Sunday, 18 October 2015

Pyrenean Perigrination Part Five


Well that was a long night....at Fuen Blanca.

Very vivid; but crazy dream about autumnal cycling around Cumbria and Yorkshire in the rain half the time....Who in their right minds.......? Must have been the sound of all those waterfalls.....



There had been some inchoate ideas the night before of yoga, sunbathing, and perhaps even actual bathing itself in, and alongside the cascades, if the morn had brought sun...
It didn't. So may as well move on....



The path out of the gorge is up that way...Where exactly? Well the ever reliable maps says so....






 Now I discover the full extent of OH's committed 'Boy Scoutyness'.
Whilst fossicking about in this walkers hutlet in the gloamin the night before; he had come across....
A perfectly drinkable can of beer deposited by a previous incumbent.... And left it there...

Nope; I don't get it either...
My moral compass obviously needs a complete reset...






Another shelter nearby, this one provided by nature, not certain I'd enjoy sleeping under such a depth of geology... But a pleasing formation all the same.




I guess if you turned up here late, and unprepared, you might be glad of the shelter afforded, and maybe even appreciate the dubious looking detritus in form of old sleeping bags left by previous occupants...





So a reluctant farewell is bid to the idyllic scene... Half hoping the sun doesn't emerge to induce 'waterfall wist'



A bit of map taming origami....





As they say...."Careful what you wist for"....Sky gives up even trying to compete with the gaiters.....



Occasional glimpses down to the gorge bottom through the low cloud...
ĵ
There is probably a support group for compulsive waterfall snappers...









Approach to Mordor....




Ascending into the weather








Come on sunshine....




Quick stop for refreshment, OH's garb blending seamlessly with his surroundings...


This is not looking promising. There had been a plan B of a nearby(ish ) summit..


It was shortly after a scrambly bit here that we came across a young woman (Swiss perhaps?) coming the other way. She had got a weather forecast from the refuge up the valley; and had been advised that if she wanted to complete her route she should push on, as there was foul weather forecast for the next day...

Sadly she was the only solo female walker we came across. But then maybe there were lots of others; higher up doing proper 'rough' stuff...

If we wanted to avoid being stuck this side of the Breche for an extra day, we would need to push on and do it before the end of the day.... So no summits today (small mercies!)





The clouds do the decent thing and lift high enough to see down into the upper end of Ordesa Gorge.

Ordesa runs roughly perpendicular to the Anisclo Gorge that we had left that morning..Not far from here to Goriz Refuge..Where we stopped for 'coffee type product'....Instant...
I know ..."What a snob."

But quite frankly.
What is the point?
Why not just have a half decent cup of tea?

Forecast (and fug) at refuge reconfirms our plans to get into France before dusk...



OK; by now (or perhaps long before this moment) you're probably starting to wonder..

"Is she one of those types who chatters on incessantly?

 So as one can never get a word; let alone a thought in edgeways?"

Well; just to prove that I can do 'companionable silence'.

Let us wander together, with only the wind, the cries of the vultures, and the occasional chirrup of marmots.

Whilst we take in the full grandeur of the geology (that, which we can see) as we approach the base of the climb to our, by now, much anticipated Breche de Rolande.












Semi sheltered lunch stop. Decide to smuggle all the Spanish olives into France.... Intestinally





Good firm footing.....I like this...



This is fine too....If a tad edging towards '1970's Dr Who set ambiance'....
Had plenty enough of that in Welsh Quarries as a child....Mapping trips....




Then as we climb higher, across uncairned (naturally...they will shift) screes; the way becomes less certain.

Compass reassures to some extent; but that does require that you know where you're starting from.

"I wouldn't start from here"

Now; I know I am going to be marked down as a proper 'fussy old curmudgeonly fusspot' but..

There are a very few; narrowly defined; specific circumstances; where I approve of the earth moving for (or under) me.
Rotovating on occasion being one...

If you look more closely at above photo you can see subtle gesturing as to just how happy I am about scaling acutely angled screes in zero visibility clag to reach the....






'Iconic Breche de Rolande'

  Hmmmnnn....?

