Monday, 27 January 2014

Les Rousses, day 5

Day 5 was my big day. Knowing full well it was my last, I was resolved to ski as much as I could. Dawn broke with a good 15-20cm of fresh snow over everything, with the locals of Les Rousses out with their spades shovelling their driveways. At the route du Lac, where I was waiting for a bus, a woman in a Yaris was trying in vain to move her car from an icy patch; during 20 minutes or so she spun her wheels literally and figuratively as locals stopped to try and help. Eventually, as my bus arrived, she succeeded in rolling back down the hill and heading off in the opposite direction.

The bus dropped me at Bois d'Amont, and at the tourism office a lady assured me it was a good 2-3km walk up to Porte des Combettes, the start of the nordic pistes. I set off, but had hardly gone 100m when 2 frenchmen in a car stopped to ask me directions to the same place. I mumbled an approximation of what the lady had told me, and they offered me a lift. It was more like a kilometre, but steep, so I was glad of the lift.

After a brief uphill to the actual hut, I had a nice little chat to the lady checking passes, and she assured me that all the liasons across to Les Rousses were open today, and that the dameuse (trailmaking machine) had been through that morning for the first time this week. From Les Combettes I headed northish along first La Pierre Levée, then around Le Grand Remblai to the Porte Risoux-Bellefontaine, through a communal forest along fairly flat and pleasant tracks.
Looking out across a clearing along La Pierre Levée

Hutch at Risoux-Bellefontaine
The overnight snow made the tracks soft and not particularly fast, which suited me perfectly, and the sunshine made for some spectacular contrasts between the sunlight and the shadows of the evergreens.

Trees in light and shade along Le Grand Remblai
The sunshine was also having the effect of making some of the trees shake off parts of their white coats as the snow lodged on them melted and shifted. The falling snow through the sunshine made for a very impressive sight.
Another clearing along Le Grand Remblai
Back at Les Combettes for lunch, the ticket lady was again very welcoming, and we talked about the Loppet, and she offered me tea and water. Eventually I headed out again, up the Pierre Levée, and across and down to the southernmost liaison across to the Crêt Des Sauges. On arriving at the Chalet Rose intersection, I had my first crash of the day, coming down the hill at speed into a soft snow drift at the centre of the intersection.
Le Chalet Rose

Frazzled but happy after a crash at the Chalet Rose
From the Chalet Rose I headed west across to the corner of the Sauges loop, just 1.5km from the Porte de la Combe du Vert near Les Rousses. I was feeling tired, having covered somewhere around 30km already by my reckoning (the GPS later disagreed somewhat), but I was determined to make the most of my last day, at the very willing price of exhaustion and certain soreness, so I pushed myself hard around a loop of the Crêt Des Sauges, including a very controlled and dignified (if I do say so myself) descent of a hill that would have featured a half dozen crashes at the start of the week. I clocked myself at about 1hr10min for the 8.4km loop (which, despite being quite up-and-down, should keep any skiing ego I might have had in check).
Long shadows around Le Crêt des Sauges
From there I took a gentle downhill towards La Combe du Vert, and a turn-off to the liason back to Les Rousses. This trail very quickly became quite hairy, with no traces and being quite up and down with sharp turns. I crashed a couple of times, and was relieved when eventually the trail gave way to a racquette trail of a few hundred metres down to the road. By this point I was very much feeling my injuries: a very sore right achilles, left tibialis anterior, very sore feet, and a nasty case of chafing. The 2km walk remaining did not appeal, but while walking I noticed a dameuse crafting a trail just beside me, so I jumped onto that - skiing being less difficult than walking at this point - which shortened my journey by a precious few hundred metres. Nonetheless, the kilometre walk after that was a very painful affair, and I was very glad of a hot shower back at the room. I figured I had covered at least 40km for the day, although I was disappointed to see that the GPS claimed 35km.

In the evening I barged in a little early, and had to amuse myself reading Karenina on my phone until the staff had done with their dinner. The wait was worth it though; the trout I had, accompanied by a decent viognier and followed by tarte a l'orange, was well and truly the best meal I had all week, and I treated myself to a p'tit calva afterwards.

For the rest of the trip:

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