too late for Rosa and Luke to see, who visited last week.

Meanwhile the garden keeps on giving - squashes, aubergines, chard, kale, peppers, chillies, beans and tomatoes.

lundi 11 septembre 2017

Carros de Foc - day 6

Our last day was going to be the longest and toughest - back to the Refugi Restanca via the Refugi Ventosa. We set off with the sky full of clouds and high winds. Soon the heavy rain started. As we climbed towards the Collett de Contraix (the highest pass of the Carros de Foc) the rain turned to hail then snow and the winds picked up. We were determined to reach the col and did so in a blizzard. The few trekkers coming in the other direction told us the ascent to the col (our descent) was difficult and dangerous. At the col I descended to check out our onward journey - it was difficult in the fresh snow but passable. 

Susie was cold but up for continuing but Jasper and Ruby had had enough and were not at all confident about the descent. So we decided to retreat. It took 2 and half hours to return. We headed back to the refuge who told us we could get a 4x4 taxi to Boi from a place about 5 km down the track, and from there if we were quick catch a bus back to within a km or so from where our car was parked. All went according to plan and by 10pm we were home, having stopped in Bossost for ham, egg and chips!!

Carros de Foc - day 5

From the Refugi Colomina we pressed on through the barren landscape to the Collada de Delui where we emerged into new landscape full of pine trees.

A long descending march finally lead to the Refugi Estany Llong. 

Carros de Foc - day 4

Another long stage in hot weather. By day 4 everyone is usually "in the zone" and we made good steady progress to the first of today's 2 cols - Col de Monestero.

The final 200m are on steep loose shifting scree. Most people seem to do the Carros de Foc in the anti-clockwise direction (opposite to us) so there were quite a few people descending. A french lady dislodged a large stone about a metre across which slipped down the slope towards Ruby to shrieks of horror from the lady. It didn't slide far and Ruby kept her focus.

eE were planning on staying at the Refugi Colomina so to avoid all of us making the detour to the Refugi Josep Maria Blanc, Susie and Ruby stopped for lunch whilst Jasper and I without our rucksacks made a "fast and light" dash to the refuge and back. The sign said 50 minutes down and 1hr back - we did the round trip in 1hr 15. The setting is beautiful - a real shame we didn't stay there on our trip.

Ruby and Susie had pressed onto the Collado de Subaro but Jasper and I soon caught them up. The other side of the col is quite different, a granite moonscape devoid of vegetation and with many dams mostly holding back lakes which were as much as 30m below there full capacity!

After a couple of hours we finally reached the Refugi Colomina. Recently refurbished and very comfortable.

Carros de Foc - day 3

We only had a short climb today (300m or so) to the col, shortly after leaving the hut the clouds came in giving us some great ethereal photo opportunities.

The clouds cleared at the col and the rest of the day was downhill, past the 

Carros de Foc - day 2

First day of the Carros de Foc circuit and a fairly tough one with 4 cols to cross. Spanish refuge breakfasts consist of a small cup of instant coffee and a selection of cakes, sweet biscuits, nutella, jam and if you're lucky some bread. Glad we brought some meusli to augment things! The weather was glorious with scenery to match. The first three cols were climbed in quick succession and by lunchtime we were at the Refugi Colomers. 

The water level behind the dam was shockingly low

Once we'd left the Refuge we had a stiff climb to the Coth deth Tuc Gran de Sendrosa which in the heat was quite exhausting particularly for Susie and Ruby. Fortunately it was mostly downhill to the Refugi Saboredo and a well earned beer and hot shower. The refuge has been recently enlarged and the top level of the dormitory has a magnificent picture window with views to the mountains. This was our favourite hut of the holiday. 

Carros de Foc - day 1

Jasper and Ruby arrived from the UK on Thursday for our trekking holiday the following week. We had arranged house/pet sitters in advance (Jan and Pauline from New Zealand) and they arrived yesterday so we could brief them on how to look after the sheep, cats, chicken and vegetable garden. The weather forecast for the holiday has looked pretty awful all week and last night it tipped down! We set off at 9.00 bound for Espitau de Viehla, an abandoned hostel (following a fire in the 1980's) beside the southern entrance to the Vielha tunnel. There's space to park here and its the starting point for the climb up to the Estany Tort de Ruis and thence onward to the Refugi de Restanca where we would start the "Carros de Foc" (Chariot of fire) a nine hut circuit in the Aigues-Tortes national park, which we hoped to complete in 5 days.

The rain stayed away and the weather improved throughout the day. It was 23 years since I was walking here last, though much of the way I can still recall well. Are packs were lighter than on previous treks as this year we had opted to stay in refuges and pay for evening meal and breakfast.

Ruby found the going tough, despite our nagging she hasn't done much exercise this year, but she soldiered on and made it through the day.

After lunch at the Estany we made a long descent towards the hut before a steep uphill to the hut which was reached across a dam. Last time I was here I slept in the ruins of the old hut (now demolished). 

The hut was busy, but the meal was good and filling. A large french group from Pays Basque decided to sing through the evening at full volume (when everybody else was trying to sleep) and were quite inconsiderate when they finally decided to come to bed waking everybody up.