Pyrenees Trip Report - day 10

This morning we climb Grande Fache.  We're up to the col early, but there's still one or two in front of us.

This mountain has real character - there are a few ways up, but the holds are fairly firm and its not an overwalked pile of shingle.  One might assess it (or parts of it) as a grade 1 scramble in the UK, though the rock is very different to anything I've climbed here.  I'm a little concerned about the getting down, and feeling the altitude as well - its breathtaking all right.  The last few metres offer a little exposure but nothing too serious.

We summit about 11am, and to think of it now, sitting in a small office with a brick wall for a view, my whole body tingles and blood rushes to my head.  The cloud has not come in yet, so we have a full 360 degree view.  At 3005ms this is the highest piece of land we have walked to unassisted.  We share the top with 2 others for a little while, then 3 more join us - then have it to ourselves for 10 minutes or so.

What can be said, that Murray hasn't already?

"The mind fails one how miserably and painfully before great beauty.  It cannot understand.  Yet it would contain more.  Mercifully, it is by this very process of not understanding that one is allowed to understand much: for each one has within him 'the divine reason which sits at the helm of the soul', of which the head knows nothing.  Find beauty: be still: and that faculty grows more surely than grain sown in season."

Its also a simple question of scale I think, especially now.  There is still much beauty in the world despite our worst collective efforts.  But there is nothing like a massive spike of rock to make you feel small - not belittled, far from it, but tiny nonetheless.  We are at once child and humbled adult.  We can relax, we are not in charge of this.  We are but guests, but we are charged with gentle custody.  How well will we discharge ourselves?

It takes an hour to go up, but an hour and half for us to come down.  Its alot easier coming down than I had thought, the path is much clearer than expected.  As we reach the col again, the cloud is gathering fast on the top, clearly demarking the French and Spanish sides of the mountain.   Climbers gather for other faces, but we know we have had the best of it for today. 

The way down to Wallon is a gradual but unrelenting drop, quite hard on the knees.  T's leg is quite strained after the summit climb and we could both use a rest.  After lunch, the way opens out into a picture perfect glacial valley, dotted with trees and streams.

We book for dinner and wash ourselves and some clothes in the lavabo.  The refuge is huge but friendly.  Dinner is unfortunately not - the non meat option is a tiny omelette for which we pay the same 16.50 euros.  This sticks in the throat a little because we are quite low on food, they won't sell us bread, but we want to avoid going down to Cauterets to resupply.  We make up for it with red wine and some after dinner chatter with a Swiss couple, and Chris, a Danish tour guide.  Lucky, hungry, tired, inspired.