Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Pyrenees 2013. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pyrenees 2013. Show all posts

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Happy Days in the Pyrenees

 
On I had the pleasure of bumping into Uli (with the beard) whilst I was walking the GR10 route across the Pyrenees. We realised when we parted a few days later that we'd probably never meet again, and that may well be the case.
 
It was something of a surprise, therefore, to receive a message from Uli today. He is starting a Pyrenees HRP walk (that's the high level one that Sue and I walked in 2004) on Monday, heading from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. I do so wish I could go with him, but I'll just have to accept a vicarious trip on this occasion, by following his progress .
 
Whilst Uli was a faster walker than me, he and another GR10 hiker, Peter, kindly waited for me during the ascent of Pic du Canigou, on a day when the summit was engulfed in cloud and the scrambly route of ascent was rather slippery. We are pictured above on the 2785 metre summit of that iconic mountain. It was close to freezing - a bit of a shock, as t-shirts and shorts had been de rigeur for several weeks by then.
 
The three of us stayed more or less together until lunchtime on . We are pictured below, just outside Arles-sur-Tech, before Uli and Peter headed on to Moulin de la Palette and I headed gently down to Amelie-les-Bains for a welcome rest.

 
Good luck on this year's adventure, Uli, and do take care. We will be with you in spirit.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

‘A Pyrenean Adventure’ in New Zealand

Ruth-Book-travels

I’m indebted to my old friend Geoffrey for this picture of Ruth with ‘A Pyrenean Adventure’ in Wellington, New Zealand. This certainly gets the award for the best travelled copy of the book. There aren’t many left, and rather than advertise them for sale, I’m slowly disposing of them to people who ‘really want a copy’.

The whole experience of producing and distributing the book was so pleasurable that I’d like to do another one. You’ll be one of the first to receive a copy, Ruth.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

A Pyrenean Adventure – The Book

0001Pyrenees

My first book is out, thanks largely to TGO Challenger Humphrey Weightman, who I discovered on my return from the Pyrenees had re-formatted this blog into book form.

The very limited print run arrived on 31 October, when a small ‘launch party’ was held with a few friends, several fizzy bottles, and a huge carrot cake.

3102launch2

I’ve sent copies to many of the people we met along the way, and we received this lovely response from Yolaine, Pierre, Chantal and Joël in Annecy. Wonderful.

Celebrations in Annecy

The book is available by emailing me at [email protected].

Prices are as follows:
Hand delivery - £10.00
UK + P&P - £12.00
Europe + P&P - £15.70
USA etc + P&P - £18.00

Anyone who buys a copy may also have a pdf version, and if you want just the pdf version the price is £5.00. Payment is currently by cheque or bank transfer, but I plan also to set up a Paypal account. (When we get back from a week away.)

Currently I’m aware of just one review, here – from Andy Howell. In fact, I rather like that review, so whilst the link verifies its efficacy, I’m reiterating it below:

Review: A Pyrenean Adventure, Martin Banfield

The growth of the internet and low cost digital technology has seen an explosion in ‘self publishing’ over the last decade. I’ve reviewed a number of self-published books here and a few of them have gone on to be very popular. In all honesty, I do receive some pretty dreadful, self-published, books but this one, my friends, is a little gem.

Martin Banfield is a friend of mine, fellow blogger, hill walker, Pyrenean aficionado and TGO Challenger. This summer Martin walked the full length of the GR10, the long distance footpath on the French side of the Pyrenees. For much of the walk he was accompanied by his wife Sue and on other occasions his walking companions were a mixture of old and new friends; one of the great things about trails such as these is that you make many new friends as you walk.

Martin blogs as he walks, something that I have never been comfortable at doing. At the end of each day he sits down and writes his journal on his smartphone. When he has a phone signal he turns his trail prose into blog posts, enhancing them with the photographs that he has taken on that very same smartphone. The result of this technique is that the walking experience is shared with friends — real and virtual — in almost real time.

