Ascent: 2050 metres (Cum: 24650 metres)
Time taken: 10.8 hrs including 2.0 hrs stops (Cum: 183.2 hrs including 36.3 hrs stops)
Weather: I can't recall in my lifetime having ever experienced such a spell of hot, sunny settled weather. It's lasted well over three weeks now and shows little sign of changing. The closest that I can remember is a cloudless Easter week in Cornwall in the early 1980's.
What a fantastic mountain day. It's days like this that make it all worthwhile. Last night I was sitting in a sauna in my tent composing the day's diary entry. Tonight I stopped an hour earlier, at 6pm, in this idyllic spot with views up to tomorrow's col in one direction, and expansive views back to my route and over France (where there's cloud) in the other direction. The sun won't leave the tent until 9 ish (9.30 actually). I have a shady rock to sit on and a light breeze is controlling the flies.
I made lots of notes today. Perhaps I'll just reiterate them by way of bullet points.
- missed from yesterday
On the descent through woods, lots of cow wheat and round headed? gentians, as well as the tall green variety of gentian.
My bus ride could perhaps be analogous to a TGO Challenger who plans a route along the road from Cannich to Drumnadrochit and decides he may as well go by taxi.
- woke 6.10, away 7.05, a quick departure due to midges and flies. Unusually a bit of dew on the tent.
- after five minutes pass an excellent flat camping spot at 1830 metres. Ho hum.
- strong phone signal, but not for EE (got a signal briefly a bit later, but not for long).
- I'm passing lots of little stakes with 'Epic run' markers.
- shady ascent with flies.
- passed an elderly Spanish backpacker who asked me the way (I can do that - he followed me all the way to the refuge at Restanca).
- managed nearly 400 metres of ascent before the sun got me.
- blinded by the sun, can't really see the way ahead.
- engulfed by flies at every pause.
- reach Pòrt de Rius, chat to two lads. (It was cooler and breezier there, the end of my fly problems for the day. The lads were marshals for the 'Epic run'. It's 105 km, with about 100 participants who started at 6 am. Pòrt de Rius is 27 km along the route.)
- from late yesterday I've been on our HRP route, but I leave it beyond Lac de Rius (I'll rejoin it later for the stage from Restanca to Colomèrs).
- fabulous views of granite mountain scenery (but fewer flowers in the granite landscape).
- I pause for a rest. There's a stillness in the air, just the sounds of dribbling water, twittering birds and buzzing flies.
- 9 am, early clouds are forming. Is the weather changing? (The answer was no, though tonight some cloud rolled up the valley above which I'm camped, then it rolled back out as the sun went down).
- descend to a spring and take a photo of today's provisions! (Later, perhaps - it didn't make the cut.)
- 9.30, two pairs of runners lead the 'Epic run' pack. The next man is 10 minutes behind (about 20 went past, including one lady, before I left the route).
- you weren't expecting this! I'm filmed walking along the path, then I'm interviewed for Spanish TV. My most erudite TV interview ever. Shame nobody will understand a word.
- leave the runners to it and head to the Restanca refuge. 11.30. It appears to be shut until 13.00. Deserted. Continue up to Lac deth Cap de Pòrt for lunch and a foot wash. It's an idyllic spot. I'm back on our 2004 HRP route.
- soon afterwards I pass a sign that indicates I'm roughly half way into stage 23 of this 45 stage walk. And I'm on Day 27 - my train home is on Day 54. All very symmetrical, things must be going to plan.
- lots of people on this beautiful and popular path, many of them intent on climbing to the easy 2833 metre summit of Montardo. After that turn, just a couple of French ladies coming the other way.
- final col of the day, Pòrt de Caldes (2570 metres). 2.30 pm. Meet three Spanish boys. They can't believe how far I've come today.
- yet more fine views ahead. I'm satiated with them today. It's a good job I like long days in the mountains, they don't get much better than this one.
- pause in the sunshine for another foot wash, then pass the new and the sad old refuges at Colomèrs.
3.40 pm - set off up the easily graded path to Pòrt de Ratèra (2590 metres). Take a 15 minute break in the shade of a pine tree before ambling on past where Sue and I camped on 28 August 2004.
- take my time ascending. There's no hurry. Nobody else around after 5 pm. Arrive at the perfect spot just before 6 o'clock. Perfect timing for a leisurely evening.
- excellent spaghetti carbonara
That's it really. The sunset was splendid.
A typical view from today
Gentian common to this granite area. Sue will name it.
Brilliant campsite below Pòrt de Ratèra
Brilliant sunset from campsite