Curiously we do not linger for 'we made it shots'

In truth; pausing here; for any length of time; in this natural wind tunnel would have flayed more layers of skin, than even the clients of the local spa resorts might be willing to relinquish...

Rain skirt does a 'bit of a Marilyn' on the shortish steepish descent into France.
 But; phew; blushes spared by trews underneath.
And; because, no one in their right minds would be up here in this weather to witness the fun anyhows......

You wouldn't need much imagination, to grasp, just how inhospitable this place would feel if, as many have, you were actually fleeing from a real pursuer.

Rather than just mithering about the rain on ones hol's....

And there is a Glacier to cross next.... Some people advise crampons for this...Oh no! We have none...




Quite possibly, the least spectacular. and unperilous 'crossing a glacier' shot ever to appear on the internet.....A frosty morning in the school yard would present more hazards...
Didn't prevent me however, replying to a text received that very moment with a " Sorry Nat' I was a bit busy crossing a glacier just then"




Gosh what a relief....Glad I had brought my ice axe....





Someone had been having tremendous fun building cairns up here.
Or had the French stolen them from the Spanish side to deter invaders?

A short descent to (It turns out aptly numbered) Pitch 13.....

After 12 km; 1150 m ascent....

The weather wasn't conducive to carrying on for at least another hour to a possible but not faithfully promised pitch.
There was a warm coal fire in the Refuge de la Breche..... Four course meal; sat at a table; was on offer...

Don't generally relish communal sleeping, but..

A complete lack of gnarl.....On my part you understand....Had to consider the options for a whole nanosecond....






Dinner was great, and in good company... A Spanish couple who had walked up here that afternoon, very enlightening on the dire financial straights within which Spain finds itself.... 40% pay cuts for the public sector; she was a hospital doctor.
 And taxes so high, on even setting up a business - regardless of profits, that her husband in IT wasn't going to bother.... Not above the radar at least.

Plus two English writers, one an author, the other a playwright. Bit of research trip going on regarding the history of the area...
 The 'Rolande' of the Breche was a semi mythological figure a la Robin Hood. But a natural high and remote passageway between two countries such as these such as this is bound to generate numerous stories of escape and escapade.

Some of these tales being purely 'facts' and some; perhaps like this one; 'artefacts'.


Bunkette would have been fine were it not for the 'Vente de Pissoir' coming through the door right next to my nose; all night from the toilet that perchance got cleaned at the end of each and every season....Whether it needed it, or not.

That of course combined with that "Oh so slumber inducing lullaby" supplied by the sounds of others enthusiastically enjoying a good nights repose.

Worst night of 'no sleep' that I have ever paid for..






The next morning. The weather had not improved its climatic mood. nor could mine, be described as 'fair' neither....
Sleep deprivation is routinely used as a means of torture; due no doubt to it's total efficacy...

Us table companions formed an impromptu expeditionary group, as we were all heading, initially at least. in the same direction...






The next hour or so would have provided ample material for an afternoon radio play...Wouldn't work on the screen - bugger all to see....

Three couples; each with their self appointed 'team leader'. No one totally sure where the path is... Plenty cairns here but they can't all be the true way.....Big edgy drops;  an uncomfortably frigid river crossing; swollen from the previous nights downpour and fed by a fast melting glacier..
Perhaps leading to a path on the other side...
 Do these cryptic rock daubed hieroglyphs mean "Come this way?" or " No no! Don't come this way"..........Nice; if that's your thing.

Sorry not too many shots of that bit - again hands a bit busy elsewhere.
 Plus far too wet to get my lovely new camera out...





Needless to say we weren't swept over a cliff edge by a 'Raging Torment' (a la William Brown)
But we do look quite pleased to be on something resembling a path. Farewell shot; as our disparate group dissipates...


OK confession time now....On really very few occasions OH is made the object of lampoon on account of his everso slight 'Boy (man?) Scouty' "I know best" tendencies in these situations...

And I can't claim to be last in line; when it comes to joining in the gentle leg pulling... But; in this instance I don't think I was alone in appreciating his cautious, but confidently competent approach to the business of getting us all onto a firm footing....




