Distance: 28 km (Cum: 478 km)
Ascent: 980 metres (Cum: 26,550 metres)
Time taken: 11.25 hrs including 3.0 hrs stops
Weather: cloudy morning, then sunny periods before evening showers
A long day, not without a few difficulties.
It started well, with a synchronized 7am departure from our excellent camping spot. It took just a couple of minutes to regain the broad ridge, and then a couple of hours to reach the GR10 path from Luchon.
Overnight rain had left the vegetation soaking wet, so that slowly seeped into my leaky boots, despite wearing gaiters.
Goats and Fire Salamanders littered the path (Pierre and Yolaine later reported seeing a huge viper), and choughs and cloud rolled in - obscuring the expansive mountain views, albeit cloud laden views.
A shepherd was passed, and we saw a couple of people ahead, but nobody else was seen before the descent to St-Béat.
There were many good camping spots on the descent beyond L'Étang du Dessus.
We abandoned GR10 at the Cabanes des Courraus, heading along a path marked with red and yellow paint, in the direction of St-Béat. It was clearly a little used route. The going as far as the Col de la Lisse was a repeat of our 'jungle' experience earlier on the trip. We had to make our way over steep ground, negotiating fallen trees and slippery rocks. It was a relief to reach the col. Time for lunch.
Happily, the path down to St-Béat was somewhat easier, though that didn't prevent a mishap.
All went well down to an open ended cabin at about 1100 metres. Today's picture - of the Garonne valley - was taken from here. We'd already passed a couple of bothies that could provide accommodation for the desperate. We weren't desperate. I pottered on down the path after a relaxing break, with Graham just behind. So far as I could see the path was well marked. But Graham missed the marks and spent the best part of an hour looking for me. Meanwhile I had ambled into the sadly devastated village of St-Béat. I knew there had been flood damage, but this seemed even worse than Barèges. A café and the Tourist Information were open. Very little else. The campsites we had planned to use were completely devastated, with caravan debris protruding from a deep layer of mud that has engulfed the whole valley. The nearest food shop was said to be a further 3km down the valley.
Graham eventually appeared, having lost his hat as well as me. His state of happiness did not improve with the knowledge that St-Béat wasn't really a very good place to spend the night.
Down or Up the valley?
We decided to go Up. A call to the gite brought no reply, so I sent a text message to Pierre, who I knew would be there tonight. He kindly set them up for our arrival.
We rejoined GR10 rather than walk all the way up the busy road to Spain. This involved quite a bit more climbing. I won't say how much just in case Graham reads this - he may have preferred to stay lower.
The gite was full - of school parties unable to use the campsite. But we are happily installed in an annexe, together with Pierre and Yolaine, with whom we've enjoyed the evening.
I may add a bit more tomorrow, but it's time to close now as the bleeps from this gadget will be keeping Graham awake.
Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary