Monday, September 03, 2007

Pyrenees Day 11: Cirque de Troumouse -> Refuge de Barroude

Despite our best efforts, another late start (9:15). It just doesn't seem to matter what we do! :-) Part of the delay is caused by our gawking at the clouds as they move into and out of the Cirque. The cloud level is moving around between about 1800m and about 2000m, so we're always above the clouds (blue skies above!) but various pieces of the Cirque are being covered and exposed. It's most excellent.

Today's plan is to follow a suggestion from Zu Fuss and get out of the Cirque De Troumouse by walking up one of the walls and walking around the neighboring valley to get to the Horquette de Heas. This sounds kind of fun, even if it does involve spending another section of a day in "no-path" mode. The alternative, which doesn't sound like fun, is to descend 500m to Heas and then immediately gain that 500m back along the HRP to get to the Horquette.

After walking around the Tuc de l'Escaurede to reach the Cirque wall, we start up in a series of zig zags. From below it doesn't look particularly possible, but it's actually not that bad. 400m later and we're at the top in the Col de la Sede (2651m, 11:15). There were bits that we found challenging (different bits for each of us), but all things considered it was no biggie.

From the top we once again have great views in both directions, but France below 2000m is lost underneath the clouds. :-) Up here it's sunny and beautiful. We re-greet the Vignemale (surprise!) and continue along the rim of the bowl. Taking a good path across some scree, we reach the Col de la Gela with views of Spain, which is cloudless, and the Refuge de Barroude (today's destination), which for the moment at least, is above the clouds.

At this point things get a little unclear directionwise. We err on the side of not losing height and end up having to traverse a very steep and loose scree slope without a path. This is not the most entertaining of activities. A perceptual very long time later we're back on firm ground and on a path which leads without further adventure to the Horquette de Heas (2608m, 1:00). We have lunch close to a big group of surprisingly quiet young French. The views are excellent and just watching the clouds climb and recede and climb and recede is entertaining. They're at about 2300m or 2400m now.

Descending the other side we follow a nice path through a couple of cols and then end up in the clouds. Visibility drops to 10m or so. After turning onto an unmarked, but very good, path we proceed for a perceptually very long time without being quite sure if we're going the right way.

We climb some, descend some, climb some, descend some, see nothing, and start to doubt (well, at least Greg starts to doubt). 30 seconds after Greg checks his watch and says "well, we haven't walked too long yet" we find a sign. 30 minutes to Barroude! Hooray! Since there's nothing to see, those 30 minutes only takes us 20 and we arrive at the Refuge (2390m) and have warm beverages.

There's no sense camping in a very wet cloud, so we opt to stay in the refuge. It's not too full, so things are reasonably quiet. We play some cribbage, have sponge baths (cold, but great anyway), do some route planning, talk with a couple guys hiking part of the HRP, have a nice meal (Barroude is known for the cooking... not a coincidence that we're staying there), and go to bed. Of course there's a snorer and the room ends up hot and stinky. Still... it's better than cloud camping.

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