He's right though you know; I do throw my right pole out too wide sometimes.
 I could hear above the buffeting wind; the loud tuts from our erstwhile companions; as they witnessed my inept womanhandling of the equippage.



And now? ....Quelle horreur!.... The left!







It was very windy; so much so that I got blown over twice as we descended the valley towards Gavarnie..

The worst part of those mishaps being that OH didn't get to enjoy; let alone record; that universally comedic moment of; someone else falling over....

Will try to give fair warning next time so as not to risk being accused of being a total 'fun sponge'....


It's definitely brightening up, but the wind keeps it up too. Wouldn't mind but there wasn't even any laundry to dry....

I need to get to know my mushrooms better....These look eminently edible...But....
And look who won in the 'my gaiter for scale' competition'...

Brighter again; and; is that a potential hut for a brewstop down there?




There is something about being in a constant blast that really does fray the nerves... That and being constantly assaulted both aurally and olfactorily all night...

Thinking about it afterwards I could have turned round and slept head to toe.. I could have moved up a 'shelf' but...

I had cracked some "Oh so droll" joke about 'bed hopping' at table the night before; to people who didn't know me........

That'll learn me.....

Not.



The refuge cabin was already overstuffed with french youth, hiding from the weather.
I can't quite remember the stat' but apparently the murder rate does rise appreciably when the Mistral in Southern France is blowing.

Those youngsters don't know what a narrow escape they had.....
We struggled through their assorted forms to a pitch black side room.... Stove pic' taken with flash, could easily have been a gaiter shot but perhaps you can have too much of a good thing?

Instant coffee, was welcome for warming up, not so much of an ingrate....






Youthlets; eventually spilled out; leaving lots of comfy looking bedding; Ooo I could just lie down here; and snooze for a bit....

But the path calls; seen here through the tiny window, as it croons the tune of the constant breeze..

"These high wide hills, and rough uneven ways, draw out our miles and make them wearisome"

Richard III

Get the feeling The Bard wasn't too keen on hillwalking.... But then he didn't have a lightweight tent; and pretty pink gaiters.....



As you may discern from the 'all garments deployed' styling; weather still tending towards barmy rather than balmy....Maybe go even further south next year?




Getting ever closer to Gavarnie, and a towards a first viewing of the famous 'Cirque de'. At the aptly named, if the visibility is good, 'Plateau de Belle Vue' here on the well trod GR10.





Thank you clouds for lifting your skirts and giving us a peek.....Some phenomenal forces must have scooped out this feature.




Meteorological top tip......
How to know if its still a bit windy out...?

Local waterfalls can be seen to be travelling, in part at least, uphill



Gavarnie, longstanding mountain resort, pastiche Alpine style, pony rides, tat shops, looks like Kenny's here already....
But also good dinners and hot showers, I am a proper 'luxe bunny' when it comes to them.... And don't get me started on deep baths.... 

Pitch 14 Gavarnie campsite, the gentleman in question appears to have a waterfall descending upon him....You guys just keep ogling the tent... I'm rather more drawn by the old stone barn in the background....


After 13km, (felt more like 33 into that wind) 60m ascent (all downhill - poor knees)


Inching closer to barn; on pretext of capturing still gravity defying cascade....


I don't give a fig for your modern cars; (just as well given my budget) but whatever; they just don't build them this cute anymore...



We had been recommended this eaterie by the guide met at the refuge the night before. Gite d'Etape de Gipette...Locally sourced food, run and cheffed by the owner, who is obviously deeply in love with his cooking.....

Me gusto?.... Gusto! (wrong country I know; but they're pretty much bilingual this close to the border)



Our table companions that night .. Singaporean, Ling and BK, who were staying at this most hospitable place.
We all shared and troughed with enthusiasm, the prodigious quantities of quality nosh, but still couldn't finish it all...

At their insistence we took home the residue of bilberry cake for breakfast...




This is more like it. Forecast is set fair for the next few days......



Not only do we get icing sugar dusted sponge for breakfast... But snow dusted Cirque top too... Lovely...



