Wednesday 15 July
Today was a difficult, long, but in the end very rewarding day. In a nutshell, I set off from iraty just after 7am, walked to the foot of pic d'orhy, climbed it, (2,017m, first time over 2,000m on this trip) descended 1,000m or so to the port de Larrau, then walked a further 6 miles or so along the french/Spanish border and then down to the Source d'Ardane to camp for the night, arriving just after 8pm.
That does not really convey the amount of effort involved, though! Its not the distance, its the upsanddowns! Perhaps the photos will help. It was really hot the whole day, I climbed about 1200m during the day, and there is no source of water anywhere en route. So I took as much as I could carry (3.5l) and tried to ration it. Still it did not really feel enough. After pic d'orhy you descend to the Port de Larrau, one of the main crossing points for the pyrenees, and I could see several camper vans in the car park there. On the way down I was overtaken by a friendly Dutch couple I had seen on the summit, Anna and Klaas. It turned out that one of the campers was theirs, and they were happy to provide some water, as well as a nectarine and a banana, to me and to a nice Spanish girl close behind. So kind of them, and greatly appreciated. The Americans have a term for this, "trail magic" and it is common there for people to offer food, drink and so on to long distance hikers.
I was pretty tired when I got to Ardane, deep in the mountains, with a shepherds hut, a small cabin walkers can use, and a natural spring that spouts wonderful, sweet-tasting, ice cold water. Very reviving!