Parasols and Pintxos

Iain, Breezy’s Father, and Jo came to spend 3 nights with us as part of their Southern Europe tour. Iain had not been over here last year and so there were some considerable changes. An indoor shower definitely met with approval as did the flowers and the sedum roof. Jo explored the valley and helped us find some wild mushrooms. Naturally, we had bought some nice wines and planned some special fodder. Unfortunately we have no control over the weather however the sun shone on the last day providing fantastic views of the mountains. We also had a visit to the Museo des Colporteur locally which was fascinating.

The next 3 nights we all headed to San Sebastian for more food and wine with some walking and culture thrown in. Highlights were a pintxos tour and a restaurant recommended by Peter and Alison in the village.

On the way back we called in with a great skiing mate Mat who was staying with his Aunt Rosie.

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Etang Soulcen – Pic de La Rouge – Pic des Lavans

Just us and the tent, plus some fodder, something to cook on, something to sleep in… Parked up at Orris du Carla and headed up the steep track to Etangs de la Gardelle, on to Etang de Canalbonne and up to Port de la Gardelle. Beautiful views of the lakes in both Spain and France and some stunning coudscapes.

Took in the ridge to Pic de la Rouge before dropping down to Lago de Aresi and beyond before ascending to our camp spot at Etang de Port Vell. Yet another solitary camp spot by the lake (if you exclude the issard, horses and sheep).

The next day we got up to Port Vell/Romaset and scrammbled the ridge to Pic des Lavans.

Note – the French and the Spanish probably disagree on an awful lot of things but one thing that they obviously are at odds with is the names and indeed the locations of different peaks on the frontier. In fact Pic des Lavans appears on both the French and Spanish maps but approximately 500m apart. We went up the Spanish version as it was closer.

The descent took us on the HRP route past Orrie de la Soucarrane and Orri de Roumazet and the van (where we left it).

Definitely an area to return to.

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Flamisella Frolics, Fun and “That looks like a path!!!”

Lee and Sooze kindly asked us to join them for 2 days hiking with the tent and with 2 of their lovely friends Sheri (USA) and Michael (Dutch) who live just out of Seix. Great to get some hill time with S&L and also to meet some new like minded buddies in the area too.
Second day definitely made up for the first day!!!

Bit of an epic first day, with thigh high for some, chest high for others bilberry bashing, foothpath finding and boulder hopping up scree slopes…..Anyhow we did finally make it to the Col de L’Aliot from Ossesse via the Cabane de Bon Repos. Good yomping up weather as coolish and at the col, a strong wind. By the time we got to the col too late was the consensus to do a peak that day. There was to be no more “nipping up there!” and we headed down into Spain to a lovely little lake about 300m lower for the night with enough space for 3 tents.

A right veritable feast, onion bhajis, dhal, green thai cuzza with noodles and choccy to end a banquet. A cracking “partager” meal enjoyed by all. Beautiful spot in the sun till 730pm ish and then as soon as the sun went we dived for the tents twas cold especially with the wind.

Next day we opted to climb Pic de Flamisella 2781m dropping packs for the final ascent to make life easier. CRACKING views in every direction and stunning weather.
Plan B came into action for the descent after coming across some gnarly terrain initially not really passable…. so this meant dropping down to Estangy del Port for lunch by the lake. Then a final easy 200m hike up to Col de Marterat before descending down down and down back to Billy Boy. Beers on the way home and all pleasantly tired.

Thanks team Flamisella mucho fun.
Where to next????

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Raiders and Freeloaders

Not a fair title for a post as Freeloaders are uninvited. It is true that we have been having issues with Raiders though. They come at night usually and eat the lettuce hearts, the spinach, the beatroot leaves and worst of all they eat all the growing tips off the raspberry plants. This is very annoying and results in reduced crops. They are however beautiful deer. We have tried pissing along the boundaries but we are informed that human hair does a better job. This we have been gathering, placing in socks and hanging around the most attractive vegetation. We were informed that it may take a couple of years for the warnings to be headed but time we have.

The invited folk were friends. Alison and Peter came up for brunch in the sun and Ian and his cousin Peter stayed the night after dinner on the terrace.

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Path rebuild

A couple of jobs on the MUST do list this summer were to clean the main water buts, well over due and to re do the main path along the main entrance to the barn which has gradually been slipping away as the wood has become more and more rotten. We have been putting both off for a while.

Finally kicked ourselves into action with the water buts as Ian and nephew Peter were over for the night so meant two extra pairs of hands for getting water buts down the hill. Once we got going with the job, not too bad…..

Draining them took several hours with the help of a hose borrowed from Anouk ane Rene, rather a lots of sludge build up to say the least!

