samedi 12 juin 2021

Pic de Portabere et Pic de Montaud

Susie is in Chamonix for the next three weeks doing her 200hr yoga teacher training. I m holding the fort, trying to complete the bathroom rebuild and mostly likely doing the hay-making and sheep shearing before going to collect her at the end of the month. The weekend and the first half of the week were spent working on architectural projects then Thursday and Friday I collected and laid the floor tiles in the bathroom and porch - progress at last, plasterboard next!

Saturday, time in the mountains with Sheri, Michiel (returned from the ship) and Ian who hasn't been on walk with us for probably 10 years! Alun and Breezy are back (from the UK) but still in self-isolation, though we waved and had a socially distanced beer with them on our return.

It's hot and humid (June) so we planned a walk up to the Port de Salau (which usually catches the wind). 

Rather than head to the port we veered right to the col between Pic de Portabere and Pic de Montaud before striking up the narrow ridge to land on the summit of Montaud (2496m). The original plan was to descend the ridges over Lane Formente (a reverse of the route Susie and I did with Alun and Breezy last summer), but the clouds were building over Mont Rouch and scraping the summit of our Pic and we decided to descend the same way, continuing this time to include the Port de Salau.

On the descent we met some dutch walkers who had spotted what they thought were deer, a closer look with my telephoto lens revealed that they were in fact Iberian Ibex.

 A cold beer at Alun and Breezy's concluded our walk of 14km and 1400m (4600ft) of height gain.

dimanche 30 mai 2021

Tuc de l'Etang depuis Mourtis

The red billed Leiothrix are still here but harder to spot - the french call them "rossignol japonais" - japanese nightingales, unfortunately they are neither nightingales nor found in Japan!

A visitor to the meadow

A short walk with Susie, Sheri and Sandrine above La Mourtis ski station to a cluster of 6 tops with great views to the Luchonais Pyrénées and the Maladeta/Aneto massif. A short walk with just 500m of ascent.

Arête Salenques, Margalide, Tempêtes, Aneto - a big day out to traverse with climbing to IV

Pico Maldito behind Pico Maladeta with clouds blowing in

The maladeta massif



lundi 24 mai 2021

Drainage works

Unable to find anyone with availability to dig the drain behind our house, I decided to hire a digger and do it myself - I m quite handy with a digger these days. It is a tricky operation because of the depth, the overhanging eaves and because you have to dig at right angles to the digger. All started well digging down through the rock and clay backfill but at about 90cm (3 feet) depth I found an old concrete drainage gulley running the length of the back of the house. It was too thick to break through with the digger. The water has been coming into the house deeper than this on the inside of the bathroom so...Was all the clay above the old gulley stopping it from working? Or is there a subterranean water course deeper down? There was no way to dig deeper without a bigger digger so I decided to install a perforated land drain at the level of the gulley surround it with clean gravel and a geotextile and make a proper exit pipe for the water forward of the house and hope for the best. I might not know if it has worked or not until we get very heavy rain again! Meantime I've added plenty of RIW to the inside of the bathroom wall, hoping that may also help.

Platon sheet, perforated drain and geotextile in place ready for gravel


mercredi 19 mai 2021

Col de Portech to Cap de Bouirex

Another middle mountain walk with Sheri and Susie and a part of the skyline from Quélébu that I haven't completed before. Nice weather and surprising views on a long and slowly rising ridge heading to Cap de Bouirex. I made a sprint for the summit so that we could get back in time for an appointment Sheri had at 5pm. A part of the ridge path near the col de Portech has been chewed up by forestry vehicles but we returned through the woods following our noses to avoid it on the way back.

Looking west, Pic des Cingles, Mail de Bulard, Pic Maubermé, Pic de l'Homme and Pic de Crabère hidden from our skyline by the ridge of peaks heading North from Mont Valier

Tuc d'Eychelle and surrounding peaks, we descended the left ridge last week

Cap de Bouirex (left) and the last part of the route of ascent

Looking back along the last part of the ridge from just below the summit


vendredi 14 mai 2021


Black woodpeckers although large are very shy birds, so it was good to get a chance to creep up on one and get these photos. It was excavating a tree to get at some ants which were doing their best to attack him - you can see in the photos he is covered with them.

 At Quélébu the weather has been very changeable, hot sunshine, cold wind, torrential rain, snow to 1300m all within 24 hours sometimes! 

