Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 26 July 2013

Friday 26 July 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 42 - Stage 32 (part) - St-Lizier-d'Ustou to Passerelle d'Ars (1485 metres)

Distance: 18 km (Cum: 618 km)     

Ascent: 1480 metres (Cum: 35,420 metres)
                     
Time taken: 7.25 hrs including 1.0 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny - very hot - for much of the day my thermometer was reading 30ºC+

We were away from the campsite at 8 am on another lovely day. There will be no need to air the sleeping bag today - it wasn't used last night. 

Luckily the day's early paths were well shaded. It seemed surprisingly dark as we headed up a sunken lane past some old buildings towards Col de Fitté.  Whoever built that steep old lane was certainly taking no prisoners! 

Despite our efforts to walk slowly (for Graham that's still much faster than me), we were soon dripping. 

There were no flowers of any note under the dark canopy, and thankfully not too many flies. Some very muddy sections justified the use of ankle gaiters.  My RAB gaiters from Alpenstock have certainly proved very useful on this trip, even on hot days like this one; you don't notice they are on, and they make sock washing a whole lot easier. 

The zip off trouser legs were returned to the clothes bag for today's long climbs, and luckily the horse flies behaved for most of the day. 

Occasional glances through the trees of fine mountain views like the one pictured, held our interest before the col provided an excuse for a welcome break. 

We needed that break. The next 20 minutes were spent thrutching up a brutal 150 metre slope. We were lucky to have a dry day for it, or the mud would have been 'Interesting'.

A ski resort with lots of chalet accommodation was passed, and we enjoyed clear sky views back to the Mt Valier summits. But with no clouds and a heat haze, we can't expect too much from our photos. 

We finally reached the day's high spot, Col d'Escots (1618 metres - not attractive due to ski paraphernalia) at 11 o'clock. After noting a rare error in Paul Lucia's Cicerone guide, we headed ESE for an hour or so to find a suitable lunch spot. I thought I'd found a bit of shade. I hadn't. So I continued to a shadier spot, leaving Graham to sunbathe. 

We bumped into the same French couple we saw a couple of days ago.  I wonder how far they are going?  Communication with them is difficult. 

On the final section past Étang de Guzet and along a rocky, undulating belvedere path to Passerelle d'Ars, we met lots of day walkers. There's a car park for Cascade d'Ars, which we will pass in the morning. It's an ideal place to start a day walk. 

Two Dutch people accosted us. .

"You were on the campsite"
"Yes"
"You must have left early"
"Yes"
"Where did you park?"
"We walked"
Incredulous gasp
"Wow!" (or similar)

Anyway, we passed some good water sources, so there are plenty of places to camp hereabouts. But Passerelle d'Ars yielded a good spot so we pitched across the bridge from where the bottom photo was taken. It was very hot. Two fishermen came and entertained us briefly, but they were unable to catch anything longer than 20 centimetres, so they got thrown back and the lads moved down stream to where they thought the trout would be bigger. 

Eventually we lost the sun.  Great! Dinner outside in fresh, cool air. 

Then the midges came out to play. So now I'm in a pleasantly cool tent with the midge net in place, through which there's a fine mountain view. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Thursday 25 July 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 41 - Stage 30 (part) and 31 - near Port d'Aula to St-Lizier-d'Ustou

Distance: 20 km (Cum: 600 km)      

Ascent: 900 metres (Cum: 33,940 metres)
                     
Time taken: 7.75 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops                                     

Weather: hot and sunny

A fairly routine day on GR10. Away by 7.30am after an 'open tent' night with splendid mountain views under a nearly full moon. 

100 metres up to a fine viewpoint. 

Graham is pictured continuing towards the east from here. 

1300 metres down to a hamlet with no facilities other than water and toilets (and of course a Town Hall - Mairie).

Lunch - at 10.45!

800 metres up, mainly through woodland, trying to avoid the horse flies. 

30 minutes on a boiling hot but fly free col with more fine views. Graham is seated here (lower picture).

800 metres down to a campsite in a small village. 

Wifi here, but battery uncertainties, one reason for the brevity - lack of time being another. 

Lovely meal at the local restaurant, but it was virtually empty. The campers prefer to cook on site. Apart from a friendly Dutch couple who are planning a high camp (their first) tomorrow. 

Good to hear from Humphrey, who I was thinking of today, knowing that he is due in the Pyrenees shortly. 

