Distance: 17 km (Cum: 417 km)
Ascent: 1300 metres (Cum: 23,130 metres)
Time taken: 7.0 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops
Weather: sunny, clear and hot, with cloud and rain developing later
Christophe's breakfast at the Auberge de Germ was excellent, setting us up for a fine mountain day. His dinner last night was also one of the best of the trip - cheese and ham salad, confit of duck with veg and sautéed potatoes, and chocolate tart. Delicious!
It was much clearer than yesterday, and the views back to previous days' perambulations steadily improved as we gained height along a gently rising path lined by a variety of orchids.
After this relatively gentle section we rose to Cabane d'Ourtiga, a bothy in the middle of a herd of cows, with horse flies in attendance.
Sue is pictured here, with the mountains that abut the border with Spain to the south. (A rare picture in this direction as the lighting is always better looking towards the east.)
It took us a while to find the ongoing path, which was after crossing many rivulets. Thousands of small bronze beetles were fluttering around. It's important to follow the waymarks here - keep to the left to find them.
The path then rose steeply - as relentlessly thrutchy as at any time on our trip. Beyond a large toad, the Pas de Couret d'Esquierry (2131 metres) marked a return to well trodden paths. Until now we had seen just two backpackers, but a couple lounged on the col and day walkers were a common sight from this point.
We glanced back to the snow clad slopes of the Néouvielle for one last time, then headed down past whistling marmots to the fleshpots of the Val d'Astau.
Asphodel adorned the hillside in vast quantities, replaced later by Cypress Spurge. At around 1700 metres we passed an idyllic place to camp. My map indicates that I once did exactly that - on 18 July 1988. Lower down, large swathes of Great Yellow Gentians were getting ready to flower.
Beyond a spot near to the valley floor where the path squeezed behind a huge chunk of snow, a lone French backpacker passed on his way from Banyuls to Hendaye. "Good luck" was exchanged. Sue wasn't that happy with that exchange as this was her penultimate day on the trail. He proudly showed us his new socks - purchased in Luchon - exactly what Sue would be doing if she was continuing from there.
She was however pleased to find some fine specimens of Ramonda, which we hadn't previously seen on this trip.
The Auberge d'Astau offered welcome cokes before our final 400 metre ascent to Lac d'Oô. The path up here rises very gently, so just as much energy seemed to be used in saying "bonjour" to the hundreds of people descending from their day out to the scenic lake and its spectacular waterfall.
A friendly reception from Muriel at the small refuge, where we arrived at 4pm, and a welcome beer (see the last posting) were followed by the usual rain that seems to arrive just as we finish our walk. Tomorrow may well be different - our luck can't last...
We are sharing the refuge with a party of six grandparents and nine children, who are all very well behaved and are having a great time. It's lovely to see. With whom we also share the single toilet and shower, which once you get access to it is brilliant. Our washing can wait.
We endured an agonising half hour (or was it an hour, it seemed like it) listening to advice being given to an ill equipped couple who propose to continue along the GR10 route to Luchon despite some snow slopes that require proper footwear, ie boots rather than sandals. They ignored the advice. Eventually they set off along the route, planning on camping a little further on. I hope we don't have to pick up the pieces tomorrow.
The discussion took place in English, which Muriel also understands. There was a certain raising of eyebrows, but we weren't going to interfere as they had a guide with them to this point.
A lovely meal was served single handedly by Muriel. Well done to her.
Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary