Thursday, November 14, 2013

Protect and Conserve the Nature We Love - The Fjällräven Way

You can tell outdoor clothing companies that are committed to sustainability and serious in their efforts to reduce the environmental footprint they have. They produce a durable product, make use of recycled materials and will only use organic cotton for example. They will have a named person in charge of something like Corporate Social Responsibility or Sustainability and will have a mission statement which includes measurable targets to achieve. They will produce an annual report on their progress in achieving these targets.

Patagonia comes to mind as a pioneer in this area, as a market leader setting sustainability standards.

Fjällräven ( the name means artic fox)  is a Swedish company, specialising in outdoor equipment. In 2013 they launched The Fjällräven Way, a document that acts as a guide for their sustainability work. It contains four areas of activity linked to the cardinal points of the compass - the universal tool for way-finding.

N stands for Nature & Environment
E for Economy & Business Processes
S for Social Responsibility
W for Wellbeing.

"Our goal is a healthier outdoor life, now and for future generations."  Aiko Bode, Fjällräven's Chief Sustainability Officer, explains how they work with sustainability throughout the entire company.

I found their video inspirational

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chemin de la Liberté/Freedom Trail -Top 10 Magic Mountain Moments (Summer 2013)

Yesterday it was grey and overcast and the rain did not stop. I found myself thinking back to the Pyrenees Mountain Adventure treks this summer along the Chemin de la Liberté/Freedom Trail. Four groups attempted to cross the Pyrenees mountains and everyone who started made it into Spain.

Here are my top 10 favourite magic mountain moments from the four treks. They are in no particular order:

1. The Border Crossing. Starting from St Girons, the border is crossed on day 4. After much effort, hardship and determination we are at the border and can pass from France into Spain. A great moment for everyone who made the crossing.

The Dos group from Holland celebrate reaching the French/Spanish border. Freedom is very close...

2. Polly Bagging. Sliding down a safe snow slope using a large plastic bag as a tobogan. This was great fun and an ideal way to release the tension that had built up descending the steep snow slope directly below the border.

3. Louis Barrau Memorial. Killed by the Nazis aged 18, a memorial has been erected by the barn where he was shot. Someone picked wild flowers from the meadow next to the barn and placed them on the memorial. They had a son of similar age. A beautiful gesture in a beautiful setting.

Great view across to the high Pyrenees from near where Louis Barreu was killed.

4. The Scenery. It is not just the spectacular scenery of which there is plenty.......

Mont Valier dominates the high mountain stages of the Chemin de la LIberté (Freedom Trail) is the group finding the time to stop, look up and enjoy the views. To soak up the scenery they were immersed in.

Soaking up the scenery towards the end of the Freedom Trail (Chemin de la Liberté)

5. The Silence. Ten minutes silence at the border. No wind, no words. Time too reflect. 'Find beauty; be still.' We had. We were.

The view back into France showing the route of the Freedom trail (Chemin de la Liberté) as it climbs up to the border

6. The Shadows. Griffon vultures flying above us, close enough to cast shadows that raced across the ground where we were.

7. The Summit. Only one group chose the optional extra day at Refuge Estagnous to ascend Mont Valier which dominates day 3 and 4 of the trek. The weather was grey and overcast. Visibility was poor and it was cold. Having reached the summit, the clouds parted and for a short time we were rewarded with tremendous views.

Summit view from Mont Valier the mountain that towers above the Estagnous Refuge and the route of the Freedom Trail (Chemin de la Liberté)

A Pyrenees Mountain Adventure group on the summit of Mont Valier

A similar thing happened with the same group the day before. Starting out in poor weather, we eventually find ourselves above the cloud and out of trouble.

8. The Support. The Chemin de la Liberté/Freedom Trail  is tough. It was great to see the shared hardship brings people together. I saw new friendships form and old friendships strengthened. I saw kindness and care. People helping each other through difficult times - whether a difficult section of path, a drop in morale or fatigue.

9. The Storm. At Refruge Estagnous, which is spectacularly located in the high mountains, the sunsets can be unforgettable. What was more memorable for me happened after most people had returned inside after the sun had set. In the fading light, far in the distance, dark storm clouds were being illuminated from inside by lightning but because of the distance the thunder could not be heard.

10. The Omelette. At the Gite de Rouze I had an omelette with wild, girolle mushrooms picked from the local forest. I know that at the end of a hard days walking any food tastes good but the best omelette ever!

Thanks to everyone who trekked with Pyrenees Mountain Adventure along the Chemin de la Liberté/Freedom Trail in 2013. It was a pleasure to share the journey with you.

Snow and Avalanche Safety Training Day/Journée Securité Neige and Avalanche

There has been the first snowfall this winter in the Pyrenees this week and soon the winter season proper will be here. I find this training day is always a good preparation for the coming season. A great way to be reminded about the dangers of winter snowshoeing and have knowledge and skills already aquired, reinforced and refreshed. 

Pyrenees Mountain Adventures will of course be running a full snowshoeing programme this 2013/2014 winter.

Film of Brown Bear

Latest brown bear images from the Pyrenees captured by an automatic camera. Unusually it is daytime. The female bear is Hvala, one of the bears successfully reintroduced from Slovenia. The name means Thankyou in English. The 2 bear cubs were born this year.