The further Martin walked this summer the more this blog became a shared journey. Regular contributors added to the fun and humour of the trip and others who dipped in and out clearly took inspiration from Martin’s walk.

As the walk progressed I remember writing a post here describing Martin’s journal as one of the best, current, reads on the net. Reading this now is a reminder of how right that observation was! Another fan of Martin’s walk was another TGO Challenger and print designer Humphrey Weightman. Humphrey was fascinated by what he saw emerging from Martin’s blog and decided that it would work — posts, reader comments and all — as a book. Humphrey knocked up some drafts and dummies and when Martin returned from France he found these proofs waiting for him at home.

The two of them decided that the experiment had worked and over a few weeks Martin tidied up the text a little and spent a little time processing his photographs. Humphrey then laid down the page design, commissioned printers and — hey presto — this book was born.

The book takes the form of an A4, bound, soft cover. The larger A4 format works really well allowing most of the day entries and the accompanying photos and reader comments to sit on one page. I can’t remember a blog — comments and all — laid out like this before, but the formula really works. This is a more polished version of the blog (still available online) but the text has lost none of its spontaneity, vibrancy and humour.

The many photographs that illustrate the adventure are well composed and provide readers with a real insight as to how these mountains look and work. The quality of the photographs are quite remarkable given that they were composed on a smartphone. But it is in the reading that this book delights. It is a real account of a real walk, not an account of great heroics or death defying stunts, but the kind of experience that is well within the reach of all of us.

If you are thinking of walking in the Pyrenees — planning anything from a full traverse to a week’s leisurely rambling — this book will give you a very good idea of what to expect. Writer Kev Reynolds has recently said (in his new collection of memories from a life of mountain walking) the more he reflects on his adventures the more he recognises that great trips are made up of encounters with people and not just the appreciation of the sheer beauty of the landscape. Martin captures this trail comradeship really well here. We meet many new people along the trail and share with Martin his joy of meeting them again a little further on. There are some lovely vignettes of the town and villages along the trail and stories of wonderful hospitality received from Inns and mountain hotels along the way.

The trail is illuminated well as you would expect but Martin also shares with us the look and feel of the villages in which he stays to resupply and take a break. There is humour and quirkiness here, not least in Martin’s sub project to document the variety of tractors that are found along the Pyrenean ridge.

Over the last few years Steve Cracknell has had some success with his own account his walk along the GR10 (If Only You Walk Long Enough) and I’ve no doubt that Martin’s book delight many in the same way. The idea to publish the text and the comments is a master stroke as, if you missed the trek at the time, you can still share the adventure as it evolved while also experiencing the banter between Martin and those who were following the trip.

I know many of you still appreciate the look and feel of the printed book and that many of you are happy hunting down titles from specialist shops and suppliers. To get hold of a copy email Martin directly at: [email protected]

The book costs £12 and this includes post and packaging. European delivery costs £15.70 and shipping to USA and other international destinations will cost £18. Martin accepts payment by cheque or bank transfer. Anyone who buys a copy of the book will also be given a PDF version for their ereader if they request it. The initial print run is limited — so get in quickly! This is a lovely, lovely book that will sit well in any personal library of mountain literature.

Just that one review makes it all worth while! Thanks Andy.



























Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Pyrenean Friends

13062529CJYP

We returned from the Pyrenees with lots of new friends, resulting from encounters along the way.  Here are four of them – Chantal, Joël, Yolaine and Pierre.  We will see them again, though not as soon as hoped, as Chantal and Joël will be away on holiday themselves when we pass nearby their home in a couple of weeks’ time.

Hello you four, and all the others who enhanced our GR10 experience.

… Keep on trekking!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Thursday 15 August 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 62 - Stage 1 - Back to Timperley



For the sake of completeness. ..

With flights from Perpignan being the subject of extortionate costs, I'd looked at train possibilities back at the end of May when I made the booking. 

It all went very smoothly, on another lovely sunny day.

