samedi 25 juillet 2020

Pic du Midi de bordes to Col de Lazies and Etang d'Ayes

The hot and often stormy weather continues with some huge thunderstorms, but the following days these sometimes bring fantastic hauls of mushrooms!

A splendid meal and soirée at Al and Breezy's during which another storm allowed us to witness incredible scenes of spate high in the mountains with the Cascade Léziou and surround streams absolutely full to overflow with chocolate brown turbulent waters.

Today a return to the Cirque de Campuls to complete the walk we had originally planned to do with Sophie and Sue. Very hot and humid weather made for a tough and sweaty walk despite the modest height gain. 

Cabin Salvadore

The ridge is an interesting walk with great views but at this time of year a bit overgrown. Quite a bit of bilberry bashing and stinging nettles to be negotiated. A good path leads to the Cabane Lee before climbing steeply to the Cabane Salvadore.  The path to the col (with great views to the West) and then Pic du Midi de Bordes was a bit overgrown and the summit mostly nettles. After retracing our steps to the col we followed the ridge, sometimes steep, occasionally narrow, but never difficult, over the next 6 or so tops. 

Great views towards Balonguère and Mail de Bulard

Griffon vultures everywhere today...

and spiders...

...and choughs

Mont Valier

A snake eagle also called a short-toed eagle

Susie, Sheri and Michiel

Retrospective of the ridge we traversed from right to left - Pic du Midi de bordes, Tuc des Camaus, Pic de la Gerbe,Tuc de Corocle, Tuc de Baumage, Tuc de Lazies.

More vultures on the Col de Lazies

It was too hot and humid to continue to the final peak of the day we had planned, Pic de Crabere, so we descended from the Col de Lazies to the Etang d'Ayes where Susie and Michiel took a dip.

mardi 21 juillet 2020

The hot and humid weather followed by storms is continuing with some great skies.
We also have a new visitor, a spotted flycatcher - first time I ve seen one. It's quite a shy bird but I'm hoping to get close enough to take a better picture than this one!

mercredi 15 juillet 2020

Etang d'Ayes et Col d'Auèdole

Since the hay making, the weather has remained remarkably unsettled. A few hot sunny days are followed by storms, then cloud and rain and more cloud....then it repeats. Good for most the vegetables but not the tomatoes plants which are outside (fortunately most of ours are in the poly tunnel this year).

Sophie is here with a friend from Paris (Sue) and as the weather looked OK on Tuesday we decided to show Sue the mountains with an easy walk. We drove up to the parking at Mont Ner above the Etang Bethmale and had originally planned to go to the Col de Laziès, but with it being July 14 (Bastille day) everywhere was crowded (by Couserans standards), so decided to go to the Refuge Salvadore then follow the ridge from Pic de Midi de Bordes back to the col picking up 4 or 5 modest pics on the way.

It quickly became apparent that we had over-estimated Sue's abilities when reaching Lee Cabane proved difficult for her. A quick lunch and some re-planning changed our objective to the Etang d'Ayes. We retraced our steps and climbed up through the Cirque de Campuls to join the GR10 and the Etang.

We stayed on the GR10 to descend via the Col d'Auèdole. 11km and a very modest 350m of ascent...but a first introduction to the mountains for Sue.

mercredi 8 juillet 2020

Pic de Lias, Pas de la Banque de Lauret, Pic Montareing, Pic de la Montagnoule, Cap de Ruhos depuis Mines d'Anglade

While Susie is leading a 3 day choreography workshop I decided to make the most of a clear day by climbing one of the few Couserans Pyrenees peaks I haven't visited - Pic de Montareing. From the french side its a stiff climb then a narrow ridge necessitating easy (II) but exposed climbing from either side. I decided to traverse the peak taking in both ridges. Alun and Breezy joined me on the adventure which was quite a tough day in the heat. 1450m dénivilée and 12km accomplished in 6h30 plus stops for food, photos and navigation.

