Saturday, August 31, 2013

Aulus les Bains - Mounicou

Distance: 22.3km (657.1km), time spent: 9:28 (254:35).
Ascent / descent: 1436m (37755m) / 1099m (36937m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 750m / 1087m / 2006m.
Weather: Sunny and blue sky, some clouds.

So far the Ariege has been a little bit disappointing, but today it redeemed itself totally. Today it was a return to the grand mountain scenery of earlier, and with great weather. Aulus les Bains is a sleepy town in the morning and it's quiet in the streets when I set off. The walk is starting just like before with a walk up through a forest where I go wrong in the beginning, I missed a very small and modest signpost pointing to the correct direction.

View from Mont Garias. Aulus les Bains visible down in the valley.

The sun and green mountains greets me up at Coumebière (1400m) after coming out of the forest. It's incredibly what sun and nice weather does to your mood and energy after days without seeing the sun almost. When the trail goes up towards Port de Saleix I finally get to see something again that I've missed, the view of mountain peaks in the horizon. From Port de Saleix (1794m) I can look down at Aulus les Bains and over to Col d'Escots and Picou la Mire, on the other side people are coming walking up the Saleix valley.

Étang d'Alate with Mont Garias in the background.

I'm not finished climbing on this beautiful day. Higher up a lake is awaiting me, but before I get there I deviate from the path and climb up to the top of Mont Garias (2006m). From the top I can stare right down at Étang d'Alate, in the horizon there are rows and rows of mountains and Aulus is visible far below. Then I go down and around before I stare straight up at Mont Garias from Étang d'Alate. Blue water and a mandatory break.

Col d'Ayous and Col de Madamète belongs to the group of passes where the view is just taking the breath out of you when you arrive and behold what is on the other side of the pass, Col de Bassiès (1933m) is going straight into this group. You get the urge to just throw away the backpack and stay rooted to the spot, just to be able to enjoy the scenery forever. Below a grand mountain wilderness is appearing, with Étangs de Bassiès prominent in the view. The Ariege is forgiven, though I regret having booked a place at Mounicou, right now I want to pitch my tent next to Étang Majeur.

Col de Bassiés. View down to a beautiful scenery around Étangs de Bassiés.

I couldn't get any pancakes at Moulin Lauga, but down at Refuge de Bassiés (1655m) I can both enjoy the sight of the mountains and two pancakes. It's a weekend and this is the place where I've met most people so far in the Ariege. High above is a solitary silhouette of a walker on the mountain ridge above the refuge, from Mont Garias a path goes around the ridge before it heads down again to the Bassiès cabin, must be a great walk.

Pont de Pierres, a curious stone bridge.

It cannot be said often enough how much a lake is illuminating every landscape; I could almost walk back up to Col de Bassiès again just to be able to enjoy the magnificent scenery again. Instead I move along the Étang Majeur before having lunch next to the lake: local sausage, honey bread, pain au chocolat, chocolate and tea. A great walk further down also.

At Pont de Pierres (1580m) I cross the river runs that out of Étang d'Escales and disappears down the Bassiès ravine, the bridge is a curious stone construction. And it is marking the end of the wonderful mountain plateau I've just walked through; from the stone bridge the trail is going steep down the ravine. At times the descent is a little bit painful.

Walking on the top of an ancient aqueduct along the mountainside.

Then the trail takes an amazing choice of way. Finally finished with the descent the trail is then following an ancient aqueduct along the mountainside. GR10 is going on the top of an aqueduct and it can be heard that it is hollow beneath me when I walk along the aqueduct. In between you can look into through small cavities and openings. The stretch is quite long, but in return it is nice and good to walk on, passing several tunnels in the mountain on the way (I walk inside one where the barring has been broken up).

After having left the aqueduct behind me I come down to Marc (1060m) which I walk fast through. I can feel that I'm tired now and so I want to arrive at Mounicou; hence I don't take a closer look at the place. Mounicou is situated in a valley that is dank and dark according to Paul Lucia, and it is a kind of a valley that doesn't let the sun through that much. Mounicou (1087m) is a small village, barely. It's more like a tiny collection of houses standing tight together.

Mounicou. A small 'place' where the houses are standing tightly, with a nice gîte and a small bar.

There isn't any food to get at the gîte, but it's nice there. There is however a small bar at the place that is run by an elderly woman (though, no food to get there either), when I arrive a small group is sitting outside having a drink (Saturday evening at the place). I make myself dinner in the kitchen in the gîte, and then eat together with some other nice guests at the gîte. When I go for a beer at the bar there is only me there, a quiet Saturday evening in the Pyrenees. Today was a fantastic day and walk, and a sign that the Ariege has more to offer than dark valleys where the clouds are hanging all day.

<- Aulus les BainsGoulier ->

Friday, August 30, 2013

St Lizier d'Ustou - Aulus les Bains

Distance: 22.5km (634.8km), time spent: 9:36 (245:07).
Ascent descent: 1361m (36319m) / 1351m (35838m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 740m / 750m / 1618m.
Weather: Cloudy in the morning, sunny and some clouds later.

The dull weather outside isn't doing anything to improve my mood, even though I saw the sun for a short moment yesterday the days are characterized by the grey weather and I'm a little bit tired of it now. There have been many dark forests and valleys to walk through in the Ariege. Today I'm back in the hands of the guidebook and is going to Aulus les Bains, where I will pass a prominent landmark on the way, Cascade d'Ars.

St Lizier d'Ustou in the night. I woke up in the middle of the night and for some reason had to take some pictures.

When I arrive at Col de Fitté (you have to excuse the Frenchmen for their somewhat indecent naming here seen from Norwegian eyes) I have walked up through yet another long stretch in a forest again. At the pass (1387m) I'm met by blue sky and I feel that my mood is improving. The landscape around is more visible now and views are opening up, mountain peaks are appearing. The trail is continuing further on around Picou de la Mire.

Cirque de Casiérens, a lovely hanging valley.

Col d'Escots (1618m) is offering a view to the valleys made by the green arms of the mountains below, the pass itself is unfortunately a part of a larger ski station and are somewhat marred by that. After a fresh pause in the wind that blows over the pass I continue alongside the mountain side. The trail is undulating between several fields of huge stones before I arrive at Cirque de Casiérens, a lovely hanging valley where it's possible to find a nice place to pitch a tent.

Étang de Guzet.

On several places on the route today it has been possible to take a short cut down to Aulus, useful in bad weather, so also at Jasse du Fouillet (1170m). But that is not an option for me now. It is almost a little pity to have to walk inside the forest now that there finally is sunny and blue sky again, even though there are some clouds as well. I walk down to Étang de Guzet (1459m), a small lake encircled by trees. Here I eat lunch and can finally change to my hiker pants again. I washed it yesterday and it wasn't dry in the morning, so I had to walk with my rain gear while my hiking pants were hanging to dry at the back of backpack.

Passerelle d'Ars, a lovely piece of nature in the Pyrenees.

After Étang de Guzet the trail is gaining a little bit of height again and is going above the woods, there are some remarkable formations in the mountains above and a small cabin is passed by. I arrive at a gorgeous area; I'm at the Passerelle d'Ars (1485m) which is a very popular area. Here the Ruisseau d'Ars runs down from a valley I very much would have liked to have walked further up in. The river is crossed by a small bridge. I'm at the end of the last loop the route takes before it's moving down towards Aulus les Bains.

Cascade d'Ars.

But first I'll pass Cascade d'Ars, a wonderful three-story waterfall. Have to climb around a lot on the stones to get a better view of it. The waterfall is following me with its eyes when I'm walking further on down. The river is here going down in deep canyons and ponds. In the end I arrive at Aulus les Bains (750m) after a nice walk and a dear reunion with blue sky and sun.

Aulus les Bains.

I'm the only guest at the Gîte d'Etape La Goulue. The gîte is located behind a large and majestic house that formerly housed a casino, the owners of the gîte has planned to make a restaurant there instead. They also make dinner to me at the gîte, which feels kind of weird since I'm the only guest, but the food is very good (which is promising for the upcoming restaurant). Aulus is a larger village than St Lizier and it's noticeably more people here, but despite that it's relatively quiet here. I didn't see anymore of Claire today after having said goodbye in St Lizier in the morning.

<- St Lizier d'UstouMounicou ->

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Aula - St Lizier d'Ustou

Distance: 21.3km (612.3km), time spent: 8:11 (235:31).
Ascent / descent: 1292m (34958m) / 2102m (34487m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 1550m / 740m / 1998m.
Weather: Cloudy and grey, some blue sky.

