Thursday, 31 December 2009

That was a cracker!

Felt generally 'off' this morning. Didn't know what to do with myself. Lovely day. Should make the most of it. Pah. Andy is recovering from an unpleasant feverish/coldy spell and said he fancied a walk up to the Cabane des roses after lunch to try and clear the lungs a tad. Ah, now then, thought I, that could be a plan. The idea of testing myself and getting in some hill training up the zig zags to the cabane started to form. It's a gentle(ish) gradient for most of the 4.5kms, starting at 1200m and reaching 1560m and I wanted to see how much of it I could run. We covered the first 750m at a brisk walk to warm up and then I set off at a gentle jog. Things were feeling good, underfoot it was perfect, I kept going. I surprised myself at just how far I was able to keep going without feeling like I was going to die! I covered the 4.5kms with 360m of ascent in 38 minutes. I could probably have pushed myself harder and no doubt will on the next occasion, with the aim of eventually getting below 30 mins. Andy and the pooch also seemed to enjoy the outing which was topped off by a fast, fun run back down which included some gratuitous, corner-cutting 'cross-country' for a change. The mild weather of the past few days has melted the majority of the snow up at 1500m as the photo below shows, but more is forecast overnight tonight

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A feeling of Spring - but it's not going to last!

It has been T-shirt weather today as the temperature climbed into the teens and we enjoyed clear blue skies and warm sun. However, the view towards the high mountains late this afternoon suggests more poor weather is imminent!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Rematch (partial)

We needed to head down to Foix to get some more bits and bobs to finish off the kitchen today, so I took the opportunity of being 'over the other side' to have a rematch with the Dalou trail race circuit. I wasn't going to have time to do the full circuit but I wasn't too concerned, as the last 3.5kms includes a 2km steep uphill slog (250m of ascent)! That can wait for another day

It has been grey and dull today, following some overnight rain and the going underfoot was wet and claggy on the higher paths which made for slippery, slow and muddy progress in parts. The two ascents were as hard work as they were back in May when I last did the circuit and I really wasn't feeling inspired or motivated to really push myself today. My lungs seemed to be struggling again, so I must get a programme together to work on improving their efficiency if I am going to make any real progress. A useful outing all the same - sum total, 9kms, 430m of ascent in 1 hr 9 mins.

Sunday, 27 December 2009


Glorious clear blue skies have been the order of the day today but with temperatures that have struggled to rise above freezing. A stretch of the legs was required so I headed out with the pooch down into the woods opposite the house and followed the familiar but yet indistinct path around the hillside to Echerboul on the other side and then up to the gite d'étape at Liers. It was a beautifully surreal scene as a cloud inversion gradually pushed its way up through the woods, threatening to stifle the weak sunlight as it fought its way through the treesLooking back from the path that would lead me up to Liers, the smouldering cloud inversion in the Massat Valley with the high mountains in the distance provided a stunning vistaThe aim of my jolly jaunt was to try and locate a track that contours the hillside above Liers and eventually winds its way around the slopes beneath Pic de la Journalade with the possibility of providing onward access on skis de rando to Pic des Trois Seigneurs in the right conditions. I didn't know how far I would get, but the peaks looked spectacular with their snowy covering. It was an absolute joy to be out in such beautiful conditions.I located the start of the track without any difficulty but encountered a chasseur there who warned me against continuing much further - I had forgotten it was Sunday! Having taken his words on board, I still decided to press on steadily, as the track was just too tempting and would provide some superb running on compacted but not too icey snow. I was keen to get as close to the high peaks as I could and was thoroughly enjoying the stunning environment.However, I eventually reached a point where I felt it prudent to make an about turn and retrace my tracks. I had already covered just under 10kms with nearly 700m of ascent and was mindful of the need to get back home in one piece! The run back down was great fun and I completed the 'there and back' route in just over 3 hours. Unfortunately, today's weather is not set to last, so I am all the more pleased with having made the most of today's opportunity!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Joyeux Noel!

