Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pyrenees Day 14: Camping Forcallo -> Lago de Gias

Today did not end up as originally planned... The plan was to continue past Refugio de Estos for an hour or so in order to get a head start on Friday's crossing back into France. What happened was some adventure.

We get up after a quiet night and set out at 8:40 for the Refugio de Estos. We start with a bit of climb up to the Refugio de Biados (or Viados, depending on which sign/map you are looking at), 1740m, which is very pretty and also has excellent views of Posets. We continue through a hay-making area (lots of grass, no animals), walk down a little bit an then start the climb to the Puerto de Chistau (2577m). The climb is steep, but we are back in our normal slow pace so it's not bad. Approaching the top we pass a group walking down where one of the hikers is wearing flip flops. Flip flops? With a backpack? On a rough trail? That's stupid! Oh, wait, he's got his boots attached to his backpack and has big patches of adhesive tape covering his heels. Ouchie. We have lunch at the top in cold wind (there's just nowhere to hide from it). Still, we enjoy our first views of the Maladeta massif.

We leave at 1:45 and begin the long, long descent. After crossing through many herds of cows we reach the valley bottom (~1800m) and then head up a bit to arrive at the Refugio de Estos (1890m, 3:30). We have some cold beverages and Andrea asks for advice about the next day's crossing to Portillon. The hut keeper doesn't know much about that pass, but he says that the crossing above Estos, the Portal d'Oo, is easier and that we should go that way. There are two lakes below the Portal (at about 2600m) and we like high lakes, so this sounds good. We assess the state of our legs and descide that we can probably handle the additional 700-800m up. If not we will be walking up beside a stream, so we can always just camp beside the stream. Yeah... that's the theory.

After a ham sandwich (for strength!) we set out at 4:30 to do the climb to adventure. There's no official path, and the way is rough, but it's clearly marked with stonemen. After 100-200m up the stream goes away. Ah well, there are no flat areas here anyway and the lakes will be good water sources. We're both still feeling fit, so "weiter geht's!". At around 6:15 we reach the area of the first of the lakes! There's nice camping around it! Greg runs off to find the lake and discovers that it's dry. Crap! Greg is not happy. Andrea is calm because she knows that we haven't gone up enough to be at the lakes yet. After the crestfallen Greg returns, Andrea imparts this information to him. This partially restores his spirits and we continue up.

Greg starts remembering all the dried out streams and lakes we've seen and is feeling pessimistic. Andrea leads on and we climb higher to the first of the lakes. It's dry. WTF? These are not indicated on the map as being seasonal. Shitty map. Shitty lake. We actually have a discussion of how bad it would be to spend the night with the 750ml of water we have left (it's getting awfully late to be heading back down the path we came up... it would not be good in the dark). Dry bread, salty ham, salty cheese, a sludge of ovalmaltine and powdered milk, and so on. It sounds awful, but it won't be life threatening.

Just to be sure, we leave our packs and scramble up the rocks the next 50m to the bigger lake. IT HAS WATER! YAY! WATER! It also has wind... hoo boy does it have wind! We investigate a few of the rock circles people have previously camped (or bivvy'ed) in. The best of these is already occupied, but we decide we can probably make it in one of the others (it's a good tent!). We head back to get the packs and think about how we might use the tent as a two-person bivvy sack. That's not happy thinking, but it's better to plan ahead.

We retrieve the packs, climb back up, scout some more, get some water (oooo, water), identify the best candidate site, and assemble the tent. Miraculously there's enough room in the stone circle and the stakes can all be driven in appropriate places. The tent is up and looks solid, but holy crap is it windy.
The site is beautiful, but there's a bit too much to do to really appreciate it.

Greg builds a quasi-sheltered mini-kitchen corner with some more rocks and patching of the existing wall and makes dinner as quickly as possible while Andrea sets up the inside of the tent and secures the packs.
We eat in the tent (big fun in the small tent) and then make everything as secure and stable as possible for the night. It's now dark and the wind is blowing like hell. Hopefully we won't have to test the bivvy sack theory, but the tent is good... we believe in it...

It's very, very windy all night and it gets quite cold. The tent does great and doesn't have any problems. It does punish Greg all night as it flexes in the wind, but that's a relatively minor price to pay.

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