Martin on Cnicht

Martin on Cnicht

Monday, 8 July 2013

Monday 8 July 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 24 - Stage 18 - Luz-St-Sauveur to Barèges

Distance: 13 km (Cum: 343 km)      

Ascent: 870 metres (Cum: 18,540 metres)
                     
Time taken: 4.75 hrs including 1.0 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny and hot, with cloud developing in the afternoon

A delightful morning's walk to a village that is slowly recovering from a devastating flood.

After replenishing our provisions and perusing Luz's market stalls, we ambled off up a 600 metre ascent until we were high above the town. 

The path was a little dewy and overgrown in places, so dock leaves were in high demand. 

Leopardsbane and Black Vanilla Orchids made a welcome appearance beside the ongoing belvedere path to the Gué de Bolou, our high point at 1460 metres. 

This path was an absolute delight, with long flat sections both before and after the Gué, where the torrent was crossed without difficulty a little upstream. 

We expected to see scenes of devastation before reaching Barèges, and heavy machinery down in the valley could be seen.  But lovely woodland, with noisy Nutcrackers and Tree Creepers,  shielded us right until the point at which we entered the village. We'd met a couple of day walkers and a couple of runners - probably just residents getting a bit of respite from the disaster below. 

We soon found Gîte d'etape l'Oasis. It's pictured above on the right. To the left can be seen the crane that is demolishing the Hotel du Tourmalet,  where we were booked in for tonight.  We are now staying in the gite. We have been listening to the demolition all afternoon. It's very close by. A more explicit photo is shown below. We should have been occupying a luxury room. Painful to watch. 

It's nearly three weeks since the floods hit.  We wandered around the village and came across Rachel Williamson outside the B&B she runs with her husband Rob. They had already been evacuated once this year - in February, due to avalanche risk. But three weeks ago, after a period of hot weather that had melted lots of snow, a 24 hour rainstorm hit the area. Some snow bridges initially restricted the flow of the river, but they acted as dams. And they gave way.

Rachel and Rob's place - Les Sorbiers - just escaped the torrent.  They were on the right side of the street and it went within a few feet of their front door. 

They are now open for business, as is much of the village and indeed the whole area. But sadly some houses have been washed away, as has the campsite that has been here for many years. What will the owners do? Their land has simply gone.

A few kilometres of road have also disappeared into the river. That'll take a while to fix. Apparently you can now walk to Luz, so when Susan and Roy are there they could walk GR10 as we did today, and return by the valley paths.

Rachel gave the impression that insurers have shown little compassion and are treating the claims with their usual tactics. Their B&B was full when I tried to book a month ago, but cancellations mean they probably have no customers tonight. 

The Hotel du Tourmalet seems to be putting up quite a fight, though it will slowly be razed to the ground.  I imagine it was the insurers decision.  It looks immensely solid and perfectly capable of being rescued, though I am no engineer. 

We are the only people staying here tonight. The gang of 14 at Pierre-St-Martin has now fragmented, though we do hope to see some of the others again. We've been well looked after by our hosts at Oasis, with an excellent and very filling meal, featuring, cream of soup, duck with luxurious veg and bacon, sheep's cheese, and giant profiteroles.

Re last night's accommodation, an apologetic message has been received from Le Regain gite, blaming their closure on a new phone which didn't notify them that we'd left a message. I know the feeling - this phone has a similar problem - text messages get through better. 

We start to move away from the focus of the flood damage tomorrow, finishing in a remote spot where a phone signal is unlikely. So bear with us - we also have to contend with our highest pass yet, and its attendant snow. 

News from some of our GR10 friends:

Tour Aventure (Paul and John) have been holed up in a nice hotel with fluffy towels to console them from the fact that theirs is not a continuous walk due to access and high snow issues. 

Roland and Marie appear to have survived the shock of seeing a bear and are a day ahead of us.

Pierre and Yolaine headed up towards Vignemale from Cauterets, on a longer GR10 variant, so will fall behind for a while. 

There's no news from HRP contender, Simon Harper, but we imagine he will be in the vicinity of Luchon by now and going well. Good luck Simon. 

David and John will both now be at home enjoying their swimming pools.  David, anyway. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

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