Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Le Pouce

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Le Pouce Mountain. At 811m (or 812m), it is the 3rd highest peak in Mauritius. & from what I've heard, one of the easiest to climb. Look at it, it’s just an over-sized hill…

I mean, how hard can it be?


To find out, last Saturday (9th July), accompanied by two friends, I was on my way to Mt. Le Pouce. Nearly a year after my trek down the Black River Gorges along with fellow Mauritian bloggers, I was now embarking on another first - mountain climbing.

The first thing that happened is that we got lost... 100m from the start point.


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After asking for directions, we spotted this welcome sign & the mud road to Le Pouce.


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Ducks & moorhens under the bridge.


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It was perfect day for hiking. Plenty of sunshine, few clouds & most importantly no rain!



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The area around St Pierre is a typical agricultural region & the villagers were already at work.


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Le Pouce looming in front of us.


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& Guiby Peak on the left.


St Pierre
Panorama of the road.


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Lettuce growers bringing back their produce to the marketplace.


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Sugarcane workers harvesting the sugarcane.


Le Pouce Panorama
Panorama of the road & fields.


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Herbs plantation.


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The mud road came to an end as we reached the start point of the mountain trail. 2km in 2h10min? Surely, they must be kidding.


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Looking back on the 800m we have walked from St Pierre.


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The first 100m was easy, but pretty soon I was huffing & puffing along as the trail kept climbing & we had to follow a path through the rocks.


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The thick trees & dense undergrowth shielded the winds & made the atmosphere very hot.


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Got it.


St Pierre - Moka
Soon we came to our first viewpoint of the central plateau. While admiring the vista, we concealed our embarrassment of being caught up & overtaken by another party of climbers. On that day, there were at least a dozen hikers on Le Pouce.

As we slowly continued our progress, the gradient of the trail kept increasing. For a novice like me, it was becoming hard to keep up. It's like climbing the stairs of a 5-storey building 2 steps at a time. I have done that once before, but to do it again & again & again - that's what mountain climbing feels like.

Fortunately on the excuse of taking photos, you can rest. Unfortunately, you can't rest too long or you get cramps.


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Even my camera was suffering…


Central Plateau
Soon, we caught up with the climbers who had overtaken us & the race was on to see who would get first to the summit.
As we gained in altitude, the views were getting better & in the shade of the mountain, it was also getting a lot colder, made worse by all the sweating.


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We were like wind-up toys. Wind yourself up. Climb along until you lose all power. Rewind. Repeat. No margin for mistake as shown by this sheer drop…


Pailles
Once we got to the other side of the mountain, it was hot all again as we were shielded from the wind.


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An abandoned grotto.


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The thumb of Le Pouce was finally in sight as the slope straightened out a bit before picking up again.


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& we got our first look of Port Louis.


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The vegetation changed into a sea of flowery shrubs.


St Pierre
The end was near, but my legs were nearing exhaustion. One more strategic stop before the penultimate ascent.


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Come on.


Moka
Ouf! I could well do with any energy drink.


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The final ascent.


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As I found out, this was the most difficult part of climbing Mt. Le Pouce.


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Real mountaineering. You have to analyse & spot the best path, looking for footholds & grasping anything in sight (rock, roots or grass).


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If it had been raining, I would have never attempted it. This ascension is really dangerous. If you are afraid of heights, do not try it because while climbing you're less than 1m away from the edge.


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That was close.


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One more...


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First!


The North
Aha.


The Centre
Absolutely magnificent!


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It took us nearly 2h, but we finally made it first to the summit. The views were breathtaking. As you might have noticed from the photos, the position of the sun has already shifted because I took the photos much later.


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From our vantage point, there was nothing in Mauritius that couldn't be seen. From Coin de Mire...

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... to Le Morne.
The only downside was the mist that hovered over the island, clouding the landscapes & our camera sensors.


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Champ de Mars racecourse on race day.


Port Louis
Port Louis.


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The ring road at Pailles.


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Vallee des Prêtres.


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Runway? No, just the Jin Fei zone.


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Triolet.


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Pieter Both (823m), Creve Coeur & Grand Peak.


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The road we came by.


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Helicopter flying BELOW us. That was just awesome!


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Paille-en-queue flying around.


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One misstep & you're gone. Seriously, people have died here. & some even had to be rescued by helicopter.


