Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 25

 
Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
 
Day 25 - Thursday 19 August 2004 - Stage 20

Postcard Summary
Barroude to Bielsa
Nice morning going downhill, then a rainy road – 6.25 hours, 17 km, 300m ascent
The sun rose beautifully red against the great wall of Barroude this morning….shepherd’s warning!  There were still gales after a windy night.  Just as well our plan was for an easy walk down to Bielsa.  We arrived in a storm at 2.30, after a nice walk until lunchtime.  For the second time in three days we had to spread solid butter onto solid baguettes softened only by the driving rain (and of course the mackerel in mustard sauce).  Then the walk along the road to Bielsa was especially horrid when we went through a dark tunnel.  At least it wasn’t raining there.  Then Sue did a superb job by finding the last available room in Bielsa.  Our room for three resembles a laundry but doesn’t smell so nice!  But it’s now picture postcard clear outside, and we are hoping for some sun tomorrow.

 
 
Diary Entry (by Martin)
The tent withstood the night's buffeting, which continued during breakfast. Opening the tent brought the unexpected view of the wall of Barroude lit deep red by the rising sun. A most impressive sunrise, but it soon passed and was replaced by a grey, overcast day.
 
We had aimed to be away by 8.30, but were ready to go by 8.15 and climbed quickly to the Port de Barroude (2535 metres) from our camp at 2370 metres.
 
 Looking back to the Wall of Barroude and the Refuge de Barroude

Julie then started the descent to Bielsa whilst Sue and I found suitable places for ablutions. The wind made burning the toilet paper very difficult. 

 We spotted deer on the port, and izards on the Spanish side. The path descended pleasantly, and the weather held good. A brew up at 2000 metres succeeded after the first pan of water fell over. We had just enough left for Sue and me to enjoy hot brews. Julie doesn't do brew stops. 

 Soon afterwards we met some Spanish day walkers bumbling about, not sure where they were or where they were going. I asked to see their map so that I could help. They didn't have one. I told them to go back down and get proper equipment. Sue was more polite! And so, we headed on down, finally by a pleasant track through woods with huge flat mushrooms and some chunky yellow mushrooms looking enticingly edible, to the end of the track, which then joins a main road.

 At the end of the track was a notice sternly requiring walkers to be properly equipped - that made me feel much better about being rude to the Spaniards.

 
 
At 12 noon it was just too early for lunch despite being a pleasant spot. So we headed off down the A138 towards Parzan and Bielsa. It soon started to rain, and waterproofs were donned for the second time today. I swapped my recently donned trainers (used for road walking) back to boots. The rain intensified, but just before Parzan it eased and we stopped for lunch in the rain. For the second time in three days I found myself spreading solid butter onto solid baguettes, in rain, with fish roe and mackerel in mustard sauce to spread on them. Quite tasty actually, and much nicer than the effort on the way to Héas, which was horribly cold and more torrential.
 
Soon afterwards we splashed our way to a welcomingly dry tunnel. But the footpath here was very narrow and the traffic and fumes were horrid. It got dark and the pace slowed. None of us wanted to trip off the kerb into the path of a juggernaut. Eventually the light reappeared and we emerged into even more torrential rain, finally leaving the main road to negotiate a 'river' road into Bielsa village. Deluge. Julie and I sheltered in the very spacious church porch whilst Sue spent half an hour finding the last room in Bielsa.
 
 
Brilliant.
 
And so.... washed and clean we restocked for three days then adjourned to La Tarrazeta for an excellent meal. A late night - after 10 pm. Bielsa - nice little holiday village.
 
Stats and route (Viewranger):
18 km, 300 metres ascent, 6.25 hours
 
 

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 24

 
Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
 
Day 24 - Wednesday 18 August 2004 - Stage 19

Postcard Summary
Free camp with geese to Barroude
Cool, cloudy day high in mountains – 6.3 hours, 11 km, 1200m ascent
A cool day today, good for walking but not for photos, as quite cloudy.  We managed to go a bit quicker after Julie ate some of her luggage, and we arrived at the Barroude mountain hut by 3pm.  We are not supposed to set up camp until 7pm, so are malingering here in the meantime.  It’s too cold to be outside.
Some long climbing today, but the zigs and zags are so long you almost forget it’s a zigzag path – some bare scree to climb and descend, then a walk beneath the Barroude wall, a huge chunk of rock.  The hot chocolate here is great, and served in large bowls, better than our tepid brew at lunchtime today.
 

