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simon3
2013-07-30 09:54:50
"From S Ordesa valley: snow, waterfall and Breche de Rolande" from simon3 Contract pics
Picture: From S Ordesa valley: snow, waterfall and Breche de Rolande (Contract pics)

A Pyrenees Trip.
The Spanish side of the Pyrenees was the venue for an eleven day walking tour starting on 8th July 2013. It was arranged for a group of Irish Ramblers by Pyrenean Group Holidays aka Malcolm and Ann and coordinated by John O’Connor, a member of the Irish Ramblers Club.
The tour took in a series of classic point to point walks in an approximately anti clockwise circle starting from Gavarnie in France and ending in Bagnères de Luchon also in France. However most of the walking was in Spain. Many of the routes used were local classics however our guide also took us via seldom used routes, almost experimental at times.
Weather hugely affected this tour. When Ireland got heavy rain this winter the Pyrenees got huge amounts of snow that lingered on the high ground. Around Tues 18th June there were disastrous floods on both sides of the border in the high Pyrenees. To the locals this brought disastrous flooding, property destroyed and evacuations. (See http://elpais.com/elpais/2013/06/18/inenglish/1371580872_854896.html ) To us as visitors three weeks later it brought sights of destroyed roads, bridges, buildings with changes to daily routes and destinations and even an unplanned river crossing. We weren’t able to go over some cols because of snow and we could not use some accommodation because of closures. We were hugely grateful for having arranged the trip through a flexible local company. The only silver linings were that there were few other tourists competing for resources and plenty of anxious to please hotel owners.
The complete tour is recorded as a series of GPS tracks on the site. (Search for Pyrenees 2013 in mountainviews.ie/track/report/). As well as the GPS tracks and statistics there are comments on the magnificent flowers (Asphodels look like giant bog cotton from a distance), the panoramas, the day we got caught out on a snowfield at 2600m in sudden lightning and thunder. A few of the tracks show odd distortions such as sudden apparent changes of position. These occurred mainly when the GPS was struggling to find position in canyons – in time we will endeavour to find ways of filtering out such aberrations which are less common in Ireland.
The experience of walking some eleven days out of thirteen albeit ending each day in good accommodation is tough but exhilarating if a bit lacking in cultural context. Every day brings different sorts of views. Sometimes the formal granite landscape of the Posets, sometimes calcareous uplands with crazy cliffs such as at Ordesa, sometimes riotous flower shows, sometimes long stretches in the semi-managed woods. Mostly the walking is necessarily on existing paths such as the GR 11 and other local tracks so in that respect it is easier than typical walking in Ireland with its bogs, cold, winds and rain. For the record we walked around 190km, climbed 8850m, averaging 18.2km/ day with 804m climbing.
For much of the time that we were there the weather had a daily pattern. Bright blues skies from sunrise until around ten or eleven followed by gradually increasing cloud and finally thunderstorms with hail, rain and lightning around 16:00.
Much of the walking is in national parks. The Spanish ones were somewhat more restrictive with little camping, no hang-gliding, MTB etc little in fact other than walking. This suited us though the occasional outburst of excessive restrictive signage was off-putting. In contrast on the French side and not in a park near Bagnères de Luchon there were ski-lifts, paragliding and conventional gliders. The MTB fraternity (VTT) used the ski-lifts to do the heavy work before what must be an exciting 1200m descent. Youth is wasted on the young.
River crossing.
In avoiding a frozen pass we came down on a little used path above Es Bòrdes. We were relieved to have found a route at all during a descent through trees since although shown on some maps the path must have been 100 years in decay. Just when we thought we were in the clear we reached the bottom and found the river had changed course slicing through a short stretch of road leading to civilisation. We forded it. You can read all about it at http://mountainviews.ie/track/2250/
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