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.
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.
Halfway up the hill a mini-storm set in and visibility dropped to 10 or so metres at some points.
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.
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.
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.
And I sat back on the snow with the glorious western Pyrenees spread out before me…
…and as the Weather Prophets once sang, I almost prayed.