Trek Day 10 - Across the Pyrenees to Torla, Spain

Trip Start Jun 05, 2008
Trip End Aug 06, 2008

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  ,
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

With our planned trek together from Lescun to Gavarnie
completed Doug and I discussed what we were Going to do next. If I were
continuing on my trek toward the Mediterranean on foot we would have said
goodbye to each other in Gavarnie. I would have kept walking east but having
abandoned by coast-to-coast quest now what?

Maybe I’d accompany Doug to Lourdes and Toulouse on his way by
train to Pamplona. Maybe I’d go to Pamplona with him. Maybe I’d hang around
Gavarnie for a while longer and do some hikes in the area including up to the
Breche de Roland or continue across on foot to Ordesa National Park in Spain
via the Breche.  Then it somehow came to
me that the best option might be for us to cross the mountains together on foot
to the Spanish side and then continue on to Pamplona by bus from there since
Doug had booked accommodation there during the San Fermin (running of the
bulls) festival.

There are two routes over the mountains to Spain from
Gavarnie. One is over the relatively low 2,400-meter (7,900 feet) Port de
Boucharo pass. The other is over the higher Breche de Roland, a spectacular 100-meter
high, 40-meter wide gap high in the ridge on the border between the two
countries. According to legend the gap was cut by Count Roland with his sword
after being defeated in the Battle of Roncevalles in 778.

We were warned, though, that the approach to the Breche
(breach) on the French side involved crossing a steep snowfield and a small
glacier and that it was likely still too dangerous to cross without crampons
and an ice axe. We were pretty exhausted and tired of crossing snowy passes in
boots that quickly became wet, so it didn’t take a whole lot of convincing for
us to choose the alternative route. So we decided to take the easy road and
make it even easier by taking a shared taxi van up the road past the Gavarnie
ski resort nearly to the pass for 10 Euros a piece, saving about a 900-meter
(3,000 vertical foot) climb. Now that’s what I call money well spent!

The rest of the short distance to the pass was mostly on
what had been a paved road but was no longer maintained and crumbling away in
spots. From the Port du Boucharo it was a long way down Lapezosos Canyon on a
trail that got hotter and steeper as we dropped into the Rio Ara Valley. A
short distance farther on a dirt road brought us to San Nicolas de Buharuelo, a
twelth century pilgrims’ hostel and a stone bridge across the Rio Ara
originally built around the same time. It’s now a hikers’ refuge/hostel and
restaurant and we couldn’t resist stopping for una hamburguesa, some papas
fritas, and a cerveza. From there it was another six mile walk down the canyon
of the Ara River Valley on an easy road that eventually became paved to the
medieval stone village named Torla that we’d make our home for the next two

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