The mouse wandered a lot in the night and a cow or horse tried to open the door during the night. There is hope outside even though it's cloudy; it's a great morning with nice colors down in the valley. Not the earliest start on my walk today, as we spent a lot of time enjoying the nice morning outside the cabin. The horses that are grazing are visiting us just outside the hut.

A great morning with nice colors in the valley below outside of Cabane d'Aula, horses posing in the morning light.

I can see the sun lighting up the mountain behind me when I walk up towards Port d'Aula. Todays stage starts with a steep climb straight on, 450 meters of ascent just outside the door of the cabin. I feel somewhat betrayed up at Port d'Aula (1998m); a large cloud is blocking the view of the sun. The scenery is great though, a rolling green mountain landscape, that unfortunately lasted all too short. Walking along the trail I can look down towards Col de Pause, there at least is the sun illuminating the landscape.

Up at Port d'Aula.

Étang d'Arreau (1886m) is a nice lake, next to it is Refuge d'Arreau that looks like it's not in use yet. I pass by Cabane d'Arreau (1696m), which is a private cabane, there are people there now working to improve it. Down at Col de Pause (1527m) I can look over to the valley (Estours) that I went up yesterday, the trail is taking a nice trip around Port d'Aula to here. Down from the pause pass a road is going that is crossed several times, but the markings is quite bad here and it's hard to locate the path (you can follow the road instead which will take you to the same place as the path).

View down towards Col de Pause.

The trail is passing two small hamlets on the way down the valley, Faup and Raufaste. Down at Couflens (702m), where the guidebook is advertising that it isn't even a pub there, I set off away from the trail in search for a place to eat that is supposedly five minutes away according to a sign. I turn around when my mind clears up and understand that it's five minutes away by car and not on foot. Claire has come down to Couflens when I return. Nothing in the village.

Étang d'Arreau.

After coming up to Rouze (930m) by a steep trail we sit down outside the gîte next to the farm. Inside it's very nice, and with a self-service. I serve myself to good plum juice from the farm, beer, chocolate and chips. If I where to stay here for a longer stay I would stay inside, it is an incredible amount of flies here.

Faup. Across the valley is Rouze and above Col de la Serre du Clot.

Up to Col de la Serre du Clot you pass a lot of ruined farms, in addition to an almost ruined hamlet. At the top of the pass (1546m) I can look back across the valley to Col de Pause. Time for a new steep descent. Nearby Crabude I can for the first time in a long time see the sun at the sky for a short period.

Col de la Serre du Clot, looking back towards Col de Pause.

St Lizier d'Ustou (740m) is a quiet and tranquil place. I'm the only guest at the gîte (La Colline Verte) at the place it appears, Claire is also coming there later since it was full at the camp site (which feels quite odd since there are barely anybody else to see in the little village). The evening is quiet. Good dinner at the only bar and restaurant at the place, but I'm eating almost all by myself there.

<- AulaAulus les Bains ->

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Esbints - Aula

Distance: 22.5km (591.0km), time spent: 8:00 (227:20).
Ascent / descent: 1170m (33666m) / 430m (32385m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 810m / 1550m / 1550m.
Weather: cloudy and grey, some blue sky.

The recent days on the walk has been cloudy and today was to be no exception, it poured down during the night. In my original plan for the walk Aunac was one of the places I'd planned to stop at. But since plans are in the habit of changing I need to look at another place. Aunac is just one hour away from Esbints, too short of a walk for today. Instead I put my index finger on the map where Cabana d'Aula is located, I really want to stay at least one night in one of these open mountain huts in the Pyrenees. Claire is also saying that she would like to go there as well, but are unsure whether it's too far to go for her.

Misty morning in the Esbints valley.

It's a little bit sad to be leaving Esbints, it was very nice place and I had a great stay. The hosts at the gîte were also going up in the mountains, to be herding their sheep up at a cabane for three days. It's cloudy outside and small clouds are swimming in the air down in the valley. The trail is following the road down from the small place in the beginning. After a little while the trail leaves the road and then follows a wet and muddy track through the woods.

The trail itself isn't passing through Aunac, but nearby at Camp de Peyrot. Down at Coume-Chaude the road from Seix is coming up and there is a marked path down to the village, I decide to follow it down. Next to the trail the Ruisseau d'Estours is running. In Seix (506m) I'm at lower altitude and then clouds are seizing the opportunity to clear up a bit for a while, but still I can't see the sun. I look around a little bit and then eat an omelet at a restaurant, to the great astonishment of the hosts. The village is nice, well worth a visit. I buy some food and drinks for the night before I walk back to the GR10.

Seix. The village is not on the trail, but is only about half an hour of walk away from it.

At Moulin Lauga (541m) a café is advertising for pancakes and I don't need to be asked twice. But there is absolutely no one there, so in the end I have to give up my cravings for a pancake (or two) and walk on. There is a nice walk up the Estours valley in the beginning, but after a while it becomes monotonous. A trail is taking over for the road and it's nicer, but in the end that too gets a little bit boring even though it's passing next to the Estours river. My backpack weighs a little bit more now and it's harder to walk.

Cascade d'Arcouzan. A great waterfall that you pass on the way up towards Pont d'Aula.

I left the blue sky at Seix, here it's cloudy. I arrive at Cabane de l'Artigue (1053m), where someone has written Refuge des Galapagos on the door. In view from the hut is a great waterfall, Cascade d'Arcouzan. I leave my backpack at the cabin and walk over to see the waterfall at close range. There is only one steep climb before I'm up at Cabane d'Aula.

And steep it is, but once up there is a gorgeous plateau awaiting me. In a circle around the green plains there are mountains towering above, now encircled by clouds. I know that Mont Valier (2838m) is guarding the mountains around from above, even though it's now hidden for my eyes. Horses and cows are grazing on the plains. And then I can see Cabane d'Aula (1550m) lying peacefully further into the plateau. It's a quite big hut, but it appears that it's only one half of it that is in use. It's cozy inside. Most of these huts are open and free to use for everyone, but not all of them.

Overlooking the Estours valley.

In the cabin there is a long table, three bunk beds and a large fireplace. In the window the book The Swallows Of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra in Norwegian is lying, so quite clearly someone from Norway has been here before. I make myself a large cup of tea which I enjoy outside the cabin. It really is a wonderful place. Then I go to gather firewood for the evening. While I'm standing with my arms full of branches and twigs is Claire coming up the hillside.

Plateau d'Aula with Cabane d'Aula below the mountains. Mont Valier hidden behind the clouds.

Todays walk was not the most memorable, but the evening in Cabane d'Aula was very nice. We're not the only ones in the hut; a little mouse is running around. We make a fire in the fireplace while the silence is descending outside. It's nice with company at the cabin, even though Claire's English and my French is a little limited. It's still crackling from the fireplace when we go to sleep

Inside Cabane d'Aula, Claire tending the fire in the fireplace.

<- EsbintsSt Lizier d'Ustou ->

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pla de la Lau - Esbints

Distance: 24.4km (568.5km), time spent: 9:05 (219:20).
Ascent / descent: 1446m (32496m) / 1563m (31955m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 927m / 810m / 1892m.
Weather: Fog, grey and dull, cloudy, some blue sky.

There's no quarter from the clouds, yet another morning where the clouds are invading the Pyrenees and are tearing and wearing up the mountainsides. It rained a lot during the night while I had a good night's sleep inside. Today was pretty much the same as the previous days, but with a small indication of better weather towards the end of the day. So far the Ariege has been giving the impression of being a lot more gloomier part of the Pyrenees than the rest.

Oppressive clouds in the mountains above Pla de la Lau in the morning.

Because gloomy is the word when walking up the wet path through the Muscadet valley towards Cap des Lauses. It's a tough start of the day under the oppressive weather between the mountains. Even so, I'm still smiling, it's an adventure I'm on, bad weather or not. I meet another solitary walker just before Cap des Lauses (1892moh), later on I got to know that it was most likely another Norwegian.

On the trail towards Col de la Laziès.

Finally finished with the stiff climb, the trail is then going alongside the mountain ridge. In clear weather I'm pretty sure that this would have been a great walk with a nice view, I have to be content with the few glimpses I get through the clouds. A not too dense fog is also bringing an atmosphere to a landscape. Another pass, Col de la Laziès (1840m), is left behind in the fog.

I go up on a hill next to the trail for not to see anything, but on the way down Étang d'Ayes (1694m) is appearing in a nice view. A blue eye in a grey sea and the nicest sight so far. It's a nice lake with lots of places that are suitable to pitch a tent at nearby, but it's too early to do that now. It seems that the clouds are taking a breather when I'm at the lake and is opening up to allow more of the scenery around to be visible for a short period. I take a break myself.

Étang d'Ayes. A nice lake which would make an ideal camping site.

At Col d'Auédole (1730m) I'm going and thinking about how few people I've met on the trail in the Ariege comparing to early, when a large group of walkers are coming up from the cabin below (Cabane du Clot d'Eliet). Typical. The weather has lifted a bit now and I take off my rain gear inside the hut. The trail is den descending through an anonymous path to Étang de Bethmale. The only thing out of the ordinary is the curious route where I'm passing just above a derelict farm building, walks for quite a while and then turns and passes just below the same farm building.

I arrive at Étang de Bethmale (1060m) that looked so green and inviting through the trees from above, but a little dirtier up close. A nice enough lake anyway, there are a few people promenading around the lake. Then it goes up again, towards Pas de la Core (1395m). Here a road is passing that needs to be crossed, there are quite a few that stops to take in the view. There is even some blue sky to see in between the clouds.

Étang de Bethmale.

After Pas de la Core I'm entering a sort of a Snuffy Smith-country, you get the feeling that it's sort of a remote backwater area. Some few, tired and ramshackle farms is spread around the valley I'm walking in. I start to hum on the banjo-tune from Deliverance. That said, I'm having a nice time now, it's a pleasant walk. It's quiet and calm, only the sound of the crickets in the air.

Further down the valley is Esbints (810m), which is the endpoint of todays walk. And it's a nice and small place. The gîte at the place is a small and very nice house, with only enough spaces for ten people. There are only four persons living here all the year, which in addition to running the gîte also is running the farm at the place. When I arrive there are some clothes everywhere, there is another wanderer at the gîte, Claire. We eat dinner at the hosts' house next to; the food is good and aplenty.

View from Pas de la Core. Finally some blue sky to see again.

Towards the evening it starts to rain outside, but inside we can relax with a fire in the oven. A varying day in the Pyrenees today, where Étang d'Ayes and the walk through the valley before Esbints was the highlights, with a nice evening in Esbints as the conclusion of the day.

Esbints. A small and nice place where you receive a warm welcome at the gîte.

<- Pla de la LauAula ->

Monday, August 26, 2013

Eylie d'En Haut - Pla de la Lau

Distance: 16.9km (544.1km), time spent: 9:11 (210:15).
Ascent / descent: 1623m (31050m) / 1686m (30392m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 990m / 927m / 1821m.
Weather: Fog, grey and dull.

The Ariege is supposedly known for its fickle weather and clouds that could be hanging in the valleys all day, something I was to be familiar with in the upcoming days. Today I've planned to go to Cabane de Besset, a cozy hut when the fire is lit according to the guidebook. Since it's a sad and dull world outside at the moment a cozy hut inside would be nice, there's is no trace of the blue sky of yesterday.

Eylie d'En Haut in the background with the old mine workings in the front.

My wind jacket is wrapped tightly around me on the way up to Col de l'Arech. Looking back under the clouds I can see Eylie and the remains of the old mine workings down in the valley. A little stone shelter appears after I walk out of the woods. Up at Col de l'Arech (1802m) the weather is sour and gusty; all view is hidden behind the clouds. In the door of Cabane de l'Arech (1638m) a man is standing and scowling out at the grey weather while he's smoking. I can see a disheveled tent camp that has seen its better days.

Fog over Col de l'Arech.

The Orle valley below is dark and gloomy, but probably mostly because of the weather, it's a remote and dank valley. There is a cabane here not far from the trail, Cabane de Grauillès. A flock of horses are greeting me on the trail at Flouquet (1081moh). Before I begin the ascent up from the valley again I encounter some daytrippers on their way up. I wonder a little bit on what it is in this valley that attracts them to go to see in this weather.

The trail is then undulating steeply upwards. I emerge out over the trees where the fog is awaiting me eagerly. The grass is colored white by the dew when I walk up through the fog. Cabane de Besset (1494m) appears above me; above the cabin there is nothing to see.

Cabane de Besset, a very nice and cozy hut.

I've arrived early; the time isn't even past two o'clock. The view towards Cabane de l'Arech from the cabin is a grey wall, the picture in the book is much nicer. Cabane de Besset is a really nice and cozy hut, but I still feel that just sitting inside the hut for the rest of the day would become boring in the end and a summit bid bears no meaning in this weather. And the thought has struck me underway, I decide to continue walking.

View down towards Cabane de Besset with the Orle valley below.

But not after I've taken myself a long break inside the hut. Since the original thought was to stay over at the cabin did I carry with me some additional treats, where a local beer and cheese is among the items. In the flickering light of a candlelight I have a nice lunch with hot tea inside. I should have walked here yesterday.

Then I move on up towards Clot de Lac (1821m), further down the silhouette of Cabane de Besset is visible before it disappears in the clouds. At the pass there is another also quite nice cabin. Through small glimpses I can look over to the other of the valley towards Col de l'Arech. The trail is carrying me down again, but the clouds are lifting a little bit. I pass a small stone shelter probably built for emergency use. There's a lot of these open mountain cabins here in this area, I pass two another on the way down, Cabane du Trapech du Milieu (1540m) and Cabane de l'Artigue. The latter is only consisting of a large flat-bed and fireplace inside.

Misty mountains over the grand ravin de Trapech.

In Pla de la Lau (927m) there is a big building beneath the somber mountainsides, Gîte-Auberge La Maison Valier. It's a quiet day here today, only an older family of four visiting in addition to myself. The dinner is great, one of the best on the walk so far and is consisting of quiche, ham, salad, steak, potatoes and a good tomato-sauce. And I get to sleep in a proper bed again. It was mostly a grey, dull and a little bit boring walk today; but with a very nice lunch at Cabane de Besset.

Cabane de l'Artigue with the emerald mountains above.
<- Eylie d'En HautEsbints ->

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Araing - Eylie d'En Haut

Distance: 8.3km (527.2km), time spent: 5:00 (201:04).
Ascent / descent: 513m (29427m) / 1473m (28706m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 1950m / 990m / 2424m.
Weather: Fog and sun.

Today I was unsure of where I wanted to go. Outside the fog is lying low and is not very much tempting. It's a short walk over to the next place, Eylie d'En Haut, but it isn't a discouraging distance to Cabane de Besset from Eylie either. My hiking boots are still wet after yesterday, so it's tempting to go to a place where I can get them proper dry.

The dam at Étang d'Araing in fog.

The Tarnoswki family has decided to leave the GR10 and do the Tour de Biros down to lower surroundings, so I have to say goodbye to yet another new acquaintance. They disappear down in the fog while I'm walking up into it past Cabane d'Étaing d'Araing. On the way up the sun is suddenly breaking through the clouds, the morning dew on the grass is illuminated white in the light. Up at Serre d'Araing (2221m) am I above the clouds and can bathe in sunlight.

The Cirque d'Araing covered by clouds.

Unfortunately a look at the map makes it clear that Cabane de Besset will still be beneath the clouds. Even so, I'm still unsure if I only will go down to Eylie, but a junction at the top of the ridge is presenting me with an option. By going up to Pic de l'Har I can add some time to todays walk. So above the sea of clouds I set off in the direction of the summit. Up at Pic de l'Har (2424m) the view is offering me a sight of a white ocean that rolls onto the mountain sides with small spires rising from the clouds.

On the way back the clouds are lifting on the side that I went up from, and I can for the first time look upon Cirque d'Araing and Étang d'Araing in its entirety. Then I go down on the opposite side of the ridge and into the fog again, no changes on this side. Contours of a memorial appear and disappear again. A derelict entrance to a mine attracts my curiosity, the remains of the construction is lying scattered around. I'm walking slowly downward, there's no rush now.

View of the ocean of clouds from Pic de l'Har.

Then it became a mystic walk. Out of the fog a ghost town is appearing, the wind is howling between the houses; signs, window sills and doors are flapping and creaking. A sensation of being watched. I've come to the Mines de Bentaillou (1870m), an abandoned mine high up in the mountains. Now shrouded in mystic and mist. I spend a long time among the derelict buildings. The grey weather makes it a special atmosphere. On a height behind the buildings with a view down into the fog covered valley the mines is opening up. The fog is lifting slowly and through the clouds mountains are appearing behind the mine, clouds drifts through the houses. Magical.

