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Excellent alpine day with glacier,
boulders and 2000m descent – 11.25 hours, 18 km, 800m ascent
As our camp was already up at 2400
metres, there wasn’t too much height to gain but the ground was either
boulders, steep scree or glacier.Good
plod up hard snow in early sunshine.Super views of surrounding mountains.Rose to another col before descending for a sunny lunch near Refuge du
Portillon. During the afternoon the path dropped relentlessly into a green,
lake-filled valley with waterfalls, a lovely contrast to the morning’s alpine
scenery.Julie hitched the last 4 km
whilst we used a path to reach the village
of Oô.As the campsite no longer existed, it was a
hotel for the night, and a welcome shower.A long day, but a good one, and some well-deserved beers in the evening.
Diary Entry (by Sue)
if long, day in alpine landscapes with beautiful weather. It was a cool, but
clear morning at our green (from glacier melt) lake, and we were away at 8.15
am, on a rocky path to Lac du Milieu.
It became more bouldery,
then climbed steeply up a scree slope. From the top, our objective was visible
- the Col des
Gourgs Blancs, at the top of a glacier. The glacier wasn't steep, but as it was
early, the snow was quite hard. It was a long plod up, reaching the col at 10.15
am (2877 metres), where we lingered only long enough for a photo, as the wind
Ascending the Glacier des Gourgs-Blanc
Col des Gourgs-Blanc
The steep rocky
descent, we stopped for a mountain mix / chocolate break, trying to work out
which way to go to the next col. Now, there were quite a few folk around, some
with ice axes for the snowfields. From here, the view is rock and snow.
Col du Pluviomètre
was easy to aim for, as the large rain gauge stood out well. We took Georges Véron's
advice and went up the rock spur to the south. More snow, boulders and rock,
and it was reached at 11.30. Excellent views from here, back to Pic Goudon and Pic
des Spijeoles, right off the first col, down to Lac Glacé and Lac du Portillon,
and across to Pic de Perdiguère.
Pic Perdiguère from Col de Pluviomètre
The descent to
Lac du Portillon was hard going, on boulders following cairns, in parts contouring around the
hillside. A nice lunch stop just above the Refuge du Portillon, the three day
old bread being quite acceptable.
Below Lac du Portillon
Here, we leave
the HRP, for a resupply in Luchon, so it is the start of a huge descent for the
afternoon. The path improves, the air warms, and a view of a green valley with
three lakes emerges, after the starkness of the morning's terrain. The path was
wide, well constructed and busy. It descended gradually to Lac d'Espingo, an
area with sheep grazing and people admiring beautiful views.
Views to Lac Saussat and Lac d'Espingo
Taking a break near Lac d'Espingo
From here, a
steeper descent plus the aid of zigzags through trees to the lovely Lac d'Oô ',
a large lake with precipitous walls, and a long waterfall cascading into it.
The Auberge supplied cokes, and we waited for Julie, whose knees were suffering
from the long descent.
on leaving there at 5.30, we still had a few miles to go to reach the village of Oô, where Martin's (old) map showed a
campsite, but Julie's (newer) map didn't. The path widened to a track, and
there was soft green evening light on the hills.
Julie outside the auberge at Lac d'Oô
At the car park,
Julie stopped to hitch. We ate some mountain mix to fend off the hypoglyccaemia
both had felt, then continued on a gently descending path/track.
Oô was lovely - old
cottages, a boules area, river running through, and whilst we were taking all
this in, a car tooted its horn - it was Julie in the back of the hotel owner's
car. She had successfully got a lift from the second or third car past, but the
campsite no longer existed when she got to Oô. So we were all booked into the Hotel
Spigeoles, a family-run place. The hotel owner had spotted us marching past,
and had gone to ask Julie if it was us. The lift was offered when Julie
panicked as she had no shoes on!
By now it was 7.15
pm, and we were ecstatic. There was even a double bed! In no time, we were all
showered and downstairs in the dining-room enjoying a cold beer. The set dinner
was cold meat and salad, then lamb with lots of potatoes, then cheese and ice
cream. It was a well earned one. The sky was still clear, as it had been all
day, when we turned in after 10:30.
Day 27 - Saturday 21 August 2004 - Stage 22 Postcard Summary Barking
dog camp to Lac des Isclots
Back to a typical day in beautiful but
cool weather – 9.5 hours, 18 km, 1500m ascent
An early start from camp, where our
alarms were pre-empted by the barking dogs, then a long, cool haul up to a high
pass, down for a nice lunch, then around a high and exposed (but wide)
contouring path.Eventually arrived at
Lac de Caillaoues, before the final ascent to a beautiful spot by the lower Lac
Des Isclots to camp. A lovely evening.
Diary Entry (by Martin)
the tent at Lac Des Isclots - 2398 metres - in late sunshine with wisps of
cloud blowing across the lake, a full stomach and plenty to drink. What could
Today was a
typical HRP day - woke soon after 6 am to the sound of barking dogs (not
typical) and dozed until the second alarm at 7 am. A poor breakfast - an error
not to buy muesli - fruit and fibre cereal is a poor substitute, especially with
only water to wash it down.
Still, it was a
nice day, if cold, and we set off in fleeces and long trousers (except Julie)
at 8.10. 8°C. Lots of geological interest ahead to the east, with crumpled rock
strata in evidence (the Posets?). We soon passed the Viados hut (8.30), and I
stopped to change into shorts and t-shirt at 9 am, at 1800 metres, to avoid
overheating, then felt cool - it was only 7°C.
