A week in the Pyrenees with Pond Swimmer

Trip Start Aug 02, 2010
Trip End Aug 09, 2010

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Flag of France  , Midi-Pyrénées,
Thursday, August 26, 2010

A little over sixty years ago Leslie Wise and I spent an hour facing opposite corners of the Big Hall at the Hall School in Swiss Cottage, London for being rowdy on the street and "bringing the school into disrepute" Our behaviour has not improved in the intervening years, so when I suggested to Leslie that he came here and that we went walking in the Pyrenees together he changed his plans and came.

Our plan was to complete the circuit of two parks - The Parc National des Pyrénées (France) and the Parque Nacional de Ordessa y Monte Perdido (Spain). Unfortunately some of the refuges were already full so not fancying carrying tents and sleeping bags we compromised and found a good cheap apartment in Luz Saint Sauveur which we used as our base.

Starting after lunch on Tuesday we took the tourist office advice and headed for the Réserve Naturelle de Néouvielle and headed up a wide track to the Refuge de la Glère where we planned to stay the night. It was an easy pleasant walk up but the refuge was full and they would not let us stay saying "we had time to get down before dark"

So the next day we left early for Gavarnie to see La Grande Cascade which at 443 meters is the highest drop in Europe. This time we were prepared with sleeping bags and one tent between us and leaving Gavarnie took a route over water meadows, a stream in which I took the obligatory dip, and after admiring the Cirque de Gavarnie, a truly magnificent circuit of rock at the end of a valley with multiple cascades of which La Grande Cascade is the highest and most imposing, we headed towards La Refuge des Espaguettes. This was excellent and got us away from the crowds and was along a quiet track with caves dripping water under which Leslie took a cooling shower. Our track ended with what seemed, at the end of day two, a vertical climb to the refuge. But we made it, pitched our tent and went in for supper.

Next morning up the track towards Mt Piméné (2668m)and stopped for picnic lunch with a splendid view over the Cirque. Then up to the summit of Piméné where the view of Mont Perdu, (really Monte Perdido as it is over the Spanish border), was superb. It is the second highest peak in the Pyrenees 3352m (Pico de Aneto 3404m is the highest). Down to the refuge and from a distance saw that our tent had capsized! We found it flattened with stones to stop it blowing away. When we got in the refuge we were informed that it had been collapsed by the park ranger as it was against park rules (which we had read but forgotten) to leave tents pitched during the day. We were lucky, we were told, if he had found us it would have been a 60€ fine! So we walked down and back to Gavarnie a town noted for having the worst food in Europe.

After three days in the mountains we decided on something different and went white water rafting the next morning. It was fun although we were not exactly shooting the rapids. In the afternoon to the Bridge of Napoleon III from which and around which there was bunjee jumping and a via ferovia. We had a drink and did neither.

Two more fine days promised and then rain forecast so we decided on a two day trek, staying overnight at the Refuge du Brèche de Roland and on the way to the car park passed lots and lots of ski lifts patiently waiting for the snows. The hut had no space and the terrain was possible but rocky and Leslie somehow negotiated for us to sleep on the dining room floor. Next morning to the superb Brèche de Roland - look up your mythology books for the story of Roland - and on to the summit of Le Taillon (3144m) passing the imposing Fausse Breche en route.

Back down in the late afternoon and next morning after walking the Lux Saint Saveur market and a well earned coffee we drove back home

As Leslie said: "A triumph of a holiday". Pics below.

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