View down towards Cirque d'Araing and Étang d'Araing.

On the steep way down the clouds are lifting more and more, blue sky appearing. Col de l'Arech which the GR10 passes over is now visible on the other side of the valley and down below the houses of Eylie d'En Haut can be discerned. Traces of the mine workings are still apparent on the way down. Behind me Mines de Bentaillou disappears into the shadows of the past.

Mines de Bentaoillou, an abandoned mine high up in the mountains.

Down at Eylie d'En Haut (990m) the sky is now almost completely clear and it's tempting to continue further. But in the end I call it a day and get me a place at the nice gîte. Even though I ate at the top of Pic de l'Har am I hungry. After having eaten I find out that I would be arriving quite late at Cabane de Besset, so I decide to stay.

Eylie d'En Haut, the gîte is located just outside the small village.

Before dinner I go for a walk down into the valley, where I pass Eylie and Eylie d'En Bas. The dinner at the gîte is very good with lots of food, and is being served in the hosts' house in the small village. In the evening I find a pitch black path that I follow to see if I can find Monument Megalithique. A great day with the abandoned mine as the highlight by far. I could (and should) probably have walked further on to Cabane de Besset in the nice weather, but I had a nice evening in Eyelie anyway.

<- AraingPla de la Lau ->

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fos - Araing

Distance: 17.9km (518.9km), time spent: 6:23 (196:04).
Ascent / descent: 1651m (28914m) / 245m (27233m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 544m / 1950m / 2176m.
Weather: Cloudy, fog and rain.

It's with a clear and present danger for fog that I start walking in the morning. There was breakfast for four persons at the gîte, but while I stayed at the gîte I only saw one other person. The trail is going up through Fos before it takes to the woods past several derelict farms of stone. When I come out of the forest again I arrive at a new small little place, which in fact turns out to still be Fos.

Melles, a small place with majestic houses in a remote valley.

The clouds are hanging over the vale. The trail is going up on the road to Melles next to the Cascade de Sèriail, contrary to what it says in both my topo guide and guidebook. The first part of todays walk is going on a road, but it's still a pleasant walk. Arriving at Melles (719m) makes me wish that I had gone there yesterday instead. How come that such a small place in a remote valley (Val de Maudan) has got so majestic houses. A teddy bear is guarding the hostel which has a very nice seating outside with a water source next by. A lovely small place I really would have liked to spend a night at.

Walking on the road through the Val de Maudan.

High up the trees are tearing up the clouds without making the blue sky go through the layer of clouds. Alongside the road there are small farms and houses, the further up the valley I walk the more I get the feeling of being in a remote place (despite the road). It's an enjoyable walk.

Cabane d'Uls.

It's the end of the road after Labach (980m) and I'm now entering the kingdom of the bears, marked by a welcome sign. There are no bears in the beginning, only a steep hill through the woods and fog. And then it starts to rain.

Up at Plateau Marécageux (1868m) I'm covered in fog and the weather is sour. It's good then that Cabane d'Uls is located nearby. I cross a broken bridge and is moving through the fog until the contour of the cabin is appearing. There is no one in the hut. While it's blowing and raining outside I'm eating lunch and relaxing inside the cabin with a candlelight on the table, my rain jacket hanging to dry. But nothing lasts forever and I have to step out into the fog again.

Lunch inside Cabane d'Uls.

The path is fortunately easy to spot in the grass, so a repetition of la Serre seems unlikely. The fog makes the walk somewhat monotonous, but not enough to make me tired of it. I'm officially in the Pyrénées Ariégeoises up at Col d'Aueran (2176m), where more fog is greeting me. In nice weather I would likely had taken the walk up to Pic de Crabère (2629m) from here, which is nearby, but I'm reining in my curiosity today.

Étang d'Araing under the clouds.

Down towards Refuge de l'Étang d'Araing the lake is slowly appearing out from the clouds. Étang d'Araing (1950m) is situated next to the impressive Cirque d'Araing, but the low clouds are hiding the view. There aren't many at the hut. I think my food habits differs strongly from the food habits here, the guardian is quite surprised when I'm ordering an omelet. But he's smiling and makes a good omelet anyway.

Rainbow in the valley below the Refuge de l'Étang d'Araing.

