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Camping and moving, camping and moving.  Mobility is such a blessing.  Then, comfort in small things - warmth, shelter, hot food.  A complete resetting of value, nothing taken for granted.  It might take time to find the best spot.

The simplicity of backpacking might be its biggest draw for me.  Try not to fall off, get lost, or run out of food or water - not always easy to do, but easy to understand.  A good campsite is the reward at the end of each day if I manage these things.   I like it best when the camping is simple too - less gear and less faff.  Everything in its right place, the porridge, coffee and sugar at the top of the food sack for the morning, knife in left hipbelt pocket, headtorch in my left boot as I bed down, and so on.  Because we're on the move every day, it helps to be organised in the little things, like breakfast or storage, because it allows flexibility in the big things, like the walk.

In some ways, the story of the camps is the story of the trip.  So I thought I'd collect some of the photos in one place, and try to tell it that way: 



Cooking pasta at the end of the second day's walk, camping on a ridge 800m above Arizkun.  A shepherd drove right up to the shelter and I thought I was done, but he seemed really pleased I was there, gesturing to the land and saying, 'its free, its beautiful, enjoy it!'   Terrible water supply but incredible dawn sun.


Camping outside the religious centre of Roncesvalles - a dull camp near a tourist path which nevertheless provided water and shelter.  The wind had a habit of changing direction the minute I pitch, I notice.  Once it got dark, it dropped to nothing and the bugs were in heavy attendance.


First glamour camp near a tiny bridge down from Urculu.  Made food over firewood and had a strip wash in the river and the rain after getting a bit dehydrated.  Quite a view, I slept like a babe that night, all lined up for the col in the morning.  First conversation in 5 days the morning after this one.


Bad photo but a great camp after the Pic d'Orhy, the first 2000m peak.  I'd got a little sunstroke the day before this and had stopped early, so had alot of ground to make up.  A long day but that meant walking down to this sweet valley as the shadows lengthened across d'Orhy.  Sublime.


The morning after first serious swipe, at Source de Marmitou.  I'd got lost, without water in the karst limestone labyrinth that forms the Aries de Anie, the big chain around Lescun.  Came down to the source at 11pm, completely frazzled.  Was so thirsty I was licking the water as it condensed on the trekking poles, stumbling and falling down though a cloud inversion with my red beam on.  Idiot.


First wild camp with the boys, above Borse.  This was a GR10 detour but well worth it, we stopped early because I'd taken one of them up Pic d'Anie the day before and he was feeling it.  A great camp, another inversion at dawn and Midi d'Ossau on the horizon.


Hut above the Chemin de la Mature.  A nice place to pull up after blistering heat and horsefly mayhem.  God it was hot.  Don't even think about doing the Chemin in the afternoon.


A few days later and the weather has turned.  This is in the Valle de Pleasance under the Col de Cambrales after a good 12 hours of rain - you can see the Trailstar silnylon sagging with the wet.  Nic and Andy had rolled up about 11pm out of the blue.  After getting our fingers burnt under Palas I wasn't going anywhere high, in this weather in a hurry.  We sat tight until the dreich stopped and siege charged the col en masse.  Belt and braces, good tactics.  Bonus lie in, too.


A freezing cold and damp night for 3 of us under Vignemale, under cloud, which thankfully cleared as dawn broke.  Again, we had stopped early to let the weather do its thing, the right decision.  Meths stoves meet their limits in this kind of clinging cold, so breakfast was painfully slow.  Could barely strike camp, hands were so cold. 


One of my favourites this spot - somewhere on the plateau between Goriz and the Breche de Roland.  The wind had really picked up and so we found a little depression for the TS to sit in.  The mountains all around were like walnut whip, all swirly like.  Elemental and moody.



Drying everything out properly and decompressing at the campsite, Gavarnie, after picking up a resupply at the office de tourisme.  After that, go get pizza, its the best thing in town.




Two from the Barroude Lakes.  We'd misjudged the day before and came in about 8.30pm under heavy cloud, navigated OK from the Heas pass purely on map and compass, zero visibility which I was fairly pleased about.  If there's no views you might as well get it done well and not loiter.  Friendly guardian with huge afro, en familie running the hut when we poked our heads in.  We parked up in front of where the lake was supposed to be, but couldn't see a thing.  Then, at 11pm, the cloud cleared.  The wall above is just vast, and the lake has tiny humpbacked islands and peninsulas full of cottongrass and marmots.  You might just make out the glacier in the first shot hanging above the shelter.  Joosten calls this place 'a dreamers delight', and he's not wrong about that one bit.


Weird spot at the Refuge de la Soula.  The refuge building is what used to be the workers dormitory, next to a hydro station dressed up in Swiss colour scheme.  We had to sneak into someone's room whilst they were eating to get water and to wash - we only found the communal kitchen afterward.  Miserable staff, mosquitoes the size of sparrows, not sure who the strange woman is.  Don't stop here, there's a nice plateau about half an hour before.
 

 
Another favourite, the Valle de Remune.  This was an early stop after the most technical section of the trip, the fabled 'E' days.  We'd walked down through talus for about 5 hours after the Col de Inferior de Literole, crampons and axe required.  A tiny gorge in the making, then opened out into a wide valley with climbers bivy's all around.  Bliss to stop early and kick about exploring and making food, then not long for bed.


Wet camera.  After we got our butts kicked off Aneto, the weather followed us down the hill to our campspot here on the plain below... right next to a sign 'camping interdit'.  A ferocious thunderstorm meant we were drenched in seconds after a 12hour day and 2800ms of ascent/descent.  Oh well, it was better in the morning.


