Distance: 17 km (Cum: 668 km)
Ascent: 1520 metres (Cum: 38,290 metres)
Time taken: 7.5 hrs including 1.0 hrs stops
Weather: sunny periods, cloud later
A perfect day for a fine walk. A bright Monday morning brought a freshness that was lacking last week, for this third part of my GR10 crossing, companionwise. Having lost Sue, and now Graham, I am all alone. That means I can go at my own speed, pause whenever I want, and not worry about Sue being left too far behind or Graham being kept waiting for too long.
I've climbed over 1500 metres today, with a heavy pack containing food for several days, but as the climbing was mainly very gradual and spread over the entire 17 km of walking, it doesn't feel like it.
Stuffed full of Yves's breakfast, and my head still buzzing from the bangs and crashes of last night's excellent fireworks finale to Auzat's fête, I wandered up the quiet sunken lane to Olbier. A lovely way to start the day. An early mountain biker was pushing his steed down the hill, obviously afraid of losing control near a steep drop.
Olbier turned out to be a hamlet of narrow streets full of shuttered terraced cottages. I wonder whether the aluminium factory workers lived here, or is it an ancient farming community?
A similar gentle path led on to Goulier. I was finding the ascent over slippery rocks easier than yesterday's descent, despite the heavy load.
I passed the Croix de Massot and pee'd behind a tree called Leo. I wondered what the tree thought about its name. (Walking alone has some peculiar effects!)
At Goulier the unmistakable red and white daubs of the GR10 directed me south, up the steepest hill of the day. Bizarrely, I was now travelling towards Hendaye. I'm sure Marceau Derrieu (1912-81) would have smiled from his grave. I soon came across a monument to this man, who died in the mountains near here. It was he who 'fathered' the GR10 footpath, this section being opened in 1975.
I'd passed horses with bells, in the woods, and even spotted a couple of tractors (too modern to be of interest), at which point a plaintive comment arrived from Alan R. It's such a shame that I didn't inspect the tractor at Aulus more closely - I thought Alan would recognise it instantly. ..
The path had climbed gently through the Forêt Domaniale de Goulier Auzat - lovely walking at 15°C with a gentle cool draught and not a fly in sight. Views were starting to open up as we approached the memorial to Marceau Derrieu, with Small Yellow Foxgloves littering the hillside.
At around 1400 metres (I'd started at 750) the path stopped rising and embarked on a wonderful long belvedere for a few kilometres. It wound its precarious way around the steep hillside. A slip here would be disastrous but luckily the path offers a metre or so of width in most places.
Harebells were coming increasingly into frame, and the bright purple flower heads of Mountain Onion were also splashed beside the path.
I was delighting in a freshness to the weather that has been absent of late. A few minutes were passed with five French walkers on their way to the Fourcat refuge where Pierre and Yolaine were last night. They were taking their time around the precipitous belvedere, and on the look out for izards. I looked as well. I saw plenty of lizards!
There were good views to a jagged ridge across the valley, but the highest summits remained cloaked in a stubborn cloud.
Two small rams pottered along in front of me for a while as the path rose to 1550 metres by a junction that led down to Arties. The upper picture was taken near here, looking back to a less precipitous section of the path. There was lots of Broomrape and Fringed Pinks in this area. Before lunching myself, at 1800 metres or so, I passed a lady backpacker lunching some way off the path amidst a herd of cattle. Looking back later, I could see no sign of this lady, nor of the French group.
A sheep looked injured. On closer viewing, it was afterbirth, and a new born lamb was vigorously exercising its lungs. One lamb amongst a large flock. I thought the rams were a shifty pair.
Shortly after that, a wired section of path saw me stashing my poles and map case and easing myself along the wire across the steep wet rock. I was glad I'd stashed the poles.
Then I forsook the red and white path leading to Fourcats, in favour of a thin path with yellow waymarks, rising past rushing streams lined with Marsh Marigolds and Alpenrose, which effectively by-passes the refuge. I was last here with Dave, on 24 August 1994, when I seem to recall the main feature of the walk being the cloud in which we passed the day. We camped a bit further on then. Today the cloud wasn't far above me when I stopped at this fine spot (pictured) at 3.30pm. It's in the Snowbell zone at about 2240 metres, just before Étang de Petsiguer. There are some large patches of snow nearby. I took full advantage of the nice weather while it lasted, but as I write I'm engulfed in the thickest cloud of the trip. It's about 10 metres visibility, so extremely unwise to venture far from the tent - you'd get soaked by the cloud, and. .. have you ever tried to find a tent in a white out?
Anyway, I'm making inroads into the giant bag of food and have all my needs (not the Internet of course, and a Kindle would be handy) so I'm quite happy here in my cloud.
I'll send this sometime tomorrow when I have a signal.
Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary