Having lived in the mountains for over 20 years I have seen my fair share of what nature can bring - avalanches, electrical storms, forest fires, landslides, destruction and yes, unfortunately death.
Mountain weather can, at the best of times, be unpredictable, so the events over the last few days here in the Pyrénées shouldn’t surprise many.
The Hautes Pyrénées received the most amount of snow in Europe this winter (over 10 meteres) leaving ski resorts closed due to “too much snow” and ski lifts damaged due to the moving snowpack bending towers.
A big run off was predicted - and so it arrived...
Last Sunday the temperature was over 30°, followed by a huge rainfall for another 2 days has left the high mountains and the valleys below them ravaged and looking like a film set of destruction.
Never in my time have I seen such a force of nature on such a massive and catastrophic scale.
Now that the river has receded enough to be relatively safe Di and I took our bikes for a closer look at the devastation. To be honest, when we saw some the flooded houses and the looks on the faces of the people who live in those houses who’s lives had just become very complicated, we felt like intruders and shouldn’t have been there.
Parts of roads have just disappeared, there is mud and debris everywhere and even though we were in “safe” areas we still had to traverse flooded paths, up to 30 cms deep.
The Voie Vert (Green Route) which is the easiest way into the high mountains was completely underwater in parts but is now left with piles of rocks and dirt.
The main access road to the high mountains has been partially washed away leaving the upper villages without power. Bridges are either washed away or in many cases unstable.
The road up to Cauterets and Pont d’Espagne is closed as it has been washed out. The place would have been busy with tourists who are now stranded without any way of getting out for the next few days.
The road to the Col de Tourmalet from Luz St. Sauver has been completely washed away in many sections as well as a number of homes. It is predicted that it will take months for this road to be rebuilt. A good thing is that the “Col” is accessible from the Bagneres side.
I feel not only for the homeowners and farmers of the area but for the business owners who, just starting their summer season, are in for a long and bumpy ride.
At Chez Passet you wouldn’t know that there was so much carnage out there. The veggie patch is a bit sad after the rain but other than that the roads are dry and the other Cols are a joy to ride (the damage has only affected the Col de Tourmalet (from the west) and Cauteret so the riding is still fantastic and all the other “Cols” are open).
The Force Of Mother Nature Near Chez Passet... something to be in awe of.