Sunday was a little surreal after a lack of sleep and disturbed night for both of us. We joined the crowd in the village square mid morning for the prize giving. After a couple of spots of rain the weather turned warm and dry again. Leaving the van first thing my feet felt mashed and my achilles screamed but after a few hundred yards things improved dramatically. My quads were almost fine. The winning man still looked trashed- an emotional and physical wreck but an awesome time of 26 hours and a few seconds. After many congrats we joined the Sunters and Marlows for a beer or two. Tim had bought tickets for the buffet but thought they would miss their bus and kindly gave them to us.
We joined Charmain and Steve in the field and having plated up masses of food in the marque we sat down to put back what the weekend had taken out. It took several trips to the food tables. A long chat over a cup of tea in their van rounded off the day. Monday was a chores and recovery day- laundrette, supermarket and ice cream!
We then had a week of superb weather. Hot, dry and sunny. We didn't run but managed some incredible walks with fantastic views. As always we ran out of time and energy rather than routes to explore.
First up was a trip to the entrance of the tunnel to Spain at the head of our valley. The map only showed through routes over the cols but the ridge looked as if it could be walked. It could.
We had a great day exploring on surprisingly good paths considering they were not even on the map.
A drive over to Tournaboup sounded straight forward. After two mountain passes with hairpins etc the van was pleased to stop for the night.
It was now getting seriously hot again but reasonably cool at the top of the Col de Tourmalet where we spent the night.
It felt strange driving through la Monjie and seeing the paths we had run on.
The next day was a circuit from Tournaboup up and over the col, past many lakes, views down to the big reservoir lakes and then back down the reverse of the race route from the cabin in the grassy pasture.
We had tried to do the ridge between the cols again but after getting half way and over the first two peaks it seemed to peter out and we lost confidence and turned back. We had the place to ourselves for the first half of the day but saw more walkers in the afternoon.
Driving down to Luz was even stranger- thinking ' I ran through here too'. We found a gem from here. A drive up to Gedre and a desperate but failed search for bread led us to Heas and a wonderful valley. It was very quiet with just a couple of vans and by parking before the toll road and walking up instead we had a quiet route round the whole of the Cirque de Tromouse.
It might not be as famous as Gavernie but in some ways was more impressive as the cliffs surrounded you. The scenery here was totally different with lots of pasture below the cliffs and scree. We wandered at will and only as we neared the toll road parking and the madonna did we meet crowds of people. Predictably we lost them again as we walked back down the mountain to the van and they drove.
Our first sight of Gavernie filled us with horror. Crowds, payant parking for miles and still no bread shop?
We dropped down the valley for peace and quiet and spent the evening on a via feratta and then slept there too.
An early morning start back up to Gavernie in search of bread found the places almost deserted. Clearly tourists get up late to potter. The bread shop was not open but the chef from the hotel was putting rubbish in the bins and kindly offered to sell me two bagettes when I asked. We still had no map but I reckoned the routes would be well way marked here and so not an issue.
Up at the Col de Tentes there were more vehicles as the 'real' walkers gathered here. We set out for the Refuge and Breche de Roland.
Despite Bob's best efforts to trip and smash himself up yet again we made good time. He has made a habit of leaving skin and blood on most of our walks recently. Once through the Breche we continued on a fairly easy path to Pic Taillon.
The views across Spain, into the Vignamale and even back to the Pic du Midi Bigore were amazing.
I normally avoid out and back routes but we really had little choice and it didn't seem to matter much.
Bob needed a recovery day. His finger was an odd shape and his knee twisted, bruised and sore. My feet probably benefitted from the easier day too.
We walked along a grassy ridge with two smaller peaks but views into the cirques and then a second walk past a lake and over a col to Pic entre le portes. Again we risked routes not shown on a map and were rewarded with solitude and small paths.
A great day of soaking up the views and sunbathing.
The finale was a big day from Pont d'Espagne. We drove up through Cauterets and found a huge car park. It said no campervans overnight so we just ignored it and turned all the lights off early.
It was a superb walk to end on with an easy almost level walk in to Refuge du Clot and then a bit of climb to the huge Refuge Wallen. Much of this was through a beautiful valley complete with waterfalls etc.
From this refuge we climbed to Col Fache and then having rested we went on the scramble to the Grande Fache at 3144m.
We met a guy tracking the bouquetin they had reintroduced to the area last year (hunting and natural causes had totally depleted them). The return route allowed tiny for skinny dipping in a very cold tarn and then a long slow soak and wash in the river back at the van. Most people were taking 3 days over this walk which seemed excessive, although they did have big packs for hut to hut walks.
Cauterets gave us a chance to replenish our food stocks and buy yet more ice cream. Time to leave the Pyrenees sadly but we agreed we had enjoyed it enormously and would be back. As we left and drove north through France the weather turned cooler and damper. Stops in Chartres and Etapes relieved the boredom of the long drive and allowed us to stretch our legs.