17 Jun 2016  |  Jon Rist

Arrival Day

We were collected in Toulouse Airport by Pippa and Cat then drove to the first refuge at Jeanndel at Arette La Pierre de Saint Martin at 1650m, which is were we left off this time last year.

After a good dinner of Beef Bourguignon


Day 1, Monday

Pyrenees, not yet on our knees, good café au Lait and off we go! Epic climb up to the lime stone plateau through driving rain and mist (good introduction to the hike!). 15km from Saint Martin to Lescun with the highest mountain, Pas de L’Osque at 1922m.

With pretty poor visibility the route was slow but with a cable to guide us we made it. When we came over the top the wind blasted you and it felt like we would be blown back! During the long descent the sun came out and we saw the beauty of the wild flowers and mountain vistas. We stopped for lunch in the shelter and brewed coffee on the overhang of the pass, before continuing down into the valley with an abandoned cabin. The beech forest was stunning and tranquil after the intensity of the wind on the pass.

We arrived at Gite Pic D’Annie where Lisa and Emlyn cooked a lovely homemade carbonara for everybody. First day done!

Day 2, Tuesday

Starting off with Tuesdays morning we woke up to few farts of many men and a wet dog.. once we had lost all our let’s just say not nice smells and got ourselves decent we walked out to the cute, comfy cottage to a traditional lil B’n’b where we were welcomed by a lovely French lady, walking through we entered the mess hall to many types of homemade jam (favourite to be kiwi) fresh cooked French, sweet bread and hot and cold beverages. Losing track of time in this fantastic traditional French BnB we finally got our senses together and remembered that we came to walk stage 3, g 10 of the Pyrenees mountains.

Stretches done, bags backed, lunch’s made, route marked out we all set off with smiles on our faces and springs in our steps. A gentle stroll happened as we walked out the village and our adventure started. Of course as we started a problem arose were one of the hikers water sacks started to leak, funny thing is he didn’t notice till one of the other hikers announced that he had a wet patch pouring down his back and over his bottom. A loud chuckle from the entire group howled like a mountain wolf pack and we enjoyed the chuckle as a group. This brought the group together as a couple of members helped the certain upset/annoyed man hiker and was shortly resolved after.  A hard, long dedicated effort to climb the never ending mountain we frequently turned to each other for comfort and moral support, helping each other mentally getting to the peak.

Pork loins and chip juices!

Day 3, Wednesday

Early start, we are now serious hikers and have learnt the mistakes of late starts! We left at 8am, straight into the very narrow mountain pass that had been blasted by the armies of the 1700’s for carrying the tree trunks to be used for shipbuilding of the day, to be rewarded (vertigo sufferers) by stunning waterfalls and everywhere you looked it was more beautiful than Kew Gardens. Fortunately we had on had our horticulturalist Ray on hand to explain the names of all the wild flowers.

At the top Col d’Ayous at 2185m the mountain range spanned out before us with breath taking views that only the strong hearted could witness! Hamish in his flip-flops (as he is every year) and the rest of the group struggling along in their hiking boots along the snow capped mountains, where in parts some of us slid down on our bums (even in June!). We had great weather today which was lucky as it was 9hours and 45minutes of hiking. We left at 8am and didn’t arrive until 7.45pm by the time we had stopped for lunch and breaks.

We arrived exhausted but happy at La Caverne in the village of Eau Chaude to an amazing meal of pottage followed by pork chops, potatoes and green beans – just what was needed!