Sunday 24 July
13 miles, 1950m ascent
Sunny intervals clearing to mainly sunshine by mid afternoon, with a breeze making it a nice walking temperature.
What a fantastic day that was! The only thing about it I can fault was the not-even-lukewarm cup of tea I was served at Refuge des Bésines. Surprisingly it was an easy day too - not something I expected of a day with just shy of 2000m (or 6600' in old money) of ascent.
Our initial climb this morning was 1200m over the course of around 5 miles, so aside from one relatively short steepish section, it was a pleasant gradient. Past hot sulphur springs we went (we resisted stripping off for a dip as it was so early in our day) before leaving the trees behind and making our way up a lovely green valley, a little way above the gushing stream.
The surroundings at the top of that climb were first class, and the views back were excellent too. We were happy walkers.
Yellow Trouser Man (who we now know to be called Quentin) arrived at the Gite yesterday afternoon and overtook us shortly after one of our many faffs this morning. We caught him again just as we got to the refuge (which is the end of the day per the itinerary in the Cicerone guide) and we all agreed we were surprised at quite how quickly we had got up there, given the timings in the books and on the signposts.
A good long break was had, then Yellow Trouser Man went off in a different direction for an alternative route and we proceeded via yet more stops (aquafaff, lunch). Lunch, incidentally, was the only time today that I encountered a horsefly. I think the cool morning had kept them at bay. It was also the first time this trip that we saw marmots. Two frollicked on rocks in front of us for most of our break.
I think photos are needed to show quite how spectacular our surroundings were in all directions, as we climbed up to another pass. It was a high photo count today. Very high, by my usual standards. You'll have to wait for those photos though, as I'm going to see if I can get this to transmit on the weak phone signal I have here; it certainly won't send with photos attached.
Instead of getting the map out we played "guess the location of the next pass" as we made our way down to a reservoir that is very low on water at the moment. There we overtook Front Pouch Woman (who we only sighted for the first time at the refuge this morning; it turns out it's her first day of a short trip) but she caught us as we paused for a break at Cabane Rouze. With incredible timing, considering our different routes, Yellow Trouser Man had just arrived there too, but our paths were immediately to diverge again as he had opted to go over the striking Pic Carlit whereas we were staying on the GR10.
One final pass featured in our day and even though it looked to be high above us as we stood by the reservoir, it was only the 150m climb that the map told us it would be. A large pack of scouts were coming down, in fine voice, as we ascended.
Our objective for the day was to stop anywhere on this side of the pass, but the lake at the top was rejected for its pack of grazing horses. We then proceeded to take so much time in detours in trying to choose a pitch that it probably would have been almost as quick to walk down to the refuge and hotels at the far end of Lac Bouillouses. But we've just had two consecutive nights indoors, so we did finally settle on a pitch on the riverbank, with a fine view.
Tomorrow we'll be aiming for an early start so as to catch the post office and shops in Bolquère before they close for lunch. Then a decision is to be made: to proceed on the GR10 or to take to the HRP for a couple of days.