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Doodlecat's Homepage

Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

I would love to be able to say that Doodlecat is all my own work, but it isn’t. Much of the outdoors content is courtesy of the splendid people who participate in the annual TGO Challenge (there is a section entirely devoted to this unique event) and many others.

To help in tracking down that elusive morsel on Doodlecat, the search facility under the title bar above is tailored to help you find it, either on this home page (Doodlecat's Blog) all the rest of the site (Main Site) or – if all else fails - the internet!

So have a rummage around the old cat basket and enjoy your time with us!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

TGO Challenge 2016

Well, much to my surprise I see that there is a link to Doodlecat on the TGOC "Resources" page (ta, Ali & Sue!). As always new visitors are very welcome, and if it's just the Challenge stuff that you came for, just click on the link in the menu on the left (or here). To ensure a good and entertaining reading I've edited the list of Challenge diaries to reflect the most popular, and deleted a few that are well represented elsewhere. More will be added soon, so do call back!

After a few months of dormancy due to life changes and all sorts of boring stuff, Doodlecat is awakening once more. Miss W & I have foresaken the the soft bucolic landscapes of rural Suffolk and ventured north. Not too far north, though, but enough for easy access to the Peak District and Yorkshire. There is a downside to this easy access to the hillier and more climatically challenged parts of the country. I fear Miss W's training regime for next year's Challenge will become even more rigorous. If you are out and about in the Derbyshire wind and sleet,and hear a female voice call out "You'll thank me for this in May", spare a thought for the poor old sod it is addressed to.

That'll be me.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Classic Pyrenéean Day Walk

Whilst thinking about my previous post on the Pyreneés, I recalled my first walk with David in these mountains back in 2006. At the time we were enjoying a family holiday near St Girons in a fab house with a pool and all the usual little luxuries. Thus we judged it safe to leave our wives and David's son, Robert, to their own devices for a day whilst we set off for a day up in the mountains.

I will say now that this was possibly unwise as, unbeknownst to us, while we were slogging our way up to the Port de Venasque, Miss W had commandeered my BMW 330 and she & Debbie spent the day careering up and down mountain passes, eventually joining a TVR owner's club rally at a hilltop bar.

Oh my tyres and gearbox!

We spent the day blissfully unaware of the activities of our other halves, and drove up via Bagneres de Luchon to the parking area at the then derelict Hospice de France (it has since been renovated, and there is a little auberge/refuge type place there now).

This circular walk from The Hospice de France is one of those that often pops up in guide books, and as such will no doubt be pretty popular in the summer season. However, it is not a casual tourist's wander from the car park; this is a proper mountain walk and it will assuredly occupy a full day. The views into Spain are spectacular, not least for being hidden until the last moment, when you pop your head over the Port de Venasque to see the glacier topped Maladeta massif, reaching 3,404m at Aneto, the highest peak in the Pyrenees.

Map of our route
The Route - click to enlarge

 As you can see from the map, the ascent to the little refuge and the lakes of the Boums du Port is steep, but eased by the zig-zags, so taken steadily it really isn't as demanding as the ascent figure implies.

Ah, yes, the all important stats! The distance is a tad difficult to judge accurately, what with all the zig-zags, but I'll go along with the general consensus that it's about 13.5km. Our guide book put the total ascent at 1,120m, but with the benefit of digital mapping I reckon it at nearer 1,400m. Even so, by Pyrenéean standards, this is a relatively undemanding walk, within the capability of any reasonably fit walker.

One thing that struck me was the grassy pasture on the spanish side of the border, which offers some fabulous spots for a wild camp. Should you decide to climb up to the Port, and then take in the ascent of the Pic de Sauvegarde, just to the west, this would make a great place to spend the night. I would advise getting water from the refuge on the way up, though, as apart from a few small pools it seemed pretty dry on the spanish side.

I'll say no more, and let a few snapshots do the talking!

the lakes known as Boums du Port
The Boums du Port

David at Port de Venasque
David at the Port de Venasque
David at Boums du Port
David at Boums du Port
The Port de Venasque
The Port de Venasque

view south into Spain
Looking south into Spain

 The views on the Spanish side are quite stunning, and amply reward the effort of getting up there!

ponies grazing below the Port du Venasque
Ponies grazing - foals sleeping below the Port de Venasque

View from Port de la Picade looking west

We headed east from the Port de Venasque, over a saddle that is called Port de la Picade. This is a fine viewpoint, and on this clear day we could see mountain after mountain stretching off into the far distance. Being a weekday in the first week of  September, the french holidays were over and the schoolkids all preparing for the "Rentrée". We had the place entirely to ourselves, so we paused to sit in the sun and take it all in.

 view from Port de la Picade looking west
Port de la Picade looking east

The route back into France goes over the dragon's back of the Pas d'Escallette

From the Pas d'Escallette the route takes you down along the Crête de Crabides  before steadily settling in to the very long descent back to the Hospice de France. The cool woodland was very welcome at the end! All the way down the views of the Vallée de la Frèche far below are quite outstanding - if only I had taken a photo or two - but by this stage of the day my thoughts were focussed on getting back to the swimming pool and a couple of well earned beers.

Autumn crocus near Hospice de France
For more information on walking in the Pyrenées, It's worth having a look at   Andy Howell's pages . He's done a fair bit around here, and has a lot of information about public transport and so-on as well as some classic route recommendations.

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