Think outside, no box required.
From Vercors to Hautes Fagnes
December 14, 2012Posted by on
The last bits of snow are visible in the Netherlands as we leave. The car radio plays Frank Zappa’s “Don’t eat the yellow snow”. We drive to Col de Rousset from the north over the plateau. At the start the road is free of snow, but half way the plateau the road is still snow covered. At Col de Rousset we turn to the road to parking de Beure. This road is also snow covered, but small stones have been scattered on the road. We just manage to reach the parking without the need of snow chains.
We leave parking de Beure with skis and pulk, but soon change from skis to snowshoes. The snow is 1.40 m thick, a beautiful white and thick blanket. It is not easy to climb with skis through the thick layer of powder snow. At the top of the drag lift we meet a Frenchman who’s making a small tour with snowshoes, skis and backpack. He’s jealous of our pulks. Now he is …
The sun is shining and we progress fast. In the forest to Pas des Econdus the continuous climbing changes to a more sloping climb and descent. The pulks are sliding along and past us on the steeper descents. The aluminum tubes that make sure the pulks don’t run into our shoes can’t handle the forces and bend. The tubes on Fred’s pulk are bend first. We have a spare rope with us that we use to proceed.
At the plain after Pas des Econdus we pitch our tent. It’s already dusk when we have dinner. During the night the temperature drops to -6 C in the tent and it starts to snow. At dawn the wind was blowing strongly and it was still snowing. Because of the broken aluminum tubes of the pulks it’s hard to descend. Because of the pulk troubles and the one broken ski pole, we decide to return to our car.
Our plan is to leave the pulks and everything we don’t need in our car, buy new ski poles and try again with only our backpacks. Too bad, without crampons and ice axes we cannot climb the Grand Veymont anymore. More snow has fallen last night, this time we need the snow chains to leave the parking. We cannot find ski poles until we arrive in Crest, half a day later.
When we arrive at Col de Rousset the next day, the wind is blowing with 6 Beaufort and stormy gusts. The snowing continues and low clouds arrive. We hear that this kind of weather will remain the next few days. We’re in two minds for a while but finally decide not to start. Unable to take all our gear, bad weather and heavy backpacks will make this a tough survival instead of holidays. Especially for us as inexperienced snow-hikers.
We drive a while at the plateau to find a place to spend the night. If we could find a guesthouse, we could do some day-hikes. Unfortunately all ski pistes are closed and thus all gîtes and guesthouses are closed too. Silently we head back home. What a pity, all planning, preparation. We looked forward to this trip so much.
On our way home we spot some snow in Belgium. Unexpected. The next morning we decide to spend the rest of our holidays in the Hautes Fagnes. In one-and-a-half hour we unpack our backpacks and repack them. The tent stays at home, the tarp we take with us. Extra food stays at home together with the rest of the gear that we don’t need. Fast we search for a nice tour and we leave.
According to the weather report, 40 cm of snow should be present in the Hautes Fagnes. On the road that runs around the Stausee there’s just enough snow present to ski cross country. At the end of the Stausee we are happy to leave the road. We pack our skis on our backpacks and walk on a footpath till dusk. In the Hautes Fagnes it’ll become -5 C at night too.
Enroute a lot of animal trails can be seen. Thé biggest difference to hiking in summertime. The snow cracks under our feet as it’s still freezing. The thickness of the snow is around 10 cm, so skiing is possible. This tour will be a hybrid one: partly skiing, partly walking. Especially the footpaths along the Eschbach and the Steinbach we can recommend, they’re beautiful. The freezing of last week caused frozen sheets of ice on the creeks and many frozen icicles have been formed. Slowly the clouds roll in. Tomorrow the thawing will start and it will rain.
We didn’t have time in our one-and-a-half hour of preparation to take the hunting into account. On one part of the tour we would like to do, we find the well-known yellow and red signs. Für Ihre Sicherheit, time to turn around. Unfortunately we walk partly where we walked yesterday, but on the other hand, it’s a really nice route. When we walk over the planking of the peat bogs we see how fast the thawing is proceeding. Last night the thermometer showed 0 C and on some parts of the planking the snow is gone completely. The wind picked up fiercely over the flatland, so we’re happy to return through the woods. When we drive back home, the rain starts. Two beautiful days.
IGN Carte de Randonnée, 1:25 000, No 3236OT: Villard-de-Lans
IGN Carte Topographique, 1:50 000, No 35-43: Eupen