May 23, 2010

Day 28: My first step on the snow mountains

The route to Berthemont les Bains to Madone de Fenestre, Mercantour National Park was as spectcular as the national park itself (which I realized later). We were staying in a gîte near Berthemont Les Bains. A gite is a self-catering accommodations/French holiday home located in the countryside, by the sea or in the mountains. They are completely self contained with one or more bedrooms, a lounge, a kitchen and bathroom facilities. Our gite was in a valley and its pictures can be seen here:!/album.php?aid=171626&id=164932022367. I loved the sight and presence of mountains around me. The first thing I did in the morning after waking up was to see outside the window, just to feel how mountains look in the morning. From the gite, I could see some snow on a few mountains, actually the top was covered with some snow and oh....I wanted to go there and touch the snow.

My wish was actually granted....Shishir read the map and decided we go to the Madone de Fenestre, Mercantour National Park. He drove us to 1903 mts to the Fenestre. It was all mountains, with much more snow that was seen from our gite. The snow was melting and it made such huge waterfalls. I touched such snow for the first time in my life and I was so thrilled. I climbed the mountains for say a little more than half an hour. I was wearing my normal Reebok shoes and not the specially designed trekking shoes so Shishir and other people had already advised to be careful as they are not suitable for snow walking/climbing etc. I just thought to go a little further on the mountain. At the base at 1903 mts, there is a refuge which looks like (picture from internet, as we have not downloaded our photos yet):

It was ofcourse many mountains standing side by side, and trek routes were marked by signs and numbers like as shown in the image below. I didn't have enough time and proper shoes & accessories (neither the required stamina and skills like skiing etc.) to follow any of these routes. So I just decided to walk till a point where I can see ample snow on the mountain. I decided to go on a mountain which showed the most snow on its path as well as on its peak.

As I was climbling high, I saw streams of water as a result of melting snow. They all were gradually leading their way to one or the bigger waterfalls. I actually touched the sheets of snow, solid and white. I also saw a group of deers, chamois in French, lying lazilly on the snow or eating grass. I also saw sone mongoose (nevla) running in the snow. They all were quite far but I was happy to see them at least.

As I went up and up, the sight of the cars parked near the refuge became very faint and at one angle disappeared. I was all surrounded with lofty mountains, with snow, rock, trees and streams of melting snow. I every now and then saw some people with abundant accessories (skii rackets/trekking shows/big backpacks stuffed with relevant things/windsheaters) coming down or going up. I also talked to a French guy and asked how far the peak from that point where we were having the talk and he told me it will take 4 hours to reach there and he pointed at my shoes and said it is dangerous as the snow is like an ice cream up there and the mountain is getting steeper. Well, I just headed a little more up and took a view down/left/right/up. was so majestic. I felt the mountains calling to me. At the same time, I felt I was getting crazy and obssessed with climbing and the mountains itself. It was so beautiful but I could not go further but I promised myself to improve my stamina and one day come back to this place to go to the top and touch the snow there.

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