Like Day 2, today started and finished with a wild camp mid-way through a stage.
I felt tired setting off at 6.30am after yesterday's big day. The ground was wet and slippery, and it took longer than I expected to drop down to the lake and road crossing at Embalse de Moralets. From here there was an easy but muddy trail leading towards Hospital de Vielha where I imagined I would get a nice coffee to cheer me up and get me going.
As I got closer to the Hospital de Vielha Refugio there was the most bizarre pair of signs. The first sign pointed steeply uphill with "Vielha Refugio 10 min". Then after climbing for 5 or 6 minutes, there was another sign pointing steeply back downhill saying "Vielha Refugio 5 min", and I realised that the refugio was behind the first sign. There was no way I was going to hike back downhill, so the coffee would need to wait.
At this point I needed a sit down to get over the disappointment, and whilst texting Muffy a progress report, 2 determined looking day-hikers went stomping past. This was just what I needed and they provided a useful focus on the otherwise gruelling climb to Port de Rius 2355m, since after quickly overtaking them, they made every effort to catch me on the climb.
As you pop over the Port de Rius the character of the landscape changes in an instant. Suddenly you are in a world of sparkling lakes and a myriad of pointy summits. This is why people come to Espot to explore this wonderland, snappily titled the Parque Nacional de Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici.
So the rest of the day was through mind-bogglingly scenic landscape, albeit pretty heavy-going underfoot with rough trails. I stopped for some brief lunch at Refugio de Restanca, half-thinking I would only get as far as Colomers. But when I reached the Colomers lake it wasn't quite 6pm, so I decided to just carry on and see how far I could get. I knew I wouldn't reach Espot that evening, but I thought I might as well get over the Port de Ratera d'Espot 2534m and get within striking range of Espot for tomorrow morning.
The trail to the Ratera Col passes Lac Long and Lac Obago, and a few ibex were the only creatures I saw before dropping down into the shadows and fading light towards Estany de Ratera. I thought I might just reach the big lake, Estany de Sant Maurici, but got timed out by imminent darkness a kilometre or so short, so I just climbed off the pista into the forest to find the first bit of flat ground, and quickly pitched the tent whilst getting savaged by mosquitoes.
I tried to text Muffy & Dave my whereabouts, but there was no signal, so I just hoped I would see them the following morning.
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