Thursday 28 February 2013

snowshoeing in Gavarnie

The holidays are here and finally there are tourists in the valley wanting snow-shoeing excursions with a Mountain Leader (that's Nico, not me by the way!).

Last week, I managed to sneak along on a couple of Nico’s excursions. On Wednesday, we spent the morning in Gavarnie, tramping through the deep snow in the magnificent natural cirque. 

The road up from Luz winds up along the breath-taking Saint-Sauveur Gorge up to Gavarnie. From the village of Gèdre, we caught a far-off glimpse of the Brèche de Roland (2,807m), a natural breach on the border with Spain reaching nearly 100m high and 40m wide in the soaring cliffs which dwarf the Saradets hut.

On arriving in Gavarnie, I was surprised to find how tranquil the village was, in comparison to my last time there in late summer. Gone were the myriad horses and donkeys upon whose backs the majority of visitors make the pilgrimage along the bottom of the valley to the Hotellerie du cirque with its wonderful view of the 422m (1384ft) high Grande Casquade, the highest waterfall in Europe. Gone were the hoards of day trippers, milling about the countless cafés and gift shops of the village before piling back into the multitude of coaches at the end of their visit. Even the piles of marmottes sifflantes, whistling at passers-by outside the gift shops were somewhat thin on the ground.

As we crunched along the snowy path beyond the village, bathed in sunlight and with a breathtaking 180 degree view of the cirque, there was nothing but fresh air, pine trees, frozen waterfalls and the silence of the snowy mountains all around. Magnifique!

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