Archive for December 2013

A big day out in the Tet Valley   6 comments

The problem with staying in a region where the geography is long, deep, parallel, glacial valleys is that it’s hard to get from one to the other without going all the way down one and back up another or driving over twisty and wild mountain roads. We decided to take a full day out from our home in the Tech valley to the on to the north the Tet valley to visit a couple of well know local sights.

Whilst the drive over the rough tracks is bumpy and wild (more worrying scrapes on the car chassis) it is undeniably spectacular especially on a clear mountain day. We drove over the pass that holds the Tour de la Batere where I’d walked with TJS last year.

Tour de la Batere

We stopped off for a brief wander around Villefranche de Conflet, a walled town very much like Prats de Mollo near our own holiday home, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its a popular and busy but charming nonetheless.

Villefranche de Conflet

Villefranche de Conflet

We took a long walk around the ramparts and explored its various nooks and crannies. The ramparts are covered so that enemy troops who may be spying on those in the town can’t count the numbers or see their movements. And there was me thinking that it was to keep the soldiers nice and dry!

Villefranche de Conflet

Villefranche de Conflet

Like Prats de Mollo the town  is overlooked by one of Vauban’s castles, Fort Liberia.

Villefranche de Conflet, Fort Liberia

Villefranche de Conflet, Fort Liberia

It also has a long and steep climb to explore its inner reaches as well as an underground passage to the top. However it was hot and we decided a nice lunch in the town square was a much better idea. Interestingly the mountain railway line, Le  Petei Train Jaune (The Litle Yellow Train) that runs into the high Pyrenees runs behind the town. It’s an electric line and with the high voltage third rail. To access the castle you cross the railway line directly with just a small and understated sign asking you to take care as treading on the third rail might be somewhat bad for your health. That’s how it should be, a simple warning and let you get on with life unhindered. Health and Safety people in the UK take note. Rant over.

After lunch we drove higher into the mountains to take a walk in the Goreges De Caranca. I’d read about this walk and longed to see it.

Gorges de Caranca

You enter the narrow gorge through a rock tunnel under the railway bridge and enter it’s narrow and deep confines and very impressive it is too. However the best was yet to come

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

After a short climb the path levels out and the gorge, whilst much wider than the few feet at the entrance soars to amazing heights (or depths, depending on how you look at it). The views are spectacular as the path traverses through the woods.

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Then you round a corner and are suddenly faced with a vertical wall of rock out of which the path has been carved.

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

A wall of rock and handrail on one side, a path perhaps 6-8 feet wide with a drop of about 1000 feet on the other. It’s quite simply an amazing section of walking, I was in my element and TJS was loving it but the Funsters were a little unnerved and took a while to slowly walk along. As the path is hewn out of solid rock it’s rough and without care it would easy to stumble, the result of which would be short free-fall to the bottom of the gorge if very unfortunate. I loved it!

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

As the path continues on its merry level way the gorge comes up to meet it and you eventually reach the river. TJF in particular wasn’t really enjoying this so returned with TBF. Me and the TJS moved on to the second and equally exciting section where the path closely follows the river in its narrow rocky bed. The route is enhanced by several ladders, steel walkways and bouncy wire bridges as it twists and turns into the mountains. Great fun.

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

Gorges de Caranca

As the valley opens out there are glimpses of the high mountains that were beckoning us on. It would a fabulous walk to the mountain hut and lake high in the Pyrenees but we had to turn around and head back as time was pressing, returning the exciting way we had come

Rather than descend to the car park the way we had come we took another rock-hewn path that exits right at the sudden end of the gorge.

Gorges de Caranca

From below it looks unfeasible and vertiginous but it was much wider and easier than the first section but equally rewarding.

Gorges de Caranca

We descended steeply back to the car, catching sight of the famous yellow train as we went.

Gorges de Caranca, Le Petit Train Jaune, The little yellow train

Gorges de Caranca

An amazing place, well worth a visit with the usual caveat that as a well known spot you won’t have it to yourself although once into the higher mountains beyond the gorge you’d lose the crowds

To finish off the day in style we decided to have an evening picnic. After another bout of off-road driving and another frighteningly loud bump and scrape on the underside of the car we found a spot high above the valley at the Col de Milleres with views west towards the higher Carlit Massif where the sun was setting.

