Tuc des Fourmiguet and Cabane D’Aula

A grey day as we set off from Col de la Pause but that burnt off as we climbed to Etang D’Areau.  We tried to find a path behind the refuge to contour around to the Col above Cabane D’Aula.  In this respect we were wholely unsuccessful.  We found a path that headed in the general direction (probably made by sheep), this then diverged into many smaller paths as each sheep chose their own way. After battling tussocks, thistles and nettles we gained the col and headed up the ridge up to Tuc des Fourmiguet and down to join the GR10.

This we took down to Cabane D’Aula for lunch and to admire the horses, then back up to the col via a well marked path. More new flowers and half a dozen isard between the cabane and the col. From the Col we followed the marked path back down to the first shepherd’s hut just off the 4×4 track and back to the van at Col de la Pause.

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Pic de Seron via Crete de Seron

Met up with Lee and Suzie for an explore. Again it is a peak that we have done several times before, along from the ski station at Guzet, though never by this route in this direction.

Starting at Gerac and heading round to the quarry at the bottom of the Crete de Seron from where we followed a very indistinct path and cairns up the ridge to the summit. The rock was super slippery in the morning dew until the sun dried it out. Some lovely scrambling and great views as the cloud level followed us up the hill.

Lunch at the top and descent to Etang D’Aube on well marked path before traversing back to the car. A beautiful day with a drama sky.

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Exploring more of the border

There is something nice about being able to get straight out the door and into the mountains. There is a great temptation to say that having been up to the border from the barn that it has been done and we don’t need to go again. There are however so many little deviations and detours to explore that “the doorstep” is often the least well explored area.

So, out of the door and turn right up to Port de Salau. From the Col at the border we took the ridge to the left, towards Mont Rouch. The other fantastic thing about doing the same walk at a different time of year is that the flowers change so much and there is always so much to learn. We traversed the ridge to Tuc de Bassiere. After lunch at the top watching the helicopter dropping supplies to various cabins for the shepherds we retraced our steps back to the col. For the descent we chose to follow the line of the old pylons discovering a cave and different terrain to the path.

 

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Making stuff

On our return from the UK we had 7 days of “voluntary quarantine”. Not quite sure how that fits in to a Nation managing Covid, but we did it anyway. This gave us plenty of opportunity to fix, fettle and create things. As well as gardening. Noteworthy examples were:

The steps out of the front of the barn have been slowly rotting away over the years. Treads have been replaced and additional support has been added to prolong their life. However, they have not weathered the winter very well and had to be replaced. The Man Cave (a small outbuilding with a green roof) is our store for random wood. I say “our store” but it is mine really. Anyway, some beams were found for the stringers, a couple of hardwood treads and some teak we brought back from my Brother in the UK. Some careful cutting, glueing and a couple of screws later and we now have a new set of steps which look like they have been there for years.

Amongst our salvage was an old Davos sledge. With the addition of some rustic rope, 3 bits of old floorboard, 2 old leather belts and a handful of screws it is now a bookshelf in the hallway.

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Subirou traverse

After some internet comms with Sheri, Michael and Ian we arranged a car drop to enable us all to traverse Subirou. This is a mountain ridge you can see from the barn which gives magnificent views of the French side of this area of the Pyrenees. Starting at the old mine above Salau and climbing to Col de Crusous. From here you turn left, away from the frontier, and traverse the ridge above Couflens, to get to the GR10, and descend back in to Couflens.

We were lucky with the weather again as it was overcast and not to hot for the 2hr climb. Then the sun came out for spectacular views all around. We saw deer and a stag on the Guzet side and a group of about 60 Griffin Vultures on the Salau side. The birds were just sat there on the ground below the ridge for no apparent reason. Occasionally a few would take off, glide about, then settle again. They were amazing to watch, just by there sheer numbers.

The descent on the GR10 was uneventful down to the goat farm where we had left a vehicle, then everyone came back to the barn for supper.

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Getting Started

Having driven from Chamonix in a day and stayed overnight with Rene & Anouk at the Auberge in Salau, we got up to the barn with a very laden van. As well as “stuff” we brought over from the UK at the beginning of the winter, we had acquired quite a lot of random salvage in Chamonix.

Someone was good to us as we had perfect weather for unloading, and we did spread it out over a couple of days (because we could).

The barn had faired pretty well over the winter with no major damage or infestations. The main objective was to get the garden planted up with seeds before heading off to see family in the UK. Lots of weeding and a little sowing. We had picked up some lettuce plugs, beetroot and blet plants to be able to get a slight head start for early harvesting. As ever, with us, there is an element of sow what you can and see what comes up after 3 weeks of complete neglect. This year, however, we have a cork board in the kitchen so a map was drawn up of what went in where so that we knew what was what when we came back. One thing that was in the van which got first use was some fibreglass rods which when bent over the raised beds made a great “support” for netting to stop the deer scoffing our seedlings.

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Kitchen Island

That’s it, we only have a week to go before we head North again. There is a substantial list of chores, and in true Management Consultant style they are ranked in terms of “Must do”, “Nice to” and ease to complete. At the beginning of the summer, well actually the spring, Breezy had a request to build a kitchen island to replace the table. The table has been fine for years and served us well. We have made bred and pasta on it. It has been sturdy even though it is a marriage between legs from a restaurant in Chamonix and a top from a friends office. Top and legs are now divorced and in storage awaiting their next reincarnation.

In it’s place is now a super duper kitchen island.

