Distance: 18 km (Cum: 263 km)
Ascent: 1500 metres (Cum: 13200 metres)
Time taken: 7.1 hrs including 1.2 hrs stops (Cum: 95.5 hrs including 18.7 hrs stops)
Days like this don't come round too often. You remember them for the rest of your life.
El Reyno provided a good breakfast. That and yesterday's good meals put me in a good position to enjoy the long ascent that occupied most of my walking day.
It was another leisurely start, as I'd agreed to wait for Tobi and start after 9.30 if he wanted to join me for the day (he needed supplies and the supermarket doesn't open until 9.30).
In the event Tobi decided to have a semi rest day and walk to Baños de Panticosa via Panticosa, as he was discouraged from the GR11 route via Cuello de Tebarrai by the perceived need for ice axe and crampons.
(Sorry Tobi, I hope you don't shed too many tears as you read on.)
My own plan was to walk beyond Rifugio de Respomuso and camp at Ibón de Llena Cantal (Gibson will be pleased he bought the guidebook). Then I would return the same way on Sunday, continuing on down to Panticosa.
I'd been sorely tempted to buy an ice axe to enable me to go over the Cuello, but in a mixture of emotions I'd been to the ice axe shop and decided to save €100 by sticking to my plan and avoiding anything terrifying.
The path up to the Rifugio follows a largely wooded gorge, past the remains of some old buildings opposite a power station, the hum from which reminded me of a sleep deprived night in Chiesa. Onwards then, up a long V-shaped valley of granite. It was cloudless and hot, but not too humid. I was going well. A runner overtook me then slowed down. Her expression of shock when she was then overtaken by an old man with a backpack was worth the extra few calories expended.
Great Yellow Gentians lined the path as it approached the Respomuso reservoir, above which the path took me to Refugio de Respomuso.
Outside were two chaps talking in English. It's funny how you can go for nearly two weeks and see just one English person (Ian at Zuriza), then you meet someone you recognise. Will had been at Haus Valentin in Badia when we visited last July.
"What are you doing here?"
"Remy and I have just cycled over the Cuello de Tebarrai. We are supposed to be on duty at Collett's in Panticosa in a few minutes, so we'd better get going."
"I didn't realise Cuello de Tebarrai was a 'road pass'!"
"Some things just have to be done..."
And off they went.
So now we have the official view on one hand, condoned by Humphrey's respected opinion, whereby ice axe and crampons are virtually essential for a successful crossing of Cuello de Tebarrai, and on the other hand we have a couple of cyclists (albeit mountain bikers) pedalling over it. Perhaps I'd better take a closer look!
I've already said the weather was stunning, so I had many hours to have a look. After a can of Pepsi at the Refugio and a half hour break I set off again in search of red and white markings. Soon they disappeared under water at the end of the reservoir, and several river crossings were needed. Will and Remy had said I'd get wet feet - I didn't, I had my trusty Saucony Hattori shoes with me.
The path gradually ascended through clumps of butterwort and past marmots covorting across snow patches, to the spot where I'd planned to camp. Someone was using it as a diving board. Further up the hill was a group who had clearly just descended from the Cuello. I went up for a chat. They had come over with no equipment other than their walking poles.
"No problem - easy" they reported.
That's about it. The snow was steep but very soft, not even warranting putting on my Grivel Spider crampons, and the final section of scree was, as predicted by my excellent guidebook, uncomfortably steep. But I was expecting that. There were wonderful views and what may be the high point of this entire trip - 2765 metres - was reached with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.
The predicted 'short unpleasant descent' proved easy, and I was soon romping along an excellent contouring path across moraine above the picturesque Ibón de Tebarrai.
After another Cuello my walking day concluded with a lovely half hour down a huge snow filled coire to this idyllic campsite, and it is in all respects idyllic - no hidden mosquitoes or cows here.
On the way down I encountered Maria and Vincent, a couple from Madrid doing a couple of GR11 sections over the weekend. I have the privilege of sharing this spot with them for the night. They have no tent but in this weather that's not a problem (Will and Remy may have stayed near here last night without a tent), otherwise they seem to have everything they may need.
The sun has gone now (8 pm) but it's still brightly illuminating the mountains to the east. Vincent has a fine camera and is hoping for some good pictures at dawn.
My tent will remain open all night.
Saying goodbye to Tobi
Refugio de Respomuso and the way ahead (to the right)
Ibón de Tebarrai from the contouring moraine path
A truly idyllic campsite
Looking down on the campsite and the descent route from a nearby knoll (can you spot the tent?)
Next Day - Day 14
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