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10th December

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Edited by Cathy Winsor, Sunday, 11 Dec 2011, 06:52
We felt we deserved a day in the mountains after finishing various jobs in the house. After a few wet days there was more snow covering the peaks, but Philip has lots of low altitude walks planned for the winter, the idea not being that there is less ascent, you just start lower. The one he’d sorted out for today was La Pibeste. The ascent starts from a pretty village near Lourdes. All grey stone walls, slate roofs and blue shutters and everyone had left their doors and windows open as it was unseasonably warm. Because of its proximity to Lourdes there’s usually a lot of hikers, years ago there used to be a cable car up there, so the peak is a bit spoilt by a crumbling building which must have housed the machinery, now with a big telephone mast next to it, but the walk up is beautiful, limestone scenery with granite erratics strewn about and passing through oak woodland. We thought it would be busy, but there were only a couple of cars in the car park at the bottom. We did have an incident, I somehow managed to drop my altimeter when removing layers of clothes because it was so warm, luckily I remembered a bit further on and Philip ran back down, just in time to see another couple of hikers and the woman bending down to pick it up. Oddly she hid it behind her back and denied any knowledge of seeing anything, Philip pointed to her hand behind her back, there was an altercation between her and her partner, and finally they handed it over. Very odd, one doesn’t expect thieves in the walking fraternity. After that they tried desperately to overtake us by scrambling up a steep route while we leisurely went along the switch backs, but we met them sitting at the side of the path looking a bit red and exhausted. There were a few others at the summit, including a lean looking runner who expressed amazement at the size of the sandwiches Philip had made, I suppose half a baguette filled with cheese, quince jelly and salad was rather big, I offered him half of mine but he declined. As always we had to do a circular route and had the path down to ourselves, all through woodland and the path so covered in a thick layer of leaves it was difficult to follow. In the valley we came to a village lower down in the valley and then walked a couple of kilometres up along a valley path up to where we’d parked the car. We stopped off to see friends on the way home. A couple who before had lived near us in a similar old maison de maitre to ours but with 17 hectares and huge outbuildings, they’d found it too much to manage when they reached their seventies and had moved near Pau and were having an eco house built for them amongst lots of other modern houses and near facilities. It was hard to understand how they could be happy there, I hope we won’t ever feel obliged to move.
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