Then we lugged them down the hill and then into Billy, one by one down to the village, over the wall by the river so we could borrow a power wash, water and power and get them as clean as possible before back up the hill, and back down with the second one and more of the same. Ian and Peter helped us up the hill with the first one before they headed off home.

After the second one was clean, we had drinks in the bar with Clive and Alison and Peter before back up the hill just before the thunderstorm, perfect timing for not having to go to the river to refill them! A little bit of weather gods on our side there!

2 spangly clean water buts, note to self don’t leave it for 8 years till we do it again!!!!

The other big job involving the dreaded R…O…C…K…S word, it was just a matter of getting going. So we dug up the stones already in place and dug the area out, full of compost from the original barn clear out. That has all gone on to the garden which should help things grow happily. Now the path is totally knackered makes us have to fix it!

Lots of rocks, wood, slabs and heavy lifting. A few half days and it is looking good but Al’s back not good so path laying has a breather till he is 100% again. We are now over half way with it which is fab and most of the really heavy lifting is done. Now just a juggling and a jangling to get slabs levelish and not wobbling et voila!

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Flowers and Foraging

I am amazed at how well the flowers are doing in the garden this year. So excited that another two flower beds are being made. Mushies are not doing so bad also.

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Pujada 2018

As if we hadn’t done enough walking, we teamed up with Lee & Susie to head up to the Port de Salau for the Pujada with a picnic. Great catch up time and very entertaining people watching at the col.

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Espana with a tent

Weather has continued to be gorgeous so Breezy had been perusing the maps as usual and enticing Al away for a few days with the tent. Always nice to walk out straight from the barn for the off! Our new Osprey packs which we got for Madagascar are great and perfect size for a few nights away with tent, stove and fodder.

Always a bit of a shocker heading off with a heavier pack but the beautiful camp spots made up for it. After lunch we did a couple of hours slog up the steep terrain opposite towards the Mont Rouch refuge. It is steep the whole way and not much let up, the path was in a shocking condition to say the least and neither of us were looking forward to the descent and had already hatched another plan for the descent! Great view of the barn though from an aerial point of view. Got to the refuge and there was just a French couple there, and we pitched our tent in a lovely spot with fab views, no wind and peaceful as. Cards, cups of tea and then the last of the Westler Ration packs, slightly out of date but fine except the brownies which we threw to the birds!!!

Al had his new thermarest from the Ski Cham Gang lot, which is VERY comfy so he tells me!!! A fab pressie.

A leisurely start with brekky and packing up the tent but off up the hill just as the sun hit us towards Mont Rouch and then a wee scramble across to the Spanish Mont Rouch. Just 2 lovely Spaniards with us briefly on the summit with a much better map than ours for the Spanish side so we grabbed that for some extra info re the descent. Stunning views all around and no clouds about at all, perfecto! Plan was to descend down to Spain and the Mt Rouch refuge by the lakes. This area is stunning with 4 or 5 lakes. Took in a couple of peaks before descending to the 2nd lake where I had a swim bracing but lovely! and then we had a late lunch. It was not a well marked path but we scrambled and picked our way down with no problems. Strolled on to the 1st lake to find a camp spot next to the lake, nobody about at all idyllic.

Another nice evening with cards, cryptic crosswords, more rat packs, dodgy cups of tea and an early night. A fab day out.

Last day so early start in the hope of doing the ridge to Cap Rhuos, sun was coming up as we set off at 7am an d up to the border for 8am, after picking our way up from cairn to cairn. At the ridge, clouds were a swirling big time, no vis and moisture in the air… to do the ridge we needed good vis for sure and we were not sure which way the wind and weather was going to blow! so we decided to play it safe and return via a new lake above the refuge and down the dodgy path which was even worse on the descent! Anyhow, it made the day a little shorter and gave us time to pop down to the auberge with a bottle of bubbles for Rene’s birthday and to have a catch up with Anouk and Rene. He seemed to like our homemade golf coat hooks made from some of Dad’s old clubs.

It was baking hot again so we had marinated chicken and a good salad with loads of goodies from the garden before crashing pleasantly tired. Fun few days and really nice tobe exploring with a tent again and as always lovely to get into Spain.

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Gorgeous Gemmilies Girlie Galivanting

So we might have had a few sherberts before agreeing to having 2 of my nieces in their teens to come and stay for a few days but we were looking forward to spending some time with them both.

It was an early start for all of us as Gemma had been staying with a girl friend 2 hours out of Toulouse, Emily had a night in Manchester with Charlie before 7am flight and we had a 2 hour drive to pick them both up. All went smoothly and off back to the barn. We stopped at a lovely swimming hole on the way to break up the journey with picnic and a very chilly dip in the river but as it was scorchio it was refreshing! Then on to boules in Seix before heading back to the barn. Glorious sunshine all day which is always nice to arrive to.