From the mine d'Anglade follow the path up through the trees on to the open hillside heading for the Col de Crusous. At about the level of the Cabane de Saubé head south west to enter the trees on a path which crosses the wall of rock at a small col (close to point 1635m). The path begins to peter out but continue to climb staying not to far from the rock wall to reach the ruined cabane de fontaret. A good 100m altitude higher reach a vague path which slowly gains height heading for the lowest extremity of the rocky spur descending from Tuc du Pis Noir. From here climb more steeply to reach a broad rockface with waterfall (above is the source des bergers) which is passed on the west side. Above head for the obvious col on the west skyline. Not far and clearly visible from here is a new cabane (locked). Pass this and pick the easiest line to reach the frontier ridge above and to your left, either just before or after Pas de Banque de Lauret.

Some of the ridge we would climbing along

New cabane (locked) at about 2300m

On the frontier ridge after 1400m of ascent looking towards Mont Rouch

Turn left and follow the ridge to reach the rocky bastion of Pic de Montareing, with fantastic views to the Lago Mariola below. A good lunch spot after all the steep and often pathless ascent.

About 1.5km of switchback narrow ridge with towers and gendarmes separates you from Cap de Ruhos. Though never too difficult (occasionally II) the exposure and occasional loose rock on the Spanish side demands care and concentration. After a characteristic gneiss tower, the difficulties are mostly over.

Bastion of Montareing


Aneto and Posets from the summit

Lac de Mariola from the summit of Montareing

Halfway along the ridge looking back at Montareing

The ridge to follow to reach Cap de Ruhos

From Cap de Ruhos there remains just the long steep descent to Col de Crusous and then the Mines d' Anglade once more...a descent of over 1400m made in 45 mins!

mardi 7 juillet 2020

With the gite now booked from the 5th July until mid September and a "star host bonus" of 100$ about to expire we decided to take a couple of days break on the Mediterranean coast. Collioure can get very busy so we opted to head further south towards the Spanish border and stay in Cerbère.

It's about 4 hours drive but a change of scenery was just what the doctor ordered.

We bought a full face snorkelling mask, which was a revelation! You can breathe through youe nose or mouth and see the amazing sea life that is all around you when you are swimming, even in the shallows. For me, it meant I could swim out of depth comfortably - I'm reasonably strong swimmer but water phobic.

On day two we went for a walk along the coast to Banyuls-sur-Mer through the natural coast nature reserve. Beautiful clear waters and Mediterranean flora. At Perrefitte there's an underwater walk that goes for 400m or so along the coast looking at various underwater habitats. I decided to go with the new mask. All went well until site 3 out of 5. Suddenly I realised that the oxygen supply in my mask was getting rapidly restricted! As it became harder and harder to breathe I began to panic. I looked for a rock that I might be able to stand on and get my head out of the water and so remove the mask, but the one I found was n't high enough. I had to really concentrate to subdue the panic and head for bouy 3 which I could hang onto. The air was getting less and less but finally I reached for the bouy and ripped off the mask to gasp for air. Obviously a more confident swimmer might have just removed the mask and carried on swimming but I was getting tired and not confident out of my depth to swim without the mask. Susie was watching from the shore and could see me panicking! After sometime refilling my lungs, I was able to resume my journey to the shore. 

It transpired that we had been erroneously sold a child's mask which wasn't suitable for adults...unable to expell enough CO2 the mask had been asphyxiating me. I managed to exchange it for an adult one the next day.

We continued our coast walk in searing heat for a much deserved lunch in Banyuls and a train ride back to Cerbère.

Back in the 1930's Cerbère was a favourite haunt of Orson Wells and Josephine Baker; who stayed in this unusual hotel, which is currently being restored.

A spectacular sunset changed the sea to rose - befitting of the "vermillion coast".

On Friday we headed for home via a morning in Collioure. It was busy with visitors from all over France and Europe...somewhat shocking that probably only 1 in 500 people was wearing a mask. I wore one in the busier streets and shops where it was impossible to observe 2m separation.