Philip felt that as I’d missed out on the mountains yesterday, I should go today. He had spotted a peak across the valley close to Pic du Midi which would give views of the big mountain. So 7am found us heading south in a November dawn. We parked in a layby near the start of the walk and set off up a valley towards col d’Arize with Pic de Midi rising up on or left and our destination, Pic Montagnette, further along the ridge to the right but out of view. It was easy walking, the path was across pastureland used by cows in the summer, we saw some horses grazing, wearing bells, they can cope with harsher conditions than cattle, in this part of France horses are raised for meat. There was a small group ahead of us, when we met the snowline we realised they had gone slightly off route, you had to look carefully for the odd splash of yellow paint which marked the path, now under snow. Walking up hill on soft snow is like climbing a sand dune, hard work, but a bit higher the snow had refrozen and walking was easier. Once at the ridge we could see for miles, maybe with better binoculars we could have seen our house, I could recognise some landmarks nearby. The group ahead stopped at 1230 promptly for their lunch, in the way that the French do, even though the peak was only 10 minutes further along the ridge. So we had the summit to ourselves. Sitting next to a large cairn built by generations of walkers, we had spectacular views all round. Pic du Midi was just across the valley, spoilt by the construction of an observatory and cable car station, but the snow hid the ugliness of the concrete buildings. After our picnic we packed up and started the descent, coming down the first 300 metres was fun, we didn’t follow the path along the ridge, but just went straight down to the lac d’Arize, running and slipping and sliding through the fresh untouched snow. It was an easy descent from there back to the car. On the way home we made a short detour to Chiroulet, I had left my walking poles in the auberge there, a few weeks ago, absentmindedly after enjoying a beer after climbing Pic montauban. The patron had been so friendly and talked about the lack of sun light in the valley, only one hour a day in mid winter, four hours in midsummer. It was all closed up when we parked outside, and then I noticed lots of burnt furniture lying outside. They had had a fire which had destroyed most of the interior, though the roof looked intact from the outside. How sad for them. I’ll have to buy some new poles.
We had supper with friends in the evening and some new arrivals who had bought a house not far from us. They too had lived in many far flung places, so it was good to talk about shared experiences, especially of Lagos. Our host had made lots of delicious curries and homemade ice cream. We sat in what used to be the old stables of the house they had bought and renovated. It was all so clean and pristine, with white cream sofas. I’ll have to some serious housework before we invite them back. Entertaining is easier in the summer, always outside on the terrace, so no one sees the cobwebs and tired looking sofas inside.