The camp at the end of the following day was the scene of possibly the worst storm of the trip - insane winds, and to top it all some sort of rodent ran over both our heads in the night - T was not best pleased!  We'd got stuck up near the Tuc de Mulet looking for the Col, which is a near vertical scramble to get down a razor edged ridge, but made it eventually.  A few hours of peace, then the thunderstorm started left of the photo and moved our way fast.  Didn't get much sleep that night, pole worked its way out the middle of the shelter but was easily fixed.


The next days camp was a peach.  Its just off the GR11 and we had it to ourselves, as we did most often.  The winds and weather were mostly behind us and the evening light made fireworks on the tops all around us as we washed on a beach at one of the hundreds of lakes.  I was in seventh heaven at 2400ms, this place is wonderful.


After Salardu and heading towards Andorra.  Thomas' first wild camp.  The mountain we have to do after breakfast lies across the lake.  There's no path and its much much steeper than it looks.  But for now, darkness falls quickly, there's the occasional fish 'plop' in the still water, and the bells of the horses across the way usher us to sleep. 


Possibly one of the best spots on the whole trip, just down from summiting Certescan and a hailstorm.  I've got better shots of the location, but this one, taken just after dawn with coffee and with the sun powering up the day seems to sum up the mood.  Thomas had found his mountain legs by this point and scouted out this great pitch, high above a lake and between 2 breathless, gurgling streams.  A real pleasure to see him enjoying it so much.


Evening of my birthday, camping near the Coma Pedrosa after a real belter of a walk.  Really can't ask for more, would happily settle for less. 


Another lovely spot in Andorra near the Coms de Jan.  We were covering ground fast by then and had time to pitch up in good time, wash, eat and relax.  The night sky here was just incredible, we kept making tea and stayed up late looking at the stars framed by this wonderful valley.


The last camp before the Hospitalet pres d'Andorre resupply, near the lakes under Pic de Rulhe.  Another early finish, a swim, a snooze and a walk round the lake, taking it in our stride by now.  Andorra is very fine camping country.


Back on my own for a few days, a windy but worth it camp, lined up for Carlit in the morning.  I'd pushed on longer to get high and avoid the crowds lower down in the valley, and it paid off with a swift, silent sunset and a wild and lonely pitch.  Its now later in the season so getting dark earlier.  Enjoying the freedom of being my own boss again.


After Carlit, the walk down is long and busy.  I found more loneliness than I knew what to do with at the Estany de Negre, where I sheltered from warm soft rain.  The flies congregated in their hundreds in the eves of the shelter, and in the night I was awoken by a large creature barking very closeby.  I'm pretty sure it was a deer, but at the time I was unnerved - I'd heard stories about feral dogs and it was in no hurry to leave.  I banged my pot loudly as it pawed the ground outside my shelter.  An unsettled night.


Had arranged by text to meet up with Andy high in the Valle de Enye, which somehow we managed.  Was great to see him again, he was clearly in his element now.  We pitched near a big fire circle and got through 2 bottles of wine.  Very windy but the rain held off.
 

Two from a night next door to a ski run, right under the nose of a refuge which didn't promise much but turned out ok.  We'd walked the frankly awe inspiring Noarre ridge in the days before, and we're aware the high ground was ending soon.  That night saw the first frost and temperatures of -5.


Under Canigou at 6.15am, all lined up for 'the chimney' that morning.  We'd walked in late the night before and overplayed our hand really, looking for the lakes but didn't quite find them.  A genuinely beautiful walk in long and quiet amber shadows, the light had really changed now we were near the Mediterranean.  It got dark and cold, but we found a wind null, pitched up and in the morning saw the lakes 200m away.  It was nice not to have to rush off early, we were only an hour or so from the top.  A second sub zero night.


We lucked in, after walking the ancient Balcon de Canigou path, which contours in a wonderful arc underneath the last big mountain of the trip, and found this beautiful unmanned shelter the day after.  We loaded up on firewood, washed and dried clothes around the stupidly efficient burner which turned the place into a sauna, and emptied the jar of hot chocolate previous walkers had left.  Table and chairs, unfathomable luxury!  Our knees appreciated the finer aspects of civilisation.  My retirement home. 


After that, it gets less exciting.  Arles sur Tech, we resupplied in a very unglamourous and miserable 7-11 and camped on the edge of a college playing field.  There was fruit.  And more wine.


The next day its all steep ascents through sweet chestnut and wandering along through endless scrub.  Hot, dry, flies.  We avoided getting gored by the bull and slipping on cowshit, and pitched near an old saw mill, pretty much on the path.  Water is scarce.


The first night I've ever spent in a Napoleonic Cemetery, for sure.  A fantastic sleep of the dead about half an hour outside Perthus, marred by a terrible lack of fresh water.  Or any water.  Enough to eat and drink, just, but not enough to wash or feel comfortable.  Don't believe the map about water sources, its all lies.


Our last camp, before the med.  A fire circle, solemn thoughts, and sanguine conversation.  In the morning, I'm singing Dylan's 'One more cup of Coffee', an ominous hobo tune if ever there was, before we descend to the sea.  A good spot, well found Andy.


So, this is what it boils down to at the finish.  Camping at the Municipal campsite in Banyuls, you get issued with a pitch number, you sleep on dusty rock-hard earth, on cardboard boxes you nick from the local supermarket.  Its rubbish but the showers are hot, which is cold, cold comfort.  A fitting end to a grand endeavour.


I walked the HRP for 2 great charities - the JMT and Soundmix.  If you didn't donate yet, you can still do that, here  Everyone who donates £10 or more gets a Trip Report bundle.  The blog will not contain the full report.  Donate, then send your details to davepowered(you know where)gmail(you know what) com and you'll get a report when its done.  Thanks