Pyrenean Traverse

The Pyrenean Traverse, Day 29: High day

When the first rays of sunlight seek their way in through the teepee door, I prepare everything for breakfast: cake with coffee. Wim gives me a kiss when I cut the cake into pieces. “Because we have been married for one month,” he adds. I can’t beileve it. Has it been a month already? If all the months in our marriage fly by like that, I’ll have to start preparing for our 25th anniversary already.

So, it is high day today. Not only because we have something to celebrate, but also because the GR will bring us back to great heights. Today we will be climbing to 8,200 feet (2.450m), with hopefully not too many dangerous snow passages en route … We head off on a wide path that rises slowly. This way we will be able to keep it up for a while. A helicopter apparently deliberately flies past our heads when we stand on a mountain top. I raise my hand to greet the pilot. He waves back and flies on.

Before the trail gets steeper we decide to have our picnic. We have a fantastic view of what is to come. Seen from here, it seems almost impossible to pass the rough rocks. Hopefully it will be less scary up close … I continue the route with a scary heart. Earlier today I was literally biting the dust after I fell. It has made me a bit insecure, certainly because we fear that the last part of the journey today might be a bit tricky.

It starts easily, quite steep but safe. We climb over a barren grass covered plateau. A few days ago, a lot of snow must have been lying here, because the grass has not yet had a chance to change its hair colour in a beautiful fresh green. At the highest point of the plateau, my eyes don’t know where to look first. Every degree of all 360 around me is equally beautiful …!

We opt for a narrow path that keeps a steep slope on the left. But luckily it’s not really dangerous anywhere and I’m pretty happy about it after my tumble this morning.

Before we reach the bivouac place we can play in the snow again. We try to play as quickly as possible, because dark clouds threaten to soak us wet. A thunderstorm is predicted between 2 and 4 pm (Météo Montagne is quite specific in terms of times …). We move on, hoping we will get to see the storm looking out of the windows of a sheltered place.

At 2:15 pm we arrive dry in the Gite de Rulhe. We order two beers and in less than fifteen minutes we see the rain gushing down. How lucky we are … Because it is a big day today we decide to stay and eat in the simple refuge. We are assigned room 9, where four other hikers can find a bed. But we are lucky again: room 9 is for us alone, although it is quite crowded in the gite! Numerous hiking trails are crossing each other right at this point. Meaning that around forty adventurous hikers are spending the night here.

We have to stand in line to wait our turn at the showers. But we don’t feel like queueing up, so we wash ourselves with deodorant. The festive dinner is served in large bowls and pots that are moved from one side of the table to the other. We have onion soup as a starter, then couscous with beef, a mini piece of cheese for dessert and a small cake with pudding and canned fruit. Knowing that this refuge is supplied by helicopter once a month and that the hosts go and get fresh bread once a week with their backpack at five hours walking distance from here, I think we can consider us extremely lucky to have such a delicious meal while celebrating our one month marriage anniversary at 6,500 feet (2.000m) above sealevel…

We are the last ones to stay in the dining room with our carafe of wine while playing the “Settlers of Catan”. Both hosts come to chat with us. They tell us that an avalanche interrupted the path yesterday. Many stones have fallen down and you can no longer follow the GR trail. That is why they have put small flags in the snow to indicate an alternative safe route. Every 48 hours they check the route to see if it needs to be diverted again as a result of the melting snow, fallen rocks, or other things that block the passage. With the warning we are also offered two glasses of home-brewed plum liqueur. I drink it to the last drop and then go to room 9. Wim and I laugh and giggle all the way up to our room. We have certainly celebrated our one month anniversary well. And all those other hikers who went to bed around 9 pm are very wrong. Because at least we could see the stunning sunset …!

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