July 11th
Refuge de Pombie-Refuge de Larribet
Campsite Elevation: 6791ft/2070m
*No mileage available. The guidebook lists distances on the route by time rather than miles.

There are some days in hiking that stand out among the rest and are memorable for different reasons. I have a feeling today will be one of those days. I really couldn’t ask for anything more than what today brought. A good night of sleep, perfect temps with a light breeze, challenging hiking, and amazing scenery. It started off with a long and gradual downhill to a valley as the morning fog lifted.

There was even a nice forest thrown in that was quite relaxing. I am really enjoying the forests out here.

Then I hit a highway with a parking area. This area must be highly destined because there were plenty of cars parked there and I saw people both on my descent to the highway and climbing up away from it. Many of those I saw were really fit older women, even a group that seemed to be in their 70s. I think these refuges make it very inviting. People can do these big climbs with little on their backs and spend the night in the refuge after a nice long hike up. It’s pretty cool. From the highway was the climb up to Col d’Arrious. It was a nice morning and gradual enough to be enjoyable. Either that, or I finally got my legs on this trip!

Down to the road.

And right back up!

On the way up I listened to more of the podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. I’m really enjoying reliving the books in a detailed and unique way. On the way up, the trail goes by a shepperd’s cabane/hut. There was a group trying to move some unmotivated cows up the pass. What was interesting is that the lead of the group was a boy around maybe 10yrs old. He was super strong and it was just cool to see something so engrained in him. It was like watching an adult with how focused and serious he was.

The whole way up, I kept looking back at the peak that I slept under. I’m not sure the name of it, but it was so dominant even hours later as I climbed up. It was cool to look back and know that was where I started the day.

When I got to the top, I was smacked yet again with a whole new amazing view. This time it was the Lac d’Arrious. What an idyllic setting.

Then I turned to see even more mountains rising all around and lakes down below. A frenchman named Michael was up there and he immediately started pointing to everything around us and telling me what it was called. He pointed out that all the lakes in the area feed into a power plant. It was a special place for sure and even more so for him. He had tears of pride and wonder telling me about it all. He said it’s different each time he comes and I’m sure he’s been up there a ton. He told me his first peak out here was over 20yrs ago and it was the one I slept under last night! He said he was in the army and his superior loved the Pyrenees, so he would bring them out here to train. As soon as Michael was out of the army, he moved here to be in the mountains and has climbed just about everything he possibly could. I asked to take his photo with the mountain and he proudly obliged. Quite a moving interaction. He also kindly took a photo for me.

From there, was a sketchy traverse that fortunately had cables on a narrow walkway. I am not a fan of this kind of thing and was really glad when I was safely done with that part.

Notice the chain thankfully.

Today was like an action movie with back to back action in the changing scenery, and all of it just blew me away. Right after the traverse, I was looking down on the large Arrémoulit Lake with the same named refuge next to it.

Arrémoulit Lake and refuge (left of the lake).

As I approached the refuge and ate lunch on rocks nearby, a helicopter came five times to drop off materials. It was quite swift and a rushed production to see the staff at the hut rushing around and preparing for the following drop. The helicopter must have been getting the supplies from the highway given how quickly it was returning.

At this point in the day, I was totally blissed out and in a groove. I noticed that my next climb up to a col was one I needed to double check because I could see on the two tracks I have that one of them went over the wrong col and a completely different route. I did a quick check as I left lunch, put in my headphones, and flew up to the col with a well cairned route and others also using it. When I got to the top, I did a quick check on my GPS to confirm which way to go. I had totally gone up the wrong col! ARGH!!! All that work! I can’t believe I didn’t double check it when I even knew there was a possibility of messing it up. I was so pumped by the day, that I didn’t even think about it. I was just listening to my music and in a total rhythm. Ugh! I tried to go off trail along the ridge to the correct one so I wouldn’t have to go all the way back down, but it was a futile effort and I had to go all the way back. I got back to my lunch spot at the fork 1hr 15mins after I had started.

Apparently, I didn’t think this already jam packed day of killer elevation was enough. I needed to do a bonus col just for the heck of it. I didn’t get worked up about it since I’m already a day ahead on this leg having done the first three days in two. I had hoped to get an hour past the refuge at the end of today’s section and just accepted that wasn’t going to happen. I went right up the correct col, