Thursday, April 28, 2011


While spring is well underway in the valleys, higher up in the mountains, it is just beginning. The average temperature is  warming, the snow cover is receding and nature is beginning to bloom. This was evident on a recent  3 day camping trip in the Capcir region above Les Angles. The weather was mixed.  Warm and sunny at times with cold, grey spells.

Sunrise from near the campsite.

Day 1 was spent exploring  the Têt Valley.

The Têt Valley (taken on Day 2) 

Above the Têt Valley with the Grand Peric as a back drop (at the end of day 1.)

Day 2 was an attempt to summit Pic Carlit via  a high level ridge route. The summit  was never reached due to snow conditions on the final approach and worsening weather.

Climbing out of the Têt Valley onto the ridge.

High Level Route to Pic Carlit.  

The summit of Pic Carlit from the carlit Plateau.

Spring Pasque Flower Pulsitilla vernalis ( at 2500m.)

Descending from Carlit de Baix. Nameless Lake at 2598m.

Day 3 was a journey amongst the lakes of the Llosa Valley.

Yellow Whitlow Grass (at 2200m)

Pyrenean Buttercup (Ranunculus pyrenaeus)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Bear Facts

At the time of year that sees bears waking from the winter hibernation, the annual report by the Bear Team of the Hunting and Wildlife Commission has been published. The report published in early April, states that 19 bears were identified in the Pyrenees in 2010. 17 were to be found on the French side of the chain - the others in Spain. 4 of the 19 are bear cubs.The brown bear can only be found in France in the Pyrenees.

Where the Brown Bear Was Located in the Pyrenees in 2010

The authors of the report state that 19 is a minimum. There are at least 19 bears because other bears present may not have been detected. It is very difficult to accurately determine the number of bears. Actual sightings are rare. Other indications that bears are present are droppings, footprints, tree scratching, animal kills and damage to bee hives.
By 1995 the brown bear population was down to 5. Worried about the complete disappearance of the animal from France, bears were reintroduced from Slovenia in 1996 (2 females) and in 1997 (1 male). Melba, one of the reintroduced bears, was killed in 1997 and Cannelle, the last female brown bear of Pyrenean origin, killed in 2004, both shot by hunters. Despite this, by 2005 the brown bear population had grown to 15. Still not considered viable, numbers were again augmented in 2006 by animals from Slovenia.  4 new females (Palouma, Franska, Hvala and Sarousse) and a male (Balou) were released.  Two of the four introduced females have died. One fell from a cliff in a freak accident, the other (Franska) was killed by a car on a busy stretch of road (the autopsy revealing evidence that she had been shot at.) Other females have given birth to cubs.
The reintroduction of bears has led to a heated debate between the pro (e.g.Pays de l'Ours-Adet; Ferus) and anti bear factions
The pro bear groups are waiting impatiently for more reintroductions to replace the bears that have been killed since 2006.
Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.
In July 2010, the government gave the go ahead for the reintroduction of another female bear to help keep the bear population viable but the Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has yet to give any further details.
Anti Bear Graffito. If the bears come, the farmers will disapear.

The anti bear groups, made up mainly by shepherds, who fear damage to flocks from attacks by bears, do not want any more bears reintroduced. For them, the use of high mountain pastures during the summer months by their sheep, goats and cattle (transhumance) is incompatible with a growing bear population. According to them,  farming in the mountains is already unattractive financially. Increased loss of stock to bear attacks further reduces profitability and will lead to more farmers leaving the land.

200-300 sheep are killed by bears  each year. The pro bear lobby counters with the fact that wild dogs kill more animals. They also state that farmers are compensated by the government financially for every animal lost in a bear attack. There is also money to pay for farmers to have guard dogs - the formidable Patou mountain dog -  to help protect flocks and herds.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sustainable Development Week

The 2011 Sustainable Development Week is coming to an end in France. Across the country, towns have showcased sustainable development principals and practices.

The most often-quoted definition of sustainable development is that adopted by the Brundtland Commission in 1987: development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Essentially development that is sustainable is an allocation of resources that aims to meet human needs now, while minimising damage to the environment, so that these needs can be met also in the future.

For example, taking too many of a particular fish out of the sea - ‘over fishing’ - will certainly meet consumer needs at present. However, if fish stocks are unable to recover and that particular fish disappears, then in the future, meeting human needs will be compromised. But this would never happen in real life would it?

The Collpase of Atlantic Cod Stocks: East Coast of Newfoundland

The graphic shows the collapse of Atlantic cod stocks off the East Coast of Newfoundland in 1992. From the late 1950s, offshore bottom trawlers began exploiting the deeper part of the stock, leading to a large catch increase BUT a strong decline in the underlying biomass. Internationally agreed quotas in the early 1970s and, following the declaration by Canada of an Exclusive Fishing Zone in 1977, national quota systems ultimately failed to arrest and reverse the decline. Source:

Sustainable development tries to balance 2 major problems : the Earth has a carrying capacity that is limited and humankind’s wants are unlimited. It is economic growth that is in harmony with ecological support systems.

For Pyrenees Mountain Adventure, Sustainable Development is a core principal. Every time there is a business operating decision to be made, that option which creates the minimum negative impact on the environment is chosen. In every area of the business, always! If the minimum impact option cannot be chosen immediately, it becomes a goal to attain in the future.

How is Pyrenees Mountain Adventure attempting to be as sustainable as possible? The 7 night summer walking holiday that PMA offers uses an eco – friendly trail side lodge with solar panels to generate electricity and heat water. A £100 cash back is given to those clients arriving by train rather than flying. Several walks have been designed to start  and finish at the accommodation to minimise client transfer time. Where a client transfer is required, public transport is preferred. 

General day to day operating decisions where the minimum impact option has been chosen include office hardware, office consumables, business travel, business banking and even the walking kit I use (see Blog article: Top 10 Kit Manufacturers.)

The linear ‘Take – Make – Dispose’ system, which depletes natural resources and generates waste, is deeply flawed and can be productively replaced by a restorative model in which waste does not exist as such but is only food for the next cycle - Ellen MacArthur (round-the-world yachtswoman)

It's not a choice between our environment and our economy; it's a choice between prosperity and decline - President Barack Obama (2009)