A lift from David to Argeles station after waving goodbye to his lovely house, Maison de Foret (pictured above)
Argelès to Perpignan - €6.60 (20 mins)
Perpignan to Paris (TGV) then Paris to St Pancras (Eurostar) - all on one ticket - €94 (9 hours)
(Canigou soon faded into the distance, but we'll be back)
Euston to Stockport - Virgin Pendolino - £27.50 (1st Class - including food and drinks)(2 hours)
Stockport to Timperley - Nallo Lady taxi service. Priceless. 

A pretty quick and efficient journey, with good company from Paris to London in the form of Reuters man Harry, and a chance encounter at Euston with Phil and Carol, former work colleagues who were in good form (perhaps because Carol retired last year and Phil is doing just that in a couple of weeks' time).

It's a small world! 

Sent from our GR10 trip - index to follow

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Wednesday 14 August 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 61 - Stage 50 - Col de l'Oullat to Banyuls-sur-Mer

Distance: 25 km (Cum: 953 km)     

Ascent: 800 metres (Cum: 52,300 metres)

Additional distance and ascent on rest days: 40 km and 600 metres ascent
                     
Time taken: 7.5 hrs including 1.25 hrs stops (Cum 362 hours walking including 76 hours stops)                                     

Rain: approx 26 hours spent walking in rain, 20 of which were in the first week

Weather: sunny with a cold northerly wind; hot in Banyuls

Everyone was quite keen to get going this morning, and even the Tour Aventure couple managed some smiles after I produced a waterproof jacket found on the path yesterday. It turned out to be one of theirs. I didn't see them again though - the lightest laden were the slowest walkers.

Charles and Elizabeth were first away and remained unseen until Banyuls, where I'm sure they were relieved to have finished lugging their heavy loads (Elizabeth, anyway - former paratrooper Charles could probably have walked back home to Paris in a few days).  Heiko and Anna-Marie left a little after me but soon overtook when I inadvertently descended 50 metres down the wrong path. 

Setting off through the trees above the Chalet de l'Albère gite didn't really prepare us for the strong, buffeting wind above the tree line. It was a cold northerly that tore into us all morning, only relenting after we dropped into the shadow of the hills below Pic de Sailfort. My fleece was donned for much of the morning - very unusual on this trip. The Tilley hat strained on its straps until replaced by a buff. If gloves had been handy they would have gone on. 

Early on we were toiling against this buffeting wind whilst being blinded by the glaring low sun in a meadow of Harebells and Fringed Pinks. The sun got higher, but the wind continued to nag. I wasn't particularly looking forward to a night on the dusty campsite at Banyuls. 

We were up at 1250 metres, with the Spanish coastline seemingly just a few kilometres away (pictured - bottom).  Eventually the shelter provided by some wind-blown trees enabled me to hunker down and enjoy some brownies from Le Perthus. 

Puig Neulus was reached, then an unmanned CAF refuge where the four French boys may have stayed last night. It was a very clean and tidy bothy sort of place, with an overpowering aroma of wood smoke.

Battling onwards to the final summit of the trip - Pic de Sailfort - past cattle and clumps of rockroses, dandelions and eryngo (perhaps the cattle eat everything else), I enjoyed the views to the north, along the coast to Perpignan (pictured - top), and, eventually, the views south east to my destination (pictured - middle). 

A message of encouragement arrived from Pierre and Yolaine. They were near Le Perthus, just a day behind me, in line with their schedule. They are memorable fellow travellers. We will stay in touch and they may even have a go at the TGO Challenge walk across Scotland. 

I lunched in a sheltered spot on Pic de Sailfort, near where Sue and I enjoyed our final brew nine years ago. I couldn't help but reflect on this crossing - the wet first week with David and John, followed by dryer weather but with leaden skies under a low cloud base that was driving people away from the HRP route. After that, two weeks through flood and mud devastated areas, and the upsetting sights of Hotel du Tourmalet being demolished and the mud in St Béat. Sue leaving from Luchon and a period of tent carrying with Graham, often stopping mid-afternoon to avoid storms. The pleasure of walking alone after Vicdessos, set against the frightening descent into Andorra. The final couple of weeks in superb weather apart from a cloudy day on Canigou. New friends met along the way on this latter section, especially Peter, Uli and Nathalie. The last day off in Amélie, and nice meals there with David and Jan, and Nathalie. The last few leisurely days with a very light rucksack, feeling almost as if I was cheating! 