Merry Christmas everybody! The skies have started to clear here and have revealed a dusting of snow down to 1000m. Very festive :-) We are having pigeon for our Christmas dinner preceded by some oysters. Bon appetit tout le monde!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Hard work

Anybody that runs knows that feeling.... leaden legs, lungs that struggle to inflate, an overwhelming lethargy that threatens to halt you in your stride. Today's 'run' was one of those outings. From the house, up to Col de Caougnous, up the Peguere road, along the route forestiere before eventually picking up the oh so steep descent path which consisted of a mass of fallen leaves on slippery fallen branches and stones which was somewhat treacherous. It may have taken me an inordinately ridiculous time to do the circuit, but hey, I was outdoors, I was being 'active' and I had earned the mince pie (or three) that we made this evening :-)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


Aesthetically, the restoration of the fireplace is now completed, although the ceiling hole still requires attention. So here's a piccy! I'm really pleased with how it has turned out.
Andy has today completed the oak corner posts and also the beech kick boards for the kitchen units, which I have treated with linseed oil before they are put into place. The next few days are due to bring more poor weather so more indoor jobs will no doubt be on the agenda.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Back in operation

The temperature outside today eased itself cautiously up into double figures. The temperature indoors upstairs, however, stubbonly refused to shift from single figures. So I flung open all of the windows and the warmer air was gradually sucked in, overwhelming the chill that has occupied that space for the past few days. This afternoon, we collected the repaired woodburner door, re-installed it and this evening the stove is now kicking out some much-missed heat! You only realise how much you miss something when you don't have it.

The one positive thing to come out of the woodburner being out of action is that we were able to finish off the wall tiling behind it - photos soon, once Andy has finished off the area where the pipe and conduit go up into the chimney and I have touched up the paintwork around the tiles.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Temps rising

Thank goodness, this morning, the weather station indicated a rather more amenable 3 degrees, a welcome increase on the bitterly cold minus temperatures of the weekend. The temperature change is all the more welcome, seeing as we have been without the woodburner since Saturday afternoon when the glass door got broken as we attempted to push it shut with a large log inside - doh! The petrol heater has only just been successful in keeping the chill at bay downstairs over the weekend, but upstairs it has dipped to 6 degrees which is just a tad parky! I will be collecting the repaired door from St G tomorrow afternoon and will be impatient to fire up the woodburner on my return. This afternoon, we reached double figures as a warmer front pushed in from the SW - wonderful! It does however mean that the last remnants of snow have melted and that rain will fall later in the week. It may not be a white Christmas here after all.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Mont Fourcat

Glorious weather today - clear blue skies, cold and crisp - a welcome relief from the weather of the past few days which effectively confined us to the house. We had to get out! We decided to head up to Mont Fourcat (2000m) above Tarascon, for what we hoped would be a ski de rando outing. However, on the approach by car it looked a tad bare and after skinning for a short while up the forest track we decided that there just wasn't sufficient snow cover to warrant the skis. So we returned to the car, dumped the skis and I set off for a solo jaunt up Mont Fourcat on foot, an outing I had last enjoyed with Ruth back in January.

As I left the forest behind me and reached open land, it was clear that the snow cover really was quite pathetic
So I pressed on, happy in the knowledge that my target in the distance was perfectly accessible in my B2 boots with the back up of my Kahtoola crampons should they be required. In 2 hours I reached the summit point of 2001m which afforded striking views of Pic de Saint Barthelemy and, beneath it, the Mont d'Olmes ski centre. I was alone. It was blissful. I soaked up the atmosphere, the sun and the vista for a few minutes before the bitingly cold wind urged me to think about my descent back down. I donned my crampons to aid a faster descent on the sections of icey terrain that I had come across on my way up. In just over an hour I was back at the car. 750m of ascent over 5kms. A brief but satisfying little outing.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Kitchen progress

It's been a while since there has been any progress on the kitchen front. But, on Tuesday I finally found the wall tiles that I wanted at a price that I was prepared to pay and with the current spell of poor weather it was the ideal time to press on with 'les petites finitions'. So the tiles are now up and grouted and the silicone sealant will be applied tomorrow. I also decided to paint an additional wall in 'framboise' and I think it works really wellIt's been snowing on and off for the past couple of days, but it is still the cold, icey thin snow that is treacherous to walk on. The Cap des Campets that overlooks us from behind has a thin covering but not a sufficient covering to warrant a snowshoe outingThis afternoon, we popped down into the woods and finally found some holly that had been able to hold onto its precious red berries. We quickly gathered a basket full and this evening I will be decorating the beams and other surfaces downstairs. I still haven't found my box of Christmas decorations, so the tree is still looking somewhat naked, save for a few red ribbon bows. A trip to the shops is in order.

