The next chapter

Wednesday 1 June

There wasn’t much open in Lescun except for a hotel, a bar and the épicerie  which Maud and David were proud to announce was opening tomorrow. The Herbergements du Pic d’Anie was hunting lodge themed and oddly quaint. I enjoyed the comfy bed and homely food; vegetable soup, a sort of duck shepherd’s pie, crème brûlée and wine. I spent the afternoon chatting to a retired English couple in the bar in town. We talked about our children and our divorces and essentially put the world to rights over a beer. They hadn’t had the best holiday with the fuel strikes.

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My own holiday plans also seem to be somewhat thwarted by snow. I thought perhaps heading to the warmer side of the Pyrenees and the GR11 might have a higher snow line. I was later proved to be disastrously wrong.

Lescun is the site of a famous battle on 7th September 1794. The 5th battalion of Bearnais and Luscon volunteers of 950 men women and children held out against 9000 Spanish, including the famous Gardes Wallonnes. Despite surprise attacks, killed 900 soldiers, captured 450 and lost only 100 soldiers themselves.

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After breakfast on the terrace and gathering supplies from the épiscerie, I headed south for the GR11 across a mountain pass. Again it was incredibly beautiful and as usual I ate lunch at the top where not only had a refugio been constructed out of stone but so had a table and chairs. I met a French couple at the ridge and then descended to the other side where I saw some huge marmots.

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Descended slowly and stayed at the refuge at the start of the GR11.

Thursday 2nd June

Having managed to fill the refuge with smoke from the fire and cut my scalp on the bunk bed I set off again. It’s surprising how much a scalp laceration will bleed.

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The Gr11 climbed slowly into the mountains along a long straight track from the valley floor to another refuge at the head of a hidden valley marked by Neolithic burial mounds, wild flowers and marmots. One less timid marmot just sat on the path and we watched each other for a while before he ducked back into his burrow.

After crossing the lost valley I had lunch above a beautiful lake  with eagles soaring overhead and lizards playing around my rucksack. However a wrong turn down brought me into Candanchu late. Candanchu was an eerily deserted ski resort but the auberge on the Spanish border was open, comfortable and did hearty and wholesome meals. I shared a dormitory with an American couple who were doing a circle of the lakes and met a South African couple also on the GR11. They had decided to bypass the next few days by taking the train.

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I however decided to head back to GR10 “Chris” crossing the Pyrenees to try and avoid the highest peaks and snow. It was disappointing to not cover much ground eastward but things seen in the crisscrossing have more than made up for it.

I saw a few dead dung beetles on the path today. I guess they don’t live long because their diet is shit.

Friday 3rd June

Another long but excellent day. A plentiful auberge breakfast of bread, cheese, muffin, hot chocolate, coffee, yoghurt, bread and jam meant heading off at pace past the ski lifts and deserted ski hotel complex. I ascended along a river and up to lake which mirrored the mountains perfectly.

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I crossed the snowfield confidently as the sun was shining and felt exhilarated when I reached the top. I was rewarded with spectacular panoramic views and with my crampons on made good time down the snow to another lake with good views all around. Descended to another beautiful valley which had noticeably more people than I was used to seeing. After a good solid lunch by the river of sausage and cake, I experimented with bathing my feet in the river and changing my socks. I think it helped as my feet were less sore and blister free that night.

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It clearly was a popular valley as shortly after rejoining GR10 I came across a car park being built…Big Yellow Taxi!

Along the next Tarmac section an adder was sleeping by the side of the road. I met a fisherman briefly in the valley who asked what the speed of the rivers were like for trout. He passed me later on having changed and despite carrying all his gear, he had decided to head up into the next valley. The path builders had thoughtfully put a hand rail up for the next precipitous section. This seemed to heighten my own acrophobia and I trod very gingerly until I crossed the gorge which was in full flood down the canyon. I decided to camp in the woods.

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