The Route

Having visited the Pyrenees 4 times already, including 2 complete traverses of the GR11 and HRP, my trip in 2013 was all about filling in a few blanks, and bagging a few summits along the way. The 15-day route covered about 400km from Eyne-Bolquere train station to Gavarnie, with 25,000 metres of ascent. The route largely followed the GR11 once I'd reached Andorra, but also climbed the following 7 summits:

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 2 - Refuge des Bouillouses to Upper Madriu Valley via Pic Carlit

Distance: 39km, Ascent: 2410m, Descent: 2135m

View Pyrenees 2013 - Day 2 in a larger map

Day 2 began bright but cold.  The usual stale bread and coffee that passes for breakfast at French (and Spanish) refuges, and I was soon on the trail above the Bouillouses dam passing through scrubby vegetation and small lakes with Pic Carlit looming ahead.

The going was pretty quick and easy until the final snow slope which reared up enough to warrant trying out the new Kahtoola KTS steel crampons and Camp Corsa ice axe. The axe and crampons were perfect, but I could have done with bringing some thin technical gloves.

I was soon on the 2921m summit of Pic Carlit, with nobody else around.  The views were of course extensive and uninterrupted, given that this is the highest peak in the Eastern Pyrenees.

The traverse took me down steep rough scree on the west side of the hill, which provided a rapid descent before the angle eased to lead out to trail junctions below the Estany de Lanós dam, which linked me onto the GR7.

I took a short but much-needed rest for lunch just beside the bridge across the Rec de Lanós  before picking up the long contouring trail which lead down to Porté-Puymorens.

The temperature was rising as I dropped down into the valley, so I took another short rest in bar at Porté-Puymorens to buy a cold drink and get out of the sun for a few minutes.

The next section linked past the Puymorens road tunnel entrance, then turned back uphill for the long drag up the Campcardos valley to the Portella Blanca d'Andorra 2517m which is one of 2 places where France, Spain and Andorra all meet.  I my case I took the trail down into Spain rather than Andorra, and would not return into France again until Day 13 at the Breche de Roland.

Time was marching on, and all the distances seemed longer than they looked on the map, but I eventually reached the Cabana dels Esparvers crossroads of trails, where I linked onto the GR11 for the climb up to Col d'Illa 2543m to cross into Andorra.  By this time it was after 9pm and getting quite cold and chilly.  I stopped briefly to put on a jacket and to find my headtorch.

I thought I may need to stop at the next refuge, but there were a few people around and I didn't fancy the look of it, so I just walked straight past and started dropping down zig-zags through rugged terrain.

The light was fading fast, so as soon as I saw the first decent area of flat ground, I threw up the tent at just after 10pm and crashed out for the night, thinking it would be a short walk down to Encamp for breakfast in the morning.

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