Considering we finished walking at 3.30 pm the rest of the day seems to have gone remarkably quickly! 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

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

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Tuesday 23 July 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 39 - Seix

Gentle strolling of about 4km was sufficient for this rest day.                             

Weather: sunny all morning, then stormy, fine later

This rest day was chosen wisely. It's chucking it down at a time when we are sometimes walking. I'm nice and cosy in my hotel suite, and I assume Graham is happy wallowing in the campsite's pool. 

We did enjoy a lavish lunch, courtesy of Casino food shops, at the well appointed campsite - it has picnic benches - before the first spots of rain sent me scurrying back to my rooms, and the few remaining bits of washing I need to do before I'm as fresh as when I set off from Timperley. 

Seix is a lovely little town with old buildings. The top picture shows my hotel on the left, the lower one was taken from just round the corner. 

Now then, where's that Kindle?  Ah, broken, so I'll have to read some blogs and make silly comments. Watch out!

Later:

Graham reports a very relaxing time in his tent during the storm.  I think he was asleep. 

Tonight's meal at Auberge du Mont Valier was excellent. This hotel is only about 50 metres out of town, but it was really quiet when the centre was busy. And the meal was very good, especially the selection of cheeses (strong), which inevitably resulted in fresh supplies of wine being required. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Occasional Pyrenean Flowers (13)

The Pyrenean Columbine (Aquilegia pyrenaica) was particularly conspicuous on yesterday's descent to Pas de la Core. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Monday, 22 July 2013

Monday 22 July 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 38 - Stage 29 (variant) - Col de la Crouzette to Seix, via le Cos (a hill)

Distance: 25 km (Cum: 563 km)      

Ascent: 540 metres (Cum: 31,640 metres)
                     
Time taken: 7.0 hrs including 1.0 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny until late afternoon rain

I felt sticky overnight. The rain came before I got around to washing. 

I'm clean now. 

Graham and I walked separately today, but met conveniently at the bar of the Auberge du Haut Salat, in Seix, at around 3.30 pm. I was relieved to hear that Graham had encountered no serious difficulties on his adventurous route. He was a bit confused as to where he stayed last night - my old map clarified it as being Cabane du Taus and not Cabane des Espugues, where he thought he had been! 

A quick start for me this morning. I later realised why. I'd forgotten to shave! 

The lovely yellow route passed loads of great camping spots if you can put up with Stonechats and marmots,  but I'd chosen the site with the best views. Soon path GR10D was picked up and that made a leisurely descent to Pas de la Core. 

It's a road pass, and there were lots of folk setting off for day walks in various directions. Two cyclists simultaneously reached the pass from different directions. I expected some form of greeting, but they just got off to admire the views. 

With the first phone signal for a while, I spent a few minutes checking messages. Sue had booked a suite at Auberge Du Haut Salat, in Seix, so "Graham also has a bed if he wants one".

I have the rooms to myself as G prefers to camp. It's quite luxurious. Thanks Sue. 

After a while on the pass admiring the views, I set off down GR10 proper, expecting to be able to take my time and find a suitable lunch spot. It wasn't to be. The horse flies got steadily more aggressive. I met three mountain bikers who had disguised themselves as bushes in a futile effort to deter the blighters. 

There was nothing for it but to continue on, past the nice looking gite at Esbints, and down the road, nearly into Seix. It was too early to expect my 4pm suite to be ready, so a diversionary tactic was required. 

Le Core is a 1013 metre summit just south of Seix. I decided to fill the time by going up it. But for that, today's ascent statistic would have been 70 metres. A well maintained path wound seemingly repeatedly around the small hill, eventually spewing me out at a picnic table. With not a fly in sight, and the clock having sped past 1pm, this was an ideal spot to chat to Sue and enjoy the remnants of my food bag. I found an orange that I must have been lugging around for quite some time! 

It's nearly a week since Sue left for home. "I'll be at home today" had been her message. She was however just off to one of her several jobs after having received a "where are you" call.

We can do Luchon to Banyuls on a B&B basis, I'm sure. I'm looking forward to it. 

Today's picture of Seix was taken from that lunch spot.

A little further on an orientation table identified an array of Pyrenean summits, dominated by Mt Valier (2838 metres). Fine views all around. 

A quick descent through the horse fly zone led to the pleasant town of Seix (with no sex), the liveliest place since Luchon, happily outside the zone of flooding.  Or this hotel would be under mud.

I'd just about finished my beer when Graham turned up at around 3.30 pm. He was none the worse for his adventures despite storms and steep snow. Well done Graham. I was impressed. "More beer please."

