Page:A book of the Pyrenees.djvu/24

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
8
THE PYRENEES

valleys out of restricted ravines. Above these gorges we light on basins, such as that of Luz, green, in spring a sheet of gold from the crocuses. These were lake-beds, dried up when the torrents had contrived their escape. The rich vale of Ossau, between monotonous spurs, ends abruptly above Laruns, and there, through a cleft in the precipice, rages forth the Gave. It is much the same with the other Gave. Above Lourdes it glides through a broad, well-cultivated valley, but at Pierrefite, the mountain barrier is cleft in two places, through one of which roars forth the river from Luz, through the other the Gave from Cauterets. The Val de Campan, the Val d'Arreau, and that of Luchon, have much the same character.

Of the mountains, undoubtedly the Pic de Midi d'Ossau is the most conspicuous, not on account of its height, for it attains only to 8700 feet, but from its form, resembling a dog's tooth, cleft near the summit, glittering with snow, and rising in singular majesty above the Val d'Ossau, where the mountains fall back respectfully to allow a full view of its majesty. There are many noble mountains,—the Pic de Midi de Bigorre, 9436 feet; the Vignemale, 10,820 feet; Mont Perdu, 11,168 feet; Maladetta of the same height almost to a foot; but these last hold themselves screened behind the inferior but snow-clad northern range. The Canigou, however, belongs to this latter range, and is afflicted with none of the retiring qualities of the crystalline range. Its steps boldly, ostentatiously forth above the plain of Roussillon, and for long was supposed to be the highest peak of the Pyrenees, though actually reaching only to 8360 feet. M. Élisée Reclus says of it:—


"Like Etna, the Canigou is one of those mountains which rise vigorous as masters over a wide stretch of country. From