Night of Tuesday 21 July
At 2 o'clock this morning I decided that I'm not cut out for backpacking, which may appear a strange conclusion to reach at this point of my backpacking career. It probably goes without saying that we hadn't been having the best of nights.
The rain that caught us as we finished our day stopped before we got the tent out but it was but a small lull. By 7pm I was regretting not cooking tea during that lull as Rita Rainbow isn't a tent best suited to cooking indoors and it had been lashing down (with thunder rumbling) for a couple of hours. Finally just after 7.30 there was another lull and tea was finally had.
Any thoughts at that point that the worst of the storminess had passed were sorely optimistic. At 10.29 (to be exact) the real storm arrived. Gosh! That was some storm!
There was only a quarter of an hour when I was really quite scared (that was when the flashes and bangs got to two seconds apart), but I cannot tell you how many times during the ensuing three and a half hours I reminded myself that we had pitched in a safe place and we weren't in any great danger (easy to say in daylight - a bit harder in the dark night with a storm raging). I also cannot tell you how many times I counted from one to various numbers up to 12.
It was after about an hour and a half of very heavy rain that I noticed that the one small seep on the seam which we had discovered during the late afternoon rain had been augmented by another seep. About half an hour after that Mick found the same on his side. Great - a leaky tent in a deluge.
It was far from a disaster; the leaks were only dripping once every few minutes, not constantly, and they were easily dealt with by repurposing both of our towels.
However, the chances of sleeping with that level of flashes and bangs and that volume of rain were nil. Hence, after 3.5 hours of relentless storm, I decided I would rather be at home.
At 2am it finally abated. What happened next was pure comedy: within five minutes of the raging elements giving way to peace and quiet, a herd of bell-toting cows decided that of all the grass in all of the square miles they had available, that around our tent was what they wanted to eat.
Exhaustion won before they wandered off and finally a whole three and a half hours of sleep was had.
My assumption during the night was that this sort of storm is normal and that we had just been lucky to date. So, it was a relief to meet a couple who had camped a little higher than us last night, and who have lots of experience in the Pyrenees, who reported spending the night terrified and having never experienced anything so bad in any previous trip. The guardienne at Refuge Pombie also commented that it was unusually severe, although she did also say that the water is much needed as it's only the second rainfall they've had in over a month.
As for never wanting to go for a big walk or sleep in a tent ever again, I'm pleased to say, as I type this at the end of (a very long and hard) Day 11, that we've had an excellent day, and this mode of travel is definitely a good one!