When we leave our modest cabin, our backpack weighs less than usual. That is because we have put on just about all the clothes that were in our backpack. The rain that was predicted for yesterday is pouring on our heads today. The route sets off quietly, but that sweet character changes quickly. Our topoguide points out the imposing mountain in front of us and the small path leading to the summit.
At first glance, there is nothing crazy about it. But when we find out the topoguide does not mention how to reach that path question marks start to rise. However, the book does reveal that there is still a valley between us and that imposing mountain, which is bisected by a river. There should be a bridge somewhere to cross that river. The HRP, the route we are currently on, is a non-signposted route. And if that is not bad enough already, the route does not run over a path everywhere. We need to rely upon our boy scout skills to find that particular bridge, because a path can not be found. We try to find our way down the steep mountain slope. Almost like a miracle Wim sends us right to the bridge. We refill our water bottles and hop to the other side of the valley.
It is time to climb again. On the opposite mountain where we were standing just a few minutes ago, we see two dogs herding a flock of sheep to another pasture. It gives us an excuse to stop for a while and to catch our breath so that we can admire their work. Just after the summit we have to go “into the wild” again. This time not because the guide prescribes it, but because we went the wrong way. We walk down steeply until we are on the right path again.
Under a tree we eat a banana and a piece of cake. The tree tries in vain to catch all the raindrops. But she doesn’t succeed. We quickly get back on the road, because the cold is really bothering us.
Again our topoguide says to climb the mountain top in front of us. There is no path, so good luck … The climb is again steep and difficult. We lose a lot of time and energy with the constant search for the right coordinates. Eventually we reach the top, but then we have difficulty getting to the next point. After searching for a while, we choose for a route that is much too steep – no path, of course, there aren’t any here – almost straight up through a deciduous forest. I grit my teeth, but I can not hide the fact that I am suffering. It also doens’t stop raining. We are wet to the bone. When we finally arrive on a path again, we climb to the highest peak of the day. We reach the top, but we run down again, as if our lives depend on it. The rain and bleak wind on the mountain freeze our fingers in a few seconds. I chatter and am afraid to stumble here. If you would be left alone out here, it is definitely game over…
You would not say it looking at the past sunny days, but the weather conditions are really ab-nor-mal for this time of year. Everyone in the region is talking about it. When it is this cold at 1,450 meters altitude already, I wonder what we can expect later on at 3000 meters altitude. Little by little we realize that the HRP is a mission that can not be accomplished this year. A few hundred meters lower, where it is a bit warmer, we admit to each other this fear. If the weather does not change, it is just not wise to continue …
Once we are back in the civilized world, we warm ourselves up in a small cafe. We drink hot chocolate and also empty a full cooking pot of soup. This allows us to travel the last one and a half hours to our sleeping place. That place is called Iraty Les Chalets. For 13 euros per person we take a room that is so small that no bunk bed could possibly fit in. But those French have gotten one in it anyway. We turn the heating on full power so we can dry everything. Even our sleeping bags are wet. Then we treat ourselves to a menu in the basic restaurant. With a glass of wine, we talk about how we should proceed. Tomorrow we will be taking an alternative route, because the weather forecast is extremely bad. And after tomorrow, well… we’ll see.