Thursday 14 March 2013

whiteout in the dets Coubous valley

The last few days have been warmer round these parts. But overnight, the weather switched once again in dramatic fashion, as it often seems to do up here. This morning, we wriggled out of bed to the glorious sound of silence and heavy snow on the roof.  

My fifteen year-old niece is here staying with us for the next fortnight. So there was only one thing to be done today: introduce her to the delights of snow-shoeing with a group. N drove us up to Barèges from where we caught the snow-bus up to the ski station, along with his group of clients.

From Tournaboup, we set off a short time later due south, up the dets Coubous valley towards the Aigues Cluses valley and into an almost complete white-out. Low cloud and wind-blown snow conspired immediately to limit our visibility to a vague, fuzzy horizon. As we crossed an avalanche, hardly recognisable as it was now covered in a deep blanket of snow, a slightly lighter patch in the clouds showed us where the sun ought to be. Moments later, the sun and horizon vanished once more and we were enveloped in white.

For over an hour and a half, we ventured forth into a peculiar world with no ground, no sky, no left, right, up or down, and nothing to focus one’s gaze on. Bringing up the rear of the group, at times I wondered if my sunglasses had steamed up or if I was going cross-eyed. As the others struggled to traverse the slope in front of me, slipping and sliding with almost every step, I daydreamed at the rear, imagining I was an Antarctic explorer, peering into the cloudy soup for way points that would lead me to the pole.

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