Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sun, Snow And Snowshoeing

It has arrived - snow! Not in huge quantities but there was enough of it in the Eastern Pyrenees near Aston in the Ariege to spend a weekend snowshoeing.

The first day was spent ascending the Seignac Valley towards the Col du Sal. Snowshoes were necessary above 2000m.

Snowshoeing Towards the Col du Sal.
 At the Col du Sal (2480m) there were impressive views across to the Pic de Thoumasset (2741m).

Pic de Thoumasset from the Col du Sal.

The return was made by the Soulanet Valley and the Sabine Valley.

The next day was an ascent of the Pic de la Sabine.

Making Fresh Tracks Descending From Pic de la Sabine
On the descent from the Pic de la Sabine, the group were able to look across towards the previous days highpoint - the Col du Sal. An impressive cloud bank was stopped on the French/Andorran border.

Cloud bank on the French/Andorran Border.
Despite the winter landscape, colour was still evident below the snowline. There were the browns and golds  of the leaves of the deciduous trees but also the purple of the many crocuses in flower.

Autumn Crocus
Most colourful was the bright red of a fly agaric.The mushroom is poisonous but deaths are rare. In the Middle Ages it was apparently used as a fly killer when sprinkled in milk.

Fly Agaric.

Most surprising was the high number of Pyrenean Gentian to be found. They are normally in flower in July and August!

Pyrenean Gentian
On both days the group had the mountains to themselves - we saw no one. The second day we briefly shared our patch of mountain territory with a herd of isard. Snowshoes do not require prepared pistes or ski resort  uplifts. Quiter, hidden coners of the winter mountain environment can be discovered far from the hustle and bustle of the ski resorts.

2 of the group had never snowshoed before but did not take them long to get used to the snowshoes. If you are thinking of a Pyrenees Mountain Adventure snowshoe week and are worried because you have never snowshoed - don't be! Remember, if you can walk, you can snowshoe!

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