The bleep of the phone aroused me from these reminisces. Probably Orange - border walks always seem to generate a barrage of text messages.  But no, it was David - "fancy dinner, B&B in Argelès?"  A dream scenario.  So I hastened down through herbally scented warm vineyards to Banyuls, stopping on the outskirts to discard a few items that had served their purposes - boots, socks, empty bottles of sun tan cream, toothpaste and water, etc. 

Then it was into town. Beer o'clock had  been brought forward to 3.15pm and was enjoyed outside the Hotel de Ville with David and Jan. Nathalie was there - she had overcome her calf injury to finish the previous day. Charles and Elizabeth also said their goodbyes and Heiko and Anna-Marie were busy being photographed beside the GR10 Start/Finish sign. My own finish was in the sea, after which I burnt my feet on the pavement. It was hotter down there.

The champagne shop in Argelès provided an excellent quaff, and David demonstrated his barbecuing skills. Wonderful hospitality from Jan and David provided a fitting end to the sixty days of walking since we had set off from Hendaye. Thanks you two, it was great.

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary - this was the last day of walking

Occasional Pyrenean Flowers (21)

Frequently seen in woodland and shady places in the Pyrenees - broomrapes, which are parasitic on the roots of other plants and lack green pigment. 

One of the commonest Pyrenean varieties seems to be Clove-scented Broomrape, of which this appears to be a fine specimen. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - the final flower (for now)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Banyuls-sur-Mer

Finished - 3.15 pm, Wednesday 14 August 2013.  In the Mediterranean. Unable to proceed further. 

Picture courtesy of David Roberts Photography. 

Delay courtesy of David and Jan Roberts Hospitality. 

Full posting to follow tomorrow. 

Sent from the end our GR10 trip.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Tuesday 13 August 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 60 - Stage 49 - Las Illas to Col de l'Oullat

Distance: 25 km (Cum: 928 km)     

Ascent: 1020 metres (Cum: 51,500 metres)
                     
Time taken: 7.0 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny but with cloud and storm building over Canigou

Heikel and Anna-Marie joined me for breakfast and I encountered them for periods on today's amble, including lunch on a bench in the dreadful 'tax free' border village of Le Perthus. What qualifications it has to be 'tax free' I don't know, but that status certainly seems to attract swarms of shoppers. 

Hostal dels Trabucayres (pictured-top) is a bit of a blast from the past. No en-suites, no TVs, no Internet. Just a few rooms with balconies, above a restaurant. Lovely original panelling,  separate shower and toilet - just one of each for all the rooms. If this was in the Basque country it would be full of diners every night. 

The route to Le Perthus was much as I remember it from nine years ago. Pleasant tracks undulating past beehives, mainly on the French side of the border, then through an area of cork trees that continued for most of the day. 

"Heat will be a problem." The wise men had assured us. It was over 30°C, but a cool breeze made conditions quite pleasant today. 

The conditions were probably appreciated by certain unseen people as well.  We encountered a 'no camping' 'dogs on leads' 'naked people' area. It was definitely not a 'no naked people' sign, but there were no naturists on our path today. 

Before Le Perthus I yet again passed Fort de Bellegarde without visiting it. I suspect it is very similar to the forts in the Maritime Alps with which we are familiar. 

Typical woodland from today is also pictured. This continued beyond Le Perthus, when to my delight I found the route that we took nine years ago to have been superseded by a much better path. Instead of following the road through St-Martin-de-l'Albère to the col, GR10 now takes paths along the border, skirting the village and all the water points mentioned in our guide book. It's an excellent route, and not too steep. I met a heavily tattooed couple on the way down. They had a cat and a dog on leads. The tiny cat looked absolutely terrified. What ordeals some people put their pets through! 

