Ascent: 600 metres (Cum: 21250 metres)
Time taken: 8.3 hrs including 1.2 hrs stops (Cum: 162.1 hrs including 32.6 hrs stops)
Weather: sunny and hot, but with a pleasant breeze above 2000 metres
My diversion from the main GR11 route was justified by this morning's superb mountain walk over undulating rocky terrain.
The day started from my campsite that probably wasn't seen from the path, with the opposite of that semi circular bridge way back in the Basque country. This one was 'V' shaped. Much easier than fording the river though.
Which was exactly what I had to do a few minutes later when I turned left off the path to the Refugio and headed towards Collada de la Plana. Nearly all the way to the col the modern Refugio d'Ángel Orús with its semi circular balcony was glowing in the morning sun. Just a small dash of humanity in a vast landscape that I gave up trying to capture with my camera. (It's there in the top picture - I think you get a bigger image if you click on it.)
It was slow going for the entire morning, but not stressful as there were easy rock-hopping sections in between the climbs up and the climbs down where nuisance walking poles could be thrown down a few metres. Much easier than the descent to Pineto on Sunday, on which the discarded poles would have been lost forever.
I had company for an hour or so. Jean-Luc turned up at the 2702 metre Collada and we admired the views back to Posets and ahead to the Aneto massif. He reminded me of myself about fifteen years ago. Coming from Toulouse he's a big fan of the Pyrenees. We discussed the various long distance walking routes, about which more tomorrow. His rucksack was small enough to have the aura of a day sack, but he was doing a six day circular backpack, carrying all his provisions and complaining about being out of condition. He camped further on than I did last night, but he got a later start. His tent must have been in the shade for longer.
The first 500 metres of descent to a lake at 2200 metres was through beautiful rock scenery, on a path that wasn't really a path, just the safest route as indicated by blue dots on occasional rocks.
There was no need to carry much water, thanks to the almost perpetual flow of spring water from Posets.
I made a note that there were no clouds and I surmised they would appear later. They didn't.
For most of the day my left foot, with the troublesome toes, behaved well, wrapped in my spare handkerchief. Last night when washing my feet I'd questioned why one foot should be causing problems and the other was perfectly fine. I shouldn't have. By the end of today the right foot had developed the same, but worse, symptoms. By the time I walked into Benasque at 4.30 both feet felt as if the shoes were full of gravel.
Back at the lake at 2200 metres I got a distant view of total nudity. I couldn't help glancing in that direction when I got closer. It was one of those occasions when the view from a distance over promised. I went back to concentrating on avoiding the lizards and frogs on the path.
The long descent progressed from boulder hopping and rock manoeuvring to a path through lush vegetation with nettles, showing signs of some sort of former habitation at the 2200 metre lake, below which the heat rose but the shade increased as an area of steep pine forest was negotiated. There were quite a few people around. I sat down for a break. It wasn't to be, the rock was too hot.
Further down, the pine gave way to a lovely winding path through beech and birch woods lined with tall thistles and clovers, with the ever present spring water for face washing and drinking.
But the path was not level and however light on my feet I tried to be I could feel increasing soreness in both feet during the 1500 metre descent.
In the sweltering heat I was reminded of the lyrics from a song in 'The Rock Machine Turns You On' compilation, likening things to 'a Chinese wrestler's jock strap cooked in chip fat on a greasy afternoon'. But in my case it is the cheese fat, not chip fat, that has prospective hoteliers running for cover.
I decided not to inflict my smelly persona on any sweet smelling Spanish driver and walked an extra 3 km, leaving GR11 at Puen de San Chaime in favour of the hot and dusty road to Benasque, where Sue had booked me in to Hotel Avenida.
They had the booking but thought it was for two people. Accordingly I was shown to an apartment round the corner from the hotel. It would accommodate six people. It'll do.
The view back to my campsite and yesterday afternoon's descent. Can you spot Refugio d'Ángel Orús?
The view ahead, from Collada de la Plana, with the Aneto massif
Pyrenean Eryngo (Queen of the Alps)
The woodland path near Puen de San Chaime, by way of contrast
Next Day - Day 25
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