On Tuesday I caught sight of the big, brown, blue eyed, husky that has terrorised our sheep twice before and killed some of our neighbour's goat, trotting up the road towards our sheep. I quickly put my coat on and followed but he was already chasing our sheep, who completely panicked, broke through the fence and fled into the woods. I screamed and chased the dog away, but it took most the day to find and round up the sheep - all in torrential rain! In the UK a farmer can defend his livestock, not so in France. I m entitled to compensation from the owner if the dog kills or injures a sheep, but that doesn't extend to a day of my time wasted looking for the sheep or the sheep being stressed by the dog. Christian our neighbour when his goat was killed by this dog called the gendarme's but I think he didn't succeed in getting compensation because the owner claimed the dog wasn't his...stray dogs here are put down if not claimed in 4 days - maybe that's our best option if the dog continues return.

With the cold snaps one or several bears have descended from the mountains. Attacks on livestock (sheep, cows and horses) in Sentein and a neighbour told me in Sentenac d'Oust and Riverenert also.
Several videos of bears above the Maison de Valier and I think the Etang Rond or Etang Long taken in the last couple of days by walkers have also been posted on La Depêche. In the first video the bear is a long way off but in the second a little too close for comfort!

lundi 10 mai 2021

Ruby's website

Ruby is just putting her finishing touches to her new website
Ruby is an illustrator and as well as taking commissions for illustrating all manner of things from books, CD covers, labels, games, etc the site will have ready made cards, t-shirts, posters and other goodies featuring her original artwork that you can purchase for yourself or as gifts.

dimanche 9 mai 2021

Col de Crouzette, Tuc de Quer Ner, Tuc d'Eychelle, Pené Rouge, Cap Ner depuis Col de la Core

Our friends Becks and Kevin are moving back to the UK in a few days time so a farewell walk was in order.  A hot day today with the south wind blowing and for some reason I just couldn't find any energy. From Col de la Core we climbed up to the Etang d'Eychelle for a snack stop before pressing on to Col de Crouzette on continuous snow after the cabane. It was blowing a hooley at the col where we had lunch.


Lunch spot

Numerous choices from here but opted to return to Col de la Core by the western side of the watershed. After a careful descent of Tuc de Quer Ner, Becks and Kev where keen to continue all the way to the Col de la Core via the ridge. 

Leaving the Col de la Crouzette

View from below Tuc de Quer Ner looking East

Still some sizeable cornices on the West side of the watershed

I've done the ridge from Tuc d'Eychelle to Col de la Core three times before and at this time of year with steep persistent névés on North side, one most follow the narrow ridge over Pené Rouge, which ends with a short down climb in a very exposed position. Much easier going up than coming down! Susie and Sheri don't enjoy these tricky sections but with care everyone managed it safely. A couple of steep névés had to be crossed before we could finally relax and follow the rest of ridge down.

 A surprisingly tiring day despite only 10.5km and 1100m of height gain.

mercredi 28 avril 2021

Sheep injuries

Last evening we found valentine with a broken rear leg. Fortunately we check on the sheep regularly (at least once a day often twice or more) so the fracture was closed and I quickly managed to catch him before further damage was done. The vet came straight away and in a few minutes the bones were set and a resin plaster applied.

This morning Apple has a broken horn (probably decided to take on William who far out guns him). It'll heal (crookedly).

William's heavy duty horns

lundi 26 avril 2021


The rain pours and a good part of it is coming through the back wall of the bathroom where the rock boss was removed! Now I ll have to dig out behind the house and put in a drain! This wasn't what I envisaged when I said I wanted a "wet room".


samedi 17 avril 2021

Project bathroom destruction!

 Bathroom project continues...having gutted all the internal sanitaryware, plumbing and finishes, the next job was to remove the granite which was higher than the floor at the rear, then break though the concrete floor slab to find the below ground drainage and reconfigure it for the new layout. Lots of time consuming heavy duty work.

Pic de Montcaud depuis Les Cloutets

 Another walk with Sheri within our 10km radius of home, this time starting from the hamlet of Les Cloutets below Pares and climbing through forest to the open hill and Pic de Montcaud - a more modest 10km and 700m of ascent. No path through the conifer plantation but spectacular views thereafter and three encounters with a Capercaillie (Grand Tetras). As in Scotland they are very rare here and incredibly shy, but I was surprised by its size and the noise of its wings and feathers when taking to flight.

Pic de la Journalade

Pid Caumale et Pic Rouge de Bassies