Having lived in the region of Haute Tarantaise for almost 20 years now it’s amazing how little of it I’ve managed to explore! Earlier in the week the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail run came through town and took a route back up to high altitude that I didn’t know existed – so today I decided to go and have a look. The temptation is always to go somewhere else – another region or valley – and to assume that there is nothing interesting in the neighbourhood.
Both Christiane and I were on a ketosis diet (or lifestyle really) and we had both gone through a rough patch during the week – which appeared to have been triggered by a brief lapse of discipline when we both had a snack of sweet carbs in a boulangerie! We both went through a phase of constantly having the munchies and seemingly bloating as a consequence. Christiane didn’t feel good and only wanted an easy walk and likewise I found that I had no energy. I’m getting used to this ketosis adaptation effect though and know that I can make myself work quite effectively despite this apparent tiredness – it’s just that the energetic buzz from carbs is not present. Already I’ve found out that the positive side of this is that there is never any subsequent energy crash and in contrast there are often very positive feelings that emerge during the exercise.
In any event we discovered an amazing and massive expanse of Alpine pasture that is entirely invisible from the valley below. It’s like walking through a door into another universe and it’s right here at home.
The most impressive sight of the day concerned the sheep grazing on the steep mountain slopes. The sheep seemed completely at ease grazing freely just above vertical cliffs that they could easily tumble down to. Sometimes it was almost impossible to see how they even got there. Later on we came across a shepherd running downhill but avoiding the footpaths. He had two sheepdogs and a huge rucksack but was flying down the mountain! To control his descent he used a sturdy pole – leaning on it and dragging the end of it behind him on the slope – exactly like the original downhill skiers did. Impressive! He looked like he was having fun. Those guys must be phenomenally fit and fearless to look after animals in this terrain.
The sheep here are in the middle of the distant mountain – above the obvious cliff near the bottom.
Prior to walking we drove all the way up to Fort de la Platte at 2009 m altitude – built in 1894 and operational until 1916 - it housed 100 soldiers, one officer and one medic. Today it is inhabited during the day by farmers and resembles a pigsty more than anything else. It looks like something out of the film “Deliverance” with hillbillies overrunning it. Hygiene looked non-existent and this is where they make cheese! Not a good advertisement for “artisanal” products.
This tiny critter is a frog living at high altitude. It was very small and Christiane wouldn’t believe it was a frog – much smaller than the tadpoles in the pond nearby.