Ingredients:

  • Legs from a salvaged table (Chamonix)
  • Two lengths decking (donated by Peter in the village)
  • Beech worktop (bought)
  • Forklift Pallets (salvage)
  • 4 brass hinges (salvage)
  • 2 stones with holes in as handles (picked up on a beach)
  • 2 leather handles (made from an old belt scout belt)
  • Screws (stock items)
  • Glue (bought)
  • 2 sheets cheep wood (bought)
  • Paint (chalk paint from a previous project)
  • Varnish (left over from bathroom floor)
  • Wine rack (salvage)

Mix all the ingredients together. Jump up and down on it to make sure it is sturdy and hey presto you have a kitchen island.

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A beautiful day and a great hike

Lane Formente to Pic Montaud

Blue skies and no clouds, Lee and Suzie arrived at 9.30 with a picnic (and a box of veg from their garden). We set off up the piste towards Port de Salau. Just before Pouille, the shepherds cabin we took the path to the right following the old pylon line for the logging cable way. After a few hundred meters this fizzled out and the rest of the ascent up to Lane Fourmente was a case of following the line of least resistance.

It was hot and going was slow so a bite of foods was required at the ridge. Re-nourished we set off towards Pic Montaud along the crest of the ridge. Amazing views of Mont Rouche to the left and Mont Vallier to the right and a stunning ridge line. We go buzzed by a cross-country paraglider souring the ridge above us before heading off to Mont Rouche.

From Pic Montaud we took the ridge towards Port de Salau and dropped onto the French side above the top shepherd’s cabin to join the main path back down to the barn for cold beer.

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Grande Fache and Pic de Cambales

A slightly longer drive than expected due to a head on collision between a motorcycle and a car got us to La Ralliere where we abandoned the van by the side of the road. Traffic was slow and being turned back there as the parking at Pont D’Espagne was “saturated”. Strange expression for a car park but that is what we were told.

From there we took the Sentier des Cascades up the valley with hundreds of other people, most of whom were scantily dressed and very bumbly. Well worth the walk though as the waterfalls are amazing. A picnic by Refuge des Clots and the crowds disappeared, then followed the river left towards Refuge Wallon.

The Refuge was closed due to renovations (and massive extension) so there were tents spread all over the meadow. We found a spot sheltered from the wind by the stream and pitched our little tent. After a dehydrated meal we hit the sack as the wind made a game of cards in the open air rather tricky.

An 8am start and uphill mode to Col de la Fache where we dumped the big sacks and gained the Grande Fache via the North ridge unburdened. Again very windy but not cold and beautiful views of Vignemale, Los Infiernos, Blatious and the Pic Midi D’Ossau from the summit at 3005m. Back to the Col to pick up the sacks and have a cup of tea before taking the path (more like boulder hopping searching for cairns amongst piles of rock) on the Spanish side under Pene D’Arragon to gain Col D’Arragon and more scrambling up the ridge to Pic de Cambales. Strangely enough we had the summit to ourselves and saw nobody on the way up or down. More fantastic views and a snack before finding our way off down the North ridge to Col de Cambales. This was more tricky, scrambling down with big packs, though fairly well marked with cairns. Some very “airy” and exposed sections and definitely not for the feint hearted.

Once at the Col we joined the well worn path through the lakes towards Refuge Wallon and found a secluded camp spot by Lac de Cambales at about 5pm. Again, no cards, dehydrated meal and bed.

Day 3 and an hour downhill to gain the path up to Lac Nere and on to Lac du Portet where we started seeing other hikers. Then a long descent via more lakes down to Refuge du Clots and lunch by the river. Back to Pont D’Espagne where we waited for the Navette (bus) to take us back to La Ralliere.

All in all a grand excursion to re-charge the batteries.

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Maintenance and Art

With any old property there will always be maintenance. You have oly just finished the place and then you have to start maintaining the stuff you started with. The first floor we laid was the bathroom. In fact that is the first place we slept (because it was the only place with a flat, dry floor. A flat dry floor and a composting toilet. Sounds lovely; so romantic. Anyway, it desperately wanted freshening up, more that a wet mop would achieve. The generator was engaged and Breezy sanded the whole floor and applied two coats of varnish. The difference is amazing and makes the other floors about the barn look a little tired. Next up is the floor in the Naughty Corner.

Then there is the fettier (or roof ridge). The roof covering is old slate and the ridge is sheet zinc. This however is in 6 bits because at the time we were told you could not get a single length 12 m long. This may now be possible (but I doubt it). A consequence is that there are 5 joints where the sheets of zinc overlap. Add to that the 6 nail holes per sheet which secure it to the roof and you have quite a lot of potential for leaks. Over the years, when there is a leak in the roof, I get up there with some tools and a mastic gun and try my best to plug any possible leak spot. Now there is a product called “Zinc Fix”. It looks like mastic, comes in a mastic tube and is called “Zinc Fix” not mastic. It may be mastic, but renaming it adds some value in terms of Euros. To stand the best chance of the new stuff working I felt it would be good to clear away all the old mastic (probably 4 generations) so that I could apply it to zinc rather than old mastic. After all, they did’nt rename it “Old Mastic Fix”. This process, including applying the new stuff took half a day and gave me a blister on my index finger.

Neither of the above were photo worthy so ther are none.

What is photo worthy is the planter made from the old trunk of the pine tree we used to shower under and Doris the Deer. The planter is home to a couple of Dianthus grown from seed donated by my Mother. An Doris is made from bits of flotsam wood collected from the side of the river. It was named Doris so as not to cause offense to anyone we know (we don’t know anyone called Doris).

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