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, 25 July 2016

Day 13 - Merens-les-Vals to 2 miles before Lac de Bouillouses

Sunday 24 July
13 miles, 1950m ascent
Sunny intervals clearing to mainly sunshine by mid afternoon, with a breeze making it a nice walking temperature.

What a fantastic day that was! The only thing about it I can fault was the not-even-lukewarm cup of tea I was served at Refuge des Bésines. Surprisingly it was an easy day too - not something I expected of a day with just shy of 2000m (or 6600' in old money) of ascent.

Our initial climb this morning was 1200m over the course of around 5 miles, so aside from one relatively short steepish section, it was a pleasant gradient. Past hot sulphur springs we went (we resisted stripping off for a dip as it was so early in our day) before leaving the trees behind and making our way up a lovely green valley, a little way above the gushing stream.

The surroundings at the top of that climb were first class, and the views back were excellent too. We were happy walkers.

Yellow Trouser Man (who we now know to be called Quentin) arrived at the Gite yesterday afternoon and overtook us shortly after one of our many faffs this morning. We caught him again just as we got to the refuge (which is the end of the day per the itinerary in the Cicerone guide) and we all agreed we were surprised at quite how quickly we had got up there, given the timings in the books and on the signposts.

A good long break was had, then Yellow Trouser Man went off in a different direction for an alternative route and we proceeded via yet more stops (aquafaff, lunch). Lunch, incidentally, was the only time today that I encountered a horsefly. I think the cool morning had kept them at bay. It was also the first time this trip that we saw marmots. Two frollicked on rocks in front of us for most of our break.

I think photos are needed to show quite how spectacular our surroundings were in all directions, as we climbed up to another pass. It was a high photo count today. Very high, by my usual standards. You'll have to wait for those photos though, as I'm going to see if I can get this to transmit on the weak phone signal I have here; it certainly won't send with photos attached.

Instead of getting the map out we played "guess the location of the next pass" as we made our way down to a reservoir that is very low on water at the moment. There we overtook Front Pouch Woman (who we only sighted for the first time at the refuge this morning; it turns out it's her first day of a short trip) but she caught us as we paused for a break at Cabane Rouze. With incredible timing, considering our different routes, Yellow Trouser Man had just arrived there too, but our paths were immediately to diverge again as he had opted to go over the striking Pic Carlit whereas we were staying on the GR10.

One final pass featured in our day and even though it looked to be high above us as we stood by the reservoir, it was only the 150m climb that the map told us it would be. A large pack of scouts were coming down, in fine voice, as we ascended.

Our objective for the day was to stop anywhere on this side of the pass, but the lake at the top was rejected for its pack of grazing horses. We then proceeded to take so much time in detours in trying to choose a pitch that it probably would have been almost as quick to walk down to the refuge and hotels at the far end of Lac Bouillouses. But we've just had two consecutive nights indoors, so we did finally settle on a pitch on the riverbank, with a fine view.

Tomorrow we'll be aiming for an early start so as to catch the post office and shops in Bolquère before they close for lunch. Then a decision is to be made: to proceed on the GR10 or to take to the HRP for a couple of days.


  1. If yr looking to go high then I'd suggest staying the night at the excellent gite in Planes Next day continue E on the GR10/36 for a couple of hours before the hair-pin at Jaca Cross (1826m). From here take a faint track SSE that climbs up to the Pla deis Bocs 2160m, W of the Pic Rodo. Swing right, leaving crags on your left. Now climb SE on a track to breast a ridge at 2616m, a tad S of the Coll d'en Bernat and follow a track that contours SE to hit the main Noufonts ridge at a v small shelter (like on Jock's Road) at 2652m. From here it's a delightful switchback with spectacular views (high point is by Pics de La Vaca 2820m (Cow Mountain) and so to the Spanish refuge at Ull de Ter. I did this in reverse in snow one September. From here you climb back into France via the Porteille de Mantet, hang a right and cross the plateau NE. Continue for a couple of hours NE until you hit a border road crossing Collada des Roques Blanches 2252m Tracks and a dirt road lead you to the Mareilles refuge, which sets you up for the Gr10/36 variant approaching Canigue via the (easy) southern chimney. I've done the Ull de Ter > Mareilles stage, which is part of the HRP. Can be misty on the plateua.

  2. Oops. That should've been SSW from Jaca Crossa !

  3. You are on my 2013 route, so I know you have my notes on it. If you don't want to stay in Ulldeter (do stop for a coffee and say hello to them) you should find somewhere at around 2400 metres on the descent to the refuge, according to my latest research (and vague memory). The plateau walk to Mariailles and Humphrey's suggested ascent of Canigou are both brilliant in my view.
    Have fun!