Sunday 19 July - Lescun to Refuge d'Arlet
Today was a great day.
You could be forgiven, reading the earlier updates, for thinking I was a bit of a misery, always moaning on and mentioning difficulties. The main
reason for that has been, in the well-known phrase, "Your guidebook is writing cheques your body can't cash." In England it is hard to prepare for altitude and for mountains of this size, so all you can do is go steadily and hope things will pick up in due course. This usually takes at least a week, so the welcome improvement today is about par for the course.
I set off about 7.30am from lescun fed, rested, laundered and re-equipped, and feeling reasonably good. Nothing (L knee apart) ached, throbbed, was swollen or burnt. First you have to go down from lescun to a bridge over the river in the valley below. From there it is more or less a continuous climb up to the col de Pau, at 1942m, about 1150m above. I didn't take much water as there is a waterpoint near the top, at a shepherd's hut called Benaris. After a steady climb I arrived at the col, still breathing well and not too tired. Climbing is all about lung power, and clearly mine is on the up. There was a friendly group of six Belgian girls at the col as well, and we set off together for the next stage, the ridge walk along to Arlet. But what is this? Jerry has pressed the accelerator, zoomed past them all and disappears into the distance! Golly.
In truth I did not go too fast, as the views from the ridge are spectacular. I have been here once before, when cloud covered everything, but today, though I was in cloud for much of the climb, I broke out before I reached the top into warm sunshine and it was so good to catch up with this marvellous panorama which hopefully the photos will hint at.
Now I am at Arlet (2000m) and the cloud has risen so much there is no longer any view here, you can hardly see the lake 25m away.
I will eat dinner and breakfast here but rather than sleep in the refuge I elected to pitch my tent round the corner in the designated area. When I arrived it was empty bit then a party of about 40 or 50 noisy Spanish teenagers arrived, a scout group apparently. So tonight it will be me and them in tents.. I have earplugs. Watching the way they interact with each other, I can't see the Spanish birthrate dropping any time soon.