In search of a druid – or a trout

Mont d’Olmes: local playground for skiers.  You wouldn’t travel any great distance to spend a holiday here, but for locals, it’s the ideal winter sports spot.  It’s a wonderful area for walkers too.  We’ve only just begun to discover the wealth of footpaths, mainly across truly ‘sauvage’ slopes, with views downwards to Montségur, Roquefixade, and northwards almost, it seems, as far as Toulouse.

It’s alright waxing lyrical though.  For many people living in the area many years past, and until the early years of the 20th century, these slopes were the places where they came for long hours each day, working both on the surface and by crawling through narrow airless tunnels, mining talc.

Talc?  Yes, that stuff you sprinkle on babies’ bottoms.  That stuff those Olympic gymnasts plunge their hands into before taking to an overhead bar.  That stuff that apparently still has many industrial uses, notably in the ceramics industry and for plastics paints and coatings.  This soft soapstone was found here on Mont d’Olmes and is still mined in nearby Luzenac.  Here though, all that is left are the gashes in the mountainside where the workings once were, and a few ancient trucks once used to transport the material down to civilisation.

Come and take the path we took last Sunday.  We walked in more or less a straight line, up and down hill after hill, as the path became increasingly rocky and impassable.  Our reward was the occasional handful of raspberries or bilberries, then a lunchtime picnic by l’étang des Druides.  No, sorry, l’étang des Truites.  Whatever.  Nobody seems to know which name is correct.  Some say the person making the first map of the area misheard and wrote ‘truite’ – trout – instead of ‘druide’.  We saw no trout.  We definitely saw no druids.  But we had a jolly nice picnic.  And I paddled.  And then ruined a perfectly good day, in which morning chill and mist had given over to hot sunshine, by falling flat against the rocky path, cutting open my face and chipping three teeth.  I hope the druids weren’t lining me up for some kind of sacrifice.

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13 thoughts on “In search of a druid – or a trout”

  1. Beautiful pictures – love those paths. Daft question – but is there any ‘wildlife’ up there that you’d prefer not to meet??
    I assume the wine and the fall weren’t in any way connected? Hope you’ve made a good recovery and I can recommend an excellent dentist (but she’s in Ripon mind you). Penny
    x

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    1. Thanks for the dental hint. We have an ace dentist in Harrogate, but who knows? One day. Nope, I only had one small glass of wine , and we met no creatures larger than tiny froglets just practising their jumping skills. We never do. Bears DO exist, but not round there, and they’d keep well out of our way anyway. Oh, I lie. We saw cows out at their summer pasture.

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  2. Hi, Hope you’re beginning to heal and feel a bit better. Thanks also for the birthday wishes. We’ve also walked in this area but in an ad hoc way and never got as far as any lakes. The views are also fantastic on days when the wind drops enough to get the lift up to the top of the ski station. I realise that taking the lift isn’t playing the game as far as walking is concerned but down hill skis are made for going down not up and on balance we decided that skiing down was preferable to walking up! Interesting re the talc, I hadn’t realised that the mines extended so far north & I’d never given much thought to how it was extracted. It must be as bad for the lungs, if not worse, than coal dust. I’ve stopped using the stuff preferring body powder based on cornflour as it’s more sustainable.

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    1. I don’t use talc for much less worthy reasons. It causes dust, and I don’t do dusting. Actually, a ski lift ain’t a bad idea. We do that at Bonascre, then come down courtesy of our raquettes. When’s your next sortie this way>

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      1. Don’t know, hopefully a long weekend fly drive in early November. We’re a bit short of holiday as I’ve just used half of next year’s and booked 3 weeks in Malaysia in December; a final fling as the children are coming back to the UK next summer. A friend in A-V sent me a lovely book of foot and raquette walks for winter in the Ariege and we’re loking forward to trying them out.

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