Snowshoes III: The very last episode

Ariège, Pyrénées, Walking

I’m not doing raquettes (snowshoes) ever again.  Never.  If I ever show signs of changing my mind, lead me into a darkened room, talk kindly to me, and sit with me till the feeling passes.

I have no idea how I got through yesterday.  I must have done though, because every move I make causes some protesting and unhappy muscle to complain vigorously at the pain it endured on our expedition, and is still enduring now.  Five hours walking, with half an hour off for lunch.  Something over 600 metres up, 600 metres down – that’s nearly 1900 feet each way in old money.

I said last week’s sortie was tough.  Compared with yesterday’s, it was a stroll in the park.  I said last week’s was ‘an upward slog: unremitting, tough’.  Yesterday’s was a vertical slog: unending, unforgiving.  Last week, the snow had been deep and crisp and even, and easy to walk on.  We had crunched satisfyingly upwards through the forest, and our descent had been a brisk and easy downward march.

Yesterday, following a warm and sunny week, the snow was soft and our snowshoes sank deep.  Bad enough on the upward route march, but coming down, we all skidded, slipped and lost grip of our poles as they plunged into unseen cavities.  I made landing smack on my back and descending bumpily downwards, legs waving helplessly in the air my personal speciality.

Still, it was good to see Montségur, looming above us at our starting point, providing points of reference throughout the day.  Soon after we started, we were level with the castle at its summit, then it was below us, and disappeared for a while as we plodded upwards through a stretch of forest.  At lunchtime it was impossibly far below.  As we ate, we enjoyed plotting the landscape for other landmarks: Lavelanet and Laroque of course, the lac de Montbel, and far north of us, the Montagne Noire.

Best of all were the cloudscapes: massed plump white cushions of cumulus with wispy brushes of cirrus above, turning a more characterful and moody grey in the afternoon, foreshadowing the evening’s expected rain.  We were just back at the cars when the rain arrived a little ahead of schedule, with a brief hailstorm of pencil-point-sharp hailstones to encourage us on our way.  We didn’t need telling twice.  Home comforts have never seemed more inviting.

22 thoughts on “Snowshoes III: The very last episode

  1. you know this achievement will be unforgettable and you may yet find yourself drawn to another challenge Margaret… adrenaline junkie! How did Malcolm manage the snowy trek?


  2. Funny, I was hiking yesterday too. No snow shoes, but there was quite a bit of snow on the descent since it was the shady side of the mountain. Good thing my hiking boots are waterproof!

    Great pictures! Whatever you’re doing to explore your new camera is working 🙂


  3. Goodness. The things some people do for fun 🙂
    While you were doing all that, I was lime rendering a wall wearing shorts and tee shirt and still feeling too hot!


  4. …………..wellwell, Margaret you have got an admirerer here – that was a real performance, congratulation – nearly the everest of the Ariège ! could you recover yet ? love to you and Malcolm, AnnA


  5. It looks and sounds fabulous. Our snow has brought Sussex to a standstill, mainly ice and drifting in the strong wind rather than quantity. It took Jeremy an hour to drive the last mile home yesterday evening. So far Gatwick is open. I’ve got everything crossed!


    1. It wasn’t. It was sooooo tough, though in my case it turned out I was beginning to fall for a tummy bug. But I have no wish to subject myself to such an experience again. Fingers crossed for the weekend!


  6. As far as I’m concerned you have to continue next season so we, from the comfort of our fires, can contemplate your wonderful photographs. Hope you’re feeling better now.


    1. Yes, I’m fine thanks. But as far as going again…. well, you’ll have to get past Malcolm, who had to mop me up on Sunday evening. And now? Too late this year. Despite snow this week, there’s too much thawing going on


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