I reached the gite before 3.30pm and have spent a pleasant afternoon here, watching the storm over Canigou and socialising with my fellow travellers. The 'other couple' are also here. They are indeed 'Tour Aventure' and have a separate private room. The rest of us are in a large dormitory. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - the penultimate day of walking - doesn't it go quickly! 

Occasional Pyrenean Tractors (6)

This special bonus edition may be the last of this series. Proper tractors seem quite rare in the Pyrenees! 

By the way, Alan, the steel foundry I worked in used a Massey Ferguson rescue truck that doubled as a tug...

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Monday 12 August 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 59 - Stage 48 - Moulin de la Palette to Las Illas

Distance: 23 km (Cum: 903 km)      

Ascent: 1050 metres (Cum: 50,480 metres)
                     
Time taken: 8.0 hrs including 1.75 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny at first with some cloud and a few spots of rain in the afternoon

There were lots of alternative routes today, but in the end I chose to wander along the regular GR10 path, on the grounds that it was the longer of the possible options and would fill the day, and it would be almost entirely new ground for me - as has the route all the way from Batère Mines, surprisingly. 

We spent some time chatting with Laurent at the gite. He is proud of their 'Eco credentials' and of being able to use the solar cooker to prepare vegetables that are not overcooked. "How do you say in English?" he asked. "Al dente" I suggested, to much amusement. 

There were lunch items for sale outside the gite, and a sign 'boots and sticks this way'.  "Really!" said Gwen, "so we could buy some new boots here?"

Charles and Elizabeth followed the same GR10 route as me at a slightly different pace, but we started and finished roughly at the same time. Charles's rucksack is 20 kilos heavier than mine! He's quite fit.

Last time I was here we followed the HRP route along the border with Spain. Today's rather longer walk (proven by Heikel and Anna-Marie's arrival at Las Illas via the border route an hour before the rest of us) was a delightful stroll through sunlit woods with frequent views through clearings. 

On the path to Montalba d'Amélie I heard rustlings nearby that had to be coming from animals rather larger than the usual green lizards. I was still a little surprised to see a gang of wild boar swagger across the path just in front of me. Hefty dark brown creatures.

The mushrooms aren't quite ready here, and the flowers are mostly over in the woods, so they do look a bit bare at present, with lots of wild boar scrapings in evidence. 

Coll Cerda warranted a short break and a check on yesterday's blog posting that had been 'sending' for an hour and a half.  It eventually 'failed', after draining 30% of a battery. A couple of pictures were removed and then the posting went, but it subsequently disappeared from the 'sent' folder.  So my plaudits about the S3 phone were perhaps a little premature, particularly as it has developed an occasional tendency to freeze, losing whatever is being worked on, just like an early 'windows' computer. 

After a fairly long climb, the last section of which was accompanied by a sweat craving inundation of flies, the high point of the day - the ridge below Roc de France - was reached.  I joined Charles and Elizabeth, who seemed to be in the middle of a four course banquet, to finish off my goats cheese and tomato baguette. The breeze kept the flies away (they weren't noticeable after that) and there were extensive views into both France and Spain. The latter is pictured. By now some high cloud and haze had arrived to succeed the perfect clarity of the past few days. 

The GR10 path then continued on its merry way, past a variety of large rocky outcrops in the trees (Roc de France is the highest of these), eventually reaching Col de Cirères at 2.50pm amidst a brief flurry of raindrops from the cloud that was building rapidly over Canigou.

A speedy descent to Las Illas saw me passing a new couple as well as Charles and Elizabeth. Most were staying in the gite, but a review of my emails indicated that Sue had probably booked me into the Hostal dels Trabucayres, the hotel/restaurant where we were all enjoying a beer. I enquired. My name was not on the list, but it must have been somewhere, as I was shown immediately to room number one. Those staying at the gite declared mine to be a good decision, and my demi-pension price of €39 is cheaper than staying in the gite and eating here.

