When we have just fallen asleep, we are suddenly startled by the call of a wild animal near our tent. It resembles the barking of a big dog. But it sounds a lot gruesomer, louder and sharper through the valley. The shouts must be a few hundred meters away from our tent. But no stress … We’ll just put an ice axe, a lighter and a can of deodorant next to our sleeping pillow. You know, just in case.
We fall asleep and sleep pretty well. Until many hours later I hear a rumble outside the tent. Heavy footsteps are approaching.
I wake up Wim and whisper: “Honey, there is an animal at our tent, it can be a deer, but …” The animal interrupts me with the horrible shouts that we heard earlier this evening. It gives me chills to the spine. We stop breathing and do not dare to move an inch in our sleeping bags.
Again a scream! The sound echoes through the valley. Our senses are sharp. And although we may never admit it, we are both terrified. When minutes later the screeching of the beast can be heard further and further away from our tent, we finally dare to breathe again. And about an hour later I think we even dare to close an eye again.
In the morning we see traces of our nocturnal visitor. But apart from some messed up leaves we do not find any real footprints. So we will probably never know with whom we had the honor tonight.
Our route sets off off road until we find the GR-trail again. Not only the forest, but the entire GR has been abandoned. We end up in a snowy landscape, just above a ski resort. In the soft snow, winter sports enthusiasts have drawn hundreds of straight lines with their skis and snowboards. A week ago the ski lifts must have been running at full speed here. But now everything is deserted and the resort feels dead. Armed with gloves and beanie we hike up through the snow. Because we walk upwards via the blue ski track, it is initially pretty easy. A bit chilly, a bit slippery, but safe.
But then, all of the sudden, there is no blue track to be found anymore. There is also no path. No GR. Or no predecessor who has left footprints in the snow for us to follow. We are the first passers-by this summer through this snowy white landscape.
Wim uses his GPS to keep us going in the right direction. We find it quite entertaining to be plowing like this through the snow. But that fun comes to an abrupt end, when we both sink in the snow several times with our legs. I cut my leg while scraping against rock crevices. The small craters in the snow are particularly treacherous. It is a miracle that no one is seriously injured.
Once again I disappear up to my hips into the snow. My foot is jammed and I can not free myself. While Wim digs me out with his hands, I feel that my body is cooling down very quickly. I feel my body shivering, when I’m back on the ground with my both feet.
As we continue our way up, we notice that we are not alone on this mountain. We see a fresh footprint of a bear in the snow. We look around us, but he is well hidden. Since we do not feel completely comfortable with the idea of a bear spying on us, we increase our pace.
After a while we take our crampons and ice axes out of our backpacks. It turns out to be a good decision. Because suddenly I slip and start to slide down the mountain. The functionality of my new ice ax can be tested immediately. After five meters my axe perfectly brings me to a standstill. I feel ice-cold snow creeping into my underwear, but I have not completely slid down. Pretty good material, if you ask me!
After reaching the summit we have to pass a steep snowy slope, where our climbing techniques are put to the test. Wim slips three times and dangles with his entire weight on his ice axe. That none of us landed in the gravel below can truly be called a miracle.
The further descent is a lot easier. But we realize that we have taken quite a few risks today. That we did not see footprints in the snow – no human ones, that is – is no coincidence of course. It is simply too dangerous to be climbing here right now.
In every village we pass, the locals say that the GR10 can not be walked because of the snow. Besides treacherous craters due the melting snow, there is also avalanche danger. Tomorrow we have to climb another 500 meters higher than today. And the snow over there is said to be three meters high!
When our feet touch the safe green grass after a long descent, we take a breath of fresh air. But we have to face the facts. If, after our honeymoon, we want to live happily ever after, then perhaps we should forget about the Pyrenean Traverse. Today we took far too many risks already. We are forced to take other choices tomorrow.
Wim sees the disappointment in my eyes. I ask him to postpone the final decision till tomorrow. Please let me just believe today. Even if only for a moment. Let me believe today that we will make it. Let me believe that, here and now, everything is possible …
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