Monthly Archives: February 2012
Thursday 24th June
From our wild camp at 1995m we ascended to the border ridge. It was cold and windy. Just over the ridge is a small lake encircled by steep banks of snow and scree.
A scramble down loose rock got us to the shore and then an easy flat walk around the lake. The final hurdle was a thin ice-bridge blocking our way. Helen chose stepping-stones close to the waters edge. I climbed up and over the rocks. Daz initially followed me but couldn’t reach the same holds as I could due to the difference in our heights. Attempting a ‘third way’ he ended up caught between rock and ice. Much to my amusement. After removing his pack and taking his Lekis he was on his way. We climbed out of the bowl of Ibon de Bernatuero and began the descent to Bujuaruelo, under the summit of Alto Crapera.
The path was well-worn ad obvious, making its way ever downward through scree to alpine meadow and eventually to lowland fields and forest. Here the track seemed to end. We searched and tried a way through the forest but to no avail. After a fruitless hour we walked back uphill to a small un-wardened refuge we passed on the way down. We saw a path on the left (Eastern) side of the valley and made our way over to it. We descended the valley towards Bujuaruelo and the path got twistier and steeper -seemingly endless descent until we arrived, exhausted at the river. Daz was missing so we went straight for the bar. We found his pack next to a bench and him at the bar.
Next: Bujuaruelo to San Anton
Wednesday 23rd June
Breakfast of coffee and pain au chocolat. Packed up the camp, it amazes me how it all fits into the three packs. We set off along the road out of Gavarnie in the direction from which we arrived 2 days previously. Having seen the Ossoue valley from a height we decided to follow the road to the dam. This also spared us the hairpins up the GR10. The walk along the road wasn’t too bad -very warm though, bright sunshine and little breeze. We stopped for lunch when the road and river became a similar height. An hour spent under a tree for sandwiches and sweets. Further up the Ossoue valley we took a side track up to the Cabane de Lourdes, a pleasing little cabin on the mountainside. Passing this we entered a high side-valley which would lead us to Spain.
We climbed up to about 2000m which was quite close to the valley head wall which forms the French/Spanish border. We took off the packs and rested a while on some warm rocks. A snack of instant soup was made in our ‘kitchen’ -a sheltered area among large boulders -just right for cooking. At about 7pm we pitched the tents on some flattish ground between cow-pats. Dinner was cod and potato stew -lovely!
After dinner we took to the tents as the air was cooling. Tomorrow we’ll be in Spain.
Next: Spain, at last!
Tuesday 22nd June
A rest day in Gavarnie. Ate, drank, ambled about, admired the view. Overall a very pleasant day. Pushed the boundaries of MSR cookery with a delicious pasta dish -jamon, chorizo, shallots, lots of garlic, tomatoes and butter. Also made garlic bread.
Gavarnie has 3 main populations; Locals, Tourists and Horses -four if you include the ever-annoying flies. The horses provide tourist rides to the cirque. Every morning they walk down to the road -seemingly unguided and every evening they walk back up into the hills.
We spent the evening relaxing in a bar overlooking the cirque. The beer was good, Jupiler and the view spectacular. The bar’s decor, however, reminded us of a hair salon.
Next: Gavarnie- up!
The day dawned clear and bright. Ish. We decided against our planned-from-the-comfort-of-a-sofa idea of anascent of Petit Vignemale because of the snow and our lack of crampons. Instead we followed the GR10 down to the Ossoue lake. Snow and scree and a 1000m descent. When we made it to flat ground we had lunch by a large boulder over the course of an hour. 2 Brits on their way down from Vignemale stopped for a chat (small world moment: Months later I met one of the men when I visited Astra Zeneca in Loughborough!) We packed up our gear and wandered on. Climbing up the GR10/HRP we decided to head for Gavarnie instead of crossing into Spain as Daz had fallen, hurting his wrist and damaging his watch. The GR10 follows the pattern of the road, but about 500m higher up the valley. We stumbled into Gavarnie at about 7.30pm absolutely exhausted. The two Brits we spoke to at lunchtime were already at the camp site. Just as we got the tents up the rain came down hard. We went for a beer and then straight to bed.
Next: Day off
We went for a non-existant 8am bus to Pont D’espagne. Had croissants and coffee in a cafe then took a taxi to the road head. A long hairpinned road with a great deal of ascent got us to the end of the road. After 5 minutes walking we arrived at the chair lift up into the mountains.
From the top of the telesiege it was a short walk to lac de Gaube -very misty. Two hours later we reached the refuge Oulettes de Gaube. After a brief lunch stop we once again set off, this time Bayesellence which was over a high col at around 3000m. The route was advertised as 2.5hours on the way markers. It took us about 4.5 hours because of the thick mist and snow covered ground. We met up with a Frenchman, Anthonie who joined us for the crossing of the col. We followed foot prints in the snow and GR10 way markings all the way. It was exhausting work for our first day out. We arrived at Bayesellence at about 6.30pm, and stayed for the night paying for dinner, bed and breakfast.
*This blog post is another transcription of notes written in my journal at the time. Intended as a more permanent record than a tatty notebook*
Departures: Saturday 19th June
Hold luggage: 32kg
Daz searched by customs officer at Stansted airport. No burger king here, drat.
On arrival at Pau in Southern France we took a taxi to the train station. Helen was sent on a fuel foraging mission. She returned with a couple of bottles of ‘Essence C’ which turned out to be a dry cleaning fluid!
We took a train to Lourdes – the noted Catholic Theme Park. There was what appeared to be a large war remembrance parade going on. All restaurants were closed except for McDonalds.
No evident departure point at the coach station for the coach to Cauterets. We only just made it in time!
Stayed in ‘les Gleres’ campsite in Cauterets. Good facilities, terrible pitches -all rocks. We could barely put the pegs in. We pitched next to a loud river, it was very misty.
Next: The mountains