C&E lingered over a few beers before departing to try to eat some of their food mountain, snd Heikel and Anna-Marie joined me later for a very good meal at the Hostal (which is a small hotel). The new couple are the only other people staying - it looks as if their bags are being transferred 'Tour Aventure' style. 

No phone signal again tonight. 

NB GR10 is supposed to be about 900 kilometres with 50,000 metres ascent. My trip passed both those landmarks today. So I have two 'bonus' days!  Yippee! 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Occasional Pyrenean Flowers (20)

An Alpine or Pyrenean trip can't be allowed to conclude without a Houseleek picture. 

I think this is Mountain Houseleek (Sempervivium montanum), seen in the 'Valley of the Flowers' (the Eyne valley) a few days ago. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Monday, 12 August 2013

Moulin de la Palette Eco-Gîte

Here are the pictures that wouldn't transmit earlier. 

Sent from a vary bright lunch spot near Roc de France. 

Sunday 11 August 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 58 - Stage 47 (part/variant) - Amélie-les-Bains to Moulin de la Palette

IDistance: 12 km (Cum: 880 km)     

Ascent: 1200 metres (Cum: 49,430 metres)
                     
Time taken: 6.0 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny and hot

On another 'blue sky' day I started slowly. I'd not bothered to re-stock my lunch provisions yesterday, and the shops don't open until 9am on a Sunday. 

I like Amélie. There are some magnificent old plane trees by the old hospital.  It's a pretty town with a folk festival just now (various international performers march up and down the main street from time to time) and rather too many tourists, but it needs all the tourists it can get, so I'm not going to complain about that.  Sue and I spent our second wedding anniversary here nine years ago, and on this visit I had the pleasure of David and Jan's company on Friday, and Nathalie's yesterday.  Thanks to all of you and good luck with your future projects. Nathalie's 'HRA' idea - a high level route over the Alps from Slovenia to the Atlantic - sounds particularly interesting. 

Setting off past the Thermes du Mondony, and the sign to the Gorges du Mondony that are sadly currently closed to the public, I soon gained the shade of the trees as I rose slowly up the well graded pathway to Chapelle Santa Engracia.

Various stones beside the well signed but deserted path may once have been engraved, and perhaps they housed Stations of the Cross. The views across to Amélie displayed the Mediterranean beyond, and those to Arles, where I passed through with Peter and Uli the other day, housed the formidable profile of Pic du Canigou (pictured - top).

I admired the lovingly carved signs whilst listening to uplifting choral music drifting from the town below, much as melodic folk music had been seeping through my hotel room window until 11pm the previous two evenings. 

Restoration of the chapel was completed in 2008, and a nice job it was too. Today's view back to the chapel from the orientation point showed it in a good light under the pure dark blue sky (pictured - middle). 

There were a few folk at the chapel, but after that I saw just a handful of people. Tonight's gite is relatively quiet, so I imagine the crowds have now been left behind on Canigou. 

The path beyond the chapel was equally pleasant- a wide old trade route perhaps, with extensive views - something of a surprise given the number of trees hereabouts, but there seem to be plenty of gaps for ganders.

After a while, a thin side path led over an unnamed 981 metre summit and down to Col de Paracolls, where the GR10 path was encountered. I lunched here - lovely goats cheese and tomato from yesterday's market in Amélie. A sign indicated 70 minutes to tonight's gite, so rather than arrive really early, I chose to ascend 400 metres up to Pilon de Belmatx, a nearby 1280 metre summit. It was worth it. A great path with fine views. 

I was going to return to the col, but the ongoing ridge looked tempting, so I continued along it, turning east when I reached a hunters track down the Serre de la Dégolle. This took me some way before I eventually lost the markings and found my way steeply down through woods to the GR10 path. Fifteen minutes later I was at the Eco-Gite.

3.45 pm, and I was the first arrival of the day. It's a nice place in a sunny glade in the woods. It's pictured in the next posting as the image sizes seem to big for this one. 

It really is pretty 'Eco'.

