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

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