Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Last Look Round

After almost 8 years in St Andre (well, 8 for me, 3+ for my wife), today is our last day here. We're moving to Pau, in south west France and there are quite a few changes in store for us. We'll have a big house with a garden rather than a 'maison de village' with a balcony. I'll be hiking and climbing in the Pyrénées rather than the southern Alpes. We're moving from a village of 900 people to a town of nearly 90,000. From a dry Mediterranean climate to a more maritime one. From living at 900 m altitude to a more reasonable 200 m. From being near Italy and the Med to being near Spain and the Atlantic. From a right voting region to a left voting region.

360 degrees from the balcony, with the church and Chalvet
Anyway, we're waiting for the movers (and we'd wait quite a while - never use L'Officiel du Déménagement as movers) and I'm taking a photo from my balcony and looking forward to our new life in the Sud-Ouest.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Le Grand Cordeil

View N from the summit, at 2115 m
I'm very familiar with le Grand Cordeil, a 2115 m peak 10 km or so north of St Andre. I've seen it from all sorts of angles on different hikes and flown onto it many times on a paraglider. But, until today, I've never actually hiked it. It's not a technical peak, but it's very steep except for a route passing by the Cabane de Cordeil. In the summer and fall there are sheep and, more problematically, patous (big guard dogs against wolves) but the sheep moved out last weekend. So I was keen to climb it before the snow arrived and I got my chance today.

Everything went according to plan and I had lunch on the summit with excellent views in all directions. Looking north across the Thorame valley there was a snow squall on the right and clouds were playing with the summits of Cheval Blanc on the left. 

On the way down I passed the abandoned Cabane de Cordeil when I saw a hen running towards me. It had obviously been left behind accidentally by the shepherd when he moved out for the winter and it was hungry. I didn't have any suitable food for it and was a bit unsure what to do. I should probably have taken it back to St Andre and found someone to adopt it, but I'm afraid I left it there and it's not going to get through the winter.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

La Croix de la Salcette

I've known Murray for over 40 years; he lives a couple of hours drive away near Briancon, where he has worked as a mountain guide for the last 25 years or so. But I hadn't seen him in the last couple of years and decided to rectify that today. I got up early and drove up the Durance valley to his house; after elevenses we hiked steeply up behind his house to the Croix de la Salcette (at 2331 m) for great views of Briancon and all the surrounding peaks. Murray found us an 'interesting' descent and served up pumpkin soup before I drove back home. 

A few pics.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

L' Autapie

Looking NW from the summit at 2436 meters
Today was dry, sunny, cold and windy - perfect hiking weather if you dress warmly. The mountains are still basically snow free though an overnight dusting of snow left the peaks above 2200 meters looking a little wintry. I took advantage of the relative lack of snow with a hike up the Autapie; normally at this time of year it's deep in snow and (at least in theory) in a few weeks it should be the top of a ski run. But for today it was a very nice hike, though the wind on the summit was icy cold. The descent is by the east side of the mountain, so it was in the shade and very chilly. I arrived back at the car just as it was getting dark, very happy with my day out.

A few pics.

Friday, November 3, 2017

La Cirque de Juan

A lot of my hikes are 'repeats' but today I managed a new local hike. The Cirque de Juan is a relatively open cirque just above the tree line surrounded by ridges going up to 2400 meters. There's a cabane but the sheep have headed down by now and I had the whole cirque to myself. From the ridge I had huge views in every direction; very nice.

Some 'arty' out of focus pics.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

La Secheresse

The Issole is almost dry; normally all
stones are underwater
This is a Mediterranean climate, with hot dry summers. The last two summers were hotter and drier than the norm, but this summer has been even worse. I don't like the heat and have been staying indoors in the afternoons in high summer.  At least I live in the mountains and it's always cool overnight; I really pity those that live nearer sea level. 

The last rain I can recall fell at the end of April. According to weather records there has been some rain over the summer but I suspect it fell over night. For July we had around 2 mm of rain (meteo blue details here) when 28 mm was expected (more details). It's a pattern repeated all over south east France and it's pretty alarming. 

Dried up spring
It isn't scientifically acceptable to say that you are seeing climate change happen; but it's harder and harder to believe you're observing normal weather variations. The drought has continued through the fall, and there's no snow yet. The only greenery comes from irrigated fields and pine trees. 

Today I took a little hike in the mountains and evidence of the drought was everywhere; dried up springs, rivers almost dry, no snow visible in any of the peaks and almost all vegetation was brown. Some pics.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Trail Running

Local signposts give the time for the standard hike on the Crete des Serres as 7 hours. Like most signpost times (or guidebook times), it's a bit generous, normally I do in just over 5 hours. But today I did it in 3 hours 20 minutes using a new weapon - trail running.   

The summers in St Andre seem to be have been getting warmer and warmer. In any event I find it less pleasant to be out in the afternoon in high summer. So for most of the summer I've tried to get out in the morning and do some 'high-intensity' exercise and stay indoors in the afternoon. As part of this plan, I've adapted my standard short hikes into trail runs - I'd run part of the way and walk when it was steep going up or down (gotta look after your knees). It was very interesting and I began to wonder if I could apply it to longer hikes. 

I needed to wait for cooler weather and today I got my chance to try it out on the Crete des Serres and it worked like a dream. For most of the long climb (around 800 m) I walked but apart from that it was (slow) running. It's different from hiking - you've got to concentrate on where you're putting your feet. It feels a bit more like mountain biking. I felt great at the end and was surprised I'd gone so quickly. Trail running stresses your joints too much for me to want to do lots of it; but I've enjoyed it this summer and I'm sure I'll do more.