Friday, 18 December 2009


Yesterday, I headed down to St Girons for a doppler scan on the arterial blood flow to my kidneys (like you do). In and out within an hour with the results in my hand - you don't get that kind of service in the UK! But good news, all is functioning as it should. I had intended to go for a run on one of the signed VTT circuits down that way after my appointment, but the freezing fog was down, it was cold and thoroughly unpleasant so, after a brief shop which included a small Christmas tree, I headed home. There, I was greeted by clear blue skies! Typical.

Temperatures dipped to -6 Deg C on the sensor against the wall of the house last night which means at least -8 Deg C in the potager - thankfully I covered/protected anything that needed protection yesterday afternoon. Light, icey snow is falling this morning with the temperature still at -4. A big dump is looking unlikely as it is just too cold!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


My, we have a chilly spell of weather down here in the Ariège this week, and across much of western France by the sounds of it. The temps are struggling to make it above zero degrees during the day and the trees above 1000m are coated with a frosty, sparkling whiteness thanks to the not so gentle touch of the banks of freezing fog that have passed through over the last 48 hours.

The fog cleared today but the high cloud ensured that temperatures remained around freezing. We took advantage of the clearing this afternoon and had a jolly jaunt from Massat up the hill to Peyregude and then contoured the hillside on wonderfully runnable forest paths and trails with a lovelyview of the Col des roses and Pic de Barres in the distant, weak sunshine. and on down to the descent path which led back down to the quiet road that leads from Liers back in to Massat. A pleasant little outing.

Monday, 14 December 2009

It may be winter but ....

... the potager is still producing some tasty veg. The parsnips are in full throttle, tasting sweet and delicious thanks to their recent exposure to sub-zero temperatures. I took the first cut of broccoli today with more on its way
The spinach and lambs lettuce is doing well under a cloche, the leeks are now reaching edible size and the spring cabbage is filling out nicely. It will soon be time to start thinking about a sowing/planting plan for the spring - how time flies!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The fog, the fog!

After some lovely warm sun this morning, banks of thick, fog-like cloud are moving in on us from all directions this evening, making their inevitable way along the valleys and then up over the ridges. An icey breath heralds their impending arrival and it's only a matter of time before we will be enveloped in their damp chilliness - we will undoubtedly wake to below freezing temperatures in the morning. We are in for a 'cold snap', make no mistake.

Before the sun's warmth was snuffed out, we had a brief walk this afternoon up to the Cap des Campets (1500m) which looks down onto the house. The views were quite stunning, as always

Friday, 11 December 2009

A long outing

It's been, oh, 3 weeks since I was last out with Pat, so we were somewhat overdue a get-together. On this occasion, the Kevster also joined us. The target for the afternoon was to be a 12km loop (ascent not specified) on the mountain bikes, a route that he had walked with Pat's sister a couple of weeks ago. However, we were to start from their house and ride on the quiet roads to the start of the route near Dun (distance not specified) and return on some tracks and paths for the grand finale.

The road section was as you would expect, but it got more interesting as we hit some tracks and trails where 4x4s and quadbikes had marked their passage by the creation of deeply-rutted and clayey/muddy sections which were often filled with water - tricky, slippy riding. Some nasty uphills were thrown in but Pat excelled herself and blasted up some sections up which Kev and I lamely pushed our bikes. She's 'ard, she is! My excuse is that I don't road bike with a club twice a week!The rest of the riding was thoroughly enjoyable and the weather was perfect. I had forgotten to afix my Garmin to the bike so had no idea how long we had been out for although the descending sun suggested it was nearing 5 o'clock. I also had no idea of the distance we had covered. I just knew I was tired although I was pleased with how good I had felt on the ride.

