Descending towards Lac des Gloriettes
Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Day 23 - Tuesday 17 August 2004 - Stage 18
Postcard Summary (on yesterday's card)
Very slow walk in atrocious weather – 8.25 hours, 18 km, 1150m ascent
A complete contrast to yesterday’s weather, today being our worst day for weather yet. At least we had been forewarned by the forecast in
Gavarnie. We battled our way through driving rain up to
2,430 metres and back down again to Héas.
It was very slow as Julie is not properly equipped for this sort of trip
and has things she doesn’t need. Luckily
the next two days are short ones.
Diary Entry (by Martin)
Intermittent rain overnight. Respite in the morning whilst we packed up, but by 8.15, when ready to go - deluge. Backpackers huddled under a horse canopy and in the washrooms. Torrential rain. A poor start for Julie. It eased and at 8.50 we set off up to Espuguettes.
Limited views of the Cirque due to low cloud, but our route over Hourquette d'Alans (2430 metres) was easy and clear. Another respite, then more torrential rain - this theme continued until 4.30.
Refuge des Espuguettes was reached after 2 hours, but things slowed thereafter. We saw a woman carrying a large puffball. Julie is carrying too much, and has my Phreerunner tent attached to the back of her stuffed full 65 litre rucksack. We ascend at less than 5 metres per minute - a bit of a problem. I go on to the col - 12.00 - and brew up with what water I have. Sue and Julie arrive 20 minutes later and help drink the tea. Sue cold from walking so slowly. Slowest by far of trip to date. Descend to around 2000 metres from the col (Hourquette d'Alans) for a lunch of baguettes and tomatoes and pâté in torrential rain with no shelter. Lots of marmots and wheatears are out laughing at us.
Day walkers in shorts and ponchos zoom past as we drop to Lac des Gloriettes - a lake dammed in 1952. 3.30. From there it's a short road walk down to the D922, where it finally stopped raining, and on up to Héas by soon after 5 pm.
Hot chocolate at the refuge, free camping and nice toilets. Still very overcast, but we were able to cook in comfort, hopefully reducing some weight, and we all enjoyed a full meal. A memory lapse on my part re telling Julie to bring 2 days' food means we overstocked yesterday and are carrying far too much for this section. Even the mountain mix seems to be bulging beyond its original one kilo.
It's a very quiet hamlet, and whilst I write this in fading light, Sue and Julie have gone to look at the local chapel. I am in pain due to a back strain incurred when lifting my rucksack after lunch - it's quite heavy today, and I was cold. We declined a lift on the road down from the impressive looking (from below) dam. The weather at that point was foul. 9 pm and time to turn in. Good views of Cirque d'Estaubé when it cleared - fresh snow high up.
By Sue - Julie and I visited Héas chapel after dinner. Warm, with the scent of candles in different coloured pots. Lovely stained glass windows and cross-shaped chapel. Nearby, a tiny packhorse bridge, beneath which the river was partly diverted, perhaps for irrigation?
Stats and route (Viewranger):
19 km, 1150 metres ascent, 8.25 hours