Monday, 8 August 2011

Africa comes to the Ariege - Ingénieuse Afrique - Foix

One of the bands - Ahmed Cisse & les Gombis
One of the events that we look forward to each year is the Ingénieuse Afrique festival in Foix... For three days and nights the streets of Foix offer a taste of Africa in the Ariege. This year is the 15th time that the  festival has been held,  and the organizers really know how to put on a wonderful show...

The festival is always lively and the quality of music is superb... Not bad considering that entrance to all the musical events is free. The Halle in Foix makes a great venue for a summers evening of dancing... In-between bands, a stroll around the African market and food stalls in the  Place Parmentier helps you recover your breath ready for the next round of bouncing up and down. Also if you want to learn a few African dance moves or how to play the djembe, n'goni or balafon, then it is possible to sign up for one of the workshops which take place on each day of the festival

More information about the festival can be found by visiting


Friday, 5 August 2011

Climbing in the Ariege Pyrenees - The Dent d'Orlu - Fleur de Rhodo

Dave's 'Big Day Out' on the Dent d'Orlu

Situated in the middle of a nature reserve (Réserve nationale de faune d'Orlu), the Dent d'Orlu is the jewel in the crown of Ariege climbing... Located in the south eastern part of the Ariege, close to Ax-les-Thermes, the 'Dent' or 'tooth' is a massive pyramid of very fine granite that rises up to a height of 2222 metres. There are over 50 climbs, ranging in height from 30 metres to 1150 metres... Many are fully equipped sport climbs but there are also plenty of 'trad' lines to have a go at.

This trip was Dave's first visit to the 'Dent'... We had been hampered by bad weather (snow in June?), in the previous few weeks, so when we finally got some good conditions we were raring to go... The chosen climb for Dave's first outing on the Dent d'Orlu was 'Fleur de Rhodo'... A 350 metre climb consisting of 11 pitches with a maximum difficulty of 5c+. The climb is a fully equipped and is three star rated. 

The walk in to the east face of the Dent d'Orlu took us exactly 1 hour and a half and we were soon 'swinging' leads up the east face. Most of the climbing ascends easy angled slabs with just the occasional difficulty to give pause for thought... A good way to get your head back into the discipline of multi-pitch climbing. The climbing also provides the opportunity to work on your 'friction' technique, as there aren't many holds along the way!

The main thing is that the views are spectacular and this climb has the advantage of being one of a handful that finish directly on the summit (most of the other climbs gain the summit via a scramble along an easy arrete). The summit offers very fine views of the Orlu nature reserve and the Ax valley. Also if you keep an eye out it is likely that you will be able to see isards, golden eagles and egyptian vultures.

There is a good quality guide to the climbing on the Dent d'Orlu... This is in the 'Escalades en Ariege Pyrenees' series of guides published by JD Achard. Also, information about newer climbs that have been added since the guidebook was published can be found by visiting the CAFMA website

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Climbing in the Ariege Pyrenees - New guidebook - Niaux Limestone

The 'Niaux Limestone - Climbing in the Ariege Pyrenees' guidebook has just been published!

Created by Graham Lynch... The new English language guidebook offers a comprehensive guide to the climbing in the area around the village of Niaux, including the major crags of Alliat, Genat and Baychon.

To celebrate the arrival of this magnificent new book, we are offering a free copy (usually costs €20.00) to anyone who books to stay in our big gite during September or October 2011.

See for more details.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Snow is here and Cal the Snow Dog is in his element!

The sledging is good up at the Col de Port and the pistes at Ax-Les-Thermes Trois Domaines will be opening soon (Saturday the 4th)...

In Andorra they have already been carving up the slopes for the past week. We hope to make it up to Arcalis in the next few days.

Get those skis waxed!

Monday, 30 August 2010

A Week at La Hasta

Getting to Surba really didn't justify the sat nav, just turn right at the end of the dual carriageway, and you're there. Suddenly you find yourself in tranquil rural France and the haven of La Hasta with its fruit filled garden, immaculate pool, and spectacular views of the Pyrenees in all directions. The Gite is on the ground floor, and offers huge accommodation for eight people in supreme comfort. The cool and shady rooms were very welcome in the 40c heat and the feeling of space compliments the overall calm atmosphere of La Hasta. The Cottage is a separate building in the grounds, offering luxury for two and its own unique views of the hill sides and garden. You could spend all your time here with a book, and the pool, the hammock and the chickens, but step outside the garden, and the Ariege has lots to offer. Enough walking to last you a lifetime, cycling, climbing, sightseeing - Carcassonne and Mirepoix are nearby, Andorra just over the hill or just wander along the stunning local roads absorbing the views, a photographers paradise. Return home, and Sam may offer you an hour of bending yourself into shapes you'd think impossible in the Yoga Studio, or you may just take off your walking boots and open a bottle of local wine.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Etang Bleu - A classic walk in the Ariege Pyrenees

Having set the day aside to finish breaking in a new pair of Asolo Alpiniste boots before the forthcoming trip to climb Vignemale... I decided to head up to Etang Bleu, a small lake at the height of about 1800 metres, under the east face of Pic de Peyroutet. In the local guidebook this is described as a hike of medium+ difficulty that should take about four-and-a-half hours.

From the La Hasta gite it takes 15 minutes to drive up the Courbiere valley to the car park at the start of the hike. On the way you pass a sign marked 'Cascade'... If you have time it is  worthwhile stopping here for a little while and taking a short walk to look at the waterfall...

From the car park, take the forest road up through the woods until you get to the 'Embanels' meadow (see the above photo). This is a delightful place for picnicking, fishing or doing a spot of wild camping.

Continue over the meadow and cross the river via the wooden footbridge... Shortly after this there begins a zig-zag path that climbs steeply up through beech woods until suddenly you round a corner and are faced with the Cirque d'Embans, sitting below the magnificent west face of the Pic des Trois Seigneurs. This is a great spot to take a breather as it offers a glorious view of the horseshoe of mountains including Pic des Trois Seigneurs (2189m), Pic de la Journelade (1945m) and Cap de la Dosse (1948m).

Leaving the trees behind, continue up from the cirque...On the day that I did this section there torrents of melt-water cascading several hundred metres down the face of the cirque... And also many surviving large patches of snowfield... Truly spectacular.

I finally arrived at Etang Bleu after about two hours walk... The lake is actually more emerald-green than 'bleu', and is a glorious sun trap... Time for a sandwich!

Anyone wanting to extend the walk can continue up to the Col de la Couillate, from where it is possible to head west along the ridge towards the Pic des Trois Seigneurs, or east towards the Pics of Pioulou (2166m) and Bassibie (2114m). From the ridge there are wonderful views of the chain of the Pyrenees.

The walk back down takes about one hour and thirty minutes... I made it back to the car with boots that are now ready for the trip to Vignemale!

Sunday, 20 June 2010


We would like to introduce a temporary member of the La Hasta family... Pecker!

Pecker is visiting for a couple of months from Kelly and Ian's place up in the Saurat valley. He is the 'Prince' of the chicken world... Somewhat small, but perfectly formed! Not a bad singer too!