Loyal readers of my blog may remember a post from last March, which began:
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.
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.
Click on any of the circular images to see the whole photo, and a miniature slide show.