Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 28

Ascending to Col des Gourgs-Blancs
Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Day 28 - Sunday 22 August 2004 - Stage 23

Postcard Summary
Green lake to Oô (a village)
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 .  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)
A magnificent, 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 was cold.  
 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
 Lac Glace
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
 Trumpet Gentians
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
 Refuge 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.
 Lac d'Oô
Unfortunately, on leaving there at 5.30, we still had a few miles to go to reach the village of , 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!
 Hotel Spigeoles
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.
Stats and route (Viewranger):
21 km, 1700 metres ascent, 9.5 hours

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

On the South West Coast Path (2)

Here's a picture taken on our 2005 trip to the SWCP. Most of that route was undertaken in May - over a period of years - during which the cliff top meadows are laden with Thrift (Armeria maritima).

A delight to behold.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 27

Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
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)
Luxuriating in 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 be better!
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 chocolate.
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.
It suddenly 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.
We progressed 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.

Others were 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 updated.
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.)*
* I 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
Stats and route (Viewranger):
18 km, 1500 metres ascent, 9.5 hours

Monday, 16 September 2019

Please Pass the Salmon....

Thanks to Millie, Mike and Sarah for hosting an excellent 'salmon' meal last night...

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 26

Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Day 26 - Friday 20 August 2004 - Stage 21

Postcard Summary (on tomorrow's card)

Nice hostel to Camping Forcallo
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 up.
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 Julie.
 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.
Weather today was sunny but cool.
Stats and route (Viewranger):
21 km, 1700 metres ascent, 9.5 hours
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