So; found a soft tussock to perch atop for lunch.....The needle grass hereabouts has earned its name;
it can get at you through the tent groundsheet; on occasion.
Then onwards; and upwards.
The previous two days rain and snow were brim filling the local streams and waterfalls. To have said it was moist underfoot; would have be an understatement.
Rock hopping required in some places to avoid the squelch....
As it makes it's snakey way up the valley; the path appears to get a wiggle on just for fun.
Until you realise it is making for realistic stream crossing points. Even now late in the season attempting to ford; could give a good soaking..
Perfectly serviceable; but you wonder how often these bridges have to be replaced?
Every spring; after snow melt?
|Muuuuuum!,,,,,Looks like a very young lamb for this time of year....Some extra curricular 'work' undertaken by the Ram pehaps ?|
Those poor boys do have a hard life...
|There you are...!|
The route required that we cross the stream somewhere in this vicinity. Despite best efforts to stay on top of the rocks both feet end up soaked.
My 'Marsh Wiggle*' companion claims he doesn't mind having wet feet; all day; for days on end.
Its the price you may pay for wearing otherwise eminently sensible, and comfortable lightweight trail running shoes. And anyway once its over the tops; even if you're wearing boots; its in.
But I have come to suspect he actively likes his largeish pedal extremities soggy; he also shares the long limbs and on occasion the pessimistic outlook of C.S. Lewises' kindly intentioned but oft lugubrious character...
* 'google time' for some....
And suspicions confirmed; because, a moment later, just after the involuntary foot bath..... 20 yards further on.....
"Oh look a bridge; that we could have used".... How I laughed...
The afternoons here often bring clouds... Today is no exception...And the streams just keep on streaming..
But we are headed up there; the pass Hourquette de Ossoue might be crossed before days end...
|Another 'cascade on head' shot|
|Well regulated, falling water.|
|Barrage d'Ossoue. Is it rock precipitate that makes the water so milky?|
|Getting a tad sardonic about my waterfall snapping?.....Whereas endless tentage depictions?....Perfectly reasonable.|
|Gaining height, looking back towards the dam..|
|Permanent 'snow biscuit' straddling the stream suggests the sun doesn't strike here often, and that we are fairly high up...|
The path is like this most of the way up; but in some places ; narrower; steeper; crumblier; and more 'edgy'. But after over a week in the hills it feels comfortable enough.
Then; just when you're starting to feel reasonably acclimatised, 'getting on with it' even...
A gentleman saunters past (at twice our pace); pretty much hands in pockets; like he's just nipped out to the shops for a paper.......Maybe he has? He may work in the refuge at the head of the Valley...
Like anything; it's what your used to doing...The 10.000 hours may be a nominal figure but putting the time in; is pretty much the only way; to make something a bit tricky look easy....
|Wet feet, and quite hungry despite snack stops, doesn't make this particular bunny very happy. Pass making ambitions curbed.|
Precipitating Pitch; 15 after 14km, 1350 m ascent..
There are very few flat spots up here big enough for a tent. But they are helpfully indicated by low stone windbreaks where patches have been cleared. Soil so thin as to require some pegs be secured by rocks.....
Seem to recall I wasn't much help with this pitch.........Despite having worked outdoors; all year round; all my life; there are temperatures below which I start to be fairly useless. ...Insulated wellies and dry feet get my vote.....
|'In camp drill'.... Spare dry socks on....Plastic bags over dry socks....Wet shoes back on....Mmmmm claggy......But preferable to hypothermia.|
We had three guests that evening... Little round grey mice...One here just by the water bottle....They obviously know the 'in camp drill' ..
Wait til new residents get settled: then investigate their rations.....
Too cute to resist offering them crumbs of that nights cous cous....Couldn't really spare them any kale though...Had to hang up the food, to prevent rustling from plastic bags......
|Clear skies combined with the elevation; meant that it was a chilly night; really didn't regret carrying those extra layers.|
I think it was here where 'someone' made one of those petulant 'taking it all a bit for granted complaints'.....