Qwirkle before dinner which is always fun.

Roast chicken and salads on the agenda for dinner and a choccy mousse for pud, all seemed to go down well. Plans discussed for next few days and luckily the weather gods were with us for most of their stay.

How to entice 2 young girls to walk 12km and 700m vertical….”fancy lunch in Spain? and a swim on the way back?” It worked…..early start butties made and off we headed up towards Port D’Aula on the border. The first 40 mins is steep and a fair bit of “how much further” being muttered but after that it is easier going and both girls made it up to the col where we had lunch and saw the thunder clouds building big time on the Spanish side.
A quick yomp down with a few drops of rain but girls and I were keen for a swim in the first lake so we decided to see if we could all swim across it. Emily looked slightly like she was about to drown! but made it with a smile and both of them managed to talk the whole time so it cant have been that hard! We then got caught 10 mins from Billy in a massive downpour so we were all suitably soaked to the skin. Back to the barn which was in sunshine and hot choccys on the helipad whilst the girls warmed up. Sun stayed and the rain vanished so we could have out BBQ outside with girls making all of the salads and Emily made a choccy mars bar cake for pudding/snacks for rest of the stay.

Another baking day and today was mainly a barn day with trips to the river to cool down. Morning was dinner prep, making homemade pasta for spaghetti bolognaise and a joint team effort making the bolognaise. They make a great spag bog that was for sure. One of the jobs needed doing was edging the flower bed with slates. So the girls set to with sorting the flower bed whilst Al and I moved a load of logs from the coppicing area to the log pile. Once done, girls were off to the river before lunch on the terrace. Clive and Mateus turned up on their bikes for a catch up, nice to see them again. Girls and I headed off to the first waterfall for a swim and the girls then worked their way down stream scrambling back to the barn. Quick turn around and the ladies trundled down to the Auberge on foot and Al brought the van for a ride back up the hill. Treated to cold drinks at the Auberge for a game of boules, definitely not their strengths thrashed they were 11-1!!!! Back up the hill, girls made a quick salad and it was then spag bog inside after a game of rummikub in front of the fire.

Last day and I think the girls were looking forward to creature comforts again!!! Namely a dishwasher and a flushing toilet!!! We started with some DIY re varnishing the helipad till we ran out of varnish. Girls into the river again before we headed up to Cirque D’Anglade for a hike and picnic lunch. Again steep start but serious speedy yomping by the youngsters up to the meadow and lunch at the picnic rock. Al and I trundled on up to the snow which was pretty impressive, doubt it will all disappear before winter kicks in again.
We did a quick 30 mins varnish underneath the helipad, good job done we all seemed to be wearing quite a lot of varnish by the end of it. Then some climbing, Al got the wire ladder out and the challenge was for both girls to climb it up to the treehouse platform. It aint no easy job as it is so wobbly but both got up and abseiled down with relative ease. River to cool down.

Girls packed and then we had chicken fajitas and salad outside before the final session of rummikub. Early nights all around as 6am start tomorrow to get the girls back to Toulouse for their flight.

An action packed few days which I hope they have enjoyed, we have loved having them to stay and getting to know them both a little more.
Highlights I think will be getting to Spain, swimming across the lake, river trips, climbing the wire ladder.

More challenging times….no flushing toilet, no dishwasher and no wifi!!!!
Thanks Emily and Gemma for coming and staying we are missing the constant chit chat!!!!

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Orri and Icebergs

An orri is an ancient shelter built for shepherds from dry stones with a rock roof, then covered in vegetation. An iceberg is not.

Booked in to the Refuge Fourcat for two nights we walked in past the dams from the French side. The 1300m ascent took us past a number of orri in various states of disrepair. We did find one with a foam matress inside but generally the shepherds have opted for more comfortable accommodation these days and so maintaining previous versions is a low priority. The refuge is in a magnificent corrie on the Andorra / France border. As all the other hikers were in for a single night we wre deemed worthy of a private room, brilliant.

With some advice from the gaurdian we set a plan to scramble the ridge of the corrie taking in the peaks and some of the fromtier the next day. Some of the scrambling was just on the limit of comfort without a rope but then we did opt for adventure over easier ground. The flora was beautiful with saxifrage, sedums and gentiene all in flower. Our route took in Pic de Malcaras, Pid de L’Etamg Fourcat and Pic de Tristagne and then descending back the the refuge via Port de L’Albeille.

For the get out back to the van we opted to take in Pic de L,Aspre via the ridge from Etangs de Petsiguer, again on the limit of comfort without a rope. We did opt for the route down via the path and even that was not an “easy option”. The GR10 and its variants meant that we did not retrace our steps from the ascent.

A great 3 days away on a refuge with a beautiful setting and a charming gaurdian.

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