Then off he went to the campsite, whilst I got down to washing some rather smelly clothing, before we reconvened for yet more beer and a nice meal in the hotel. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Sunday 21 July 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 37 - Stage 28 (variant) - Cabane du Trapech du Milieu to Wild camp near Col de la Crouzette

Distance: 12 km (Cum: 538 km)      

Ascent: 1320 metres (Cum: 31,100 metres)
                     
Time taken: 6.5 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny, with cloud building by late morning, some rain, then sunny periods, thunderstorm later

Today Graham declared UDI and headed back up to Cabane du Clot du Lac to embark on a high level walk towards Mt Valier (2838 metres), and down to perhaps meet me, depending on which route I chose to take. 

"Eleven miles should be easy enough" said Graham. I decided not to argue. He is proud of his Alpine experience and confident of his ability. I'd considered his route, albeit not well defined on my old map, and rejected it for a number of reasons.  I may have been wrong, but I felt the route would be well beyond my own limited ability, especially without an axe and crampons for the north facing snow slopes. 

I next expect to see Graham in Seix tomorrow or on Tuesday, but I have camped where he has the earliest opportunity to see me if indeed his route was "easy enough".

Splitting up like this was always the plan - we can both look after ourselves, and Graham can go high when he wants to. He may appear later - he's much faster than me, and more confident on steep ground. 

So I set off alone at 7.50, after a fine night's sleep. Today the tents were dry thanks to an early morning breeze.

The good path wound amiably down to Cabane de l'Artigue, which would be fine for two people to spend the night. 

The cabanes in this Ariège region are numerous. They are very much like Scottish bothies, and are sometimes used totally or partly by shepherds. A useful resource in bad weather. Or suitable for use by those without a tent (but you would need everything else).

An easy descent through trees led to Pla de la Lau, where it was hot and sweaty. I'd met five very sweaty people ascending slowly up the path. Should I have gone with Graham? I quickly dismissed that rash inclination. 

The toilets, and a very brief phone signal, the only one all day, helped to justify my decision, though I do have to break some bad news to Graham. One of his fish has died. 

The car park was full. This is a very popular spot, and the gite used by Pierre and Yolaine last night - Gîte Auberge La Maison du Valier - looks excellent, if rather full of children. 

Incidentally, I didn't see P&Y today. They must have left early and finally escaped from us!

It was a 'blue sky' day, so shade from the sun on the ascent through woodland was most welcome. Especially as this was a particularly steep ascent. The cool breeze created by the rushing river nearby was much appreciated. Then the narrow Muscadet valley was forsaken in favour of many short, steep zigzags up to a small cabane at 1620 metres. 

I nearly caught up with a group ahead, but they got away whilst I rested. It was not a day for rushing. 

More steep zigzags, gradually lengthening and easing in thrutchiness, led past lots of orchids, and Spring Squill still in flower, to Cap des Lauses, at 1892 metres, basically a path junction. 

Here I needed to decide whether to take the easy GR10 path to Étang d'Ayes, or explore some lesser paths. It was only 11.45, and the former route would take little more than an hour. So I headed along a path well marked with yellow paint, in the direction of Refuge des Estagnous, which the sign told me would take three and a half hours. Luckily, I wasn't going there, but Graham might be. ..

Fifteen minutes along the path I came to Cabane du Taus, where I could take advantage of the good water supply. 

Curiously, I met lots of people on this section. A bit of a puzzle. One of them seemed completely bemused about where he was. He seemed reluctant to accept my analysis! 

Just beyond that cabane I stopped for lunch in the shade of a large rock. It was hot. A couscous salad was enjoyed in an area that looks magical for wild camping. But it was a bit early for that, so I continued, leaving the Estagnous path in favour of one leading to Cabane des Espugues. That cabane was a little off my route, but I went to look at it anyway. Partly occupied by a shepherd, it seemed to have space available for passers-by as well, but I didn't go in.

Another well marked (in yellow) path led NNE, gently up to Col de Crouzette - 2210 metres.  That was a nice surprise, as the rucksack was feeling heavy and I'd expected the col to be at 2361 metres, but that was the height of a minor summit that now overlooks my campsite. 

The cloud had been building, as it does, and whilst I was looking into clear blue sky over France, drops of rain were splattering me from the central Pyrenees. I sat on the col in my anorak, until the rain eventually stopped and I could make my way down towards the next cabane - Cabane d'Eychelle.

