Distance: 16 km (Cum: 209 km)
Ascent: 500 metres (Cum: 10,840 metres)
Time taken: 7.75 hrs including 1.75 hrs stops
Weather: fog, dissipating to 'cloud over France', with high peaks attracting their own cloud
At last, a wonderful mountain day with stunning views from a fine route.
Jean, Refuge Jeandel's eccentric but kindly guardian, gave out quite a bit of route information last night as we slurped our aperitifs.
All fourteen of us at the Refuge, nine French and five English, were walking GR10. Of the English, John decided on the taxi option, and he was joined by Roland and Marie, as well as Pierre's quartet.
The rest of us left, as advised by Jean, in a single international group.
Luckily the mist immediately cleared, and we were able to follow the waymarks, more or less, for a while. It was slow going over limestone pavements choked with snow. Gilles demonstrated how to escape from a snow hole after plunging in up to his chest.
"Can you see me! " he kept shouting as the camera shutters clicked and he sunk slowly deeper.
We went wrong, ascending to around 1920 metres when we should have stayed a good 100 metres lower. The waymarks had been hard to find as many were obscured by snow. A laborious descent over rough and steep ground saw us back on the path for good.
The wrong route did offer the bonus of some fine views, one of which is pictured above.
We ascended to Pas de l'Osque up an easy scramble (thankfully free from snow) and spent a while there admiring the multitude of alpine flowers and the fine views in all directions.
At 1922 metres this should have been the highest point of our trip to date, if we hadn't gone inadvertently higher a few minutes earlier.
Before us lay the crux of today's walk, described our Cicerone guide as 'cross the bowl to the SE'. That was easier said than done as the steep scree across which the path traversed was inundated with snow. We later discovered that David and John's guide had them roped up for this section yesterday.
We, however, had Gilles, who stamped his way across, making it easy (if a bit scary) for everyone else. François positively skipped across in her new crampons. She seemed oblivious to nearly tripping and stumbling and getting tangled in the long excesses of the straps.
We soon reached Pas d'Azuns (1873 metres), where the unmistakable profile of Pic du Midi d'Ossau came into intermittent view through swirling cloud, though Pic d'Anie dominated the immediate view.
Lunch was savoured in this lofty spot where we were safe in the knowledge that there were no significant further difficulties to come.
Gilles endeavoured to feed the choughs and ants with the remains of some cereal he had bought in Hendaye. It can't have been very nice or he would surely have eaten it by now.
The 'magnificent seven' then took a few self-timed pictures before disbanding and taking the easy and enjoyable path to Lescun at their own pace. Five of us assembled for drinks at Refuge de Labérouat, about an hour above Lescun. They seemed to have just one booking, from Jean-Yves, tonight. We think they were going to pretend that they were full when he turned up, not wanting the hassle of catering for just one guest!
We ate with Stuart, and Pierre's family, at one of the village's gites, but we failed to find John and Paul. We should see them tomorrow.
Our hotel, Hotel du Pic d'Anie, is a fine, wood panelled establishment, where we were greeted by an ancient lady called Matilda Carrafranq, whose family have owned the early 19th century hotel for five generations. Unfortunately she was unable to supply us with a Wifi code and every time we try to find someone we encounter a building with the ambience of the Marie Celeste, with ghostly voices in the background.
We've heard from David that he and John have had to go home due to a foot problem. That's a great shame. We enjoyed our week with them. Hopefully when they return there will be less snow and flooding and they will be able to enjoy the GR10 path from Lescun in all its glory.
Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary