Total Distance to date: 150 miles (ish)
Ascent to date: 11,000m
What a stunning day! Quite a bit of effort with a smidge under 1600m of ascent, but stunning.
The main feature of the morning was the Chemin de la Mature, of which I took a photo which I will post as soon as I have a good enough signal (I'm amazed to have a signal at all where we are now but it's not good enough for sending a photo). In the meantime I suggest that anyone who hasn't walked this way nips off for a minute to ask Google for an image.
This Chemin dates back to 1772 when it was found that the forest above the Aspe valley contained trees of the right size and quality for the much-needed masts for the French Navy. The problem was that those trees sat above an almost vertical wall of a gorge. So, did they say "this can't possibly be the only place to find suitable trees in the whole of France?". Nope. Instead they had convicts carve a trackway into and ascending that rock face. Incredible!
It was up said feat of engineering that our route took us and it was slow going, purely because we had to keep stopping to take photos and (in my case) ponder how this could possibly have been the best solution to a need for masts.
An hour and a half into the day an excellent pitch was found at the top of the Chemin and a while later, ascending through woods there was another. Useful information should we ever find ourselves passing this way again.
Shaded woodland then took us so far into our 1700m ascent before all shelter was lost just a handful of paces before we entered the National Park. A sign there told us that (amongst other things) camping is forbidden but bivouacing permitted provided you are an hour away from the park boundary and any road (actually, it said 'or' but I'm sure they mean 'and').
Thankful for a few bubbling clouds occasionally blocking the sun we plodded our way sweatily up to the top of the pass (our highest point to date at 2185m) enjoying superb views. Then we popped over the top with a "wow", as ahead of us stood the distinctive and towering form of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau. We sat a few minutes with the map picking out our route for tomorrow morning, then down to the lake below we went for lunch.
By the end of lunch we were glad not to have been an hour behind ourselves as thunder started rumbling around.
That thunder (or more precisely the attendant risk of lightning) meant that the decision was made as to where we were going to end today. We weren't going to walk over the side of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau in this weather thus we were going to camp in the valley below.
Joining eight billion people (or so it felt) we made our descent from the lake into the valley and once there we left the GR10. We will rejoin it in 3 days' time in Cauterets but in the meantime we're off onto the HRP.
A few minutes later we were to be seen throwing down our bags and whipping out our jackets as huge lumps of rain started pelting us. The dozens of people rushing from all directions back to the car park looked at us as if we were mad for walking in the opposite way in such conditions. We didn't go more than a few minutes further before pitching, right at the bottom of tomorrow's ascent route. Being 3pm, about 200m from a Park boundary and within an hour of the road end we are breaking all of the camping rules. Hopefully being amongst rocks, and with Rita Rainbow looking like a rock, will help us to get away with it. I suppose that if moved on we just have to go 200m away to put ourselves outside of the Park (I should probably clarify that I didn't realise our position in relation to the boundary until I looked at the map after lying down in the tent).