The Madness of King May

Back in January of this year Christina and I made plans for a week in the French Pyrenees. A luxury week in IMC terms as we planned to rent a gite with the Aged P’s (my parents to the uninformed!). As the months sped by and the planning progressed, all was looking well. We were opting for the l-o-o-o-ng drive from Dunkerque to Regat nr Foix – 675 miles – because we couldn’t leave Black Shuck behind could we! Although we persuaded the Aged P’s to fly Stansted to Perpignan and hire a car for the week. Not wanting to lose too much holiday time, we booked the 02:00 Saturday sailing from Dover planning to have a restful evening and leave home around 10pm Friday night.

Then what happens, Lou only decides she can’t let her ‘0’ birthday slip by without a knees up, so she arranges a barby for the Friday night! Well, it would be churlish to decline, so a large proportion of the 48 hours of Friday and Saturday was spent snatching dozes and loading up with caffeine!

This is where the screenplay goes into flashback just to annoy the be-jaizus out of you! Sometime around the middle of April, Christina got the opportunity to attend a conference (boring work stuff, so we won’t dwell on that!) in Florida – nice one! 3 star hotel, 5 star conference facilities, where’s the catch? Well, it was the 4 days prior to May bank holiday so she would return to UK totally shattered and we wouldn’t get out into the hills over an all too precious long weekend. There was a solution, however. Why don’t I fly out to Florida for the weekend – so this s what we did! OK, it wasn’t very eco-friendly but what a chance; and we certainly crammed in the sightseeing.

Day 1 – a wander round Palm Beach amongst the beautiful people and an amazing outdoor sculpture museum

And back to the hotel via a motor dealer trading beautifully restored classic American cars who opens his showrooms for all to view his gleaming treasures.

Day 2 – a trip to the Everglades. 15-mile cycle circuit spotting wildlife and being in awe of the space


Gator (click on any image to view in Flickr) Viewpoint

Plus a visit to Everglade City (hick town more like!) via the world’s smallest Post Office and on to Smallwood Store a fascinating old trading post turned into tourist trap/museum!

Day 3 – a chance to check out the Art Deco architecture of South Beach Miami before checking in for our (separate) return flights.


It was a bit of a whirlwind tour that couldn’t do the area justice – we’ll just have to go back!

Now here’s where it starts to get mad! Given that this was an unplanned trip when we booked our Pyrenees holiday, we felt somehow bound to go straight to work after getting off the overnight flights. So there we were, Tuesday lunchtime back at the coalface. But not for long, as we had already booked Friday off to prepare for the drive through France starting from Ipswich at 10pm!

Now we flash back again to paragraph 2 (annoying isn’t it!). 7.30pm sees us helping Lou to celebrate her momentous milestone whilst Pete is under a gazebo barbecuing in the rain – top effort Pete! Unfortunately we had to leave just as things were beginning to liven up. Just as well we left in good time what with the 45 minute detour due to closure of A.12/M.25 slip road! The ferry crossing was uneventful as, fortunately, was the drive, albeit very long and very tiring. The Aged P’s eventually arrived at the Gite so it was at last time to crack open the vino collapse!

So what’s the French Pyrenees got to offer? Loads! You’ve got buckets full of history from the Cathars through to French Resistance smuggling chaps over the Spanish border.

Cathar Castle

Cathar Castle History

Even though there are hardly any peaks over 3,000m you’ve got some spectacular views. We were there in mid May and the snow line was around 1,800m. This one – The Dent D’Orlu – we have a return match with having navigationally mucked up by approaching from the wrong valley and being forced by the steepening, icy terrain and not enough equipment to beat a retreat. Our attempt to reach the climbing from the proper direction later in the week being foiled by that damned precipitous wet stuff!

Dent d'Orlu
Dent d’Orlu

It also has it’s fair share of single pitch bolted limestone crags with routes ranging from easy to silly ‘ard.

So, we’re back in blighty on the 19th May – which gives just enough time to wash out the smalls and pack for the spring bank holiday IMC foray to The Lakes the following weekend! It’s not as if we can decide not to go or leave the decision to the last minute as we’ve arranged to meet up with Greg and Marika who are en-route from Jerusalem back home to Oz. Anyway, it turns out that The Lake District sees some fantastic weather and Christina and I manage to tick another Ken Wilson classic by the name of Bowfell Buttress. This included getting out of bed by 6am on the Saturday morning after arrival 11pm Friday night. Other fun activities for the weekend were a scramble up Pavey Ark involving linking a Moderate climb to a Diff climb and crossing Jack’s Rake; and Helvellyn via Striding Edge with Monty and a 6 month pregnant Clare Lambert!

Now, to you young bucks out there this sequence of events might not seem like much, but to us of more advanced years it felt like madness – but brilliant fun and an overload of experiences. Roll on the summer!!

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