Snowshoes IV: absolutely the very last episode

Plateau de Beille
Plateau de Beille

Loyal readers of my blog may remember a post from last March, which began:

‘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.’

Yesterday, I changed my mind.  But nobody led me into a darkened room…..

I had my reasons after  all.  I was unlucky last year.  I probably will never have the chance to do raquettes ever again.  My Thursday walking friends wouldn’t set the bar too high.  Everyone raves about the Plateau de Beille as a winter sports playground …..  These all turned out to be excuses rather than reasons.

A very mild winter means you have to climb pretty high this year to be sure of snow.  The Plateau de Beille is high.  1800 metres and rising.  The snow appeared at the roadside only during the last kilometre or so of a very dizzy 10 mile climb upwards.  And when we arrived, the car park was packed, and every school child in the Ariège seemed to be there, muffled in ski-suits and excitedly fastening on skis.  Which was fun to watch, but we were relieved that once we too had got booted and spurred, in our case with raquettes, and yomped just half a kilometre or so, we were in the wild and wide empty spaces .

And that’s where it all could have gone wrong for me.  We came to a signpost: ‘Pas de l’Ours. 11km’.  ‘Eleven k?  With raquettes?  I don’t think so.’   I was not alone in protesting.  Anne-Marie and I wimped out and chose a 3 km pathway, and had a fine time chatting as we soldiered up an admittedly steep slope, safe in the knowledge that this challenge would quite soon be over.  Resting at a cabane at the top, we were surprised to be joined by our friends.  It seemed their journey had taken a different route to this point, and whereas we had 2 km to complete, they still had 10.  Three of them had a bit of a think.  ‘We’re coming with you’.  And that’s what they did.  We waved the other six goodbye and arranged to meet in three or four hours: slow stuff, snow-shoeing.

We had a fine time.  We got back to base in time for lunch and watched the children on the nursery slopes and the huskies drawing sleds as we ate our picnic in the bright cold sunshine.

Busy huskies
Busy huskies

Then we discarded our raquettes and rucksacks, dumping them in the car,  in favour of a snowy walk to see the views.  It became windy.  It became cold.  It threatened to rain.  But we weren’t on an 11km. route march, that was the main thing.

When our friends re-joined us, they announced that they hadn’t been either.  They’d found a short-cut and taken it.  Cheats.  But it just shows.  This raquettes lark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Little and not-very-often seems to be the way forward.  But next time, I’ll stay at home.

The end of the day:  cold, windy, but still good to look at.
The end of the day: cold, windy, but still good to look at.

Click on any of the circular images to see the whole photo, and a miniature slide show.

25 thoughts on “Snowshoes IV: absolutely the very last episode”

  1. I always thought it would be fun to try raquettes, but after reading your post, I realize that it isn’t as easy as I thought… I think you were right to choose that shorter route right away!! Lovely photos!

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    1. I am very negative about raquettes, and it may not be fair. Choose a companion who’s prepared to go at your pace, a bright sunny day, and plunge off into virgin snow. Enjoy!

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  2. Well done yet again; sure the experience will be much better in retrospect! It’s certainly beautiful up their. Re the tracks: – I’m pretty sure the middle set are a rabbit. The third set might be a fox as their paws go in a straight line. No idea about the first set.

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  3. To all of you doubters. it really is fun, fresh air, stunning scenery and unlike downhill skiing, which I love also, once you get away from the crowds it’s spectacularly quiet. Once your’re moving it’s not cold. As i’ve said before, going dowhill is exhilerating because you really can get up speed with minimal riskk of falling over. As ever the trick is good quality kit which you can be confident with.

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    1. Sorry to be a dog in the manger, Kathryn. But to get down (which I don’t really enjoy – I was a child who hated toboganning, and am an adult who gets off the bike and walks rather than freewheel downhill) one also has to yomp uphill. Nah.

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  4. Such beautiful pictures, I’m glad you got back on your horse so to speak, well for the pictures at least!

    My son is on his classe de neige this week, so I imagine he is seeing scenes like this, they’ll be doing dog sledding as well. A fine way for him to celebrate his 11th b’day.

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    1. Oh, lucky boy! Some of my walking companions were grumbling that the children should have had their heads down over their French and Maths, rather than having a fine time on the slopes. But your son will remember this special week long after he’s forgotten Pythagoras’ theorem.

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      1. Oh yes, these kids have never been to the snow, let alone skiied, they are having a wonderful education outdoors, I really couldn’t believe he had this opportunity at a public primary school, but they’d even organised an association that lends the specialist clothing for this kind of activity, so it wasn’t necessary to purchase things they are likely never to use again . They had to take their pencil cases, so they are doing some learning, mountain and snow lessons perhaps. 🙂 I’ll find out on Saturday when he returns.

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