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Writing about dangers in “my” mountains? I never felt in danger here, never was scared, and just was careful in certain circumstances.
I do not feel comfortable writing about dangers in the mountains, and there are, of course, and every year there are accidents in the Pyrenees; I will not write here for the climbers or long range trekkers, they are supposed to know what they are doing and are aware of what can happen.
For the newcomers, the most important danger is related to weather conditions: weather forecasts are usually not reliable in high mountain areas, and here, on this range, parallel to the main west winds coming from the Ocean, and being the first topographic feature the humid west winds encounter, you may have rain or even thunderstorms or hail in Cauterets and bright sunshine at Gavarnie, 25 km away; and 3 hours later, the conditions are inverted. . . . Be prepared to walk in the clouds, with little visibility; that can last for 2-3 hours sometimes (and even sometimes the whole day!) When you hike on high trails, take along rain gear and warm clothes, you never know. . . . even if the sun shines brightly when you start. There can be very heavy rains which even get the creeks flowing over the roads below the rail heads (picture 2).
Some parts of trails are a bit. . . aerial, so beware of vertigo, I have seen people panicking, it is not pleasant for themselves and their fellow hikers.
Many trails are quite rocky-blocky, only bare loose boulders and blocks; don’t try to run or jump (but I gave up explaining to my boys. . . ), it is easy to fall or to sprain your ankle; better walk slowly and look where you put your feet.
There is no reported danger with wildlife, there are very few snakes, and above 2000 m they begin to feel cold. . . . .
On picture 1, these statices are on a ridge vertically overlooking a small glacier, 200 below, be sure you have no vertigo if you want to have a close look.
The fog is unpleasant, you hardly see where you go. . . . Picture 3 has been taken on a road: Col du Tourmalet on a very misty day; in certain areas, fog can be a danger, not only of getting lost. The isard jumps easily on this stony-rocky trail (picture4), but not the trekker with his backpack. . . . . And the clouds form rather quickly, and you do not know if you will be trapped soon (picture5).
Written Aug 29, 2008
Luggage and bags:
In other tips I wrote about rain, sun, fog, rocks. . . . Well, what to take with you for a hike in the National Park? A good picnic, of course, some drinks if you do not like the water of the creeks (But there is absolutely no danger drinking it!)and:
* Sun cream, as at high elevation the sun rays contain still much more UVs than at sea level.
* Good hiking shoes; do not try to walk with other shoes than hiking boots, even not sports shoes, your ankles are precious.
* Warm clothes, and rain gear, good wind cutters.
* Guides and maps (tourist offices, book shops) if you like to know where you are and where you are going, and. . . have arguments with your co-hikers.
* A camera, of course; if you have a SLR camera, it is worth to have a UV filter on the lens, it enhances contrast and gives better colours; I used sometimes my sunglasses in front of a compact camera; results are. . . interesting!
And if you are going on long high trails, and glaciers, you know what you do; don’t forget ice axe, crampons, rope if you are a team, etc. . .
Written Aug 29, 2008