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]

Monday 20 July 2015

Day 8 - St Engrace to Refuge de Laberouat (1 hr before Lescun)

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.


  1. My reaction to La Pierre St Martin:

    "I pressed on over the other side and eventually looked down on the devastating sight of Arette-la Pierre-St.-Martin. This is the most ghastly modern, insensitive ski complex town with high rise buildings and a kind of abandoned moon station look, with bulldozed roads and general landscape desecration, which is all the more unfortunate because it is overlooked by Pic d’Anie and Pic Soum Couy which are unusually attractive mountains whose aspects have been totally spoiled."

    I stayed at the refuge and went over the summit of Pic Soum Couy next day. On the way down, on a narrow ledgy path a lone donkey appeared from a blind bend and nearly had me off.

    That was day 11 to Lescun so you are way ahead of me on time.

  2. A rolling tomato gathers no saliva!

  3. Amazing stuff, there is a story there somewhere on how Gayle risked life and limb rescuing an errant tomato!!!

  4. How to make a plain tomato seem adventurous and exciting...

  5. Your tomato incident took me back to my childhood, and "Spoodles, The Puppy Who Learned."

    Donkeys, eh? Another beast to beware of. The GR10 sounds pretty damn dangerous.