Bouillouses Snow Shoe Walk – Second Attempt at a View



Snowshoe walkRegular PO Life readers, who read my winter snowshoe articles will have seen that the photos accompanying the articles, always show pristine white snow and beautiful blue skies, and those of you who have come out with me over the last 6 years or so, know that we have been blessed with superb weather on all of our walks.

But there always has to be an exception to the rule and it happened to a large group of UK skiers who asked to go out for a days walking.

The day came, a cold February morning but I thought that my frozen lake walk up to the Club Alpin Francaise refuge at Lac de Bouillouses, with lunch and red wine would fit the bill.

Frozen fingers fitting the snow shoes to boots should have set off alarm bells, but we were keen, and headed up through the trees and  valley leading across the first lake and on up to the refuge.

Here I normally point out the barrage and refuge, and mention that it is only 30 mins away but on this day with snow and wind  blowing at 60k an hour into our faces, there was no sign of anything but whiteness.

We finally made the refuge and everything mellowed over an apero and a few glasses of red wine. Lunch finished and we dressed for the return leg and opened the door to be greeted by a maelstrom. I  was tempted to stay in the refuge but the clients had to get back to their hotel for dinner, so putting on a brave face, and fortified by the red wine, we fought our way back to the cars.

Back at the cars, everyone said how much they had enjoyed the walk but I thought that, unlike my regular PO Life group, this would be the last that I ever saw of them so I was somewhat amazed when last February I received a message saying that the group was coming out again skiing and wanted to do another snowshoe walk. After sending out details of a walk above Formiguères, I was amazed to be told that the group wanted to repeat the previous years walk just so that they could see the views that I had been extoling.

We agreed a date and it was with some trepidation that I woke up to a blue sky and no wind. Obviously keeping “everything” crossed all night had worked.

Sir Chris Bonnington

We met up near to Mont Louis as I had arranged for one of my climbing friends to join us. Now this friend is somewhat famous (see photo above) but I hadn’t mentioned this to anyone so when he arrived I just introduced him as Chris. The group by now knew just what to expect but as we were walking up to the first lake I had a succession of people coming up to me saying, “Mike, isn’t that ……so & so……?”  “Yes” I would say, but he is quite normal and still puts his underpants on one leg at a time!”

Snow shoes in the PyreneesTo make up for their last experience I had brought with me a large flask of coffee and a bottle of Banyuls and at the first lake we stopped on a little island for  refreshment,  appreciated by everyone especially as the weather was one of those perfect winter days.

Just after the first frozen lake we reached our high point and this time I could point out the Barrage which was built in 1900, at some cost in both financial and personal terms by Spanish labour to supply power for the Yellow train. Arriving at the refuge I was delighted to see that the staff had laid out our table on the terrace, which faces south. The CAF refuge will do a really good menu and that day we were treated to a superb Tartiflette and this time we lingered over several carafes of red wine exchanging stories of our last walk.

The previous year I had curtailed our walk but this time we followed my “secret” trail over another three frozen lakes arriving back at our cars at 17.00, tired but really pleased to have had such an enjoyable day. What a difference to last year.

When they come back out for their next ski holiday I will need to find a different snowshoe walk,  perhaps without a famous friend. However I am sure that you will have recognized my friend from the photos, especially as he always seems to get in every one of them but if you want to join him and I next year,  keep an eye on PO Life as it is likely that he will be joining me on my February walk,  so come and join us. Age is no barrier!

My snow shoe walks will be starting with a pre-Christmas leg stretcher and my wife jenny has promised to make more mulled wine and mince pies. On last years leg stretcher we even managed to convert a couple of my French friends to the delights of mince pies. We know that it is an uphill battle but every small success counts!

Mike Rhodes is an International Mountain Leader / Accompanateur de Montagne, lives all year in Les Angles and specialises in guided walks in the high mountains and Snowshoe trips in winter. He can be contacted on 0033(0) 46 80 43 728 email: or visit his web site at




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