Pyrenees Trip Report - day 8

We're both really tired today, and the sun is in the valley early, as we walk into it up to the Col  d'Arrious.  There's a change in the character of the landscape as we come up too - the water is colder, there is more of it running off the hillsides, the ground underfoot is rockier, and the bugs are hardier.  There is so much diversity here, such a variety of life, a crucible of fragile, savage humming activity.  Heavy bags for us both in punishing heat, at least until the Col, but we're going up, I'm excited.  This is what we came for.

We turn right, into the mouth of the lake, and then make the classic mistake of following a small group in front, instead of looking at the map.  The way to the Passage d' Orteig is up directly on the crest of the hill that lies perfectly east of the lake, and not across the rust coloured boulder field underneath it - that way lies madness!  We turn back and steer up and over having checked our bearings - foolish, actually the route is fairly obvious, at least from this angle.  And from the map contours.  Live and learn.

Once you get up there its great - it is fairly exposed on your left going up, and a few years ago I would have found it a bit drafty, but that's the mountains for you, they're high up!  Admittedly it would be different in winter weather, but naught to worry about in summer really - its short, there's a small descent and then a few metres of easy scramble, all of which is roped.  After the Anoch Eagach earlier this year, this seems fine to both of us.

Up through rocks bleached pale, following an ever more elaborate series of cairns, almost land art, miniature rituals, that after a short while lead down to Refuge d' Arremoulit.  The approach really is beautiful, an enchanted wilderness of rock.

This tiny refuge is run by the amazing Pierre-Jean and his family, and sits beside a lake of absolutely still, perfect azure blue.  He's very accommodating and makes us huge bowls of cafe au lait to accompany our lunch, as we hide from the midday sun under a curved ceiling painted with birds of prey.  Its quite a place.

After a lengthy bout of indecision, we ask to stay for dinner, find a pitch and wash some clothes. I take my life in my hands and submerge quickly in the Lake - come up coughing, and don't stay in - its snowmelt, and very refreshing indeed.

We don't manage much else that afternoon save a little wander around, its nice to sit by the lake, and potter for an hour or two without the packs.  The refuge gets very busy later on, and there are evidently pressures of the plumbing variety as numbers swell.  We feel a bit out of it over dinner, the only English, the only veggies, they seat us separately with a little 'reserved' sign on our table.  We are so reserved!  But the staff and the food are wonderful - mushroom soup with garlic croutons, a stomach straining volume of pine nut laden pasta, cheese and chocolate tarts to finish.  Real luxury dining, more food than we've seen in the last few days, all in one go and none of it dried!

We eat too much, finishing as the sun sets and the cloud rushes up.  Almost immediately after dinner, we crash out.  6 hours later I get up to answer the call and the cloud has lifted.

 I point the camera south to Pic d'Arriel, then north west to Pic Arrious.  Magic at 3am, 2300m.