This is a permanent snow field below Col de la Fache, situated between the Respomuso and Wallon refuge. The former is in Spain and the latter in France. I went across this in sandals which is risky. You can’t kick out foot holes and there’s no grip. You don’t need crampons here but boots are advisable. Otherwise there’s only one way of doing it. Use existing foot holes, jab them with your poles to loosen up the compacted snow, and transfer your weight slowly and carefully hoping your foot is secure. I thought the holes would be angled so your feet would be more stable. They weren’t. I realised, right at the end, if I did slip it would be moderately serious. I could sense that I was unstable. I would slide to the bottom and fall into icy water. The shock would be immense. The only way you survive that is with adrenalin. There’s a large snow overhang and I suspect the pool is deep. I wouldn’t know where to climb; I’d be thrashing around with my arms. I’d have to climb out very quickly. I’d probably have to remove a water logged and extremely heavy rucksack then haul it out once I was safe. I took the same risk in 2009. If I come this way again I think I’ll take the path below which avoids the snow. The photograph doesn’t capture the reality. The slope is about forty five degrees and it takes about ten minutes to cross the snow. Midi d’Ossau is on the skyline here. I was there a few days before this.

 

Pyrenees Photography: Col de la Fache

Wednesday October 29, 2014