Perhaps I should explain here more general reader, but I do have to pander to certain niche tastes ; ; ; .
 Interior tent shot; showing potential crevice through which bugs might have entered. thankfully there are precious few of the blighters here...I probably caused this through inappropriate laundry dangling....



Cripes! It would also appear a pitching malfunction has arisen....

Discuss possible causes...

But not with me...

"I know nothing of these matters"

 Perhaps go over there and do it...With them...

But yes; lets have a cup of tea first.....






Plastic bag toting hayseed, with just stepped out of the 'Hedgebackwards Salon' barnet, ruining perfectly nice view...

How come the river is so white?

We do not know....General ignorance shocker... Can anyone enlighten?




Departing Gavarnie now for the next leg...It was shortly before this that OH attempted entry into the Ultralight Hikers Club.

By leaving his 'for best' (who knew???) underpants hung up on an electric fence....
Laundry darlings... He wasn't wearing them at the time....

Hope none of the local cattle found them...

 And choked......


A statuesque Madonna oversees the activities of a local pylon maintenance crew... Lord only knows how much aviation fuel this operation takes. They'd been at it all morning...



This new calf, was only just born in the last few minutes, but already on its feet and nuzzling for food.

Farming is often held up as a laudably noble occupation.
But really; all we're trying to do; even us vegetable farmers; is to make a profit out of sex and death...

Small wonder my moral compass needs resetting...





Ascending to higher geographical; if not moral ground. Heading towards Barraco D'Ossue, still on GR10, when we can find it..... Just one last look at the 'in fine fettle' herd.


Losing track now; but I think this might be 'unsuccessful fuzzy marmot shot #32'


Hairpins hinge across the slope; if I had to go by vehicle would far rather drive them; than be driven... Might be a control thing?



'Atkins Diet' Taken to its illogical conclusion... No doubt something has feasted on her... And so the molecules go ever spinning onwards.....We must make the most; none of us are here nearly long enough...




Mmmm more pointy bits to enjoy. It definitely has an Alpine air this valley, in both senses...






More unskilled pointing at peaks...But alfalfa sprouting enthusiastically.....






Good to see unfussy juxtaposition of 'ancient and modern' Both forms thoroughly utile in their way; and in their proper place...Cattle holding pen; cattle handler refuge close by...


Bah.... Locked.... No coffee



Valley narrows; as I scan for level pitches; it's too early to camp yet surely? Yes but.......


Starting to feel the effects of nearly two whole days without anything approaching a proper yoga practice... I will shrink... Crumble.. Bones will end up in improper places...

So sparing too much posturing; the full programme will go on my "No excuses for not practicing when you're away" post for my yogis...
Yes; yoga students really can be referred to as such..... I know.....unbearably droll...



Ustrasana "The camel" ...Rather pleasingly counteracts the effect of carrying a load...

Urdhva Dhanurasana, for the upper back, and chest....Achieving the pose is all about the leg work...But why would you not want more lung capacity?

If you sliced me in half (many have been tempted, over the years, I'm sure) It would say "Iyengar Yoga" through the middle.

Please don't try any of this stuff at home - or in the hills - folks; without some proper instruction... And no prizes for guessing what flavour of teacher I would recommend....For no nonsense 'cosmic wafting free' putting stuff back where it should be bodywork....

We actually infest all corners of the globe... And if you're in the UK, there is a postcode 'find your nearest teacher' facility on our website...'

And before anyone starts up with "I'm too old for all that nonsense" One of my yogis (yes haha) started with me at the age of 70....14 years later? Still going strong.

Ooooo; ow! Pyrenean needle grass; living up to it's name.....



And look!

We may have visited these hills after the main showing of purty flowers has gone over....Would undoubtedly be nice to come then; but it coincides with lots of work on the farm....

But still; gaiter tomato combo doing its best to brighten the scene...

And for now?

That will have to be it 'til the weather here uncheers itself again; and I let myself off field work to  beaver away at the final instalment of our perigrinations...

Might they actually go up a proper hill? Rather than skirt the passes; and dally in the valleys?

Plus I'm not so badly brought up to talk with that much bread and cheese in my mouth...



Phew,.... This might do it.


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