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]

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Day 16 - Refuge Ulldeter to Cabane Arago

Wednesday 27 July
15.5 miles?, 1000m ascent
Wall-to-wall sunshine to start, variable low cloud in the middle, mainly sunny finish

There I was, lying in bed this morning, when Mick got up, packed his bag and left me!

His disgruntled tummy is a lot better than it was the first week, but he's still struggling with eating sugary cereal for breakfast (granola is our standard start to the day) so whilst I reduced the weight of my food bag, Mick left me to decamp and nipped off to the refuge for his breakfast.

A while later I joined him for a cup of tea (alas, their breakfast teabags weren't the same premium ones as they served me yesterday) and a while after that we made tracks, down to a car park, up the road to another car park then behind a big ski-centre building to find the path running behind it, which would lead us up to a pass.

The view back to where we were yesterday

Thankfully my legs and head were back on the right agenda today, the climb was shaded and the views back whence we had come magnificent (last night's pitch really was in a spectacular location), so it was a happy and easy ascent. From the top, the route spent the next few miles undulating very gently, and pleasingly, across plateaus and around some nice rugged protrusions.

About 2 hours into our day I'm not sure whether cloud developed or whether we just walked into it, but it was clinging to the south side of the ridge and occasionally spilling over to the north side, where we were walking. Within the blink of an eye we were going from appalling visibility to clear sunshine and back again as it drifted around:

The best conditions were when the sun was hidden but we still had views to the north and could see where we were going (it was warm anyway; with the sun out the whole time it would have been uncomfortably hot).

Visibility had been severely reduced for about half an hour, without a glimpse of brightness, when we reached the point where we needed to turn to start our descent. We saw the "turn" waymarker, but had to take a bearing to find out in which direction to head - I'm not sure whether that's the first time we've had to take a bearing this trip, but it's certainly been a rarity. Our navigation skills weren't tested for long - within seconds we were in bright sunshine again. The cloud remained up on the ridge, but we were now walking away from it.

We'd intended descending to a less fly-plagued, and more shady area, for second lunch, but seeing a berger nearby with his phone out I followed suit and declared the break so that I could send yesterday's blog (I actually had a good signal in two other places today, but couldn't get any data signal in either).

Half way through yesterday morning my new shoes lost their stiff newness and have been perfectly okay, except that when it's warm the membrane makes me feel like I've got my feet in a sauna. I made it half way down this warm descent before declaring that I could take it no more; the greater weight of the new shoes went into my bag and my lovely holey old shoes came out. What relief!

Reaching Refuge de Mariailles at 3pm we weren't enamoured with the thought of camping nearby (clang clang clang went the cow bells), but we stopped by for a bottle of pop apiece before deciding to head a couple of miles further on in the hope of finding a pitch there.

It was another delightfully easy ascending path, but our earmarked place only yielded one potential pitch and that was strewn with toilet paper and human waste (hey, at least these people had stepped off the path to take a dump! So many don't). The obvious alternative location for a pitch was about a kilometre up the path to Pic de Canigou. The problem with that was Mick's preference was not to include Canigou in our route (the GR10 goes around, albeit with only 100m less ascent). Without any obvious alternatives leaping out at us (and bearing in mind it was now 5pm), Mick decided Canigou was a goer after all.

There were plenty of other tents already pitched when we got here, so we didn't get the pick of the spots. Even so, I don't think we chose well. This is one of the worst pitches we've ever had (slopey and lumpy).

On the bright side, with plentiful water from the nearby spring and with the evening being warm, we've taken it in turns to pour water over each other's heads and thus we are now delighting in having clean hair for the first time since Merens-les-Vals.

(Other incidents of the day:
1: we fell off the paper map. Can't believe, when in an outdoor shop the other day, buying shoes, I forgot to buy the next map. We can manage with electronic maps but I prefer paper to see the big picture.
2: I set fire to my hanky today!)


  1. You're becoming a bit of a pyromaniac Gayle. The wilderness has a habit of doing that to folk.

    1. Quite out of character too - it's usually Mick who has a reputation with fire. At least I was well away from the tent when I set the hanky on fire!

  2. ...I am not going to ask...

    1. The hanky incident? Using it as an oven glove ... whilst the stove was still alight.

      I'd like to think it's a lesson learnt for the future, but the evidence of previously singed J-cloths would suggest not.