Week 6 Lockdown in France: The View From La Grave

La Meije La Grave

FROM FREERIDING TO FREEDOM LOST

They're not used to restrictions in the freeride playground of La Meije. Josefine As, married to high mountain guide Per, describes life in lockdown in their village above La Grave...

Under the watchful eye of the mighty summit of La Meije, our small mountain hamlets are locked down. With the same rules as big cities like Paris, Lyon or Marseille, it does seem fairly odd for us to go for our one-hour legitimate walks, supposedly one kilometre from the house, when we are surrounded by grandiose nature in every direction. There are probably more goats and cows in these tiny villages than people.

Already it’s been six weeks that we are confined to our houses here in France. And there are at least a few more weeks to go. We are prohibited by law to be up there in the mountains surrounding us. Let’s be frank, it’s weird and frustrating not to have our freedom.

We can’t really wrap our heads around the fact that we are hardly allowed to take any of our own decisions and need to sign a paper as soon as we leave our doorstep (final image), either to go for a walk or to buy our groceries. Trust and own responsibility is not included in the French corona agenda. Being Swedish we can’t help glancing at Sweden’s way of handling this situation.

Per, my husband, is a high mountain guide who is used to taking high consequence decisions for himself and his clients throughout the day, every day. Right now he is not allowed to take any decisions of his own, except which direction he is going to take for his daily walk. The mountains are his office. The office is closed and he has to content himself with comfortably enjoying the views from a sun chair in our garden. That is not a bad thing for a while, we are lucky to have views, a garden, and nice walks from the house but sure, it is starting to pick our minds what the near future has in store.

Spring touring season is off the programme 2020 but will summer mountaineering still be possible (see traversing La Meije below)? And will there be any clients if and when countries slowly open up? Sleeping in mountain huts is probably not an option. What is? Tricky planning…

 

We are used to abrupt season endings when most mountain towns turn into ghost towns for a while. That part of the lockdown we probably managed better up here than people living in big cities, where life on the streets is usually busy 24 /7. The season ending was just a little bit too early and will last just a little bit too long this year. No one is used to that.

However, life goes on in our little hamlet, Les Hières, above La Grave, known as a freeriding Mecca around the world. If one would extract our little bubble of life up here, we wouldn’t notice much difference. The farmers are doing what they always do, caring for their goats, moving around the manure and hay, preparing the vegetable gardens and driving around in their tractors.

We are also lucky to have lived through the longest high pressure I’ve ever experienced this time of the year. For six weeks we’ve more or less had sun, sun, sun. Snow is gone from our altitudes (still up there though), grass is green, and flowers are slowly blooming. It definitely helped keeping our skiing mental condition in a reasonable state. Our kids have reluctantly accepted the fact that their ski season ended way too early. They have accepted to stay home and have accepted to do the best out of it. They have acquired new skills, re-found the pleasure to draw and enjoy hanging out with each other. Kids are amazing beings, always ready to adapt to any given situation. 

There are parts of our current 'slow living' mode that we definitely appreciate and hope to learn from (except maybe the abuse of Netflix): taking time for things we normally don’t, taking a break from consumerism, not running after all those things on our to do lists, leaving the cars on the parking and walking down the 350 vertical metres and 4km to La Grave to buy our groceries on the Thursday market, spending a lot of quality time together, and the list goes on.

Let’s see what France’s magic date of starting to open up on 11th May has in store. We’ll try to learn from the kids and adapt.

 

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