Col des Milleres

The views were just amazing and sitting in warm evening sun scoffing the usual picnic fare and watching the setting sun casting its glow over the mountains was just the finish a long and interesting day needed.

Col des Milleres, Carlit Massif

Col des Milleres, Carlit Massif

Col des Milleres, Canigou Massif

Col des Milleres, Carlit Massif

We were last home that night but well worth it to see some of the finest sights this part of France has to offer. A walking holiday here in spring/early summer when the wild flowers are out and before the heat of summer would be amazing

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Early morning on the border – Pic de les Salines   4 comments

Deal or no Deal. It was time to visit the supermarket to get the shopping in. I traded this unenviable holiday task for a chance to go for a solo walk. Plan was to head out early, complete the walk before the day got too hot, do the shopping and be back at the house for lunch and a lazy afternoon by the pool. Up before 6am and walking by 7am in the first of daylight as the sun came up. Plan sorted.

Pic de les Salines

The map showed a ridge on the frontier between France and Spain above the town of Ceret, up at around 1400m. The high-point is the Roc de France but its crowned by a rather ugly TV mast so I picked the nearby Pic de les Salines. Main advantage was being able to park up at 1000m at the Col de Fontfreda leaving a short climb to the summit. As I set off the sun was just peeking over the horizon and I had the entire route to myself.

Pic de les Salines

I’m a lazy git by nature and early starts are not big in my repertoire but when you do make the effort there is nothing better than watching the sun come up and strolling through a broad-leafed sun-dappled forest at dawn. The path was easy to follow and for France relatively clear of overgrowth!

Pic de les Salines

As I climbed the trees thinned revealing glimpses of the mountains of the Canigou massif, the coastal Alberes mountains and the northern hills of Spain across the Costa Brava.

Pic de les Salines

Pic de les Salines

Pic de les Salines

I was on the summit in little over an hour and had the place to myself. The plan to be out before it got too hot backfired a little as it was actually pretty cool on the summit. I wandered about taking in the clear morning views, snapping photos and feeling pretty damn fine if a little chilly. The views from up here were superb. The Med on one side and the Pyrenees on the other

Pic de les Salines

Pic de les Salines

Pic de les Salines

I found a sheltered rock and sat down for an hours contemplative reflection with a cuppa and some fresh croissants and fruit bought from the bakery that morning. Say what you like about the French but boy do they know how to bake bread and pastries.

Pic de les Salines

Pic de les Salines

I toyed with idea of trying to pick a route to the Roc de France but there wasn’t a path marked up from the col (in France you take your chances as it is, with marked paths. I could have made a round trip from the col but that would have meant a return through dark sunless forests, ideal at the end of a hot day but in the warm morning I just chose to replace my steps back down the ridge to my car.

Pic de les Salines

Pic de les Salines

Pic de les Salines

There were now several people on their way up so I felt pretty smug at my decision for an early start and in getting a deserted summit stay. I was back at the car by 10am my fix for walking satisfied

Pic de les Salines

The shopping? I didn’t take any photos figuring that no-one who reads my blog would be much interested but I can say that the cooked chicken and roast potatoes for lunch was splendid 🙂

“It’s in the trees. it’s coming!”   5 comments

As always on our summer holidays we have to find time for some tree-climbing adventures.

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

It’s a firm favorite with the family and always one of the highlights. From our holiday home it’s just a short drive to Montoz Arbres in Prats de Mollo for a half a day of arboreal antics. You can check out my post from last year here for a few more words, but here a few choice photos from this years fun

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

This year we were also able to take on the the small Via Ferrata course they have. It looks reasonably easy from the ground and the start is certainly good fun as you wind you way down through a small rocky ravine crossing wire bridges as you go.

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

But then you traverse out onto a vertical wall of rock and the difficulty increases dramatically. I’ve done a little rock climbing myself and I found it really tough going. TJS decided it wasn’t for him but TJF is pretty much fearless and gave it a good go. She found it hard as well, more physically than anything and with a little help from the instructor she conquered it. I was really proud as there were moments when I wished I’d given it a miss.

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

TBF then went back and gave it go giving me the chance for some action photos (it wasn’t really in my head to take any when I was clinging to rock!)

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Finishing off with the major zip wire from the top of the cliffs is a fine way to conclude the fun before a rushed picnic lunch under dark skies with the rumble of thunder

Montoz Arbres, Prats de Mollo, Via Ferrata

Cracking day of family fun – go on – give it a try 🙂

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