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The thumb of the Le Pouce. CATR Stage 124?


GPS - Le Pouce Trail
That's the GPS map of our trek, positioned by my N900. As you can see, we were slightly waylaid on our way to the summit by following the path to a spring.


1310286062-27128-P-41.212.148.127
The coordinates are pretty accurate, but the altitudes not that much.


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The actual height of Le Pouce is somewhat like this. Source: Longman Mauritius Resource Atlas.


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& yes, 811m above sea level, I had full 3.5G coverage & my N900 managed to detect up to 4 wifi access points.


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We stayed on the summit for more than 2.5h. I would have loved to stay until sunset, but there was a mountain to climb down.


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Goodbye.


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The descent was equally as treacherous as the ascent.


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More like crawling along like a monkey.


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Once this difficulty surmounted, going down was pretty straightforward.


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Le Pouce in all its magnificence. With the sun setting down, the light was less harsh on our cameras.


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The moon rising.


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Hello, a centipede.


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Once we reached the other side, we felt a full blast of winter - ice-cold winds!


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Wasn't as bad as descending Gorges.


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In less than an hour we had reached the road to St Pierre. Our journey was over, like this carrier filled with sugarcane, waiting to leave.


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So, as it turned out, climbing Mt. Le Pouce is very hard! At least for people like me who was mountain climbing for the first time. I'm sure I lost nearly 1kg of fat power, but it was well worth it...

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... for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being on top of the world!



Le Pouce Map_2
The complete map of our trek. Start point is at -20.212735,57.523255


Update: Guide to Le Pouce from notes by Pat Knox and Allan Jones, uploaded by REy







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14 comments

Saajid (sjdvda)

Very nice pictures!

Yadhav

One word for this post: AWESOME.

Yadhav

There has to be a challenge: Spend one night on top of Le Pouce, take the beautiful pictures of Mauritius at night and then that of the sunrise.

This crazy idea is inspired by Top Gear. Of course, it can be dangerous. :P

But it's going to be awesome. Just imagine. :D

carrotmadman6

@Saajid
Thanks!

@Yadhav
We actually discussed this while we were on the summit. :P

Downside is that the wind can blow you off... ;)

Yadhav

Forget the wind, the monkeys are much more dangerous. :P

When we went, there were a dozen of monkeys on the summit. Some teachers were even wondering whether to continue the final ascent or go back.

carrotmadman6

@Yadhav
Monkeys? That's news to me... :)

Reena DKL

Gorgeous pics!!! I lived at St Pierre for 27 years and climbed it only twice!!! that too after 20yrs! lol!!! Actually the mountain does a kind of "Z" (where the wind might you off) and when people climb it there, they would be visible from my mum's place... St Pierre is a gorgeous place :)

Thanks for sharing these awesome pics!

Bruno

Gorgeous pics!!! Btw there is a rumour that camera lenses are affected by altitude. Supposedly, the more exposed camera sensors are to cosmic rays, the faster they fail. Is this true?

Yashvin

I went there twice, started from St Pierre and climbed down towards Port Louis. It is even more awesome and tiring lol.
I think that we took about 45mins to climb up and 3hours to get to Port Louis. The worst part : You reach Tranquebar (Port Louis) and you still need to walk from one end of Port Louis to the bus station (or you might wish to catch a bus, if you get one).

A nice trip for those who want to hike, without much efforts. However, be careful. Never go alone or small groups.

And now, my small post when I climbed Le Pouce : http://www.yashvinblogs.com/anou-monte-le-pouce/

carrotmadman6

@Reena
Same like me. Live 1 km from the sea, yet been months since I last had a swim. :P

@Blebon
Read about this supposed leaked info by a camera manufacturer. They don't ship by plane cos of altitude. No idea if it's true, but one thing I know for sure is that at 800m, I'm safe. :)

@yashvin
That's a really old post by the lack of pictures. Maybe I'll try P.Louis next time.

mauricianismes

I swear I'm not the one who wrote "Pa faire nou montagne vine zot poubelle".

Sig

Nirvan Knight

I would simply say, wonderful man! Just too good :D am going in the 3rd week of holidays :D

carrotmadman6

@Siganus
LOL :D

@Nirvan
Thanks! :)

Meteo Maurice

This picture is excellent..

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