Whilst the sun still shines brightly the temperature has dropped considerably, aided and abetted by a startlingly cold wind. However, wrapped up nice and cosily (we do have the gear) we decided to go for a walk to an area we had only passed over in a chairlift. Preceding this we thought we’d better stoke the furnace of our bodies and enjoyed the last of our treasured bacon with a full cooked breakfast.
The bus dropped us off at Bergers and we wound our way past the ‘compact golf’ and around the end of the runway – not so much traffic on that now. We emerged along the top of the Sarenne Gorge and came upon the gun club which we didn’t even know existed. If not for a scattering of fractured clay pigeons we wouldn’t have realised that was what the area was. Further on we found the archaeological site which we knew existed but is hidden from the chair lift by a large rocky outcrop. Some elementary translating of the information board gave us a little detail but not enough to entice us to linger, particularly not in that biting wind. We found a more interesting artefact further on, a little wooden hut. To all intents and purposes it looked like an old shed but Roger noticed the faded and discoloured sign on the side indicating that you should put both poles in one hand. It must have been the bottom of a lift, long since abandoned, but we still can’t work out how one would have reached the bottom of it in the first place.
The track wound along the hillside, steep precipices above and a deep chasm below where the ski run winds along side the river. We could see clearly over to the Signal de l’homme ski area, looking very sad in its nakedness. The previously white runs were just swathes of brown cutting down the hillside although I do suspect that they will return to green before too long. Despite the sun the little streams were still iced up but a very strange phenomenon presented itself. A wall of water had frozen across the face of a flat rock but was beginning to melt behind the ice. This melt-water was descending against the rock face with many dark air pockets in their journey. The effect was hundreds of black slug-like aliens running down the rock behind a thin veneer of ice (I did record it but can’t load it here) We did check at the bottom that it was just water and not some invasion which proved to be the former but weird.
We had wanted to read the noticeboards we attained at the end of the main path but without a stepladder were unable to see them! Presumably they are only required in deep snow conditions. The walk had been intended to be just out and back along the top of the gorge. Whilst stopping at our furthermost point to absorb the view and have a snack we decided to descend to the now uncovered ski run and walk along the bottom all the way to the village of Huez from where we could return by gondola. This took us along a familiar route, albeit usually white, until we passed under the chair lift and entered uncharted territory for us. The river was in full flow from melt water, tumbling over rocks and tree trunks. We came across a number of ruins, evidencing a previously industriousness, possibly water mills where flour or such like would have been ground by the huge round stones. A picturesque triple arched bridge marked our departure from the river side as it continued its cascade further down the valley but we stayed on the level to arrive in Huez at Bend 6 of the legendary 21 bends of the Tour de France.
We made our way up and across the narrow (too narrow for a vehicle) paths between the higgledy-piggledy buildings clinging on to the steep hillside and eventually emerged at the gondola station. It was very quiet, far too quiet, not even the sound of the motor. It was closed. The next bus back up would not be for another hour and a half and there was nothing open, no cafés or bars, only the toilets! We could just sit on a wall in the sunshine, it was much more sheltered down there. We had noticed little pieces in the air, I thought they were seeds, Roger determined that it was ash and we could smell wood burning. You might have thought that after three winter seasons in the Alps we would recognise snow when it hit us but apparently not. The sun disappeared behind an ominous great mass of cloud and mist from the descending snow.
Our options were somewhat limited. Wait for a long time in the snow or toilets for a bus or walk, either up the steep ski run or the lesser gradient but longer distance of the road. None appealed but we had to decide and chose to walk up the piste, a mere 250metre ascent in a fairly short distance. We can ski down it in about 2 minutes but it took considerably longer to walk up, extended by having to lie down at one point to stop my heart from exploding through my chest. Eventually we started the climb of the 3 flights of stairs to our apartment to collapse on the bed exhausted and nearly an hour later than we had planned. A lovely walk ruined by a closed lift. We’ve yet to find out why it was closed, the run hasn’t been open for nearly 3 weeks and the gondola was running the previous day, why?!