Eventually by 10
am, we had reached the junction of three streams, where GR11 heads off east to Estos,
and we head north. We moved back into the sun here, after being in the shade -
2010 metres, 11°C. Very pleasant. So we headed up, as directed by our two
guidebooks, to Port d'Aygues-Tortes (2669 metres).
View from Port d'Aygues-Tortes
Despite it being
a Saturday, we saw very few people today, especially on the Spanish side
(before the Port). Two people dashed past us descending into Spain, and a
couple were lunching at the high tarn. Big views from the col - 12.10. Then we
descended directly and easily, following cairns,
to the Aygues Tortes valley, for a pleasant lunch from 1.00 to 1.50, amongst a
carpet of bright yellow Dwarf Eyebright flowers.
Lunch below Port d'Aygues-Tortes
We ate well
today - the usual two tins of various fish (roe, and mackerel in mustard sauce
today) on a baguette, skilfully carried by Sue, with copious 'mountain mix' and
After lunch we
descended to about 2050 metres, then headed up a well marked path to Pouchergues
before in an easy track around Pic de Quartau, high above the Clarabide valley and
the huge power station at La Soula.
warmed up along this path, after being a really cold day until then. Cloud invaded
our views from the French side, and the mountains were shrouded in it for a few
hours, before, by now (8.15 pm) clearing completely, leaving a wide open view
with a little high cloud and a crescent moon visible from our tent door.
around the track, exposed at times, with the occasional bit of railway line,
and some metal walkways. At one point we even seemed to pass through a house. Eventually
we reached the main path from La Soula and followed it up to Lac Caillauas, a
large reservoir, eerie in the mist. Julie caught up by going across the dam (Sue
and I missed the path). An interesting rocky route in the mist then took us up
to the lower Lac Des Isclots ('lake of little islands') by 5.35 (Julie a bit
later). 2398 metres, 18°C, 768mb.
camping, but we found a good spot and had a relaxing few hours and a good meal
before ordering hot chocolate from Julie (now 8.30) once our diaries had been
Camp at Lac des Isclots (2400 metres)
Julie's feet are
feeling a bit (very sore earlier) better - it was a hard day for her but she
did (just about) keep up! (After a reassessment of her luggage in Bielsa.)*
was wondering whether there would be reference to this. Upset at finding my
Phreerunner tent relegated to the outside of Julie's rucksack, I had insisted
that she dispose of sufficient items to enable the tent to travel inside
her rucksack. Thus several pots and pans and other unnecessary equipment had
been binned in Bielsa... - Ed
Lovely weather for a walk in Spain south
of GR11 – 9.5 hours, 18 km, 1500m ascent
A pleasant stay in the hostel at Bielsa,
but the mountains called, and it was a sunny day.Ate raspberries and strawberries during an
extremely steep climb, but eventually reached a level path with excellent views
of Monte Perdido.Glad to see the
campsite, which provided a welcome cheap beer when we arrived at 7 ish.
Diary Entry (by Sue)
Out of our real beds at 7.40. Breakfast in
the '70's dining room of the hostel, where one wall was a display of stuffed
birds and animals, was toast and cakes, plus some very nice 'café con leche'
- a second cup was requested.
Away at 9.25 am under clear, sunny skies
once more. The first path was lovely - Camino del Cao - well built and with a
nice gradient. Not well used, so somewhat overgrown, and we soon got wet legs
and feet. It led through poplars and oaks, being quite low.
After leaving this path and crossing the
river, the new path climbed more steeply. It was coined 'Raspberry Rise'
because wild raspberries grew in profusion and could be picked and eaten by the
handful, which we did. Also, tiny strawberries were ripe, and bilberries higher
In the damp conditions, many different
varieties of mushroom grew. Ants had piled pine needles against tree trunks to
form giant nests.
After about 300 metres ascent, the path
deteriorated, and we lost the small cairns.
The steep hillside became littered with fallen dead, lichen covered trees, and
in between were areas of fir tree, orchids and raspberries!
At one point we backtracked and tried
again. After a while, we emerged from the trees, in the river valley, to
scramble and climb steeply up grass beside it, crossing over once or twice for
ease. We'd only had one short break, before a lunch stop at 2 pm.
Not the best location, but at least we
were now at the top of the steep section. There were casualties. I lost a sock
that had been drying behind a rucksack strap, Julie a pair of gloves also
strapped to the outside, and the ignition for the stove in Martin's side pocket
was broken, maybe knocked against a tree. Also, very scratched legs for Sue and
Lunchtime outside a shepherd's hut
After a lunch of bread, blue cheese and
tomato, the path contoured round the now treeless hillside, views over Spain beautifully clear.
With the valley now below, it became
clear we had ascended the wrong river valley and should have been further east.
Anyway, the path became obvious now, and gave a good view of Monte Perdido.
After 1000 metres of ascent during the
morning, one more col had to be crossed, after a grassy climb. We reached Colla
de Pardinas around 4 pm, and still had a good distance to go!
For the next two hours, we descended
grassy slopes, grazed by cattle, to join a jeep track that zigzagged widely,
amongst several small dwellings / shepherd's huts.
The late afternoon sunshine on this
verdant valley was lovely. Eventually, the track joined another, and the GR11 path
came in from our left.
Finally, at 7 pm, Camping Forcallo came
into very welcome sight. Until the final kilometre, we had seen no one walking
all day. Paid up and bought tins of beer, which went down very well before we
put the tents up. Dinner was prepared rapidly - cup-a-soup, three cheese pasta
with tuna and frankfurters, and hot chocolate. It soon went dark, so bed was
around 9.15 pm.