This week turned out to be a total surprise! Fabulous powder skiing in an area the size of a handkerchief! Despite the 'nay-sayers' predicting a week of rock-hopping and no snow, we enjoyed a glorious week of 20-40cm of fresh powder snow daily under cold, sunny skies. This is the miracle of the Pyrenees! It is true that the snow that fell just prior to our arrival was concentrated over Bareges and Gavarnie but it fell without a breath of wind and the snow on the North faces stayed cold and crisp.
The award for the best day went to the day we spent at the Breche de Roland (The Roncevaux Pass 2889m). We waited patiently for the bitter cold wind of the early part of the week to drop and also for our group to reach its cruising speed, before making a visit up to this imposing wall and the famous gap, a wide open door towards Spain and the sky. Most of the climb takes place in the shadow of such austere peaks as Le Taillon or Les Gabietous. Once we reached the pass of Les Sarradets, we were back in the sunshine again and soon made it to the refuge before dropping into the 'temple' of Gavarnie.. The atmosphere of being high in the mountains was all around us: the ochre-coloured cliffs of the Sarradets with its feet in the snow and the ice covered folded walls of the Marbore, all appeared to be dragged downwards towards the massive pit of the Gavarnie cirque that you could almost make out down there in the shadows! All the lines seemed to bring this complex and tormented mountain range to life and we were humbled as we travelled through these majestic lands. We enjoyed a picnic under the burning sun and before starting the descent: 1100m of cold powder snow on slopes that held beautifully - enough to make the North face of Foglietta jealous! I had never done this descent in such perfect conditions!
The party would have been perfect if we had been able to avoid parting with Louella at the Sarradets Pass: she twisted her knee. Gutted, she climbed into the helicopter; she had so wanted to ski this magnificent pitch! Don't worry Louella, there will be others for you to ski.....
We made our last turns on the Bellevue plateau facing the walls of the cirque and its imposing ice falls before taking a gentle snow-covered path down into the heart of the village of Gavarnie. At this time of the year the place is virtually in hibernation!
So as you can see, it was quite an unexpected week for our band of "Red Devils"! It was all too short. A special mention goes to Simon H. - he skied like a god on his birthday! A big kiss to Charlotte whose rainbow winked at us all week long!
See you next year and here's hoping that the Band will be back up to its full complement next time!