Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Wednesday 24 July 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 40 - Stage 30 (part) - Seix to a hollow at 1935 metres on the approach to Port d'Aula

Distance: 17 km (Cum: 580 km)      

Ascent: 1400 metres (Cum: 33,040 metres)
                     
Time taken: 6.25 hrs including 1.25 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny after early cloud, occasional mist at 1900 metres later

We strolled away from Seix at 8.45 am, starting a little later than usual because of my insistence in taking full advantage of the hotel's lavish breakfast. 

It was cloudy and humid, but the good forecast has proved reliable. Whilst mist is coming and going at our high camp, there has been no rain today. 

I wore my zip off legs for the first time for ages, by way of horse fly protection. The flies didn't really bother us too much whilst we kept going. But they were ready to pounce when we stopped. 

We enjoyed the narrow path that led back to the GR10 at Coume Chaude, then a lane took us up to Estours, most of the time next to a steaming torrent that was cascading down beside the lane and producing a pleasant draught. 

There were signs of industry here, with some cranes high above us, and construction work by an old watermill where the GR10D path joined us from Port de la Core. 

The path then rose gently through woodland, passing a shrine remembering Eric Garcia (1971 - 1994) before emerging at a meadow below the private Cabane de l'Artigue.  

It was time for lunch but the flies encouraged us to wander for a few minutes up the valley to find a better spot by the river. The upper picture was taken from that lunch spot, showing the next stage of our climb, through more trees, to Cabane d'Aula at 1550 metres.

There was lots of Pyrenean Eryngo here, which we hadn't seen for a while, as well as the usual orchids and other stuff. 

There were some picnickers near Cabane de l'Artigue, and an elderly French couple going our way with largish rucksacks and a big camera. Apart from them we've been on our own since Seix. 

I'd planned to stop near Cabane d'Aula (according to the itinerary), and we found good water there - by way of a pipe coming out of the mountain.  But it was only 2 pm, and the flies looked as if they may be a nuisance, although there were plenty of good camping spots. 

The Cicerone guide referred to a 'hollow' shortly before Port d'Aula, so we took a calculated risk, filled all our water bottles, and headed up the zigzag path for 45 minutes.  Flatter ground before the 'hollow' was duly reached and presented the right sort of dilemma. Where to pitch our tents when we were spoilt for choice?  My tent is pictured. Judge for yourself whether you like the view, which admittedly does occasionally disappear into the mist. It's the Mt Valier range that we can see domineering over us. 

Graham's tent went up a bit more slowly today - his main pole broke. Luckily the usual mid afternoon rain failed to materialise and a makeshift repair was effected. 

Arriving at 3 pm, and with no threat from the weather, this is our best wild camp, at around 1935 metres,  of the trip. We are well out of the horse fly zone here, which is an added bonus. 

Surrounded by alpine flowers, we'd better try to identify some. 

Later I went up to the col in an abortive search for a phone signal, passing a very deep hollow on the way. We certainly found as good a place as anywhere to camp. 

Conrad, you are right, this area is one of many gems of the Pyrenees. We just wish there was a relatively easy higher route that avoids the woods and their attendant horse flies. I notice that when we did the HRP, we were in Salardu at this point on the crossing, stocking up with food for a week! 

The choughs are chirping and the Stonechats are chatting as the sun disappears behind Mt Valier and the day draws to a close. 

More tea vicar?

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

5 comments:

bowlandclimber said...

Enjoying your wanderings, have had to get the maps out to follow you and remind myself of the area.
Was shocked to read of the flood devastation in the Bareges region. Hope they can get back on their feet for normal life as they need the tourism.
Great trip.

Anonymous said...

Still very beautiful landscapes on these 2 photos...
Incredible this plague of attackers horseflies !
Here, it is stormy in evenings, but not so much flies...
Now some fresh news from our friends "Roland and Marie" : they phoned yesterday ...from the edges of the "Canal du Midi"(yes !) where they continue to hike, but on the flat !!! In fact, after Lourdes (reached by train), they redirected to the path of the GR10, but Marie was tired by the high climbing up and down and above all they experienced a big thunderstorm that frightened them. They decided to stop their Pyrenean trip there and maybe will finish it in September of another year ? They asked news of yours and Y+P.
Once more : enjoy your day !
Chantal and Joël

Humphrey said...

Martin, this is a very wonderful and joyous account, which I'm following with great interest! I first came across your narrative last week, and immediately read through every section. Well, it was "beer time"!

I've trundled over some of this ground - specifically your first section in May '12. Was going for the HRP, which was stupid, so moved onto my own variants after St Engrace. Where I met a very wonderful Finnish woman who I persuaded to take part in this year's TGO Challenge. We then spent a bizarre two daze up in the deserted ski resort, which came on like The Shining.

In four week's time I'll be taking in the Estaut > Bagneres section, and truly value your comments. I've seen video of the June floods - terrifying.

Back in '11 I bimbled from Hospitalet d'Andorre through to Banyuls Sur Mer - much of which was on the GR10. If you get the chance before Les Mines de Batere take the southerly ascent of Canigue. There's a 300m staircase, but no technical difficulties.

When you arrive in Las Illas you're in for a treat! I arrived there mid-afternoon in '08 during a HRP stravaig. Absolutely gorgeous restaurant, and the owners diplomatically seated me in the bar and presented a perfect joint of lamb, a glorious clafoutis and a sublime cheese board.

This stage has resonance with the passage of refugees during WWII, and their ghosts inhabit the high passes.

I found the final day extremely hard. There is virtually no water, save for a trickle some five hours in. The campsite in Banyuls is in essence a permant refugee camp, and best avoided.

So glad that Sue and yourself chose to stay in gites and sweet hotels! And loving the whole style of your blog - dry humour as ever and plenty of entertainment.

Very best to you, and my regards to Malcolm. Breaking poles? It can Happen To A Bishop . . .

Yip yip.

Humphrey

Phreerunner said...

Many thanks for those comments. Humphrey's in particular makes me feel as if all the effort of mobile blogging is worthwhile beyond the original motive of keeping in touch. It's also great to hear from people we've met on the trip, and from other bloggers who have been tempted into retrieving their maps and re-living their own experiences.

Humphrey, I do plan to take the staircase route up Canigou if the weather is good, Sue and I took that route on our HRP adventure (the postcards page linked to our main Pyrenean page may amuse you) and we visited Las Illas, and the Banyuls campsite. My experience of both those locations may be different this time.

Finally, I'll pass on your regards to Malcolm, who has changed his name to Graham for the purpose of this trip! (And for all 22 of his Challenges.

Alistair Pooler said...

That looks like a stunning campsite! One of the things I most remember from my own time in the Pyrenees was that there was such a wealth of wild camping opportunities :-)