It turns out we were out for 3 hours, had covered 40kms and done a not insignificant amount of ascent (no idea on the figure tho) - that's my longest mountain bike outing ever, if my memory serves me correctly! It wasn't easy riding either, so I was doubly pleased with my efforts.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

A conversation with the doctor... talk about my increasingly high blood pressure readings..

Doc - so how many glasses of wine DO you drink each evening?
Me - oh, I dunno, two, maybe three, probably 4-5 times a week
Doc - well, the recommended daily limit for women is between 2 and 3 x 10 cl glasses so that's not too bad
Me - err
Doc - what?
Me - our glasses are 35cls!
Doc - ah!


Tuesday, 8 December 2009

It's a PB!

The rain that was forecast for yesterday and today has not materialised .... thank goodness. So with relatively clear skies and temps of around 10 degrees, the pooch and I headed up to the Col de Port for a re-match with the route forestiere. The last time I did the 8km with just under 300m of ascent circuit was at the end of October, I was really quite pleased to have got my time down to 54.30 minutes. This time, I was determined to beat that and to give the 2km steady uphill section everything I had got.

It didn't start off too well with my heart rate monitor continually bleeping at me, warning me that I had exceeded my max heart rate! I ignored it and after about 5 minutes, it settled down. I covered the gently undulating 3.5km to the start of the proper uphill section 2 minutes quicker than last time. I was feeling good. I pushed on, steady steady, stopping only twice on the 2km long ascent and was stunned to have gained another 3 minutes by the time I reached the high point! From there, it was all downhill and I was back at the car in 49.57 minutes. I felt great and could have carried on! Progress indeed. Bring it on!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Une petite balade

With mild conditions prevailing today (up to 12.5 degrees this afternoon), we were not expecting fantastic snow conditions up the road at the Etang de Lhers (1200m). We strapped our snowshoes onto our packs and set off in the direction of Col Dret, following the footsteps of another bod who had the same idea, maybe today, maybe yesterday, impossible to tell when. There was snow on the ground but it was wet and heavy and not particularly pleasant. Higher up, towards the Col, deeper drifts prevailed. Here, we were grateful for the footsteps of our absent friend which made the going rather easier than it would otherwise have been. From the Col, we followed the fence up the steep ridge to Tuc du Laguelle, occasionally post-holing in deep drifts and trying to avoid getting our poles tangled in the heather and bilberry bushes that covered the hillside. The views towards the Port de Lhers were stunning, flanked on the left by Pic de Barrès and by Pic de Girantes on the rightPic des Trois Seigneurs and Pic de la Journalade appear to have a good covering although colder conditions will be required if we are to head up there in the near future
The trot back down was slippy and wet but we were at least grateful for the exercise and the fresh air. More rain tomorrow and Tuesday the hopefully some decent weather towards the end of the week.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

A brief interlude

After 2 days of torrential rain, the weekend brings some respite in the form of clear skies and warm sun again. Ah, that's better! So this morning, we popped down to the St G market for a change of scenery and to look for ideas for family Christmas presents - well, it's about time I started thinking about Christmas seeing as it is just under 3 weeks away! I love the variety of produce at the market and it always has a lovely atmosphere. I came away with a couple of presents which is a bonus.

I have spent this afternoon in the sun, working on the patch of land that will accommodate my squashes and courgettes in the spring. After a thorough weeding, I treated it to a good dose of wood ash, horse manure and some compost which will hopefully be sufficient to ensure a superlative crop of produce next summer.

Tomorrow, we will be out somewhere, doing something, getting our fix before we once again find ourselves confined to the house by the weather.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Miraculous recovery

Thank goodness for a vet who knows his stuff! This morning I was greeted by Mr Waggy Wag, up and about, bright and hint of the pain and discomfort that he was experiencing yesterday. The vet's diagnosis of a tick-related maladie had been spot on and the injection worked its magic as predicted. To say we are relieved is an under-statement!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Poorly pooch

The pooch was not himself this morning. Normally when I come downstairs to make a cuppa tea he is all waggy waggy and pleased to see me. This morning, he barely moved. No waggy tail. I opened the door to let him out for his morning pee. He didn't move. Something was wrong. Very wrong. I called Andy down. Taff attempted to move....his legs wouldn't work. He was clearly in some discomfort. We bundled him into the car and went straight to the vets in St G. We had removed a tick from his neck last night. It was dead but had clearly had a feed. The vet thought it could have passed something nasty on to Taf that had affected his lumbar region and his joints. His temperature was also up. The vet analysed a blood sample but it was inconclusive. But with everything else pointing to a tick infection, Taff was given a shot and we were told to monitor him and bring him back if he was not back to himself in the morning.

This evening, thankfully, Taff is on the mend. He has slept for most of the day and finally went out for a pee late afternoon. It was the longest pee in the world! Bless him! He is more mobile. He has had something to eat and drink. He will be OK. Dogs and kids.... who'd have 'em!!!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Seizing the moment

It has been cold, wet and miserable since Monday. Temperatures have risen and the snow that fell on Monday and yesterday has turned to mush at our level (800m). More rain is forecast tonight and through until the weekend. However, just before lunch today, the clouds cleared and there was the sun again in a clear blue sky. We had to get out! Time was short so we popped up the road to the Col de Port, donned our snowshoes and headed up the zig zags to the ridge and then on up to the Pech de Therme (1629m), a total of around 450m of ascent. The whole of the ridge at the top had been scoured of snow by the strong gusts of wind of the past couple of daysand this was even more evident as we looked from the top of Pech des Thermes towards the Rocher de BatailEven Pic de la Journalde and Trois Seigneurs were looking a tad bareAs we looked towards the high mountains, we could see tonight's weather starting to buildSo it had been good to make the most of the spectacularly beautiful but brief weather window while it lasted

Monday, 30 November 2009


True to forecast, we awoke to a light covering of snow this morning. The skies cleared briefly just after lunch so we popped up the hill behind the house and managed to get a nice panoramic pic of the vistaand some other picturesque shotsShortly afterwards, the snow started falling in earnest and has continued into the evening.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A longer run

Full on sun was forecast for today. I had to make the most of it as a band of poor weather is moving in tomorrow. I fancied testing my legs and my general bio-mechanics on a longer run so I opted for a 21km outing with approx 1000m of ascent. From home, the route took me up the road to the Col de Peguere, up to the Cap du Carmil and then along the undulating ridge, following the GR de Pays to the top of the zig zags above the Col de Port. From there, a steep descent to the Col before making my way along paths back down the valley, following le Tour des Canadelles waymarked route and a short road section home. It is over a year since I did the circuit which I finished in a great deal of discomfort and pain with muscles and tendons complaining in no uncertain terms! This time, I was sure it would be different.

The slog up to the Cap du Carmil is just that - a slog, a necessary grind, 7.5km with 800m of ascent to reach the highpoint of the circuit which took me 1 1/2 hours. From there, some nice downhill through woods and then a stretch through some high tussocky pastures. Looking back to the Cap du Carmil, the high mountains were visible in the distanceThen, more uphill towards the Pic de RazelsFrom there, a couple of kms through more woodland to the top of the zig zags above the Col de Port where the pooch and I stopped for some refreshment. Things were going well! We were on the home stretch now and past the half way point. Down the steep zig zags to the Col, picking up the GR de P which lead down into the woods and then the local markers for the Tour des Canadelles route home. Unfortunately, somebody had been felling trees along our route and trunks and tree debris were strewn across the path over a distance of a couple of hundred metres which made progress difficult and slow. However, once over that section it was good paths and sections of road home. I made it back in one piece, with tired legs (naturally) but no major aches or pains which is a big boost for me. It bodes well for the Trail des Citadelles in early April which is approximately the same distance and the same ascent.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Where has the week gone?!

It seems like only yesterday that Jamie arrived. But this morning he was on his way back to the UK again. How time flies. But he timed his visit perfectly, enjoying more balmy, warm, sunny weather while he was here and returning just as it is due to change. We have certainly made the most of it.Yesterday afternoon, we had a short meander up to the Cap du Carmil above Peguère which was very atmospheric as the clouds tumbled across the ridge towards the topBack down at the Col, the autumn colours were striking, as the sun battled with the dark clouds that were threatening to suffocate it
The view on the way back down was stunning as always
The 'Pissou effect' continues to work its magic and Jamie returned relaxed and with batteries recharged once again. It had been lovely to have him to stay as always!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Out and about

My laddy, Jamie, arrived with us on Monday and we have got glorious weather for his visit, thank goodness. He has been enjoying fresh air and exercise balanced with just the right dose of r&r for a full battery recharge to be assured by the time he returns to the UK on Friday.

