Distance: 21 km (Cum: 364 km)
Ascent: 1380 metres (Cum: 19,920 metres)
Time taken: 8.25 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops
Weather: sunny, slowly clouding over, with spots of rain as we finished at 4.30, and a thunderstorm thereafter (but did we care? - not really, but we felt for the drowned rat contingent).
Another lovely sunny morning after a night interrupted at times by the roar of the torrent.
Hervé and Patricia looked after us well at the gite, though it was sad that in this peak of the season (the French school holidays have started) we were the only guests at a time when the place would normally be vibrant with an assortment of cyclists and walkers.
We started at 8.15, up the Col du Tourmalet road that would usually be teeming with cyclists. The demolition of the hotel was continuing and its remains were being dumped in the large car park beyond Auberge Couquelle. Our slide show will in due course provide a further reminder of the devastation caused by exceptional weather in this area three weeks ago.
We took the GR10 path past the deserted botanical gardens at Pont de la Gaubie. I recall visiting these on a trip to Gavarnie with the XXL (Aberdeen Hillwalking) Club a few years ago. Today the only visitors were marmots (and Sue). I also have a vivid memory of falling out of an inflatable canoe with Ian, near Luz.
Sue hopped over the fence into the gardens and spent some time with the exotic plants. This was to be a day when I would spend quite a while waiting.
We had entered one of the most beautiful parts of the Pyrenees, the Néouvielle area, but as we made our way up to Col de Madamète we saw just two other people - a couple of exhausted looking backpackers. The terrain - we skirted a huge boulder field - reminded me of our HRP route nine years ago.
The rivers were in spate. We could see the two ahead struggling up a boulder field after being unable to cross the torrent. So we tried to be clever and took a different route. That was fine, and we congratulated ourselves on regaining the path. ..
... which very soon re-crossed the river. There was no way we could get across, it was intense and fast flowing.
The next hour or so was spent fumbling our way along the pathless river bank, over boulder fields and across gullies and side streams, most of the time in view of the good path across the torrent. It has hardly rained for a week, but the massive amount of snow, a lot of it in the storm three weeks ago (but they also had some huge dumps earlier in the year) means that there is a vast amount of melt water in this hot weather.
We eventually managed to cross the river and soon afterwards passed the exhausted pair and made our way through meadows laden with Butterwort to Cabane d'Aygues-Cluses. It was surrounded by horses and looked as if it had seen better days.
From there it was a supposedly easy climb to Col de Madamète, at 2509 metres the highest point of this trip (probably). But it was very hot and we were tired from our earlier exertions.
Lunch was taken in the shade of a lonely but very welcome pine tree, then we donned our gaiters to negotiate some easy but extensive snow fields either side of the col. Alpine Snowbells and an assortment of Primroses kept us company.
The view from the top was as predicted - stunning, with snow streaked slopes sandwiched between high peaks and blue lakes.
As we made our way down to Lac d'Aumar we realised that the devastation of Barèges was behind us. There were lots of holiday makers about, and we passed hordes of folk on our final hurried descent to Chalet-Hôtel Orédon. This is a little off the GR10 route, but Chalet-Hôtel de l'Oule, which is on the route, is closed for renovations.
A few navigation errors were made at this late stage of the day. We should have stayed next to Lac d'Aumar, and descended from there. As it was we went down to the car park at Lac d'Aubert and then returned up the road to briefly rejoin GR10 at Lac d'Aumar before descending as suggested above. But having got to the car park, we had completely missed a path that would have taken us directly to our destination!
Ah well. We made it down just in time to avoid the storm, so all was well. The Chalet-Hôtel turns out to be an excellent place. Very friendly, with a good number (27) staying tonight. That's too many to make new friends very easily. There's a group of six English here but they are self contained. Not a GR10er in sight.
The meal was brilliant. A huge bowl of meat and veg soup, followed by copious quantities of lasagne and salad, with cake and crême caramel for dessert.
Today's picture looks back to the west, from the path above Pont de la Gaubie. Note the smart new trousers, the old Rohans having given up in Cauterets.
Whilst I have a few minutes (and this won't transmit until tomorrow as there's no signal here), I'll relate the story of yesterday's twenty minute phone call.
Sitting in the Oasis gite, listening to the demolition of the hotel in which we had paid a deposit for a room, I decided to call the Snowcard Insurance number and ask for a claim form:
"Hello, the hotel I'm booked in to tonight is being demolished, could you send me a claim form, please."
Sharon: "How much have you lost?"
"My €28 deposit."
Sharon: "Oh dear, you have a £50 excess."
"Oh dear. What about my sleeping bag that was destroyed by a drug crazed lunatic whilst in a B&B and would cost £280 to replace?"
Sharon: "Pardon!" "What's that noise in the background?"
"I told you. They are knocking the hotel down."
Sharon: "Tell me about the drug crazed lunatic incident, and why should a sleeping bag cost more than £50?"
Sharon: "I'm looking at the small print. You aren't covered for fragile items."
"The sleeping bag wouldn't have broken if it had been dropped."
Sharon: "How old was it, we'll have to deduct a sum for wear and tear? And how much did it cost?"
"5-6 years, and no idea, the receipt is at home. All I wanted was to notify you and get a claim form."
Sharon: "There's no time limit on submitting claims. If anything else happens you may find it cheaper to call when you get home. After taking account wear and tear/depreciation and the £50 excess, would you be prepared to accept £160? If so, what are your bank account details?"
"Yes - the details are..."
Sharon: "Ok (pause) yes, that seems to have gone through."
All I wanted was a claim form, but I finished up with money in the bank - probably not much short of what I paid for the RAB 400 bag a few years ago. I've lost out overall as I will want to replace the bag with something warmer than the one Graham is bringing for me. But I'm actually quite impressed by the way the matter was handled. Snowcard's annual cover, with a supplement for being away for more than sixty days, seemed to get me through all the hoops that Sharon tossed at me and the matter has been dealt with, with just twenty minutes of fuss. File closed.
Time now to read a book. Oops, my Kindle seems to have broken!
Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary