jeudi 8 septembre 2016

Vignemale, Ordesa, Breche de Roland

Some holiday time with the family before Ruby goes to University and Susie, Jasper and I move to France. After a brief stay at Quélébu it was off to Bidart just south of Biarritz. A lovely campsite "Pavillion Royale" gave us a few days of hot weather, big waves and sandy beaches - perfect relaxation after days of packing.

Then it was off in the car to Cauterets and the start of a 4 day circuit through two national parks. We started a little after 2.00 so caught the télésiege from the Pont d'Espagne up towards the Lac de Gaube to save some time - a first chair lift ride for Susie and the kids.

In a few hours we reached the massive north face of Vignemale beneath which we planned to bivouac. It wasn't long before the clouds rolled and a there were a couple of rolls of thunder, contrary to the forecast! We managed to scramble into our bivvy bags just as the rain started - there were slightly worried faces all round.

Fortunately it was only a shower. We found an abandoned flysheet and rigged a tarp to protect our heads should the rain return, but in the end it was a starry night.

Next morning started with the climb to the col des Mulats before the long, hot, descent down the Ara Valley to Barajuelo.

At the col

Looking back towards Pic d'Arataille

The weather was blistering hot and it took 8 hours before we could dip our feet in the Rio Ara at Barajuelo. We got a taxi from there to the village of Torla where we had booked room in the Refugio Lucien. A meal and the first mattress for a 5 days were very welcome.

Next morning we caught the shuttle up into the Ordesa Canyon and decided that after such a long day in the Ara and with heavy packs, we'd skip the Faja de Pelay path which traverses the canyon at mid-height with spectacular views, in favour of the easier path on the canyon bottom. It was a shame but probably the right decision. We were all glad to get out of the trees and eventually reach the upper canyon where the spectacular scenery is more apparent.

After lunch at the head of the canyons we climbed upwards to the Refugio Goriz, where we had a room for the night. The hut was (as always) packed with walkers heading for Monte Perdido. A great meal which alas wasn't matched by the sleep obtained in the hot, stuffy, noisy dormitory. I think bivvying would have been better!

The last stage between Goriz and Garvarnie is a classic crossing of the Breche de Roland. At first the path heads across a crazy barren landscape, until finally heading across more difficult terrain to the the breche. 

Jasper practising his jedi skills

So late in the season there was no snow on the approach to the breche and snow slopes were replaced with unstable scree and rocks - difficult terrain for inexperienced legs. Finally there was the Eychelle des Isards to cross, a 30m section with a chain handrail. I ferried the rucksacks across and accompanied each family member in turn. Jasper was very nervous as he sometimes suffers from vertigo but with determination he made it across.

Tired legs made their way down from the Breche to the Sarradets hut, closed for major enlargement works which filled the valley with noise.

Ruby was beginning to suffer from the heat, so I shouldered her pack for the last couple of hours beneath Taillon to the Col de Buchero, then the parking at the Col des Tentes. I hitched and taxied my way back to Cauterets in about 1 hour 20 where I'd left the car. Then drove back to collect everyone from the col where they watched the sun go down in there bivvy bags.

A duck dinner in Luz St Saviour then the long drive home, where we arrived in the early hours.

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