Some winter hiking in the Pyrennian snow and ice

We took H and his pal skiing at Camurac in the western Pyrenees.

I’m not a skier, I’m happy to leave that up to fearless 11 year old boys while I go a tramping in the mountains.  So after leaving the boys with an instructor I pulled on a pair of hired snowshoes and started walking towards a hill I’d spotted near the resort.

Towards snowy hill
A snowy hill near Camurac

Snowshoes take a little getting used to but once you do it’s great fun striding out across virgin white snow.  According to Wikipedia:

Snowshoes work by distributing the weight of the person over a larger area so that the person’s foot does not sink completely into the snow, a quality called “flotation”.

This is very true.  I could shove my hiking pole a good metre into the snow while my feet left an indention of only a few centimetres, though this was likely to change at any given moment, especially when moving up or down a slope.

I liked how each footstep gave a satisfying crunch sound. Big, decisive steps are what is called for with this kind of hiking.

Everything looks different in the snow, trees are contrasted strongly against the light greyscale tones.  Everything sounds different, it’s quite possible to hear the heavy silence of a snow field.  All very special.

Winter tree
Winter trees

Halfway up the hill a mini-storm set in and visibility dropped to 10 or so metres at some points.

Looking back from where I'd come
…and the mist came rolling in

I wasn’t that worried about getting lost, I had a compass and was taking bearings at every landmark.  What did start to focus my thinking was the potential for trouble if I were to take a fall and twist my ankle or something.

J knew where I had headed off to and we had agreed a time for my return but still…I really didn’t fancy the idea of lying in the snow for hours waiting to be rescued.  Suddenly, with this realisation I understood I was actually taking a bit of a risk.  Not something I was used to when hiking in the east of England.

Stormy weather
Stormy weather

I stopped and spent some time thinking over the situation but as I was doing this the clouds began to part and mist started to clear and suddenly I could see the summit.

And ten minutes later there I was, at the top of the hill.  I ate my sandwiches and chocolate while admiring the beautiful scene laid out before me.

The summit, at last...
The summit, at last..!

And then…I carefully began the slow walk back down the hill, across the snow field and to the ski resort where I enjoyed a celebratory beer.

The next day gave us bright, bright blue mountain skies.  I nipped up another local hill.

The next day...sun!
Snowshoes and mountains

And I sat back on the snow with the glorious western Pyrenees spread out before me…

The western Pyrenees
The western Pyrenees in all their glory

…and as the Weather Prophets once sang, I almost prayed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FeD4NlT2Ds

10 thoughts on “Some winter hiking in the Pyrennian snow and ice

  1. I loved my walking along the GR10 in the Pyrenees last year and I also love skiing in the french Alps but I always have to have a couple of snow shoe walks too and your so right about how quickly the weather can change.

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