Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Sunshine

September is a great month to walk in the Pyrenees. The crowds have gone as have the very high summer temperatures which can make walking uncomfortable. The sun is still shining however.

At the end of September I had a long, glorious day walking from Planès. I had a look at Cambre d'Ase which I had visited before but in winter conditions. The peak is one of the walks in my  Pyrenees Summer Walking Week based at the Orri del Planès. I wanted some summer photos of the peak for my website which is being put together at the moment.

Having reached the Cambre d'Ase, the ridge line stretched away into the distance.

Summit view from Cambre d'Ase (2750m) towards Pic d'Eyne (2786m)
I could not resist. First the Tour d'Eyne and then onto the Pic d'Eyne. Both with magnificent panoramic views.

Summit view from Pic d'Eyne (2786m) towards Tour d'Eyne (2831m). Eyne valley on the left
I doubled back on myself for a time and then at the earliest opportunity made a steep, rough descent towards the Planès valley and its pond and onto Planès.

Planès Pond, Planès Valley
There were not many flowers still in bloom at this time of year but there were several to be seen: Carline Thistles, Fringed Pinks, Bellflowers and the poisonous Monkshood.

Monkshood (Aconit napellum)

 Despite the lack of flowers in bloom, there was still plenty of interest to see.

Pixie Cups (Cladonia fimbriata)
Although they couldn't be seen, I could here some Red Deer stags roaring, away in the forest.

For more information about the Summer Walking Week run by Pyrenees mountain Adventure see here

For more information about the Orri del Planès see here.

For more photos of this walk see here.

For photos of the Cambre d'Ase in winter see here.

The idea of wilderness needs no defence, it only needs defenders.
Edward Abbey

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wet and Windy Wales

Mid September saw me in Snowdonia, North Wales helping with a Duke of Edinburgh training week for several schools in the Canterbury/Ashford area.

The week began with a training day. This  mainly concentrated on navigation but also covered some first aid scenarios, camp craft, essential and non essential kit, rucsac packing etc. Then the groups did a practice 4 day expedition.

One of the groups I worked with was the group planning to do their qualifying expedition in the Pyrenees. The weather was not kind all week and bad enough for several of the groups to have to switch to their lower level wet weather alternative routes. 

Here is a photo of the group during a rare improvement in the weather. They were in good spirits not just because it was brighter and had stopped raining, but also because the day had gone well. They told me they were beginning to feel like a real  team. There was also no more height to gain that day. They had ascended to the col Bwlch Cwm Llan and it was now all down hill to the campsite.

The week was based at The Kent Mountain Centre. There is more information about the centre here.

Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the mountains and the stars up above. Let them look at the beauty of the waters and the trees and flowers on earth. They will then begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.
- David Polis

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Want My Freedom

Part of my work involves helping several schools deliver their Duke of Edinburgh programme. There is a group at one of the schools, who want to walk an old WWII escape route, from France into Spain, as their gold qualifying expedition in 2011.

This route is called 'The Freedom Trail' or 'Le Chemin de la Liberté'. I have recently walked a 4 day segment of the trail to be able to tell the group more about it. Just like Duke of Edinburgh gold qualifiers, I was self sufficient - carrying all I needed for the trek (tent, sleeping bag, food, stove etc)

Day 1. Seix (500m), Col de la Core (1395m), Cabane de la Subra (1499m).
Distance 19km. Ascent 1079m

In the distance, Col de la Core

Gentle introduction with some road walking. So lush and green. Friendly shepherd and his partner at the cabane looking after the cattle for the summer.

Day 2. Cabane de la Subra (1499m), Col de Craberous (2382m), Cabane des Espugues (2110m), Col de Pécouch (2462m), Refuge des Estagnous (2245m)   
Distance 10km. Ascent 1386m
Merens horse

 Col de Pécouch, looking towards Refuge Estagnous and Lac Rond.

Great day. Marmot watching a highlight! Merens horses as well. Awesome views.

Day 3. Cabane Estagnous (2245m), Mont Valier (2838m), Cabane Estagnous (2245m), Etang Long (2125m), Col de la Clauere (2382m), Cases de Bonabe (1400m), Port/Col de Salau (2087m)
Distance 18km. Ascent 1562m
Early morning view from the col before the Mont Valier summit
Lac Rond
Ascent of Mont Valier without full pack. Great views. The blue of Lac Rond is unreal. Some snow on approach to Spanish border. See herd of isards from col, a golden eagle and many vultures. Route markings less clear in Spain.
N.B. A long day. An alternative would have been to cut out the ascent of Mont Valier. Another alternative would be to keep the ascent of Mont Valier and camp just over the Spanish border. This would shorten day 3 and day 4 could be cut as well (see below). There is the option to stay at the refuge.

Day 4. Port/Col de Salau (2087m), Salau (850m), Seix (500m)
Distance 21km. Ascent 0m
Early morning light looking into Spain from Col de Salau
Shepherd herding his sheep
Great light this morning. Passed shepherds herding sheep.
N.B. Route includes 14km of road walking between Salau to Seix beside River Salat. Pleasant enough, but it might have been better to finish at Salau, where there was a nice café, and arrange transport to Seix.

Interested in summer treks like this? Take a look at what Pyrenees Mountain Adventure has to offer here.

There is more information about the Duke of Edinburgh award here.

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity..."  John Muir, 1898