"It's not fair; you can see a mountain out of your side of the tent; I've only got three waterfalls"
Whoever got the best view; there was a convincing enough frost on both sides of the tent in the morning; and a lovely pinky glow coming over the tops...
|And in addition; our 'high camp' reward....The nose of an inversion.....|
|Brrrrr......Hard to leave a down bag in these temperatures but.....|
|Early birds' catch...|
|A bit like waterfalls ..... Hard to resist....|
The 'gap tooth' slot cut into the skyline two thirds from the left is the 'Breche de Rolande' above Gavarnie....Destined only to be espied from a distance.... This trip.
|The point is... You can just stand and stare... Otherwise why make the effort to come here?|
|But at the same time; one can always envision new horizons.|
Getting closer to the pass, fabulous morning, lucky to be doing it with this much visibilty. If we had gained the pass the night before; we would have missed this.
|Still frost on the table top, by the Refuge Bassellance half an hour on, from camping spot.....|
|Interesting roof design; good for shedding snow; and almost qualifies as 'wiggly tin'.|
|Ablutions with a view|
|Fancy a dip? Me neither...|
This could be our last chance to get to the top of something...
Petit Vignemale looks eminently doable; and the weather is playing nicely.
|Icy tussocks but plenty of rock for getting a grip...|
Its pretty pedestrian to begin with.....
We're fairly close to a very looong drop; but there is no real risk of going over it...And anyhow after a certain height it's fairly academic. It's not will you survive the plunge?
More how thinly spread will you be once landed?....We need to have a thought for those who may be detailed to scrape us up....
There's enough of the white stuff for a snowball fight...The sun is melting it a bit. But..
Then a bit higher up again...... The 'path' or the bit we've chosen to call the path; turns into partially frozen rock shutes. So some times the ground holds; and sometimes it doesn't.
It's the uncertainty that does your head in...We meet a couple who have turned back because of the conditions...
But we in our dainty shoes and fetching gaiters will be fine...
About two thirds up I have a moment... "Not sure I want to do this"
Our Hero is the epitome of patience...
Not hassling; or trying to shame me into going on..
Nor bustling me down with a "Well; if you're going to be silly about it"
Sometimes; you've just got to give folks time..
To gather; their own resources.
|Visually stimulating legwear seems to be catching on........The rocks?|
Of course we make it to the top....Not that easily beaten
T'would only be a slight thing; to many.
Others wouldn't even dream of trying.
So; maybe it's about finding your comfort zone...
Then taking one step outside of that...
Look where you ended up.
|Rose trewed gent obliges us with an 'on top of things shot'.... Him Spanish; but he still understood the importance of not cutting off the feet. Shame mine were in shadow....|
I believe these shots were part of a "We'll stitch them together as a panorama" series, taken from the top...How often does that actually get done?
|It's an old truism that by getting to the top of a hill you're only half way there... But it was considerably easier getting down again.....Gravity can be our friend|
Now this, may only be fully grasped by my British readership but..
Do you know what my foremost fear was; whilst I was having a dither?
It was of suffering the most exquisite embarrassment; in the unlikely event of needing outside help..
"You came up here? In those things?"
Transmitted through the international language of pointing; and falling about laughing....
Nearly every one else we met, was wearing 'proper' big boots and full length trousers... Even on hot days...On lowland paths....... How do they not cook?
Pass; and composure regained. Time to break out the kite for a celebratory 'Fly Past'.
Could I fit a teeny tiny camera to one? Hmmm fine until it hits the ground... Or the dirty 'Glacier de Oulettes' that just about clings on to the North side of Vignemale.
Don't suppose it'll be long before this is reduced to a snowball in our 'interglacial period'...
Decent enough view for a rest stop....
We decide to hasten the ice melt by burning some meths for essential coffee....
A man who is tired of looking at mountains....Probably has too much in his pack....
|This part of the route is where the GR10 and the HRP combine. Heading now towards Oulettes de Gaube.|
|Who decides where the path goes....?|
|Looking back towards Vignemale.|
|Well fed watercourses this side too.|
|Glacial retreat... Temped to annotate the terminal moraine....Handy base for the Refuge de Gaube.|
BTW it wasn't me as chopped that peak off.....
|Enjoying the goaty terrain.... Feels like what our 'totally over engineered for modern life' feet were designed to do.....But I know; right pole too wide.......|
|Had no compunction about drinking the water unfiltered; straight from most of the streams we crossed. Surely we've evolved to deal with a bit of natural 'muck'.... Not 'kills all known germs' biocides...|
|Gomhukasana in Virasana, for building springy arches, happy ankles and knees, supple upper back and shoulders, and putting your neck back in the right place......Well who; would want any of that?|
Oh no! More yoga near our proposed pitch....