I could see a huge herd of sheep descending in that direction, so after sliding down a few steep (but luckily soft) snow slopes, I reached a grassy plateau at 2050 metres, only fifteen minutes from the col. There was a good water supply from a nearby stream. The thunder was still banging and roaring like a flapping tent, so I set up camp and put on a brew. 

It was 2.30 pm.

I was pitched next to a snowfield, with a view back to the col, and in the other direction, down to the flatlands of France. (Both pictured)

It rained for a while. Then the sun came out. A convenient rock meant that I was excused back ache whilst writing my diary. Whistling marmots kept me company. The last of the Sentein main meal provisions gave me a good supper in this wonderful location.

A shepherdess rushed past. Closely followed by the biggest thunderstorm of the trip. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Saturday 20 July 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 36 - Stage 27 (variant)/28 (part) - Sentein to Cabane du Trapech du Milieu

Distance: 16 km (Cum: 526 km)      

Ascent: 1130 metres (Cum: 29,780 metres)
                     
Time taken: 7.5 hrs including 2.25 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny, until the thunderstorm after we camped

We were away before 8am on a continuation of our 'Tour du Biros'. (Biros is the name of the valley. )

It's fair to say that the campsite was pretty basic and the village of Sentein had very little by way of amenities. However, as a shop and a campsite were all we needed, we just about managed without a bar or restaurant. Curiously, my passport was needed for the first time since leaving Biarritz airport, in order to get onto the campsite, which cost rather less than €3 each, including taxes! 

The heatwave affecting northwest England has fortunately not reached here, so our night under 'canvas' was cosy without being too hot. 

The path dropped gently, partly along the quiet road, to Orle - a hamlet beyond the pretty village of Bonac, with its old church and various amenities including a gite d'etape. 

A steep zigzag path through lovely beech woods took us from 700 to 1200 metres, where at the site of a 'funicular' we joined an old tramway from the end of which the remains of the old lifting gear would have transported whatever was being mined here to the valley. 

The upper picture was taken just after reaching the tramway. 

There were noticeably few flowers in the woods - seemingly just a few Broomrapes, Willowherbs, Cranesbills, etc, including a lone rose in the centre of the path. The light isn't great for flowering plants now that the trees are in full foliage. 

The old tramway rose about 50 metres over almost 6km. An impressive feat of engineering. We passed through several tunnels, one of them a good 40 metres in length. They were easy enough once you got into them, but debris nearly blocking the entrances made for entertainment with the big packs.
Leaf litter occupied much of the path, but certain sections were overgrown with nettles and ferns and stuff. 

Whereas yesterday's descent on the Tour du Biros path had been quite busy with people, we didn't see a soul on this side of the valley. The path could do with being better maintained and advertised. It's a good route. 

At around 11.50am we reached the familiar red and white daubs of the GR10 signs. We turned left, up towards Cabane de Besset. Two figures appeared on the path behind us. Guess who?

Up at the cabane, Matthew and Jonathan were enjoying their lunch. I managed to get a brew on for Pierre and Yolaine before they arrived. They quickly slurped it and continued up to Clot de Lac (1821 metres), to enjoy their lunch in the knowledge that their climbing for the day (1600 metres) was over and they could enjoy a leisurely descent to the gite d'etape at Pla de la Lau.

We followed them after an hour at Besset, enjoying our own tuna salad lunches. We were due to stop at Besset, according to my itinerary, but it was both too early, and too steep for camping. 

Clot de Lac was a lovely spot, sadly with no water. We lingered with P&Y for a while, enjoying the display of huge ceps and tasty looking chanterelle mushrooms that they had collected earlier. Whilst they then snoozed and photographed sheep, Graham and I continued down through flocks of uncomfortably hot sheep, to the next cabane, which does have a water supply, the elaborately named Cabane du Trapech du Milieu, at 1540 metres.

The cabane has recently been refurbished, but we prefer to camp on the slopes nearby. 

After seemingly a very long time, P&Y eventually appeared, refreshed from their sleep. We may not see them again for a while, so - our campsite is pictured, with our French friends sitting in the foreground on our water supply. I hope Chantal and Joel are suitably amused.

Anyway, we settled in, brewed up, watched the storm, enjoyed the symphony of sheep bells as the massive herd wandered past to spend their night in lower climes, and cooked our suppers, etc, etc. 

Dinner is 'Poule et Vermicelles' soup (for 4), with added Coquillettes (pasta) and a large tin of Thon à la Catalane to add a bit of 'meat'. I don't know what Graham's having. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary