Saturday May 14th Refuge de Mariailles to Ballestavy

So today was a walk with everything. Great scenery, wildlife, scary challenging walking, hideous weather and then a great meal at the end of it.

After the terrible afternoon weather of the last two days I decided to head of early (not a lot to make you hang about in a Refuge) and try and get over Canigou before it started to rain. The Refuge was 1700 metres so we had about 1,000 metres to climb, some maps days Canigou is 2,700, some say it's 2,600.

Refuge de Marialles

The walk up the valley is an easy one although we did have to cross a very full river and I get my first dose of wet feet. As we climb the valley I get to see my first ever Flaming Salamander (I my second one later) and then lots of Isards running across the side of the valley. Slightly later Peter thinks we see a wild cat, I think it's a marmot.

Flaming Salamander

Crossing snow fields on the way up to Canigou

The weather is starting to look less settled and although we can now clearly see the top of Canigou there is still a lot of climbing. On the high side of the valley there is still a lot of snow some of which looks a bit too unstable to cross forcing us to make some time consuming detours. Eventually we are ready to make the final climb to the top and it really is a climb. For at least 300 feet your climbing your way up through a chimney, real climbing, and I'm having second and third thoughts about the whole thing. Exhausting, a big scary but actually really exhilarating we eventually make it to the top.

The ridge to the south of Canigou

Climbing the chimney up to Canigou

The clouds prevent us seeing the Mediterranean and the other views for which Canigou is famous for but it's dramatic despite that. It's starting to get cold however so after about 10 minutes we head down the easier path on the other side. The clouds suddenly drop, there is a crack of thunder and the rain and hail is pouring down. We walk through this for another 45 minutes until we get to the Refuge at Catalots, which is fortunately open and we go inside for some shelter. A couple of German women have the same idea and we crowd around the fire, drink hot chocolate and share some fruit cake.

On top of Canigou

Posing Pete

Half a hour later we were on our way again, still cloudy but not raining and only 8 kilometres to our destination at Ballestavy. After a couple of kilometres the GR 36 leaves the GR 10 and heads north effectively leaving the Pyrenees. The rain starts again and we drop into a forest which goes on uninterrupted the next 6 kilometres dropping about 1500 metres on the way. It's a great walk, even in the rain, a narrow ghost train like path through the trees, soft underfoot encouraging you to move really quickly down the hill side.

At about 6.30 we arrive at Ballestavy a really pretty village on the hill side in the middle of the forest. Cold and wet we find the Gite D'Etape near the church and it looks miserable. Peter goes of to get the key and I guard the bags. 10 minutes later he's back and has found accommodation above the restaurant and there is a woman with a car to ferry us there. The day is finished of with a absolutely brilliant Table D'hote sploit only slightly by the damp dog smell of my shoes.


1 comment:

  1. Table d'Hote! The best thing you can get in France as a rambler. Congratulations!