Yesterday we popped up the road to Peguère and did the no. 2 waymarked route along the forest tracks and paths, up to the Roc de Peyre Caussil and on up to the Cap de Campets (1504m) above the Col de Portel before a fun run back down to complete the circuit. The autumn colours were incredibly beautiful on such a clear, sunny dayand we could see the Col de Port with Mont Fourcat and the higher Pic de Barthélémy in the distance.Pissou is visible down below usIt was a good run of 11kms in beautiful scenery

Today, I took Jamie up to the Cirque de Cagateille to show him the possible venue for some ice climbing in the Spring once the falls have frozen (fingers crossed). The light was altogether flatter but it was still a stunningly beautiful situationTomorrow's plans will be discussed over some vin rouge this evening!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Soulcem and beyond

Another fair weather day today. So with rain forecast for tomorrow and my laddy arriving on Monday we took the opportunity to head up into the mountains again. The destination was the Barrage de Soulcem (1650m) and the mountains beyond which border Andorra, an area which I have been wanting to explore as I have read of some good ski touring possibilities up there. It made sense to check out the lie of the land before the real snows come.
The pooch was happy to pose for the obligatory photo with the Pic de Médécourbe as a backdropJust the odd drift was all that remained of the snow below 1900m. We had intended to aim for the Etang de Médécourbe at 2100m but realised we would have company as we encountered a solitary walker, so changed our plan and followed the GR up towards Port de Rat, avoiding the man-made track in favour of the steeper path that weaved up the hillside. The track would provide us with our fun on the way back down. As the skies cleared, the mountains took on an ever greater beautyJust up and over and we would be in AndorraWe reached 2100m and the track up to the Port de Ratbut then reached a point at 2200m where further progress would require snowshoes so decided to save that for another day, turn around and start the fantastic run back down the track to the dam.
The view back down the valley was just beautifulAt the higher level, the snow on the track had melted just enough to leave a runnable band on one side which became wider as we descended until the track was completely clear in the valley bottom. We made a fast, fun descent from 2200m to 1650 over 6.5kms. It had been good to familiarise ourselves with a new and spectacularly beautiful area and plans are now forming for a possible ski tour later in the winter.

On a side note, the area is rich with 'orris' and old pastoral communities which used to shelter the shepherds and their troops of sheep/herds of cattle in the summer months when they grazed the high summer pastures. A fascinating reminder of times gone by

Friday, 20 November 2009

Potager update

At this time of year, the potager is no longer the focus of my attention. Naturally. This is, after all, the time of year when plants die back and we should be thinking ahead to the springtime sowing season, shouldn't we. Well, no, that's not strictly true actually. I am still harvesting produce from the potager such as parsnips (some of which are simply enormous and all of which are now beautifully sweet), carrots, Bleu de Nantes leeks, autumn spinach and lambs lettuce (such an underrated veg). The broccoli buds are forming and the cauliflower are not doing too badly. The shallot, red onion and white onion sets have sprouted well and the garlic likewise. Let's hope they get through the winter unscathed!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A black mtb circuit

Pat and I were supposed to be doing a run today but we had a last minute change of plan due to the current superb weather and opted instead to do a mountain bike circuit that has, until now, been unchallenged by our goodselves. This is because it is a black circuit. It is 21km long with 817m of ascent. Hard. But today was as good a day as any to throw ourselves at it and it turned out to be a rather more pleasurable ride than the only other black that I have ridden with Pat.Route-finding in parts was, however, tricky as somebody, in their wisdom, had taken down the FFC waymarkers. But the riding was fun with no really technical sections, some fantastic downhills on which we could let loose and some steady, rideable climbs in beautiful scenery. I have a new, fatter tyre on my rear wheel and really noticed the increased 'grippiness' on muddier sections. It ws a cracking outing! Here is the profile of the undulating circuitAnd on the way home I was treated to a beautiful sunset as I came down the road from the Col de Port