Today was Day 1 of a major attempt to cover the 87km to Espot in 2 days, in order to see Muffy & Dave on the Thursday evening before they headed off home. So basically I was trying to cover 6 guidebook stages in 2 days.
I had no idea whether this was feasible, and I didn't want to get stressed about it, so I had a slow leisurely breakfast at the Refugio de Biadós with 3 German guys, before getting my act together and setting off around 7.30am.
Luckily the first stage today was very easy going on good surface and well-graded trails leading up to the highpoint of the morning at Puerto d'Estós 2592m. I reached the Refugio d'Estós sooner than I was expecting and just kept going until the bridge over the Rio Estós where I took a short break.
I then sauntered on down the valley to the Aneto Campsite little realising the seriousness of the situation, and how narrowly I was about to avoid a major problem. I wandered onto the campground without any sense of urgency but then realised looking at my camera that it was 1:02pm, and the Supermercado shopkeeper was just turning the key for siesta time.
I had a moment of panic, but thankfully she re-opened the door and allowed me in to make my selections. Otherwise I would have had nothing to eat for the next 2 days!
Crisis averted, I sat and stuffed myself at the campsite picnic benches before trundling off to start the daunting 1500m climb to Collado de Ballibierna in the baking heat.
The initial section of this ascent to Puen de Corones is pretty uninteresting up a rough pista that has what must be a terrifying and uncomfortable bus service for lazy hikers.
Thankfully beyond Puen de Corones things become a whole lot wilder and more scenic as you climb towards the magnificent Ibons (Lakes) de Ballibierna. At this point I started imagining I was in the Sierra Nevada on the John Muir Trail in bear country. It had the same type of rough hewn granitic grandeur, with Pic Aneto 3404m towering above.
As I passed the lakes it was around 6:30pm and I still had to climb up to the Ballibierna Pass at 2710m, so I was conscious of time marching on, and my sense of isolation in this wild environment. It was great relief to reach the col at 7:15pm and begin the descent towards the cluster of lakes in the direction of Refugio d'Angliós.
My original plan for today had been to get to Hospital de Vielha, or at least the Vall de Barrabés, but that was not possible now. The revised plan was to shift as fast as possible in the fading light and to get below the Refugio d'Angliós before pitching the tent.
I dropped around 200 metres below the Refugio on steep ground before I spotted a small patch of flat grass perfect for the tent. At 9.30pm I pitched the tent, getting savaged by mosquitoes the moment I stopped, and by the time I dived into the tent it was pitch dark.
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