The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Day 15 - Luz St Sauveur to Cabane d'Aygues Cluses

Sunday 26 July

The packs were heavy this morning, particularly mine as I had a new canister of gas and a new tube of toothpaste on board as well as the results of a 'shopping whilst hungry' episode. We only needed food for 2 days; the bulging food bags suggested we'd gone a little OTT.

It was a hard morning. I found it harder than any other to date. I think part of the problem was psychological, in that I'd read that it was an easy day after an initial steep climb, but hadn't looked at the map in detail to see that the 'initial steep climb' would go on, almost without respite, for the best part of an hour and a half of the 4 hour stage to Barège. It didn't just feel slow; I think it's the first stage where we've been smack on the Cicerone guide's timings, of which we are usually ahead (particularly on the ups. Not so much on the steep downs).

Things became slower when we stopped for lunch 15 minutes before Barège, then stopped for a long coffee break in the village, where there is still evidence of the devastating flood that swept through 2 years ago (for more info have a read of Martin's blog ( for this stage of the GR10 in 2013; when he and Sue arrived there, their pre-booked hotel was just being demolished due to damage sustained). Happily, there was still more evidence of 'shoring up' of the river banks and general new construction.

Knowing that both GR10 options out of Barège had been damaged in 2013, and although we suspected that the higher of the 2 was now perfectly passable again (it was; we could see the new bridge as we passed) we didn't want to risk ascending to be thwarted, so we took to the road for 2km. The road in question is the one that leads over the Col de Tourmalet, which I understand is a feature of the Tour de France. It's obviously popular with cyclists in general. Some of those who passed us in a downward direction were doing astonishing speeds. Those heading up looked pained.

Then we headed away from the crowds (or so we thought at the time) and up for our second big climb of the day up towards the highest pass we will visit on the GR10 (we went higher on the HRP), the Col de Madamete.

The valley up which we climbed is gorgeous. The gradient of the ascent a delight. The going underfoot interesting (plenty of rocky and bouldery bits to keep the mind occupied). The number of potential pitches huge (big grassy plateaus appear at short intervals all the way up). So nice is that we bonjoured to many dozens of people who were heading down (including one wearing flip-flops; just like a trip up Snowdon!).

We had said that we would walk till 5 then take the next nice pitch. As it happened, at 5pm we hit the exact place we had hoped to reach today by a cabane and a lake at 2150m (bringing our total ascent for the day to over 1700m). It's an absolutely spectacular place to camp, which is probably why there are so many people around. We quickly chose a pitch and got the tent up (then unpegged it, turned it round and repegged it - something we do ridiculously often; we really should pay more attention before pegging the first time). Meanwhile, a chap who arrived at the same time as us took about a week and a half to choose a pitch, then a further week and a half to get his tent up. The way he's been faffing around I'm getting the impression that this is his first ever night wild camping.


In other news:
1) I established last night, in a mission to use up the last of our first canister of gas, that it's possible to boil 5 large eggs in one go in an MSR Kettley Thing. I often hanker after eggs on a big walk, but don't usually have the gas to fritter away. Today's lunch of boiled eggs, fresh bread, Manchego cheese and crisps was lovely and only wanting for a couple of tomatoes to reach picnic perfection. How did we forget to buy tomatoes?
2) where is everyone? We saw one other backpacker at a distance yesterday and no-one else. Today, until arrival here we saw only day walkers. Even the other people around us tonight don't appear to be GR10 randonneurs.
3) My memory must be going because I have no idea what I was going to put as number 3!


  1. Brilliant. You still manage to get me chuckling, despite my inadvertently early start.
    And what's wrong with a good faff?!

    1. Nowt wrong with a good faff - we indulge in them often. But there's good faffs and then there's really over-the-top excessive faffs...

  2. Barèges - There I at last managed to post home my ice axe:

    "I wanted to post home my ice axe and other items. It turned out that the post office again had no package big enough coupled with a totally negative attitude to my problem, and they closed at 4:00 pm whereas the other shops were closed and didn’t open until 4:00pm, Catch 22, so I couldn’t go and buy any wrapping materials. In desperation I found an estate agent’s office that was open and explained matters to an eighteen year old girl, and she was very sympathetic and found a box for me and tape, and we both ended up on our hands and knees on the office floor packing up the ice axe. Finally I took it back to the post office at 3:50 pm and Jobsworth looked a bit nonplussed when I presented this to him, as if to express disappointment at my resourcefulness versus his negative attitude."

    I did walk over the Pont Napoleon and learnt that it was used for bungee jumping, but not on that day.

    I also enthused about the ascent to Col de Madamete:

    "We (I was walking with another Englishman at that point) then ascended on paths up into a wild and very rocky valley with old pine trees and lively streams and boulder fields. Higher up small tarns and varied wild flowers abounded in very attractive and friendly situations.

    This was spectacular mountain scenery of the highest quality."

    Hard boiled eggs - good idea if you are carrying a stove. Are screw-on gas cylinders becoming more available? last time I was in France in the Languedoc they were almost unobtainable.

  3. I'm pleased to hear that Bareges is slowly recovering from the devastation it suffered two years ago. I'm sure that being on the Tour de France route has helped.
    Sounds like you found a great spot to camp.
    Where is everyone? Not on GR11, I can assure you. I saw not a single human for over 5 hours this morning, and I probably won't see anyone this afternoon either....

  4. Could it be the lack of decent deodorant?
    Or a sweaty Manchego?
    Or Mick's toes peeing from his shoes?

    Other news:
    3) Chris Froome won the Tour de France.