But; you spend time, ensuring that the supporting pole of your tent is in the right place?
How much consideration is given to the centrally supporting pole of yourself?
i.e. Your spine; it's really got to help if its straight and in the middle; non?
|Parvatasana in Sukhasana...And reach that top shelf....More lung capacity anyone?|
It was foggy by the time we got the tent up for pitch 16. at Oulettes de Gaube.
7km, (plus up and back on Petit Vignemale) 600m ascent
So these are morning shots....Kind weather for our last day in the hills...
Making use of the terrace at Refuge for second brew of the day. The previous evenings meal was a bit of a disappointment. But mainly because we had been so very spoiled up til now... 'No salad shocker!'
|Nippy that morning; and yesterdays hill brought down to size by his taller cousins.....|
|I recall from more extended trips as a youngster,,, The longer you're out; the more bizarre clothing combinations become perfectly reasonable choices.... Thermal leggings under running shorts? Well why not?|
|Lac de Gaube...|
|Youngster not yet grown into his back legs...|
|Last look back at Vignemale and its' glacier; after real coffee and pricey sarnie at cafe by the lake. Very fresh baguette; good local cheese, augmented with some sneaky alfalfa sprouts tucked in....|
|Then skip down the increasingly peopled valley towards Cauteret. trying not to think about the fact that our walk is nearly done...Interesting rocks along the way...|
|Lots of this|
|I'll bet the view is good; but you know; I'd really rather not......|
|Oh interminable cascades...|
|Three for the price of one; savouring waterfall; whilst stretching hamstings and undoing dorsal spine....Parsva Utthitta Hasta Padangustasana.|
Then finally Cauterets; to purchase all important Fromage de Brebis for farm sittter.. and sausages for the farm boys....No pitching up; but sadly not much walking left either...14km today but only 400m ascent as mostly down the valley...
And so to catch a bus to Lourdes; then a train back to Pau..
The intention being to camp there the night before our long train home.
But after having walked nearly two miles through the heat and dust of various backstreets we discovered it was shut; had been for over a year by the look of it.... Pau tourist information board this time...
Should have checked with our friendly lady at the office first....Given her the chance to feign incomprehension at the notion; or even pronunciation of 'le camping'...
|And by way of keeping everyone happy; the room didn't have a kettle; so a chance to burn the rest of the meths for morning tea....Custard for scale...Not breakfast.|
|'Plastic bag toting Hayseed' doesn't want to go home.....|
|it could at least have tried to drizzle.......|
|From the terrace here; its claimed you can see a 150km sweep of the Pyrenees.... How cruel...Still I guess they're not going anywhere.....Even getting a smidgen taller every year with the 'uplift?'|
|Not certain this 'Parks and Gardens' location has the required ruggidity for this bit of product placement?|
|Doesn't want to go home not neither.... It's all getting a bit 'stampy footy' |
What would happen if we didn't go back? Let's not think about that....
|Pain au raisin, and them there hills a calling....|
|Wot no gaiters? No; but 'farmer tan socks' almost as bright.|
So tightish but not wholly unrealistic schedule for our return. Pau to Paris. Eurostar to London. last train back to Devon to get there early hours...But...
Sadly, someone elses' torment; anguish; despair; (who really ever knows?) intervened; their 'putting themselves on the line' delayed transportation by two hours.
Missed connection in Paris... Will we be allowed onto the last Eurostar of the day to London? Thankfully yes; they squeezed us on....
But arrived after last train to Whimple..... Great gratitude; as we were rescued by two very sweet and helpful 'Walking Poles' met on the train.
They'd been doing similar trip to us... Only heavier loads had kept them lower and slower.... Well done all you gram shavers!
Karina and Pavel fed; and put us up for the night; and next day saw us to Clapham Junction.......
Where OH was treated to birthday morn breakfast....Yay!
Finally back home just in time to take the first yoga class of autumn term that evening.... Cutting it a bit fine as per usual.....
And suffering a bit of train wobble too....My yogis? Steady as rocks...
Great trip; thanks for coming along....Where and what next time? Who knows?
"If you know exactly what you're going to do; then what's the point of doing it?"
I think Senor Picasso had painting in mind....
Not crashing about life in a state of semi-preparedness; relying on the kindness of others; and trusting that 'the universe* will provide'.
But you know what? Nearly all of the time I've found that both those things hold true.
*Or is it the benevolent pixies; and the little people......?