The main purpose of this blog is to keep in touch with friends and family, and maybe entertain others with common interests, particularly in relation to the outdoors. We hope you enjoy it, and your comments are valued....
Day 22 - Monday 16 August 2004 - Rest Day in Gavarnie
with view all day. Classic rest day. Julie arrives with lots of luggage
Our well earned second rest day was
really that!Washing was done by 9.30 –
the walking pole washing line worked well for a change.It was a lovely sunny day so we enjoyed a
nice picnic with fresh French bread and, later, beers in the shade when it
became unbearably hot by the tent.Julie
and a huge amount of luggage disgorged from a bus around 6pm, and we had
another nice meal out.
Diary Entry (by Sue)
Second rest day in
3 weeks - hoorah! During the night, some rain, lightning and thunder, but a
dry, clear morning.
By 9.30 all
washing was done, made difficult due to the availability of cold water only. A
successful washing line was constructed, then improved by adjusting its direction,
so the washing was at 90 degrees to the sun.
The morning soon passed in the vicinity
of the tent. The supermarket provided a filling lunch of baguette, goats
cheese, pâté de foie and tomatoes, then a repeat visit restocked the larder for
the next couple of days.
Julie is due after 6, so this gives time
for postcards, reading etc. This is a great place to spend a day - from our
camping 'terrace', we look down on Gavarnie in
one direction, and have the Cirque in the other direction.
Through the binoculars, occasional
glimpses of people on the ridge before Le Taillon can be seen. A yellowhammer
visits to eat bread crumbs during lunch. Below, a continual trail of people and
mules proceeds up and down to view the Cirque from closer quarters.
Over a beer, I finish 'The Life and Times
of Michael K', that I've had to
ration before sleep each night, as it could be read in a single sitting. Good
recommendation, thanks Helen! It has now been posted back in the hope that
Julie is bringing another book.
We doze/write postcards by the tent,
which is still almost too hot compared with the shade under the trees by the
café. Soon, time to walk to meet Julie's bus, which arrives on time at 6.10 pm.
We get her settled at the campsite and return to eat at the same restaurant as
last night. Another very nice meal. As we find out way back to the tents in the
dark at 10 ish, flashes of lightning can be seen. This is the precursor for a
long storm overnight.
Day 21 - Sunday 15 August 2004 - Classic
Ascent of Le Taillon, 3144 metres
walk from the campsite at Gavarnie
Classic ascent of Le Taillon (3144m) via
Cirque de Gavarnie, Échelle des Sarradets and Brèche de Roland, returning via
Plateau de Bellevue – 10.25 hours, 18 km, 1800m ascent
Today we took a single ‘day sac’ on this
classic ‘amble’.This involved an early
start – 7.30 – and quite a steep scramble early in the day.By midday we had reached the Brèche, arguably
one of the natural wonders of Europe.Then we went to Le Taillon, 3144 metres,
meaning we climbed up nearly 1800 metres from the campsite.….And down again, with superb views of the
Cirque.The weather was absolutely
brilliant and this walk is a class act.It was great to have a day without a big pack, and whilst Martin was
concentrating hard on the scrambling, Sue was leaping over the rocks, admiring
the edelweiss.From our summit lunch
perch we could see to Vignemale and well into Spain,
including towards the OrdesaCanyon, the largest canyon in Europe.The day was made complete by a superb hot
shower (the first for three days) and a nice meal in view of the Cirque.
Diary Entry (by Martin)
After a quiet
night by the Frenchman who doesn't snore, we were into action early, and left
the site for the Cirque at 7.25 on another beautifully clear day. Soon Sue
spotted a tree creeper, and the path through the woods to the Cirque was lined
with agrimony, mullein, monkshood, etc, and paved with pony poo on which
colourful dung beetles were on display.
After The Hôtel du Cirque, which looked
completely shut pending arrival of the first day trippers, the path went up to
the distinctive groove known as Échelle des Sarradets.
We swapped the sac over for the second time
(200 metre - of ascent - stints with a 'day' sac) and I carried it up this
exposed 'natural staircase' whilst Sue ambled up, observing edelweiss and ramonda
on the way.
Near the top we
met a huge group of people clumsily descending. We were grateful to our early
start for avoiding them on the tricky section. All the time the sun was
gradually peeping over the Cirque, but we knew it wouldn't illuminate the
highest waterfall in Europe (423 metres) until
A welcome trail
mix and chocolate stop at the top of the scramble prepared us for the
delightful, solitary, walk up to Refuge de la Brèche, where we joined hordes of
people who had started from a nearby car park, for the snow and scree ascent up
to the Brèche de Roland - it must be one of the 'Natural Wonders of Europe'.
Once at the top
of this remarkable geological 'gap' we looked in awe at the towering rocks -
our cameras didn't have wide enough lenses - and continued westwards towards Le
Taillon. It was much cooler higher up, but t-shirts and shorts sufficed until
the 3144 metre summit was reached, whereupon an extra layer was used. Fantastic
views - one man had his map completely out, blowing in the wind, so that he
could identify some of the many landmarks in view.
looked tremendous. We saw campers high up on the Spanish side of the mountain.
We found a
sheltered spot by an eccentric Frenchman (hood/mobile phone/sumptuous meal/full
kit) to enjoy the rest of a three day old baguette and our last tins of
sardines and tuna.
A pleasant half
hour with huge views all around on a wonderful day. Then easily down - met an
English family below the Brèche, and soon left the hordes, to descend slowly
and pleasantly to the Plateau de Bellevue (wonderful flowers, and views of the
Cirque) and on to Gavarnie by 5.40.
