As the skies darkened and flashes and bangs started to be heard last evening, the two chaps camped to one side of us were not happy, having discovered the previous night that their tent (which it would be generous to call a festival tent) is not waterproof. It also isn't long enough, as evidenced by the feet sticking out the door this morning. As it went, they were saved from an uncomfortable night by only a few minutes of very light rain hitting us.
Happily, it was a cloudy morning, as our first task was to ascend 1100m, unrelentingly. Up to and through the cloud we went, in conditions cool enough to induce goose pimples when we stopped for second and third breakfasts (I was hungry today!). When moving, however, it was a sweaty affair, so we were thankful it wasn't another hot start.
The sun did break through as we reached the pass (although the valleys remained cloudy all day) and by the time we reached the ski resort of La Pierre St Martin it was hot enough for us to need shade during our coffee break at the refuge. There we considered the contrast of an incredibly ugly set of buildings in the ski resort to the backdrop of a truly spectacular landscape.
Suddenly gone was the greeness of previous days and around us were stunning jagged peaks and limestone pavements, dotted with trees. Progress was slow through the rocky terrain but then we weren't in any rush.
Lunchtime came, shade was sought, a perch-with-a-view found and food bags opened. On the menu today was a huge chunk of bread, a big chunk of cheese and an apple-sized tomato each. The tomato, in particular, had me almost drooling in anticipation, so imagine my horror when I fumbled it and it went rolling down the steep hillside, directly towards a yawning chasm below, from where recovery of errant fruit would have been impossible. The fruit-saviour of the hour was a dead tree which had fallen across the entrance to the hole. In its branches the tomato came to rest and after a bit of a clamber and some careful manoeuvring it was recovered, in incredibly good condition considering its journey. It was delicious.
More spectacular scenery and an impressive pass filled our afternoon until at 15.45, a few minutes after loading up with litres of water for the night, we found ourselves a nice pitch.
The only problem was that it wasn't shaded and after sitting there for the best part of an hour we figured that rather than sitting around waiting for the day to cool before we could consider being in a tent, we may as well walk further. A good decision from one point of view as the onwards path was through woodland and we descended back below the cloud. The downside was that the places we had hoped to find a pitch yielded nothing, so we've ended up furher on than intended, near a refuge filled with screaming school children not to mention a donkey braying louder than a donkey has ever been heard to bray before. Could be an interesting night...
As for people today, they seem to have disappeared. After having spent the last two nights in the same locations as two groups of six, two twos and a singleton, all of whom we leapfrogged at least once yesterday, today we saw just a handful of daywalkers.