Distance: 15 km (Cum: 224 km)
Ascent: 700 metres (Cum: 11,540 metres)
Time taken: 7.25 hrs including 2.25 hrs stops
Weather: sunny, with a bank of cloud arriving later from the north, and a wind from the north
The tooth threatening toast served up for breakfast by Hotel du Pic d'Anie's old matriarch's son was taken in the approximate company of the moustachioed gent who appears to know so much about Pyrenean routes. Unfortunately his well thumbed Cicerone guide rather gave him away. The classic guide by Veron, with all its HRP alternatives was not for him.
We did set off on GR10, but in the same direction as that from which we had arrived on Friday. So this is more a Stage 12 alternative than a 'variant'.
The walk was actually superb, with fine views to the Cirque du Lescun and the Vallée d'Aspe as well as the long view towards Pic du Midi d'Ossau for a while. The paths were also brilliant apart from one near Accous, on GR65.3, which had mutated into a fast flowing stream.
After 40 minutes we abandoned our retracing of GR10 and headed off into the unknown - well, into an area with no waymarking.
The path is actually called the Tour de la Vallée d'Aspe, and rises through beautiful wild flower meadows where the pollen from the grasses we brushed against glinted in clouds in the sun, to about 1500 metres from Lescun's 900 metres.
After providing fine views of the cirque, it moves into lovely beech woods interspersed with meadows that would be great for wild camping.
The sky was a pure blue. We thought of Simon tramping along Veron's HRP route on the distant skyline with a touch of envy.
Asphodel was still in flower here. Everything is very late in flowering, due to the late spring. For example, Dog's Tooth Violet, which we saw in vast quantities on the descent to Lescun, is supposed to flower between February and April.
After our high point we descended to a signpost in the woods at about 1400 metres, pointing towards our next objective, Cabane du Boué, which turned out to be a shepherd's bothy.
We paused for half an hour in the vicinity of a number of day walkers and a couple of trial bikers, just below the cabane. Sue is pictured here, looking across the Aspe valley towards Pic du Midi d'Ossau, which you can just pick out in the distance - especially if you are familiar with its distinctive profile.
Continuing down, we were pleased to be able to repay a French favour by rescuing two misplaced tourists. After retrieving them to the path we were able to point them in the direction of the cabane.
It was hot. An adder scurried away, narrowly avoiding my unintentional boot.
The verges lower down were lined with Welsh Poppies and Red Campion. A red kite glided overhead. We are seeing fewer birds of prey now.
A grassy spot in the middle of a track did for lunch, with views to a huge bank of cloud that was slowly impinging from the north.
We thought we'd have to descend to Lées-Athas and double back along a road to reach the path to Accous, our planned destination to the north east of Lescun, but a steep and winding shortcut brought us out, past climbers on a huge wall of rock, and a memorial to those killed in the war with Algeria from 1954 to 1962 (I think), at a big EDF hydro plant at Pont d'Esquit.
From there we headed up the GR65.3 river path and into Accous. It was something of a surprise to find the red and white GR path markers. Perhaps the route postdates my twenty five year old maps!
We arrived in Accous at 2.30 - in plenty of time to sort out accommodation, or so we thought.
We had called the Gite Despourrins yesterday and left a booking message on their answerphone, but had received no acknowledgement. A piece of paper in their 'Accueille' (reception) area gave a phone number. Still on the answerphone. We walked up to a Chambres d'Hote, on the way meeting a helpful man who had given directions to the gite. He thought the owner would arrive at 4, and meals would be provided. The Chambres d'Hote was full, but they kindly called someone in Aydius - some way on along our route, with no success. 'The gite person should arrive soon', they assured us.
We returned to the deserted gite and after considerable further effort established that it wasn't going to open today. They might have had the courtesy to either answer their phone or let us know.
By now it was nearly 4 pm. We tried Aydius again. "The road is closed" was the response.
We'll worry about that tomorrow - hopefully it's only closed to cars.
Turning our attention to Bedous, a little further down the valley, Sue now rang 'Chez Michel' who it appeared might be ablr to supply a room and a restaurant.
Michel answered immediately. Yes and yes. Brilliant. So 45 minutes later, after a 3km walk and a pause to watch a paraglider, we were installed in as good a room as we've had all trip. Michel is apparently connected with the Roux family, and his cooking perhaps supports that claim. We have enjoyed a superb meal in the very friendly atmosphere of his restaurant.
Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary