Distance: 16 km (Cum: 193 km)
Ascent: 1360 metres (Cum: 10,340 metres)
Time taken: 6.0 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops
Weather: blue sky to start with, clouding over by 11 am, becoming the usual thick blanket with cloud base below 1800 metres by lunch time
We took our time over breakfast as Michel needed to dispose of all his other guests from the full hotel before taking us back to Pont d'Enfer. Luckily most of the guests were a group of French cyclists, so dealing with them was no more taxing than dealing with the sole German who didn't understand his bill.
Michel is an endurance fanatic. He has driven buggies in the Dakar Rally many times. He demands respect for that. The hotel was great. It has lots of circular walk and other opportunities, and would be a good place to spend a few nights. It was good to explore the village and listen to the swifts.
The church opposite the gite in Ste-Engrâce, with its wooden roof and stained glass windows, not to mention its expectant red kite, was dark inside. As was the ravine that we soon found ourselves ascending - much like a half hour version of Lud's Church. We'd expected some mud, but today's paths over limestone all seemed well drained.
Remnants of cast iron pipes gave away the route of a 1950s compressed air pipe to La Verna, further up the ravine. A visit to this site of a hydro electric scheme involves negotiating a 600 metre tunnel before reaching a huge cavern. Worth a visit sometime, but not today as Sue had gone far ahead.
Good paths through pleasantly cool woods with giant fungi and a lousewort not in our book, led to a fortuitous pause. Sue spotted a Ghost Orchid. We'd not seen one before. She was a bit chuffed and left a big arrow for Roland and Marie, who we'd just passed. They saw the arrow, but didn't understand it...
Soon we reached the ruined Cabane d'Escuret de Bas, with views back over our route and down to Ste-Engrâce. Pierre's team was ahead and Roland and Marie caught up. Whilst a bit cooler than in the trees, this was a great spot - at last we'd found a wonderful wild flower meadow in which to enjoy our cheese and tomato baguettes.
This afternoon we continued past some delightful wild camping spots to a high col, before descending to Refuge Jeandel, where we have the same bed that we had on our last visit nine years ago.
The alpine flowers hereabouts are wonderful. With the help of a newcomer to the group, Jean-Yves, Sue has tracked down a number of 'new sightings'. Apart from those, familiar snowbells and gentians have appeared, and whilst the vultures are still around, we have moved into an area where choughs are more common.
On cresting the 1760 metre col, a very wintry scene greeted us, together with men carrying skis and snow shoes. Oh dear!
There are fourteen of us here, all on GR10. Jacques and Julian have gone home, and Eric and his nephew Nicholas have continued to Lescun. Everyone else is part of the familiar group.
It has been a very jolly evening despite some uncertainties about tomorrow. The conditions are 'unusual' for the time of year. Some taxis have been ordered. Bizarrely, François is the only one of us with crampons (albeit they are still in their box!).
Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary