Winter has arrived in the Languedoc. Although you don’t really notice the cold or snow in the areas close to the Mediterranean, you do get a wintery feeling when you head for the Pyrenees. What better way to experience this beautiful winter wonderland than with a snowshoe hike? It is the perfect way to see the magnificent wilderness of the Pyrenees.
I signed up for a snowshoe trek led by professional and qualified international mountain leaders Ian and Angela Pendry of Altitude Adventure. No experience or complicated gear required. Just some warm clothes and waterproof walking boots are all you need, Ian and Angela provide you with the snowshoes and poles. Oh, and we were asked to bring a picnic. Which made the experience even cooler.
The meeting point was at the Edelweiss Café in Mont Louis. From there, Ian drove our group to the start of the snowshoe trek. Which changed last-minute, as Ian and Angela always choose the walk depending on the best snow and weather conditions for that day. We were very lucky; the weather was gorgeous. Chilly but sunny. What more could we ask for! Ian decided we were going to the Col de Créu area, above the village of Matemale. This is a stunning region, with pine forests, hills, meadows and lots of animal tracks and traces to spot.
Ian and Angela are guides that take you off the beaten track to show you real wildlife. We hardly followed a path. Instead, we zig-zagged right through nature to climb the slopes. No sweating allowed as it cools your body too much when standing still. So our pace was calm and slow, just perfect to completely absorb the amazing nature surrounding us. And it left us enough time to look at all the tracks and traces the animals had left behind. Ian and Angela are full of knowledge which makes the trek even more interesting.
Paving the way
The climb to the top of the Serrat de Xorri was kind of hard work. Especially for Ian who was in front, paving the way through the snow for us. As we were walking without following an actual trail, we stepped into brooms now and then. These brooms, or holes, are in fact spaces of air under the snow-covered bushes.
Because of the fresh snow, we couldn’t exactly see where we were going. Even at the back I couldn’t avoid losing one of my feet now and then. But it was worth all the effort when we arrived at the top. It was the perfect spot to enjoy our picnic. What a view! We could even see the Pic du Canigou, one of the highest mountains in the Pyrenees.
Downhill, we walked through the forest again, where Ian pointed out some perfectly round woodpecker holes to us. I learned so much during this snowshoeing trek. I can now distinguish fox, hare and squirrel tracks, recognise where red deers were sleeping, understand why woodpeckers hammer pine cones in trees and so much more. Without Ian and Angela as guides, the experience wouldn’t have been as great as it was. It is definitely not about getting to the top as fast as you can. Ian and Angela will help you discover the winter mountains in such an interesting and respectful way. I highly recommend this trek if you are looking for a pure winter wilderness experience!