Distance: 24 km (Cum: 248 km)
Ascent: 1460 metres (Cum: 13,000 metres)
Time taken: 7.75 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops
Weather: sunny at first, followed by thick cloud then a thunderstorm followed by more rain
After thinking we had today's route nicely planned over an easy pass -
the 1698 metre Col d'Arrioutort, we woke to an email from the invaluable Jill W (who we have never met but who we will one day entertain to a lavish dinner):
"... I have been able to find out for you that the RD 237 between Bedous and Aydius is very definitely closed to all traffic including pedestrians. This is due to a massive landslip which took place on 14th June and which has been causing those tasked with clearing it up quite a few problems..... Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings...."
It seems that the village to which we planned to walk to along a road has been cut off from the rest of the world since before the devastating floods further east! And the people in Accous, a neighbouring village, don't seem to know about it!
So we decided to go back to Accous and have a bimble up to Col d'Iseye - at 1829 metres, so our bimble would involve a 1400 metre ascent. If it looked ok we would go over, if not we would turn back and hitch hike to today's destination.
But for Jill's message we would probably have walked up the closed road, discovered that not even pedestrians could get through, and not had sufficient time to execute an alternative plan.
Since we were planning on going to Les Eaux Chaudes today, I thought I'd check on the delivery status of Sue's camera battery charger. It seemed to be stuck in a sorting office somewhere. Oh dear!
After saying our farewells to all the jolly folk at Chez Michel (highly recommended), we strolled back to the time warp called Accous, and from there headed up delightful sunken lanes along the Chemin de la "Borde de Castillou".
Kites and red squirrels kept us company, the sun was shining, and despite the Lescun gite man's advice, the pass looked navigable.
I noticed a voice mail message on my phone.
"It's Mike in Luchon" - at the B&B where my camping gear is being stored - "there's been an incident ... your sleeping bag (which he was keeping aired for me) has been destroyed."
I have to admit that given the various things that are happening on this trip, I burst into laughter about the sleeping bag, whilst hoping that Mike and his family were ok.
Soon we reached a plateau where a noisy shepherd was trying to motivate a flock of what appeared to us to be extremely docile sheep. A Pyrenean mountain dog slumbered nearby.
The last 600 metres up to the col were thrutchy and sweaty, and the reward was a view of the huge snowfield on the other side (pictured). But wait, 'the other side' is a fairly shallow bowl, and whilst we enjoyed lunch in the last of the day's sunshine, I sussed out a way around the snow.
We soon made it to a shepherd's cabin, Cabane Laiterine.
Then the thunderstorm suddenly hit.
We donned waterproofs and hastened onwards.
But the already thin path down the steep valley had disappeared. I decided we had strayed to the right. Luckily we located the path again.
After perusing the map I'd expected the next problem. Snow melt, exacerbated by the currently raging storm meant I was not disappointed with my prediction (though I'd have preferred to be wrong). My Saucony Hattori shoes are still soaking from the river crossing, but at least we made it across.
By now it was lashing down. In the woods of the Gorges du Bitet it seemed like night time as we lumbered on down the hill.
The rain eased, to be replaced with a dense fog that made it seem even darker.
Eventually, after passing various hydro paraphernalia that seemed to reduce the torrent to a trickle, we found our way down a pleasant track high above the gorge, to the D934 road. By now the rain had eased; we were back in shorts and t-shirts, with water from our wet rucksacks draining neatly into our shorts.
We soon passed a huge power station before strolling into les Eaux Chaudes, where the first place you come to is Auberge la Caverne, our resting place for the night. We made it just before the rain got going again.
Miracles can happen. Sue's camera battery charger had arrived. She nearly choked on her tea when I discovered it (the assistant cook had been left in charge and he lacked my confidence when it came to rummaging behind the reception desk).
I called Mike in Luchon to discover more about my destroyed sleeping bag. Apparently a lunatic had entered and run amok in his B&B, destroying my sleeping bag in the process. So anyone staying at Villa Portillon over the next few months may well discover some of my feathers. Apparently Mike's wife arrived home to find the perpetrator dressed in one of their nightgowns, covered in blood and in the process of trying to destroy their car, having already wreaked havoc in the house. She tried to chase him away but was attacked. Luckily they are all ok, and nothing too major has suffered. My sleeping bag, albeit rather a nice RAB 400, can be replaced.
We sat down to dinner with a group of tourists and locals, as last night, not expecting any GR10 encounters, when who should turn up but Françoise (perhaps spelt correctly for a change). She had walked, aided by her new crampons, all the way via GR10, though like us she's steering clear of the Hourquette d'Arre.
We wonder how everyone else we've bumped into is getting on, and we'd also like to know whether the path from Arrens-Marsous to Cauterets is possible without crampons. If not, we may have no choice but to take the bus.
Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary