A very warm evening walk and our first 'real' ice cream was a great start to this leg of the holiday. Our morning run through the valley and past ruined mills was a fortunate route choice as a huge storm swept through ripping leaves from trees, uprooting some and leaving the floor littered with branches. We arrived back at the van soaked but at ;east it wasn't cold.
Our first job on arrival in the Pyrenees was to suss out all the tiny villages and get familiar with the lie of the land. We soon understood where the start was, and registration and more importantly where we could park the van for several days.
The weather turned cloudy, cool and damp. Not what we had driven a 1000 miles for! It didn't stop us getting out each day though. Bob was very worried about his first cut-off time so we recceed the route from the start and up to the Col de Portet. Well, that was the plan.
All was well through the lanes and up through Vignec to Les Granges de Lias and even La Cabanne. But by then the low cloud and damp air was making nav more tricky. I ignored a descending path and before long we were at the very top of the ski area and well off route. We retraced our steps but it had not done Bob's confidence in making the time limit much good. The Col de Portet was not a place to linger that day but we had a great run back down the grassy ridge north of our route. The highlight was two enormous eagles emerging from the cloud about 5 metres in front of me in the hope of grabbing a lamb?
We moved the van to Aulon where we had spotted a number of routes.
Despite the low cloud and drizzle we had a great walk up to the Col de Bastan and then back by a different route. No distant views but clear enough to see the more local scenery and certainly enough to get miles and climb in our legs.
The next day was sunny-hurrah! We walked up Mnt Arbizon which although not quite 3000m was a great peak with fantastic views across the plain to the north and the mountains in all other directions.
The Pic du Midi Bigore looked an awfully long way (we would be going there in the race). On the way back we explored the village above our van halt and enjoyed a cold beer before filling up our water from the village fountain.
Low cloud moved in again overnight so we went for a run along forest tracks to the huge spur overlooking Vielle Aure and then headed up the grassy ridge before dropping back to the van.
I probably have the distances for all these somewhere but have not yet downloaded my garmin.
The circus had come to town and taken up most of the designated campervan space. Then the first camp site we tried said they were full. It all worked to our advantage as we moved to within 300m of the start and parked for free for the next 5 days! Minutes from the start, which would be important at 4.30am; close to the village toilets, next to a huge river for washing.... ideal.
Wednesday was the last day I wanted to do much exercise. It was dry, warm and sunny. we took the telecabine up to Pla d'Ardet and then walked up the pistes and beyond to the small summits beyond. Looking down from above we could see just how far wrong we were on our recee and just how much extra we had climbed.
The views were intermittent but the mountains towards the Spanish border looked fantastic and we had the company of eagles again. Back at the van the lane was filling up and so was the parking field.
Thursday was registration day and it was not long before we had bumped into Tony and Albert plus Digby, Greg, Tim Laney, Forest and Tracy and more.
The weather was now warm and sunny, at last. Charmain and Steve bagged a spot next to our van- they were off to Steve's start for the 120km but would be back. My sack was packed, my drop bags were handed in and I was ready.
The forecast was for a hot dry sunny Friday and then the same for saturday until the evening when thunderstorms were due. Race briefing took for ever and it is always disconcerting when the english translation is about 10% of the length!
The biggest worry seemed the thunderstorms on Sat night which would hopefully not affact me but would certainly be there for Bob.