That's 10 hours
and 25 minutes for the leisurely circuit. Plenty of time to shower, change,
pass the time of day with English car campers and adjourn to Les Cascades for
an excellent meal accompanied by views of the Cirque and the sound of Tubular
Bells. Salads, turkey (S), rabbit (M), and the last two pieces of Gateau du
Just a few more pictures to amplify Sunday's posting. Click on any image to get a better version/slideshow.
The picture above shows the swimming and aqua centre, where no photos were taken due to the risk of moisture damage. Not to say that no damage was incurred, as one of my ears is still inundated....
We arrived in our chalet for eight plus Oscar the dog on Friday, and Sue, Jacob and I enjoyed a brief excursion to Penrith parkrun on Saturday morning - reported here.
At some point during the weekend, some kind person took the following group picture.
The sports hall is pretty vast. At the back of the left side of the following shot are some squash courts, one of which has been adapted to host some family games that were great fun.
Outside, Jess enjoyed an 'off road' experience. She seems to like driving.
Football Pool, which Sue and I enjoyed at Sherwood Forest, was a winner here.
Mike and Sarah enjoyed frequent visits to the Pancake House, from which there's a good view over the lake. A close up lens may have spotted some of the red squirrels that live in this forest.
Short tennis tested Jacob's ball skills.
There was some more driving for Jess, this time without the aid of an electric motor.
"Look no hands" - Kate was busy teaching advanced driving skills to the five year old.
Jacob went high.
As did Sue.
The go-karts were a popular choice.
Golfing took place. The winner is holding the trophy!
More ball skills, with Mike demonstrating his expertise with the small bat.
By now, and after numerous activities not captured on film - aqua sports, owls, massages, gym, etc etc, it was Monday afternoon - time for a final visit to the flumes, rapids and canyon of the pool before joining the homeward bound queues on the M6 motorway.
It's that time of year. A five minute walk from home to the Bridgewater Canal towpath leads to a rich crop of blackberries, and other berries should they be preferred, and it takes about half an hour to collect a kilo or two of fruit.
I know we aren't the only people taking advantage of this plentiful free food, but every day there's a newly ripened crop, so for a few weeks there's enough for everyone - and more than enough for anyone with long arms...
Postcard Summary Lake
with long name at top of LutourValley to Gavarnie –
1 day early
Great views of Vignemale, some scrambling
– 10 hours, 20 km, 600m ascent We have returned all too quickly to
civilisation, in the form of the village
of Gavarnie.We are camped next to some French youths who
are producing illicit smells.After a
cold night at our isolated camp at 2360 metres, we scrambled up to a high pass
with Gentians and fine views of the highest mountain in the area. People were
ascending the glacier leading to the summit, like ants in the distance.Then we had a long descent down another
beautiful valley with views of the Brêche de Roland in the distance, and
crossing a couple of small snowfields.Now psyching ourselves up for a big day out tomorrow, by imbibing beers.
Diary Entry (by Sue)
It was a cool,
but clear morning at our lake camp and as we packed up, two fishermen arrived!
Got off at 8.30 to continue climbing, and the sun was soon on us. A twisty
route, but well marked up via a series of clear lakes. In parts, quite scrambly,
including a short traverse of a narrow ledge.
A few sheep
seemed surprised to see us. The flowers were good, particularly near the col,
where Martin spotted our first spring gentians. Lots of thrift amongst the
Apart from the
two fishermen, the first people we saw were at the Col des Gentianes at 2660 metres. This was a
wide col, giving excellent views (see top picture) of Vignemale (3289 metres) and its glacier, up
which quite a lot of people were walking, on an obvious path. Through
binoculars, people could be seen on top, and also on the lower Petit Vignemale*.
A brew and some
chocolate here was intended to generate some energy that both of us lacked this
morning, despite the brilliant weather. There were gentians.
On the descent,
the reflection of Vignemale in the Lac des Gentianes was worth a slight detour
off the steep, cairned route.
from a spring by means of a tent peg as a funnel. Soon, our small path joined
the motorway path that leads up to the Bayssellance Refuge, the one used by the
Vignemale climbers, which is on the HRP, but which we'd bypassed due to our diversion
More descent, including
over a couple of patches of snow, and lots of people climbing up. By now, it
was beginning to warm up - despite the cloudless sky the air had been cool. By
the path, clumps of irises, banks of thistles, and carpets of moss campion.
In the distance,
our first view of the Brèche de Roland, a notch in the horizon.
As I stop to
photograph the irises, Martin watches a marmot crossing a patch of snow, just
as we'd seen a sheep doing on our earlier ascent. Managed to find some shade
under a rock for lunch, next to the roaring river. Bread and fish.
As we continued
down the valley, a yellow helicopter made two journeys up and down. Picked a
small handful of raspberries, as they were plentiful lower down - small but
The view towards Gavarnie
came and it was to descend into Gavarnie on GR10
rather than climb on the HRP onto a potentially difficult ridge.
Looking back to Vignemale
So, down we
went, to find a pitch on the southern campsite in the village, next to a small
tent, which we correctly assume belongs to the Frenchman we met at Refuge Pombie.
Dinner on the
campsite - soup and garlic croutons, pasta with tuna and tomato and green
pepper sauce, supplemented tonight with a couple of chocolate mousses. Chatted
with an English couple camping adjacent, also with a Hilleberg tent. They had
tested theirs in Snowdonia at New Year, and it withstood wind well!
Walked down the
road a bit for a couple of beers before bed, part of the psyching up for a big
day tomorrow on the Cirque de Gavarnie and a classic ascent of Le Taillon. Bed
around 10 ish. Owls to be heard in trees near campsite.
and route (Viewranger): 20 km, 950 metres ascent, 10 hours
* Martin climbed this in 1995 with Dave Scruby and Martin Whittle, perhaps also with Kate and Helen.