At one point the guardian is suddenly running out and disappears around the corner, me and the other guests are wondering quite a lot and are then following after him. We're then met with a great sight, in the valley below there is a wonderful rainbow. The Polish family is arriving shortly afterwards, all quite wet. Despite the sad weather I had a nice walk today, even though it got a little bit boring towards the end.

<- FosEylie d'En Haut ->

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bagneres de Luchon - Fos

Distance: 26.8km (501.0km), time spent: 9:37 (189:41).
Ascent / descent: 1568m (27263m) / 1674m (26988m).
Altitude (start / end / highest): 650m / 544m / 2193m.
Weather: Sunny, cloudy in the afternoon.

Todays stage has been given the prize for being the hardest stage on the trail in my Cicerone guidebook. I'm curious to see if that is correct so I'm off at an early start. A rest day does that with me, I'm eager to get going again. It's dark outside when I'm walking through Bagneres de Luchon.

Standing above Artigue with view back across the valley towards Superbagneres.

I pass by the small airport outside the town in the morning hours, duly pointed by a danger sign for airplanes over the trail. Next to the small airport a river is running where there are already fishermen early up trying to get the big catch. Then I take off through the woods, but a lot slower than an airplane. Bagneres de Luchon has been visible several times through windows in the trees while walking up to Artigue (1230m). There is a water source next to the tired looking gîte at the place.

Cabane de Saunères. Bagneres de Luchon below with Superbagneres above, and Spanish mountains in the horizon.

After Artigue the landscape is more open, acres and meadows around the trail with a view of the mountains on the other side of the valley. It's somewhat steep, but nothing more than it has been earlier on the walk. I arrive at Cabane de Saunères (1660m) where I find the Tarnowski family sitting outside. Leszek warns me about drinking the water I filled from the source at Artigue, so I have to sterilize it.

The view from the cabane is great, with Spanish mountains reaching towards the sky in the horizon. Below Bagneres de Luchon is visible in its entirety and I can see where I and Evelyne went over from Lac d'Oo two days ago. The view inside the cabin is not as good as the view outside. It is by the way quite enjoyable being in a place you recognize from a picture in the guidebook.

Borderstone 400 between France and Spain. Between Bagneres and Fos the GR10 goes almost straight on top of the border between the two countries a part of the way.

After having walking further on up to Col de Peyrahitta (1947m) the trail is deviating from what is described in the guidebook, and I can't remember having passed any junction. Instead of going down below the ridge towards Étang du Dessus the waymarks is following what is described as an alternative route over Col des Taons de Bacanère. Here the trail is going almost straight on top of the border between France and Spain. One moment in France, the other moment in Spain. The borderstones marks the way. Something tells me that this is a nicer walk than what is described. There is a nice view at the highest point of todays walk, Pic de Bacanère (2193m).

I eat lunch in Spain, at Ètang de Cigaleres. A viper is crossing my path in the grass when I walk towards the lake.

View back in the direction I came from at Pic de Bacanère.

It was a great walk upwards, now it's going downwards. At Étang de St-Bèat the high warning shrieks from the marmots are heard through the air, there is almost no water left in the lake. It's mainly a little bit of a hard walk through the woods down towards Fos, but with some bright spots in the forest as at Cabane d'Artigue and Cabane d'Arteguessans. The latter quite cozy inside, despite some very worn matrasses. The descent over slimy cobbles the guidebook warned me about turned out to present no problems, at least not today.

Inside Cabane d'Arteguessans, a nice cabane in the forest above Fos.

There were rumors that Fos also had been severe affected by the earlier flooding, but the truth is that it was St-Bèat further down that was hit hard. Fos got away with just some minor problems. There is no one at the gîte when I arrive. I walk to the bar at the hotel, which closes its doors just before I enter. It turns out there actually is an open shop in Fos now, if you can call it a shop. It's a tiny country shop at the place, with a quite limited stock. I buy myself some fruit and something to drink which I consume while I wait outside the gîte.

Fos. The hotel, bar and the restaurant is in the building to the left.

The Polish family is staying at the hotel and I eat dinner together with them in the restaurant. It was a nice day of walking from Bagneres de Luchon, it was long and hard, but not as hard as I had expected. Tomorrow I'm definitely entering the Ariege.

<- Bagneres de LuchonAraing ->

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