It’s still winter in the mountains, and the view from our house is framed by impressively snow-capped peaks. The mountains look much closer and larger when they’re covered in snow, and the early morning light glints off the distant slopes, making them look almost pink.
However, spring has arrived in the valley, and our garden is bursting with life. The lilac trees fringing the driveway are in full bloom, dropping soft mauve branches over the beds of lavender and tulip.
The April showers are here with a vengeance, but Tuesday dawns clear and bright, and we rush to take advantage of a trip out to the mountains. Today’s destination is the Lac de Génos, in the Haute Vallée du Louron, for a pretty lakeside walk with spectacular mountain views. The area is popular with tourists, and has its own impressive tourist website, but we’ve been assured that it’s never too crowded.
We park in Génos village, in the purpose-made car park on the lake shore. The whole area looks tidy and well-maintained, boasting benches, picnic tables and children’s playgrounds. The lakeside path is wide, flat, dry and gravelled, but we turn left out of the carpark to take the upper path, and try to get some height for the views.
Within minutes, we’re nearing the bottom of the snowline. The trees on each side of the path are blossoming, and wild violets and campion border the path, but there are still tiny coin-sized patches of snow in tree boles and rocks.
Despite the snow, the weather’s mild, more spring than winter, and I’m wearing a T-shirt. We gradually descend into the little town of Loudenvielle at the other end of the lake, and start looking for a place for lunch. Loudenvielle has several nice-looking shops, including a very upmarket-looking Carrefour Contact and a lovely boulangerie, but we only need a picnic place. We take a slight detour up the side of a campsite, to a picnic area marked as part of the GR10, then come back down to pick up the lakeside path.
The water’s so clear and still that we can see an almost perfect mirror image of the mountains reflected in the lake – until Monty jumps in for a swim.
From the lakeshore, it’s an easy, flat walk back to the carpark. The whole walk has taken about two hours, including the lunch stop. We’ve missed out walking along the far shore of the lake, as we went off along the upper path, but walking around the lake in isolation would have taken 25 – 30 minutes.
For novelty, we decide to head back to Luchon over the mountain road via Peyrasourdes. The snow is still packed tightly along the sides of the road, but the surface itself is completely clear as we head down into the town.
As we start the drive home, the countryside becomes more and more springlike, until the snow-capped mountains form a backdrop in the rear-view mirror.