Stage 3 - new territory

After halfway at Heas, the walk has shifted character once more. Back
on the HRP, stage 3 is more remote, less walked and more arduous. The
last few days have meant backbreaking all day ascents and knee shaking
descents over boulder and snow fields and glaciers, often no path or
waymarks in both broiling sun and sense depriving cloud. We are
walking harder, for longer and with less food than we have before.
And after a month of walking, there is sometimes a questioning of the
task in hand. The highest pass and the highest peak loom large over
the next few days. Today before the col de George Blanc (pictured) a
single lightning crack and 5 minutes of bone chilling hail warned of
the huge storm that is imminent. We are now holed up at the excellent
CAF hut at Portillon, sitting out very high winds and will see what
the weather has in store before we move ever higher. I am writing
this at 4.30am listening to a zoo of snoring, my second night indoors
in 35 days.
Since starting the trip I have realised what emphasis is placed on
this central Pyrenean area by other walkers, and also by myself. It
was always an ambition of the walk to try for these crux days, though
I hadn't realised just how important it was to me to attempt them
until now. We'll see what lies ahead, I guess.
The view at the top, by the way, is more than I could have ever wished
for. Of course, it is worth every palpitating breath, every swollen
joint and every calorie spent, every bad step or wrong line chosen,
every doubt and second guess - an purely elemental rock paradise, a
geology of dreams. We are into another order of things now.
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