Wednesday, September 18, 2013

GR10 Pyrenées

GR10 is a long distance trail that goes over the Pyrenees from Hendaye at the Atlantic coast to Banyuls sur Mer at the Mediterranean coast. The trail is about 900 kilometers long with about 50000 meters of ascent and descent. In the late summer and fall of 2013 I went to France to do it. This is my story.

Day    1 (30.07):Hendaye - Olhette
Day    2 (31.07):Olhette - Ainhoa
Day    3 (01.08):Ainhoa - Bidarray
Day    6 (04.08):St Jean Pied de Port - Iraty-Cize
Day    7 (05.08):Iraty-Cize - Logibar
Day    8 (06.08):Logibar - Ste Engrace
Day  11 (09.08):Lescun - Borce
Day  12 (10.08):Borce - Gabas
Day  13 (11.08):Gabas - Gourette
Day  14 (12.08):Gourette - Arrens-Marsous
Day  15 (13.08):Arrens-Marsous - Ilheou
Day  16 (14.08):Ilheou - Cauterets
Day  17 (15.08):Cauterets - Ossoue
Day  18 (16.08):Ossoue - Saugue
Day  19 (17.08):Saugue - Bareges
Day  20 (18.08):Bareges - Oredon
Day  21 (19.08):Oredon - Adervielle
Day  22 (20.08):Adervielle - Oo
Day  23 (21.08):Oo - Bagneres de Luchon
Day  24 (22.08):Bagneres de Luchon
Day  25 (23.08):Bagneres de Luchon - Fos
Day  26 (24.08):Fos - Araing
Day  27 (25.08):Araing - Eylie d'En Haut
Day  29 (27.08):Pla de la Lau - Esbints
Day  30 (28.08):Esbints - Aula
Day  31 (29.08):Aula - St Lizier d'Ustou
Day  33 (31.08):Aulus les Bains - Mounicou
Day  34 (01.09):Mounicou - Goulier
Day  35 (02.09):Goulier - Siguer
Day  36 (03.09):Siguer - Clarans
Day  37 (04.09):Clarans - Rulhe
Day  38 (05.09):Rulhe - Merens les Vals
Day  40 (07.09):Puig Carlit
Day  40 (07.09):Bouillouses - Planes
Day  41 (08.09):Planes - Ras de la Carança
Day  43 (10.09):Mariailles - Cortalets
Day  44 (11.09):Pic du Canigou
Day  44 (11.09):Cortalets - Mines de Batère
Day  47 (14.09):Las Illas - Ouillat
Day  48 (15.09):Ouillat - Tagnarède
Day  49 (16.09):Tagnarède - Banyuls sur Mer

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tagnarède - Banyuls sur Mer

Distance: 19.9km (988.2km), time spent: 5:19 (376:21).
Ascent / descent: 326m (55408m) / 1371m (55742m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 1045m / 0m / 1130m.
Weather: Sunny, blue sky and nice weather.

After a night with a lot of wind and rustling from the trees outside I wake up to a clear sky. And somewhere in the back of my head there is a bell ringing saying that it's the last day on the walk, but it's still a little bit hard to understand it. It's a slightly chilly inside the cabin when we wake, so I make a small fire in the fireplace before we eat breakfast.

View back towards Tagnarède from the Spanish side of the border below Pic Néoulous.

In the hurry to get quickly back from Chalet de l'Albere yesterday I managed to forget my wind jacket there, so instead of walking in the direction of Banyuls sur Mer together with Claire I yet again go back to Col d'Ouillat. But by looking at the map I see that I can spare some time by going by Spain and not by GR10. So for the third time I arrive at the hostel at Ouillat, they're smiling a lot now. On the way back I pass a pou del glaç, a well used to store ice. Through an opening in the top of the dome that lies above the ground snow and ice was shoveled down into the well in the winter, then you could take out ice in the summer. I go into the 400 year old structure, there isn't any ice inside anymore, but it's cold.

View back towards Pic Néoulous with Canigou in the horizon.

Back at Tagnarède I pick up my backpack again, I leave the rest of the gas and what food I don't need anymore behind in the cabin. Then I'm taking my first steps on the last day of a long walk. The weather is great and it's a nice route in the beginning that first goes on a path with trees leaning over the trail. Then the trail is going over green plains with views to both sides, Spain in the south and the flat lowland in the north. Past cows totally indifferent to wanderers that has crossed the Pyrenees.

On the heights I can look back towards Pic Néoulous and Canigou, with the sea in a clear blue color in the north. Below Pic des Quattre Termes (1156m) the trail is going down a path that is not good to walk on, I look longingly at the ridge to my right. The great walk is stepwise going downwards, the high mountains in the horizon are gradually disappearing, but as a result the ocean is coming nearer. You should think that the landscape would be much milder the closer to the Mediterranean you get, but the fact is that this has been the most exciting walk landscape-wise in a long time.

The Mediterranean coming closer and closer, blue sea in the horizon.

Up at Pic de Sailfort (981m) I sit down to eat lunch. And from here I can for the first time see Banyuls sur Mer, it's a strange feeling, for 49 days ago I stood on Col d'Osin and looked down at Hendaye. Under a cliff there is a small shelter, Refuge Tomy. Next to it is a bush that looks like the head of a wolf. The trail is then going steeply down Serret de Castell Serradillou with Banyuls in sight.

Tour Madeloc is watching above me when I'm getting closer to the vineyards of Banyuls. Behind me Pic de Sailfort is hiding the rest of the Pyrenees, after Col de Fourmigou (488m) there is a ruin of a large house. At Col des Gascons (386m) I'm down at a road that the trail is then crossing several times, and in the middle of wineland. Green vines on each side of the path and blue sea in front of me, a culture landscape. A sign is announcing that it's 20 minutes left.

From Pic de Sailfort Banyuls sur Mer is appearing for the first time in the view.

Vines replaced the mountains, now the vines are replaced with houses and when I walk under the railway tracks I'm finally in Banyuls sur Mer. It felt strange to walk in the streets of Hendaye in the morning and was going to go over to the Mediterranean, now it feels strange to walk in the streets of Banyuls sur Mer. When I'm close to the beach Claire is appearing smiling, I can see the sign marking the end of my long journey. We cross the street and then it's done. At the plaque that marks the end of the GR10 I have now 49 days after I started crossed the Pyrenees and completed the GR10. There are two smiling walkers that stand outside old Hotel de Ville capturing the moment.

Through the vineyards of Banyuls.

Then it's only one thought that is in my head and that is the ocean. We go into a store and do some shopping, and then it's the Mediterranean and the sound of it that counts. While the waves are running in over the stone beach and the sounds of the waves fills the air we sit and looks out over the sea. I'm at the end of my journey, in sunshine, blue sea.

Banyuls sur Mer, at the plaque that marks the end of the GR10. I made it.

In the evening I have a small celebration at a restaurant; Claire took the bus to Collioure. There was a view of the Mediterranean from the balcony of my hotel room, so I finish the evening sitting outside and listening to the waves that rolls onto the beach. It's a lot of wind. A journey is over, another begins.

I met Claire again in Collioure the day after, where I spent two nights before I took the train back to Bordeaux. On the train I met Claire again, after she got on the train in Toulouse. We ate lunch together in Bordeaux before she continued further with another train; I spent the last night there before I returned home to Norway and Oslo.

<- TagnarèdeNESTE ->

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ouillat - Tagnarède

Distance: 4.3km (968.4km), time spent: 1:12 (371:02).
Ascent / descent: 320m (55082m) / 211m (54371m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 936m / 1045m / 1256m.
Weather: Thunder, rain, fog, gusty, nice weather towards the afternoon and evening.

I wake up at 03:00 o'clock in the night; from outside I can still hear the party going on. At 03:30 o'clock I wake up again by the rain pouring down outside. When I again wake up at 04:00 o'clock the sky has exploded in anger, a severe thunderstorm has begun. When it was proper time to wake up it is still very bad weather outside, so I crawl back into my sleeping back and continue sleeping. That was supposed to be my last day on the walk got instead to be an eventful day of an altogether different kind.

Foggy and gusty weather on the walk up towards Pic Néoulous.

When in the end I get out of the bed the bad weather has passed, but it's still gusty outside and the surrounding world is covered in fog. I'm unsure of what I'll do. I wish to arrive in nice weather after such a long journey, especially after having walked in several days under a grey blanket and seen the sun shine at the coast. I know that one of the first things I will do when I arrive is just to sit down and enjoy the view of the sea again. The alternative is to stay another day here.

View down towards Tagnarède, grey weather in the horizon.

In the end I decide to go, there is another option as well. It's gusty and the wind is blowing so that you can see the clouds fly pass the trees on the way up through the forest towards Roc des Trois Termes. Where the border to Spain is marked by a worn fence I have to wrap myself well in my wind jacket, it's really sour mountain weather now. Even just below Pic Néoulous (1256m) I can just barely see the summit, and the mast next to it is a vague contour in the greyness. On the way down again I come down beneath the clouds, but the view isn't getting more cheerful by that.

I arrive at Refuge de Tagnarède (1045m); smoke is rising from the chimney. When I open the door a well-known face is appearing behind a tent hanging up to dry, Claire is sitting in front of the fireplace and warming herself. She'd been surprised by the bad weather on the ridge above the hut and had walked down to get shelter from the storm. A small dog with an annoying bell had followed after her and is now rummaging around in search of food. The wind blows fierce outside and we're both unsure if we want to stay or continue.

Refuge de Tagnarède. A small and sparse cabin, but where we had a nice evening in.

Anyway I'll have a longer break here, in the heat from the fireplace and in good company. Two walkers on a day trip are coming in for shelter while they're having lunch, they're throwing the dog out and we don't see it again afterwards. The weather is lifting a little bit after some time, but the wind is still blowing hard. In the direction of Banyuls sur Mer there are still dark clouds. We decide to stay put.

Below Pic Néoulous with a view in the direction of the coast after the weather has lifted.

Later in the day there is however clear weather and blue sky above Pic Néoulous, and better weather in the direction of Banyuls, but we're now feeling that it's a little bit too late to start walking. Instead I take my small packable backpack on my back and head back towards Chalet de l'Albere, a short distance, and I want some beer now for the evening, together with the need for more water. I don't trust the water source located nearby. There is another landscape that awaits me.

It's however not so nice going past Pic Néoulous again, there are two boys up there and one of them is throwing a rock down towards me. Which makes me quite furious, but I manage to control myself from becoming provoked to go up. And probably for the best, for it turned out not to be just two boys, but a gang of five boys. The now nice view in the direction of the coast is now not the first thing that is in my mind. Om the way down the last part to Col d'Ouillat is my imagination starting to run.

View back from Pic Néoulous, the Canigou massif to the right in the picture.

That is because the gang of boys may have seen me coming from the Refuge de Tagnarède and thought that I've left my gear behind there (which I have). But what is giving me a bad feeling is that Claire is alone there. What will happen if they decide to go down? I speed up my pace. At the Chalet de l'Albere they smile a little bit when they see me coming back. I fill up my water container and buy with me some beers for the evening (Kwak, Pietra and Pelforth Brune). Then I walk fast back towards Tagnarède.

Instead of going on the path where the GR10 is going I take the road up towards Pic Néoulous, the boys aren't to be seen at the summit now. I go up to the top, but can't see anything of them below either. What I however can see is a magnificent view towards the sea and back towards Canigou. At the coast there still are some dark clouds, but they are on their way south to Spain. Down by the cabin everything seems like before, but Claire isn't there.

From the top of Pic Néoulous, clear view towards the Mediterranean.

I find her up at the ridge sitting and reading with the sun shining above. I am somewhat relieved, but must acknowledge that my imagination probably ran a little away with me. It's now just fantastic outside and we sit down for a long time enjoying the weather on the ridge overlooking Spain. When the sun is disappearing behind the hill to the west we walk back to hut, where we make a fire in the fireplace again and start making dinner.

A miserably start of the day that lowered my mood thoroughly turned eventually in to a great day, with the exception of the episode with the gang of boys on Néoulous. I get to do the walk in both nice and bad weather, and with a nice evening in front of a fire in Refuge de Tagnarède. The beer tasted very good. And also, I got another additional day on the trail, perhaps I had a tiny wish not to finish yet. But tomorrow we go to Banyuls sur Mer, bad weather or not.

<- OuillatBanyuls sur Mer ->

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Las Illas - Ouillat

Distance: 25.8km (964.0km), time spent: 8:28 (369:50).
Ascent / descent: 959m (54762m) / 573m (54160m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 550m / 936m / 936m.
Weather: Sunny and nice weather, warm, some clouds.

With me in my backpack after the breakfast at the Hostal des Trabucayres I've got a not so good weather forecast for tomorrow, the weather gods supposedly doesn't want to smile down upon me on the last day of my adventure. For the walk of today they are however keeping the clouds at bay. From Las Illas the route is going up on a quiet and peaceful road to yet another Super, Super Las Illas.

Walk on the ridge between France and Spain on a nice track, here from the route after Col del Priorat.

After Super Las Illas the trail is following the ridge alongside the border to Spain, the vegetation here has now changed and is noticeably closer to the Mediterranean. It's a nice walk through an open forest. Canigou is visible between the trees. At Mas Nou there is a sign that it's forbidden to take pictures and that it isn't allowed for everyone to walk further on the trail, walkers of the GR10 are though allowed apparently. The reason is that this is some kind of a naturist farm. However, there aren't any angry naked farmers coming jumping out on the trail when I pass. The builds of the farm looks somewhat tired.

View of the Canigou from Las Carboneres.

It's a clear blue sky and warm for a change, something it hasn't been for a long time. The spectacular areas on the trail is now far behind and the route is now clearly going down towards a lower landscape. I go up to Pic del Priorat (492m), but there isn't any view from the top. Whereupon I afterwards are overlooking where the GR10 is going off from the path and then continues on, and not notice that I've gone wrong before I'm down at Las Carboneres (337m). Where it is a nice view of the Canigou next to the ruins of an old farm building.

The Roman ruins at Col de Panissars with Fort de Bellegarde above.

The Romans came a long way, de also came here. Below Fort de Bellegarde lies the Roman ruins at Col de Panissars. I go up to the fort. It's a free entrance today so I leave my backpack behind at the counter and steps into the tourist shoes. The fort is big and from the top of the walls there are good views to the area around. To the south what was the main route through the Pyrenees in the classic age is stretching downwards, the Romans called it Summum Pyrenæum, now it's a motorway. Le Perthus is situated below between the two countries.

View from Fort de Bellegarde, Spain in the valley below.

I'm hungry when I arrive at Le Perthus (290m), but it isn't tempting to sit down to eat at a place here. This is an awful tourist trap, with unnumbered shops selling various baubles. But when I called to order a place at Chalet de l'Albere I got the message that they couldn't serve me dinner, so I've to do some provisioning here for the evening. After having stocked up with provisions I try to put the place quickly behind me. My stomach complains, but the sight of the place complains more.

At Col de la Comtesse (513m) I finally give in to my hunger and sit down to eat. It has gotten even warmer, and my backpack weights a lot more now. On a sign France is crossed out and replaced with Catalunia Nord. Le Perthus is fortunately easily forgotten on the way up to Saint Martin d'Albere. The trail is then going steep up with a good view back to where I've walked. My legs are a little bit tender when I arrive at Col d'Ouillat (936m) and Chalet de l'Albere.

View from Col d'Ouillat.

The place is situated with a great view of the valley below; far below I can see Fort de Bellegarde on its small hill. I didn't get to know why I couldn't get dinner here on the phone, but the reason was that there is a party here in the evening and hence there isn't any place to sit if it should be bad weather. But the weather is now brilliant, and the best in a long time, so they are arranging dinner for me and some others on a place outside.

Chalet de l'Albere.

While I'm sitting and enjoying the sight of the view and the darkness descending over the landscape and the pass between France and Spain my thoughts are going to that I tomorrow will be starting on my last on the GR10. It feels a little bit unreal. The remote goal is now just around the corner and the start of the journey is now lying remotely behind me. Here they meant it would be nice weather tomorrow. From the restaurant there is a lot of joyful voices, the guests has arrived. It was a nice walk today, with the exception of Le Perthus. I'm wondering a little bit of where Claire is.

<- Las IllasTagnerède ->

Friday, September 13, 2013

Moulin de la Palette - Las Illas

Distance: 21.0km (938.2km), time spent: 8:39 (361:22).
Ascent / descent: 1053m (53803m) / 1164m (53587m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 661m / 550m / 1450m.
Weather: Sunny and clouds, overcast after a while.

A sign that I've walked far and probably is a little bit tired is the tendency of me using a lot longer time in the mornings now. In itself not so bad, I'm not in a rush anyway. I slept well alone in the small dormitory and eat a good breakfast at the place after which I use a long time before I continue further on the trail. There is a clear sky at departure, but the sun hasn't reached down into the valley I'm walking in yet.

Montalba d'Amelie.

I have the feeling of being in a quiet and isolated place almost during the whole of todays walk. After a calm walk I come to the tiny hamlet of Montalba d'Amelie (543m), a collection of house situated on a small shelf on a hill. A dog is guarding a dilapidated and deserted house. As every place with respect for itself this place also has its own chapel, which should cover the needs for the few inhabitants in the valleys around, there are supposedly also a gîte d'etape here. It's just as quiet here when I leave as when I came.

The ruins of the old mill of Molli Serrador.

The trail is continuing through the forest and after a small ascent I arrive next to a house where the vegetation is in the process of overtaking what mankind has made, though it's only remains of a house. Inside behind thorns and scrubs is the ruins of that was once an old mill, Molli Serrador (833m). I have to go through a lot of thicket to get closer to the building. On a sign it says 'Risque d'eboulement', so I have to be careful so I don't get an old mill on my head. You can't help but think of how remote this mill is located.

Roc St-Saveur.

At Coll Cerda (1058m) my curiosity strikes again, it gets too tempting, even though I have to defy my feelings of being a little bit too tired to do my usual excursions off the route. Beyond the pass is Roc St-Saveur (1235m) rising up towards the sky, from here the climb looks manageable. But after having put away my backpack and climbed that was supposed to be a marked trail to the summit, I find myself on the other side of the summit instead.

Even so, it's a nice view from here; Canigou is now even further back in the horizon. But I'm unsure if the continuing path, which now goes further downwards instead of upwards, will take me to the summit. So I turn and climb back down again. I make a direct attempt at the summit from the pass instead, but there my attempt stops dead next a too steep wall after a while. I'm going higher up anyway, though darker clouds await me there.

View from Roc St-Saveur in the direction of Col de Paracolls.

Before I come to the French rock, I sit down on the border to Spain, lighting up my gas stove and eat lunch. The clouds have retaken the throne in the sky now, but below the clouds there is a nice view out over Spain and towards the ocean. Even though they for a short time descend down over the mountain and hide the landscape in a chill mist. I climb up to the Roc de France (1450m); Canigou is now cloaked by the clouds.

View from Roc de France.

Down at Col du Puits de la Neige (1240m) I shortly crosses into Spain where the GR11 (the Spanish variant of the GR10) is making a guest performance. From here and down the walk is less exciting. The weather seems to have got caught in a routine; nice weather in the mornings, for then to become grey and dull. Coll dels Cirères (1015m) is lying well hidden inside the woods, but a quiet place for a cup of hot tea. I get concrete under my feet after La Selve (612m); the trail is here following the road all the way down to Las Illas (550moh).

The Mediteranean in the horizon.

From the style of the buildings here it's obvious that I'm getting closer to the Mediteranean. There is no one in the gîte, and the persons running the gîte isn't at home either. I install myself in the gîte anyway. It's a quiet day here, the season is coming to an end, and I eat almost alone in the restaurant at the Hostal des Trabucayres. The food is excellent. Cured meat, trout, lamb and cake, all served with wine. On the way back to the gîte in the evening there is light at home of the persons running the gîte so I get to pay for the stay. Still there is no one else at the gîte. I didn't see Claire again after I talked to here in the morning at Moulin de la Palette.

<- Moulin de la PaletteOuillat ->

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mines de Batère - Moulin de la Palette

Distance: 25.2km (917.2km), time spent: 7:54 (352:43).
Ascent / descent: 675m (52750m) / 1514m (52423m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 1500m / 661m / 1500m.
Weather: Sunny and clouds, overcast after a while.

It is well done to avoid any boring day on such a long journey as this, in the same way that you can't expect good weather on all the days either. Todays weather wasn't the worst, but the walk didn't offer anything special. Instead it was the excursions of the trail the made the day interesting.

Morning at the Mines de Batère.

I make an attempt to find the remains of the mines here, but after some fruitless searching in the woods I end up putting on my backpack and continue walking with an unresolved case behind me. It doesn't however take long time before I yet again deviate from the route. The tower in the distance is calling; perhaps there is a maiden in distress at the top of it. There isn't any maiden in distress in the top, but if there had been a person in the top of Tour de Batère (1439m) the person would probably had been in distress, maiden or not. To climb up into the tower is quite hazardous, the stones are loose and unsecure. The old signal tower built in the twelfth century is situated in a nice location with views over the valleys below.

Tour de Batère, an old signal tower from the twelfth century.

On the way back from the tour a car is stopping and out comes a man who immediately after starts hollering up to the hill above. I'm quite puzzled at the start, but then it dawns on me that it must be a farmer that gives an order to one of his sheep dogs to herd the livestock downwards. From above barks can be heard in response. It's been a blue sky above me so far, but when I start the descent from Col de la Descarga (1393moh) the clouds have started to furnish the sky above the landscape. No smoke signal is coming from Tour de Batère so I can safely continue further down.

Further down there is an abandoned building where it's written Refuge des Bigarrats on the wall, which easily could be interpreted as Refuge of Big Rats. Not a nice place, and a boring walk down from the pass. Claire did think about going here yesterday, but I think she's happy that she didn't. This is Els Vigorats (884m) and is the remains of an old station of some kind.

View to the Canigou-massif from the Tour de Batère.

I arrive at Arles sur Tech (282m), where the names of the streets are marked on engraved tiles with small and ornate paintings on. I walk in the town through small, narrow and nice streets before I encounter Claire at a street café. Of the larger places you pass on the trail this would have been one of the nicest ones to spend an evening in, but I want to continue. The cloister here is supposed to be well worth the visit, but I'll have save that visit to another time if the opportunity rises.

Above Arles sur Tech on the climb up to Coll de Paracolls, Mines de Batère a tiny white dot in the horizon.

It's been a long time since I've been as low down as Arles is lying, and the trail has understood that. It climbs steeply up towards Coll de Paracolls (902m). There is now a grey sky above me, with some few blue glimpses. High up and far away in the horizon I can see the white building of Mines de Batère. Canigou is hidden in between the clouds. In the view towards east is Roc St-Saveur jutting up from the forest and hills.

For the sake of the walk, there is a nice part to walk after Coll de Paracolls. The ruin of what is Paracolls is lying with a broken roof. After going down through the forest I arrive at Moulin de la Palette (661m), here I get myself a place at the Ecogîte de la Palette, a quiet and isolated place in the middle of the forest. It is a nice and small place, with a nice and small dormitory that I get for myself. So even if the walk today didn't offer the great excitement, the end of the day offered a nice stay in the kingdom of silence.

View just below Col de Paracolls, Roc St-Saveur prominent in the picture. Moulin de la Palette almost in the center of the picture.

Claire is arriving at the place later and is pitching her tent outside. We can hear the boars grunt while the pass through the garden. While the darkness descends over the forest my thoughts are going to something that has long been a remote target, there is now about only three days left before I stand at the shores of the Mediterranean and the end of my journey.

The Ecogîte de la Palette at Moulin de la Palette, a nice place situated in a quiet spot in the forest.

<- Mines de BatèreLas Illas ->

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cortalets - Mines de Batère

Distance: 16.8km (892.0km), time spent: 6:13 (344:49).
Ascent / descent: 273m (52075m) / 923m (50909m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 2150m / 1500m / 2150m.
Weather: Overcast.

Most people use to go to Arles sur Tech from Cortalets, by climbing up to Canigou I move the walking odometer some kilometers back on the map. So instead I choose to set course for the old and now derelict iron mines of Batère. Perhaps a fitting target for a walk under a gloomy layer of clouds.

Lights in the night seen from Cortalets.

From Cortalets two wanderers disappear into the mist, I walk together with Claire again. We choose the alternative route today, and don't go by Ras del Cortalets as the trail does. In the woods above Cortalets there are remains of a crashed airplane and this route take us into the drifting clouds higher up than the original route and past the wreck. You almost have to walk over parts of the wreck; other parts are lying spread around below. Someone has sprayed a shark figure on the remains.

Remains of an airplane not far from Chalet-Refuge des Cortalets.

The clouds have climbed higher up towards the sky, but have made an abrupt halt and are giving an illusion of outright slicing off the top of the mountains. In the horizon a blue line is visible; it's the sea and the Mediterranean that calls. After 43 days on the way since I left the Atlantic I can now see the sea again. It's a strange feeling; I'm getting closer to the end of my journey.

Above Ras del Prat Cabrera (1739m) we find a rock that can be used as a nice bench, a great place for a lunch with a nice view over the valley below that stretches down towards the lower area and finally the sea. After Ras del Prat Cabrera the trail is going around the Llech valley, above us the cows are eying us suspiciously. The trail is even and good to walk on, but there are a lot of cow shit here.

In the horizon...the sea. View from above Ras del Prat Cabrera. Note the grafitti on the rock.

The open mountain huts has usually been solid huts of stone, but Abri de Pinatell (1650m) is the first hut of this kind that I pass that is made of wood. Inside it is cozy; I wouldn't mind have stayed here for the night. It is a little more boring now; we pass another cabane, Maison Forestiere de l'Estagnole (1479m), before we have to start the climb up to Col de la Cirère (1731m). We can see remains of an old and abandoned mine further down in the valley on the way up to the pass.

Up at the pass the wind is showing some muscles and the clouds are darkening the horizon, glimpses of light in the distance, dark violet hues and the ocean. Gusty and desolate, you wonder how the work in the mines here would have been. Remains of houses and a herd of sheep are passed on the way down; Tour de Batère is in the horizon. Claire seems to be on good foot with the sheep.

The Llech valley. The clouds are situated like a lid above the valley and are almost slicing the mountain in two.

The mining works has long ago stopped and when we arrive at Mines de Batère we also get the feeling of being in an abandoned place. Gîte-Refuge de Batère (1500m) is located in one of the derelict mine buildings and situated with a nice view. The door to the restaurant is closed. We're wondering what kind of place we've come to. On a fence there is a yellow note with the following inscription: 'M. Tarjei. Installez-vouz, dortoir à 20m plus bas'. They got my name right at least. On the door further down there is another note, 'M. Tarjei. Repas prêt à la Cuisine'.

Inside, Claire and I stop dead and are just standing still and looking at each other, not knowing whether we should laugh or cry. It's a peculiar and quite sparse place. On a bench in the kitchen there is a tray with food on, my dinner apparently (I ordered demi-pension). We're not the only one here either, a German pair doing a part of the GR10 and has walked from Banyuls sur Mer is here also.

View from below Col de la Cirère, the Tour de Batère on the ridge in the center of the picture.

I heat up my food, while Claire is making her dinner. Despite its appearance the food was quite good and consisted of a quite good pate, a good gratin with mushrooms, potatoes and some other ingredients, yoghurt and bread. The person that runs the place is arriving while we're eating. I was the only one that had ordered and the season is soon over, so he didn't thought it was necessary to open up the restaurant for only one person. Which is reasonably enough. And anyway, I get to buy myself some good beers of the Pelforth Brune type, so I'm satisfied. But it isn't so cheap to stay here.

The Gîte-Refuge de Batère, the yellow paper blowing in the wind had my name on it.

Later in the evening the wind is increasing and you can hear it howl outside. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly Canigou and by far the highest. The trail from Cortalets was nice in the beginning, but it got somewhat boring towards the end. The Mines de Batère will probably be one of the strangest places I've stayed at on the journey, but it will also be remembered well because of it.

<- Pic du CanigouMoulin de la Palette ->

Pic du Canigou

Distance: 13.0km (875.2km), time spent: 3:21 (338:36).
Ascent / descent: 758m (51802m) / 758m (49986m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 2150m / 2150m / 2784m.
Weather: Sunny in the morning, cloudy later on.

The day dawns with a fantastic sunrise. Above me the sky is colored brightly red and there are no clouds, they are lingering down in the valley. It was a starlit sky during the night and the lights from far down below was clearly visible up here on the mountain. For a good time I was chilled down by the cool temperature while I stood admiring the view in the dark.

Racing against the clouds on Pic du Canigou.

Up towards Canigou it becomes a race against the clouds, so I walk a little bit faster than I want to. The little lake I barely saw and walked fast past yesterday is now visible in its entirety; I walk fast past now as well. At the junction where the path is going up towards the summit just below le Pic Joffre the clouds are arriving and covers the mountain in a dreamlike condition. Serenely I move through the dreams and arrive above the clouds, which now float towards the mountain sides of Canigou.

The trail gets steeper and more and more rocky. The summit is barely hidden by the ridge you have to climb up to. From Cortalets there is a relatively easy walk up to the summit, except when you try to win over the clouds in a race. I don't make it, just before I reach the summit at 2784m the clouds are crossing the finishing line and the view is history. I'm not going to hide that a small 'merde' is escaping from my lips, and that in the moment after laughter can be heard from the summit.

The summit of Pic du Canigou. Catalonian flags blowing in the wind at the cross on the summit.

I turn around and there is Claire sitting, she'd woke up early to get up before the clouds. I can't do nothing but laugh a little bit myself. At the cross on the summit the Catalonian flag is hanging, today is their freedom day. The flag is blowing in the wind. Clouds drifts over the top and small windows are opening up towards the surrounding world, and in the end we can look over the clouds. It's chilly at the summit, but we stay on the top for some time.

At the summit of Pic du Canigou (2784m).

I climb down the steep path towards Crête de Barbet, but instead of following it down right away I instead set course for Puig Sec. On both sides of the ridge the clouds are swallowing the valleys below, but from the summit of Puig Sec (2665m) there is a better view than from Canigou. Which lies hidden inside the clouds. Below I can see the valley I walked up yesterday from Refuge de Mariailles.

View from Puig Sec.

Satisfied I start walking down again over Crête de Barbet. For a long time I walk above the clouds, but in the end the fog is wrapping me in. Le sommet de légendes behind me, a nice walk despite that the view wasn't quite what was wanted.

<- CortaletsMines de Batère ->

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mariailles - Cortalets

Distance: 18.3km (862.2km), time spent: 7:23 (335:15).
Ascent / descent: 1100m (51044m) / 678m (49228m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 1718m / 2150m / 2250m.
Weather: Cloudy, some sun, rain, fog and later a bucketful of rain.

Pic du Canigou was somewhat in my mind for this day, but not unexpectedly bad weather was predicted. So today I focused mainly on the walk to Cortalets, and instead go for the summit bid from there tomorrow. There were a few that woke up early at the refuge to get up to the summit before the bad weather, but too early for my liking. There are some magnificent red colored clouds over the mountain in the morning.

In the morning above Refuge de Mariailles.

There is also a cabin above Refuge de Mariailles that possibly could be used by walkers, l'abri pastoral de Mariailles. From Mariailles the GR10 is making a long traverse of the Canigou-massif and the route is starting by going on an easy loop up through ravin des Sept-Hommes before it ascends to Col Vert. Already you have moved to higher ground and you can look down at Mariailles. The waymarking here is not so good, so for a while I'm wondering if I've taken the wrong way and gone into another trail that is also marked on the map.

Looking back down at Refuge de Mariailles.

The waymarks are returning when I cross Font d'en Marty (1964m). While the GR10 turns left is the path up to the summit of Canigou continuing further up the valley towards Refuge Arago (2123m), I follow that trail up to a cabin that is on its way to become a ruin. The cabane is in a bad shape, and outside a danger sign is hanging. It starts to rain, the group that sat and rested at the cabane (Arago) rises and continues undaunted onwards.

The trail is going over some large stone slabs above Jasse de Cady.

Above Jasse de Cady the trail is going on some large slabs in a stony field, below some shepherds are gathering their animals. The view isn't exactly cheerful, what was a blue horizon is now a grey and dark horizon. But the grey horizon is staying put at the moment, so the walk alongside the flanks of Canigou is still nice. I am not far away from Refuge de Mariailles again as the birds fly at Col de Segales (2040m), but there is a deep gorge between us.

The rain stopped after not so long, but it's still a colorless weather. In clear weather there would have been a view to far away from the trail. After Col de la Jasse d'en-Vernet (2040m) the fog is slowly creeping over the mountain and I descend down into les Conques. This is an area often devastated by avalanches and the resulting marks are evident, so some care is needed when passing through. Refuge de Bonne-Aïgue (1741m) is appearing out of the fog at a convenient time, I can eat lunch peacefully in shelter from the wind and rain. The cabane wouldn't have been so bad to stay the night in.

