Yesterday was gorgeous. Hot and sunny until long into the evening. We ate outside and stayed on the roof terrace till 10 o’clock. Today seemed to promise more of the same. We should know better. This year, getting even two days on the trot where the weather is hot and clear all day is asking a bit much.
And so it proved. Today, our walking group met to share lifts to where our walk was to begin. We set off in the sunshine, watching our in-car thermometers climb steadily to 27 degrees as we drove ever upwards, beyond Villeneuve d’Olmes, beyond Montferrier, up a road which became narrower and less well maintained, to Frémis, a tiny hamlet. We parked there, in a flower-spangled meadow offered by a local farmer. We peeled off our fleeces, applied suncream and set off towards the peak, Coulobre. Sometimes the upward-going was tough and quite a scramble, but we were encouraged by looking across to the still snow-capped tops, and the thought that we’d be having our picnic at the top there, the Ariège spread below us with views, views and more views. We met a herd of black Mérens horses sheltering in a copse from the already-hot sun. A donkey befriended us. And still we climbed.
Towards midday, walking through the forest, we suddenly realised things were changing. Didn’t it suddenly feel cooler? And weren’t those little scraps of mist swirling round those peaks? Apparently yes. The mist descended. The ‘cool’ became ‘chilly’. With 20 minutes to go to arrive at our lunch spot, Micheline, who had developed a gammy knee, announced she could go no further. It didn’t take much for us to decide that it was not only friendly to remain with her and have our lunch, it made sense. The mist was swirling around us, the views up there wouldn’t be up to much, and it was obvious that rain or worse was on its way.
We found logs to sit on, got our fleeces out again, ate our lunch with little ceremony, and scuttled down. The climb up had taken nearly three hours. Scurrying down took not much more than an hour. And as we reached Frémis, the rain started. It’s not stopped since. And those in-car thermometers on the way home? 15 degrees.