Monday, 20 September 2010

Pyrenean Assault: Descent to Lassitude

Tomorrow's Route

Today’s route – straight ahead, first down and then up and over the skyline…

Today’s walk was laid out before us from the col high above Pombie yesterday evening. The “up and over the skyline” bit was again Higher than yesterday’s High, but by now the expedition was firing on all four and “up for it.” The Guidebook Fibber had promised a bit of an exposed trundle on the other side of the skyline, which worried old Binder, but Jungle assured Binder that she would hold his hand and as long as he kept his eyes tightly shut and had a few pastis sharpeners beforehand, everything would be “Quite all right, dear thing.” “Besides, the old rusty chain that he would be clinging to very rarely snapped these days...”

With these merry thoughts buzzing about his bonce, Binder trotted off happily down the hill towards the valley bottom. Binder liked bottoms. They were reassuring snuggely places. It was actually quite late when we set off. Binder had enjoyed his lie-in. It was strange to find Jungle’s alarm clock under the twenty layers of clothing well past the time it had gone off so silently.

Now, it shouldn’t be possible to be mis-placed on your way down to the next valley bottom, but our team found themselves inadvertently facing a pretty little stream crossing on the way down. It was no bother though and Jungle navigated her way across by walking on water in her plimsolls. Binder admired her crossing style from the far bank.

Misplaced Jungle walks on water

Jungle, misplaced.

You see, the thing with the Pyrenees is that places are actually not that far apart and so everything looks to be an “Easy Day, then.” The Horrible Reality is that even going down hill, things are a Very Long Way Away and it does take more time than you realise. It’s not like a quick nip around the Hemingford Round (which takes 82 minutes if you are sharpish about it). No – This place is actually Quite Big. It also has Weather. And the Capitals are Very Important Here. This Weather, on the French side of the Pyrenees, sneaks up on you, over your shoulder and bites your bottom, Very Hard Indeed.

Now, some people like having their bottoms bitten very hard, perhaps because they are “Ard” themselves. But poor old Binder is an old softy, and likes warm sunshine and cooling zephyrs. He doesn’t like lightning crashing overhead between the rocky ridges with hailstones the size of small family cars battering his fizzog. The idea of being electrocuted by a rusty old chain the other side of the skyline whilst being pummelled to death by Falling Ford Fiestas does not appeal to Binder.

As we dropped further down into the valley, the air got thicker and thicker and there was a buzziness about the mountains. The air was actually a funny colour. The forecast, read at the refuge in the morning, wasn’t encouraging. Thunderstorms for the next few days with hailstones the size of small family cars and electrical storms that would take out New York’s entire nuclear industry in one flash.

Finally, over luncheon at the bottom of the valley, Jungle came up with a route diversion. The expedition would have a siesta for the few days of thunderstorms and resume when the monsoons had blown themselves out.

It was a Eureka Moment for Binder.

A few hours later, after a wondrously successful hitch from a French Couple, who insisted on stopping halfway, at Gabas, to buy the team a very famous beer or two, the expedition found itself at Advanced Base Camp in Laruns. It would have been rude to use our own supplies and so fresh supplies were purchased and consumed from the natives of that fine little village. Later that evening there was a real belter of a storm, barely feet above our cafe table. The team stood their ground in magnificent British Style.

Jungle, testing the native supplies.

Jungle, testing the Native Supplies.


  1. Jolly good show! And yes, there are too many cads and bounders suggesting long Pyrenean days can be ticked off in a few hours. Cads and bounders, I tell you!

    I love that view from Pombie. I had a great night with my tent, perched right on the edge of the camping area in front of the hut.

  2. Hi James - I have just been cantering through your amazing website - What fantastic pictures of the Pyrenees (and all the other places too!)

    Hey, Everyone! - Nip over to James place and bathe in his glorious images. Click on his name in the comment above this one and spend a few happy hours in there!

  3. These are great refuges. I think my favourite is Arrémoulit — but Pombie is great too.

  4. Thanks Alan! A great deal of work's gone in to my archived photographs. Got some more to post from my recent trip; as you've seen they appear on a day by day basis.

    My favourite refuge in that section of the HRP is probably Ayous. Not for facilities, ambience or food (I also had a good vegetarian meal at Arremoulit) but because of that great camping area below it, with the fantastic view across to Midi d'Osseau. I camped right beside the lake, and had a memorable morning before going down to the valley and up the 'back' of Midi d'Osseau to Arremoulit - as opposed to the Casterau route. Not sure which is the most scenic/enjoyable; I met some Italians who favoured the former so that's what I chose.

    But the view from Pombie is also great, more expansive and evocative in a way because down to that distant valley, and up again, is the walk for the next day.

  5. rock!

    nice report, amusing musings as ever.

    Weather is indeed in capitals - our recent trip was topped and tailed by storms day and night, powerful enough to tear tarmac up. Still an incredible place - trip reports and photos etc all over at my place, too.



  6. Hi David

    Sorry for not getting back to you sooner - you slipped through the net...

    Just seen your posting about your up-coming radio show. Good luck with it - I shall listen via the computer.


Because of spammers, I moderate all comments, so don't worry if your comment seems to have disappeared; It has been sent to me for approval. As soon as I see it, I'll deal with it straight away.
Thank you!