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

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Cabane du col de rose circuit

The snow from last week has all but melted now. Even up at 1600m little is left. But there is talk of another spell of winter weather next week, as some Atlantic lows are forming and have started their steady but sure march in our direction. This week may be our last opportunity to get up into the hills in our running gear, so today we stayed relatively local and did the 20 minute drive up towards the Etang de Lhers and set off up the zig-zag track which leads up to the cabane du col de roseIt's a pretty area and the circuit I had in mind was approx 11kms, taking us up to the cabane then down to a path which contours the hillside below Pic de Fontanette...leading to the Port de Lhers from where an indistinct footpath down the valley would take us back to the car. It was 22 degrees C when we left the car with a warm but gusty wind blowing from the south. Small drifts of snow were all that remained of the snow near the cabaneand the view towards the high mountains showed the extent of the past week's thaw
The last time that we did this circuit we had great difficulty route-finding on the traverse of the hillside, but today we had no such problems and quickly made it to the Port de Lhers where some nice running took us back down the valley in the direction of the carIt was a really enjoyable walk/run in a beautiful spot. Hopefully we will manage another outing before the winter reappears.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The roadies get an airing

The amazing weather continues, with clear blue skies and temperatures into the 20s. What a contrast to the conditions of just a week ago when we were sinking in fresh powder....all that remains of the snow up at the Col de Port now are a few drifts on north-facing slopes. Any thoughts of an early start to the ski season have naturally been put to one side for the moment!

Conditions are however perfect for road biking, so we headed down to Foix and did a lovely little 42km circuit on quiet lanes and roads.It was good to be back on the roadie again. The bike will no doubt see more action if the current weather continues.

Friday, 13 November 2009

And so the weather improves

Yesterday saw the first clear day for 10 days here. We took the opportunity to split the ash that we logged 2 weeks ago. It is beautiful, well-seasoned, premium wood, of the perfect size for the woodburner. There is more where it came from too, which is a big bonus at this time of year!

Today, my legs felt fully recovered after Tuesday's snowshoe exertions, so I popped over the Col de Port to meet up with Pat for a bit of a run, part of our training for the 20km (with 1000m of ascent) Trail des Citadelles in early April 2010. She is recovering from a cold so it was a steady outing, starting at Saint Felix de Rieutort, on tracks, trails and footpaths, 11km with 252m of ascent which we ran without a break. Everything was working well and I felt good! The best thing was that I came home with a pair of Adidas Kanadia trail running shoes, which Pat had bought but were too small for her. They have a fantastic, aggressive sole and fit me perfectly. I can see them coming in useful at the Citadelles!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A brief weather window

After the past week of cold, wet and quite frankly miserable conditions, today was forecast as dry and relatively clear. Time to get out and check out the snow conditions! We opted to stay local as more weather was set to move in this afternoon. So we drove the 8km up the road to the Col de Port, stopping briefly to take a photo of the breathtakingly beautiful high mountains in the brilliant early morning lightUp at the Col de Port, I sought reassurance from the chasseurs (hunters) that were milling around that we would not get shot! Having received such reassurance, we headed up the hill in the direction of Pic d'Estibat with the intention of tackling Pic de la Journalade (1945m). However, it soon became apparent that the fresh, deep powder was going to make for hard and slow progressWith dark, grey skies rapidly approaching we decided to play it safe, abandon the idea of Pic de la Journalade and pick up instead the route forestière which I ran the other week before winter arrived. Progress was easier and therefore more enjoyable as we passed through avenues of heavily-laden trees
Many trees have not yet lost their leaves thanks to the very mild autumn, and so, with the heavy snow fall this last week many are bent double and even broken by their heavy load, which made passage tricky in placesThe snow was deep and soft for most of the 8km circuit which made for a real workout. We were out for 4 hours and I was quite pleased to return home to a nice mug of hot chocolate and a hot shower, just as the rain and sleet pushed in again. It had been good to get out!

Saturday, 7 November 2009


It was like flicking a switch. One day it was 20+ degrees, shorts and tee-shirts, beautiful balmy autumnal conditions. Then the next it was down to 5 degrees, driving rain, sleet and snow on the high mountains. Winter is here. There is a high possibility of snow down to our level by the end of the weekend which means a fair dump higher up. The ski resorts will be happy!

However, there was a brief lull in the conditions yesterday afternoon which enabled me to have a bit of a hilly interval running session up the road which leads to the Col de Peguère. It wasn't a particularly scientific session as I had picked up my analogue heart rate monitor. The digital one which works with my Garmin Forerunner was left in the cupboard - doh! Consequently I didn't push myself as hard as I could have done but it was still a useful session, a distance of 3.5km with 425m of height gain. My legs and lungs appear to be getting strong again which is a good sign.

The views from the top were mixed. Le Pic des Trois Seigneurs almost managed to struggle out of the cloudbut the high mountains were still obscuredToday, we have had strong gusts of wind, driving rain and temps down to 4 degrees. It has been an 'indoor' day which I have spent applying another coat of linseed oil to the worktops, making bread and 'tidying up'. Let's see what tomorrow brings!

Monday, 2 November 2009

True to forecast

Overnight, the calm, warm weather was replaced with strong gusts of wind, rain and much colder temperatures. No sign of it clearing before the weekend either, more's the pity. However, we still got out for a run up this afternoon around the Peguère route forestière. Only about 7kms but that was enough in the rain/sleet/snowThe skies cleared momentarily late afternoon to reveal a sprinkling of snow on the high mountains

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Before the weather breaks

The exceptionally warm and sunny weather that we have been enjoying recently is coming to an end. Today looks like it will be the final day of shorts and T-shirt, temperatures into the 20s weather and will be replaced overnight tonight with much wetter and colder weather. So it has been a frantic couple of days here at Pissou. Yesterday was spent logging an ash tree that was felled by Claudine's workers last year and which they left behind for some reason. She was happy for us to take it which is fantastic as it is prime seasoned wood and the perfect size for our woodburner. It was physical but very rewarding work and the ash is now safely stowed on the terrasse ready for winter use. However, my upper body is today telling me that I have worked muscles that haven't been used for a few months!

This morning, I headed down in the Foix direction for a VTT outing with Pat. The Varilhes no. 7 circuit was a fantastic and most enjoyable circuit (24kms and 300m of ascent), in perfect, dry and warm conditions. It was the most fun I have had on the bike for a while and made up for the disappointment of the difficult ride that Andy and I had the other day. The ride was followed this afternoon by a session mowing the grass around Pissou for the final time before the poor weather is upon us.

The coming week will no doubt be taken up with indoor work of various sorts. We won't be bored, that's for sure!