Today there’s fog all around the house. From the kitchen window, I can just about see the wall leading to the bottom lawn, a distance of a few metres. Faced with a choice between staying in to do DIY and finding somewhere non-foggy, we deploy the wonders of the internet and scan the ski-station webcams. The little ski resort of Superbagnères above Luchon looks clear and bright, so we jump in the car and head for the mountains.
We expect to drive out of the fog as we climb up out of the valley, but the only variation is from pea-souper to light mist. However, soon after we pass through the town of Aspet, we pass from a drizzling, dank world into brilliant sunshine. Most of the trees have lost their leaves now, but there are still rich autumn colours on the hillsides and the distant glint of snow on the highest peaks.
We park at the Auberge La Soulan at the top of the Col de Menté. A favourite with walkers, this little auberge does everything from providing meals and lodging to hiring equipment such as snowshoes. It’s a great place to go for lunch after a walk, but we have been caught out a couple of times when it was closed unexpectedly. This is a favourite location of ours, offering a choice of several routes.
From the carpark you can walk in a westerly direct along an easy, well-defined track which runs level for just long enough for you to warm up before climbing gradually. There’s a réfuge – the Cabane de l’Escalette – half way up that offers drinks and meals in the summer, and you can carry on walking out onto the top of Cagire or descend via a forest track to make a circuit. Alternatively you can take a back route up through the forest to the summit and watch the paragliders that use it as a launch point, before rejoining the path to the Cabane.
Today we decide to walk part of the lower path, but it’s cold in the shade and we’re just too low to see the snow-capped peaks. Monty is feeling full of beans (or dog biscuits) this afternoon, and bounds ahead of us on the broad path. After an hour we decide to call it a day and tackle the summit via the back path instead, which will put us in the sun and give us the lovely views we’ve come for. Monty’s pretty miffed. He doesn’t like hills.
We retrace our steps back to the carpark, and take the steep track leading up opposite the inn. This is actually a road, used by the paragliders, and we quickly turn off onto the forest path that cuts up over the shoulder of the hill. We climb above the tree line into a sunlit world bordered by distant white-topped mountains. The little ski resort of Mourtis lies at our feet, and we have a good view of the red run down into the valley. It currently looks like a field, and it takes a stretch of the imagination to see it covered with skiers.
After a quick stop so that Monty can have a good roll in the low, scrubby juniper bushes, we climb back down, having encountered not a soul despite the number of cars in the car park.
On the way home, we see a patou dog shepherding his charges down the middle of the road. I insist on stopping to take a photograph, but as soon as the car stops the big dog bounds towards us, his air of purpose not diffused by his wagging tail. We drive on without the photograph.
Back at the house, the fog hasn’t lifted all day.