with Mike Rhodes
This circular snowshoe walk passes through the vast Scots Pine forest above Les Angles and discovers the ruined village and church of Vallserra, deserted after the Plague.
Distance 8km, 3 hours.
A super half day walk that can be combined with a ski holiday. Remember that this is still a wild area and that conditions can change quickly.
Starting on the route de Balcere, at the col at 1790m GPS 31N 424247E 4715570N where there is parking or take the Les Angles free navette to the same spot. Map IGN Font Romeu 2249ET.
From the car park, follow the piste SW for 100m and turn right NE at a fence and cattle grid (in summer). Follow the track descending slightly, just below the ridge line. After 700m the track passes close to the road but continue on the obvious track in the same line through the forest. On your right you will see many fallen trees resulting from the hurricane in Jan 2009, which decimated the area.
Winter is the best time to see the many tracks of wild animals that roam the area so try and identify as many as possible. You should be able to see tracks of wild boar, fox, roe deer, stags, marmots and many more. Wolves and bears have been seen in the Capcir but it is doubtful if you will see these!!
After 1500m, a small track turns left SW and descends through the forest for 1k to a junction with a wide piste. If you miss this turning you will arrive at a larger track in a further 200m. This track can also be followed to the same place. Follow the piste E for 500m to arrive at the ruined church of Vallserra at 1650m. The church is in a lovely open valley so take time to have a snack, drink and look at the information board by the church and consider what it was like to live here in the middle ages.
It is possible to shorten this walk by retracing the route for 200m and following the track to the right (distance 5.5k in total) but our walk continues past the church and turns south past an ancient lime oven. Do not take the track to the right but continue following the open valley SW. If you are tempted to cross the open area behind the church, take care as there are several streams under the snow.
1500m after the church the track enters the forest again and starts to climb steadily. The track through the forest is not always easy to follow but there are waymarks. If in doubt, stay to the right of the stream and left of the high crags until you reach the cross country & raquette piste near to lac de Balcere.
From lac de Balcere follow the obvious piste for 2.5k back to your car/navette.
If skiing is not your thing, why not combine this walk with some dog sledding in the Matte forest or a visit to the Parc Animalier at pla del Mir.