Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Son of the Wilderness

It was the anniversary of the death of John Muir recently (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914)

Keep close to Nature's heart...and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.’ John Muir

Born in Dunbar in Scotland, Muir emigrated with his family to the United States when he was 11. His travels through the country and his love of wild places became the basis of the many books and essays he wrote.

As well as an author, he was a botonist and geologist. An early champion of wilderness preservation, he was instrumental in the establishment of the US National Parks system.
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
His beloved Yosemite Valley became one of the first areas of the US to be granted National Park status.The Sierra Club, which he founded, continues to lobby for the protection of wild places in the US.

The John Muir Trail -  a 211 mile/340 km hiking trail in California was named after him. Here is a series of stunning time lapse sequences shot by  Eric M. Keen and William B. Watson during their hike along the John Muir Trrail in 2010.

'Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.'
John Muir Our National Parks , 1901, page 56

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Green Ski Resorts

If you are planning to ski this winter and want help choosing a greener ski resort, there are several helpful sources of information available.

 Mountain Riders Eco Guide to Mountain Resorts
Still want to enjoy the mountains in winter but not happy with the environmental impact of the skiing industry? Try a snow shoeing holiday! As well as making less of an impact than skiing, snowshoeing is cheaper and easier. Snowshoeing away from the resorts and prepared runs is also less crowded and more peaceful. See a different side to the mountains in winter. Come and join a Pyrenees Mountain Adventure snowshoeing week and make your own fresh  tracks in the snow. 



Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Survival

Isard (Pyrenean Chamois)
The animals that live in the high mountains, like the Isard, have a hard time during the winter. As well as the freezing temperatures, snow, strong winds and avalanches, the animals have to contend with food being scarcer and harder to find. A tough life! The animals build up fat reserves during the summer to help them make it through the harsh winter months but not all make it.

A film from Salamandre Films called 'Survive' looks at the dangers the mountain animals face during the harsh winter months. The footage was shot in the Alps but the story the film tells could be applied to any mountain region in winter.

Althoug the film was shot in the Alps, all the animals in the trailer can also be seen in the Pyrenees - except for the Ibex (the animal with the very long horns) which became extinct in the Pyrenees in the late 1990's. No Ibex here unfortunately but there is the brown bear which cannot be found in the Alps. Not much chance of seing all these animals on the prepared ski resort slopes however. You have a much better chance with a Pyrenees Mountain Adventure snowshoeing week.

Snow Hare Tracks
Actual sightings of animals are rare but you will be able to see that you are surrounded by  wildlife  from the huge number of prints and tracks in the snow. During a Pyrenees Mountain Adventure snowshoeing week your guide can help you to start to identify which prints and tracks are made by which animal.