Dinner was enjoyed with the guardians, Laurent and Katerine (probably both spelt wrong!) and with a new batch of GR10 ers - Charles and Elizabeth from Paris, and Anna-Marie and Heikel. Nearby, Aline and Gwen from Belgium - on a car camping trip - are cooking something tasty, and four lads are  also camping in the garden. 

There's no phone signal. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Saturday 10 August 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 57 - Amélie-les-Bains

Weather: sunny and hot

Last night was spent most enjoyably with a 'blast from the past', David, and his wife Jan. 

You may recall that the first week of our trip was spent walking in the rain with David and his pal John. 

Last night David and Jan kindly accepted an invitation to join me for dinner, and they even more kindly relieved me of a box of camping gear. 

It felt deceptively light. I'm sure that it must have been more than the two kilos that David thought he was taking home. He is of course now committed to meeting me in Banyuls in a few days time in order to repatriate said box. 

Anyway, we had a most pleasurable evening and I'm pleased to report that David's poorly foot that, combined with the snow conditions on GR10, resulted in an early bath for him and John, is now better. 

I wonder whether they will continue the adventure next year?

This morning was spent exploring the environs of Amélie. Then Nathalie provided an excellent lunch at the campsite, and this afternoon my remaining items of clothing have been thoroughly washed and I've enjoyed watching another Mo Farah triumph.

Dinner at Hotel le Regina's good restaurant will follow.  Nathalie will join me, so this off-route rest day will be rather more sociable than expected. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Occasional Pyrenean Flowers (19)

Globeflowers have, together with Marsh Marigolds, graced places damp with gently running water for the entire crossing of the Pyrenees. 

English Irises however were only seen on a short section between El Serrat and Refuge du Rulhe. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - department of botany

Occasional Pyrenean Tractors (5)

More a tractor unit than a tractor, but I was getting desperate. 

This one was parked outside the Mines de Batère gîte.

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Friday, 9 August 2013

Friday 9 August 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 56 - Stage 47 (part) - Mines de Batère to Amélie-les-Bains

Distance: 17 km (Cum: 868 km)     

Ascent: 100 metres (Cum: 48,230 metres)
                     
Time taken: 5.0 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops                                     

Weather: sunny and warm

A short morning descending to Arles-sur-Tech behind Uli and Peter. The woodland paths were a delight, so I didn't rush. Unlike in 2004, there was no storm on the horizon. 

Extensive views to Perpignan and the Mediterranean had disappeared after yesterday's final col, leaving us today with pleasant but more limited vistas to the Tech valley and to our route ahead. 

Pine woods are now the main feature of the landscape, as you can see from the picture taken on the descent to Arles.

The path was also marked as a mountain bike trail, in places very challenging as such. I for one would be walking sections if going downhill, and I'd certainly be pushing uphill. The dragonflies could be a problem, they are huge around here and I don't envy the cyclist who gets one of them in his eye, or stuck up a nostril. 

After snacking by the river, the boys headed off up towards the Moulin de la Palette gite whilst I pottered along the riverside path in the company of a community of Jays and Martins for the 4km to Amélie. 

It was warm. So the beer, anchovy salad and a plate of chips at Au Poivre Vert went down very well. A waiter from Florida quizzed me about the walk. "I think I'll do it in October" he informed me. "I don't think so! " I replied. He must be a fairly recent arrival in these parts. "I've run lots of marathons" he added, justifying his ability to walk GR10. We agreed a compromise would be sensible, and he now hopes to start his Pyrenean walking adventures with a stroll up Pic du Canigou on a fine day.

Hotel 'le Regina' is on the main street. Sue had kindly booked me in for a couple of nights, and Danièle has been most welcoming, especially after a long conversation during which she eventually understood the reason for my asking for a cardboard box. I suspect it's not a common request! 

