Thursday, June 14, 2012

Something Old, Something New and Something Unexpected

The French have an expression 'Que la montagne est belle!' - aren't the mountains beautiful and a recent weekend wild camping demonstrated that perfectly. Some of the beauty was old, in the sense that I already knew about it, some of the beauty was new in that I discovered it during the weekend and some was unexpected........

The 'old beauty' was the Orlu Nature Reserve above the Orlu Valley in the Ariege. I had completed the walk up to the Naguille resevoir and dam before on one of my earliest visits to the Pyrenees back in the early 1990's. Then I was on holiday but now nearly 20 years later I work in the area showing clients the beauty the region has to offer with the the holidays that Pyrenees Mountain Adventure runs.

It was also the scenery that was as spectacular as ever.

The view from Col d'en Beys
It was how peaceful and uncrowded the area remained.

It was the still impressive display of wild flowers - Trumpet Gentian, Pyrenean Squill, Pyrenean Buttercup, Pyrenean Pheasant-Eye, Daffodil, and Marsh Marigold

Moss Campion Silene acaulis
It was the wildlife encounters - a Jay in the beach forest at the start of the walk, a kestrel flying in the valley level with me while at the Col d'en Beys, a ptarmigan not having completely lost its white winter plumage being disturbed from its hiding place among the juniper bushes, an eagle that came to investigate who I was and what I was doing at a col on day 2, a group of isard demonstrating their agility and power while climbing steep ground as I sat and watched in the fading light and a cheeky marmot.


 The 'new beauty' and there is always new beauty to discover, was the Pinet Valley. Little known and rarely visited and better for it - I had it to myself.

At the head of the valley were Pic de Pinet and Pic d'Ouxis and between them a ridge that provided some entertaining scrambling. The clouds began to roll in as I started the ascent of Pic d'Ouxis (2510m) after lunch at the col and by the time I had completed the ridge and descended from Pic de Pinet (2420m), the first drops of rain began to fall.

The 'unexpected beauty' was being able to help two walkers who approached me at my wild camp site near the Peyrisses lakes (2227m) as I ate my evening meal. They wanted to know where the refuge was. The mist that had ghosted in had reduced visibility greatly. There was no refuge here. The Refuge d'en Beys was in the next valley! They had a map but were novices on their first mountain adventure and didn't really know how to use it. I ended up taking them to the correct col and part way down the correct descent path leaving them to continue on their own after the last snow patch had been crossed.

It seemed the correct thing to do and they were generous with their thanks. If I had been in their position I would have wanted someone to do exactly the same for me. It was waiting back at the col to check they made the valley below that I was rewarded with the encounter with the kestrel and the herd of isard. If I had not offered to help, my own weekend mountain adventure would have been much less rich in so many ways.........