• Pauline

An unusual mountain guide

Accompanied by Adeline and Nikola, I am participating in my first sampling season in the Pyrenees for my thesis on the relationship between environmental and human health, within the OneHealth concept. We have already done 5 outings since mid-June, including the Ariege Pyrenees and the Neouvielle valley.


Today, a big field day is waiting for us in the Marcadau valley! We know it, it's 3 hours of ascent from the parking of the shepherd, after the Pont d'Espagne (Cauterets) to the lake "La grande Fache", the most distant of the two lakes to sample before going down the mountain. The day is going to be long and tiring, but under a beautiful sun and in a captivating environment, as much by the beauty of the surrounding fauna and flora, but also by this majestic spirit that is that of the mountain. You will have understood, I begin to give in to the charm of this ecosystem still a little new for me!


After waking up at 5:45 am, we are focused on the day that awaits us. We take the car to reach the Pont d'Espagne where we leave the car. Around 7:30 am, we are all three ready to start the ascent to the first lake, the equipment distributed in our three backpacks. The beginning is well done, we walk at a good rhythm, the slope is relatively soft. We continue along this river surrounded by conifers, making us travel more with its small Canadian aspect!


We keep the rhythm when we see appearing the refuge Wallon Marcadau letting us know that we have already walked one hour. We admire the works of the refuge where we would have slept if it would have been open. This impressive building, covered with wood and photovoltaic panels does not leave us indifferent. A photo later, we take again our walk when we see this dog heading towards us, as if to greet us.


We don't linger and continue our ascent to the Col de La Fache (2664m) in order not to lose time. Despite the heat and the increasing altitude, we keep walking at a good pace. I turn around to make sure that everything is fine for Nikola who is closing the walk, to realize that we are in fact being followed. Indeed, this dog (that we later christened "Heidi"), very polite, follows us keeping a slight distance. At each of our stops, as short as they are, she sits wisely behind us until we get back on the road. We try to ignore her for several hundred meters, thinking that she would get tired and that she would go back down to the refuge, where we just met her. We didn't know her determination! Because the pretty Heidi follows us to the lake "La Grande Fache" at 2430 m of altitude, to our great surprise! After having rested in the shade of a rock while we were working (biofilm recovery, zooplankton collection, water filtering, to mention only a few of the manipulations performed on the spot), Heidi chose to come back down with us.


In spite of the hikers who come down and head towards the refuge where Heidi had appeared the same morning, the pretty dog decides to stay with us for the time of our sampling.


Once we finished our sampling at the "Petite Fache" lake, we all four went back down to the refuge, where after eight hours spent together, pretty Heidi decided to stop and find new companions.


Despite the difficulty of the sampling work, the cold water of the lakes in which we sometimes had to bathe in order to recover climatic data, not to mention the long walks to the lakes carrying the material in our bags, this surprising adventure with Heidi - which was unexpected - will have left its mark on us! Working in the field is not always easy, especially physically when the weather conditions are not good, but it is an incredible experience on the human level, among others. We leave, Adeline, Nikola and I, our heads full of memories of our time in Cauterets. Good-bye, Heidi!


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