Dark clouds in the horizon.

When I climb up from the cabane I encounter another couple that also stayed at the Refuge de Mariailles. They'd walked over Canigou and started some time before me in the morning, but they could report that they didn't get any view from the summit. I come up to an orry (la Casteille) and a dramatic view. There is a short stay in the weather and some blue sky to see, but in the horizon the rain clouds are tearing at the mountain sides and there is a black wall coming my way. Fortunately, there isn't far to Cortalets from here.

Refuge de Bonne-Aïgue.

The fog is sweeping in over me with great force and then the rain is starting to pour water over the landscape. In the weather the trail up towards Canigou is disappearing behind me and a small lake is barely visible. At Chalet-Refuge de Cortalets (2150m) the rain sheets above the entrance are blowing heavily in the wind before I'm standing inside in the heat and spill water out over the floor. Inside there is a fire in the fireplace, making crackling sounds. Quite the changing weather today, but the walk was nice.

Orry at la Casteille with dramatic clouds in the horizon, an ominous wall approaching.

The weather is howling outside while I sit inside in front of the fireplace and enjoying the place's own beer, Els Cortalets. There aren't many guests here today, but the dinner is good. Claire is arriving later in the evening. They say it should normally be nice weather tomorrow, we'll see then, if the weather is inviting for a summit bid to the Catalonian holy mountain.

<- MariaillesPic du Canigou ->

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ras de la Carança - Mariailles

Distance: 25.5km (843.9km), time spent: 9:51 (327:52).
Ascent / descent: 1621m (49334m) / 1734m (48550m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 1831m / 1718m / 2300m.
Weather: Sunny and nice weather.

A long walk today, but the weather gods rewarded me with good weather after the previous days of partly miserably weather. In the Cicerone guidebook the suggested walk today is Mantet, but today I'm of the opinion that four hours is too short of a walk. I want to start early since I have a long way to go, but the guardian is oversleeping. So together with a lot of other hungry walkers there is some waiting here in the morning. Unfortunately a small misunderstanding makes the guardian think I'm angry at him, which I wasn't, so I leave Refuge de Ras de la Carança with a little bit of bad conscience.

View back towards Coll Mitja.

There is frost on the ground on the way up to Coll del Pal; it must have been a lot colder than expected here during the night. It's crystal clear weather and I can see Coll Mitja in an altogether different light than yesterday. Ruins of old farms and inside the forest there are some other wanderers that are camping. After a while I can see the roof of Refuge de Ras de la Carança far below.

Coll del Pal, an amazing view of the Canigou massif.

Up at Coll del Pal (2294m) the backpack is going off and the view is to be enjoyed. In the horizon the Canigou massif is dominating the scene and the summit is towering blue against a blue sky, it would have been perfect to be on the summit today. With the mythical mountain in the corner of my eye I walk on a nice path over to La Serre de Caret (2300m). The trail is going down from here and to Mantet I walk through a nice valley.

Mantet with the pass of the same name above.

Mantet (1535m) is a small and nice village with houses of stone that is well worth a visit. I walk a little bit around between the houses before I sit down to have lunch at La Bouftiq, a three course meal at the menu. When I walk up towards Col de Mantet (1761m) Claire is appearing behind me and we walk together up to the top of the pass, but there are our ways separating again. Her camera is broken and she is travelling down to a larger town (Prades) to get it fixed.

Py with the only restaurant at the place with a tiny shop in the ground floor.

Down to Py the walk is less exciting, the trail is crossing and passing the road several times. On the way I pass the Green Meridian (La Méridienne Verte) that marks the tree-planting effort along the meridian through Paris in 2000. Py (1023m) is also a small and cozy village; where I buy some provisions in a tiny shop. The trail is then going through the small hamlet of La Farga, which largely isn't much other than a small cluster of houses.

The trail is following a watercourse up through the Bois de Manailles.

At Col de Jou (1125m) I start to feel tired in my feet. There is a tower now far away, Tour de Goa, that I probably would have walked up to had it been earlier on the GR10. But not now. From here and up to Refuge de Mariailles the trail is becoming steeper. A section of rocks are inviting some view of the Canigou. After a while the route is following a watercourse that runs down next to the trail, a nice walk for tired legs.

Refuge de Mariailles.

I've been out walking for quite a while when I arrive at Mariailles (1718m), so it feels good to relax at the veranda afterwards with a view out over the valley below. The dinner in the evening is very good and on the walls there are hanging some very nice pictures of the farmer from Esbints. Darkness descends on the summit above, a long day goes to its end and the view of Canigou is coming with me into the kingdom of the sandman.

<- Ras de la CarançaCortalets ->

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