So now I'm waiting for my clothes - all freshly washed - to dry before my next foray. There will be plenty of time tomorrow to write about that, as it's my first full rest day since Seix, several weeks ago, and a final pause before the last short lap of my journey to Banyuls. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Thursday 8 August 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 55 - Stage 45 and 46 (variant over Pic du Canigou - Refuge de Mariailles to Mines de Batère

Distance: 33 km (Cum: 851 km)     

Ascent: 1370 metres (Cum: 48,130 metres)
                     
Time taken: 9.5 hrs including 2.0 hrs stops                                     

Weather: cloud above about 2300 metres at first, sunny afternoon

A really enjoyable day on Pic du Canigou with Uli and Peter, and we were joined by Jan and Oliver for the evening, encountering various others on the way. 

Sadly, visibility on Canigou was somewhat limited. It was quite chilly. Gloves came in handy for those who had them handy. The path up Canigou was very gentle apart from the final 'staircase'.

It's a busy mountain but we had to wait a while for someone to turn up to take the top picture. 
 
Sue will remember the orientation table. 

The bottom picture was taken after we had got down below the cloud base.

After an hour in the busy refuge - Chalet-Hôtel des Cortalets - we continued, soon along a lovely contouring path that must once have been a mining tramway. 

A short haul through lovely pine forest over a final col led to the descent to this busy gite. Luckily Sue's booking service had worked, Uli and Peter managed to get a room, and Jan and Oliver managed to get fed. Very nice too. But they have to camp somewhere nearby.

We left the mushrooms for Pierre and Yolaine to harvest. 

A full and sociable day, hence the brevity of today's posting. I'm sure you'll understand, especially as my last phone battery is on the wane. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Wednesday 7 August 2013 - Pyrenees GR10 - Day 54 - Stages 42 to 44 variant (3) - Refugi Ulldeter to Refuge de Mariailles

Distance: 21 km (Cum: 818 km)     

Ascent: 620 metres (Cum: 46,760 metres)
                     
Time taken: 7.25 hrs including 1.5 hrs stops                                     

Weather: high cloud and some light rain at first, turning to sunny periods

Despite the high cloud, today's weather was much better than on the last occasion I was here, with Sue nine years ago. I recall spending much of that day in a cloud. 

Today both cloud and rain just about held off, and despite the predictions of high temperatures as we approach the coast, they have actually struggled to get much above 20°C over the past couple of days, with the cool wind from Spain causing fleeces to be donned for the first time in weeks. We had got used to a steady 25 to 30°C.

After descending from the refuge we quickly rose back up to a col at 2384 metres, having already completed most of the day's ascent.  We then spent several hours at around 2200 metres, heading relentlessly towards the Canigou massif. 'We' comprised an advance party - Peter and Uli, a group of four French, and two gents I haven't got to know. Plus me. Natalie (last seen outside El Serrat) comprised an advance advance party, having stayed at a cabane on Pla Guillem last night. 

Looking back to yesterday's ridge (pictured top), it looked as if Kevan and John would have a reasonable day for their march to Nuria. You may think it's blue sky, but in fact it was dark grey!

The middle picture is for Sue, who will remember the location where we brewed up in a cloud. I did the same today, in rather more intermittent cloud. The last tea bag from Luchon was duly expended and now I have half a gas cylinder to give away. 

The bottom picture shows a more representative view from today, with cloud bimbling up and down the valleys, and at times engulfing Canigou itself.

Encountered en route were several shepherds cabins, with roofs varying from stone to grass to metal; numerous large birds of prey as well as Swifts and Wheatears; and lots of horses and cattle. 

I arrived at the Refuge before 3pm, with plenty of time to get sorted out and shower before a big influx of what looked like Tour Aventure clients, judging by their huge kit bags.

I've looked at tonight's menu, which is quite interesting. The nettle soup will be accompanied by a side dish of fried grasshoppers (I was sad not to be able to cook this dish the other night, when I was foiled by having run out of lard - I suppose, on reflection, I could have used chocolate). Ceps have apparently been collected and will be transformed into an omelette using vultures' eggs (the vultures are a pest hereabouts and this is considered a humane form of culling them). The goat has almost been milked to death for the goats cheese soufflé, and the even more shocked chicken will be providing some tasty nuggets. It's bilberry tart for dessert, of course. 

Sent from our GR10 trip - see here for our itinerary
countercounter