 
Diary Entry (by Sue)
Chilly early hours, despite only being at 1500 metres, so ignored 6.45 alarm until 7. Rain during the night, but none now, so we pack outside.
 
We leave the free campsite at 8.30, in cloudy, breezy conditions, and climb the zigzag path immediately next to the site. Héas shrinks as we climb. (Pictured above.)
 
The valley is attractive, with small waterfalls and few people. The sun comes and goes, but long trousers are needed due to the cold wind.
 
Pass the small 'Oratoire de Sainte-Famille', where a cow is drinking from the spring! The narrow path is very 'walker friendly' and winds up in very gentle zigzags for a long way - the ascent is 1100 metres.
 
 
Finally, we cross scree before arriving at the Hourquette de Héas at 2608 metres around 12 noon, where a new view opens up, and we see clear blue sky to the north east over France.
 
The descent from the col was down steep, bare scree, but it was short and sharp. Had lunch from 12.30 - tepid brew from last of gas in a cylinder, and bread with pâté/mackerel in mustard sauce.
 
Blue sheep are inquisitive until the shepherd moves them on. Another climb, to the Hourquette de Chermentas (2439 metres), and another new view. Then a pass crossing the scree slopes below big rock walls, contouring round to the Barroude wall, a huge wall dominating the valley. Lots of people have walked up to the Refuge Barroude, which soon comes into view.
 
Reach the refuge at 2.50 pm, too early to bivouac, so it's bowls of hot chocolate inside, and some postcards/ route planning/ diary writing. Outside the wind is strong and cool, and it's cloudy. We pitch the tents at about 5.30 pm, in the least windy spot we can find near the smaller lake.
 
 
There are strong gusts occasionally, so all the pegs are used. Dinner is asparagus soup with added chorizo sausage that turns it an apricot colour, then pasta with tuna, chorizo and a red wine sauce - successful. Nice hot chocolate to finish with, and it's after 8 pm. Still heavy skies but no rain. We bed down around 9 pm, with strong gusts still battering the tent.
 
Stats and route (Viewranger):
13 km, 1400 metres ascent, 6.3 hours
 
 

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Sunday 1 September 2019 - A Bike Ride to Bolton and Bury

 
This was a bike ride with Richard and Jenny, in celebration of Richard's 35th birthday. Sue was also invited, and we assembled on the canal towpath outside 'The Bridge', by Dane Road. A passer-by kindly took the picture shown above.
 
We chose the Bolton/Bury route that I've cycled on 10 June and on 29 July, as described in earlier postings here and here.
 
It's a long, gentle incline from Monton up the loopline to Bolton, so a well positioned bench after 20 km offers an opportunity for a welcome break.
 
 
As on previous occasions, and despite it being Richard's birthday, we eschewed the delights of Starbucks (on the route as it leaves Bolton) and continued through Moses Gate Country Park to join the towpath of the disused Bolton, Bury and Manchester Canal.
 
In places the sweet scent of Himalayan Balsam was almost overpowering.
 
We paused on the Meccano bridge to view the disused locks that were once busy with passengers heading to Manchester from Bolton and Bury.
 
 
Lunch was enjoyed, despite a shower of rain, on a Meccano picnic bench the other side of the bridge. Richard was given a birthday present that took a bit of a hammering here, and may not have survived the day.
 
 
Leaving the canal near Sunny Bank Mill, on the outskirts of Radcliffe, we soon joined good tracks that follow the course of the River Irwell into Salford. We passed some attractive small reservoirs in Prestwich Forest Park.
 
 
 
After a short section of road, our route crossed an attractive footbridge across the River Irwell, before muscling its way through Salford to re-join the Bridgewater Canal towpath near Castlefield.
 
 
The showers started to merge into each other, and Sue had to be coaxed from under several bridges, but we did eventually make it home, just a little damp, after leaving R and J to find their own way home from Sale, before gorging themselves on the fudge from Liverpool.
 
Here's the route I took on 10 June - repeated today apart from a short section in Salford that I got wrong in June. Click on the image for a better version. From Timperley it's about 57 km, and takes 4 to 5 hours.
 
 
An excellent ride. Thanks for your company, everyone.
 

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 23

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)
Gavarnie to Héas
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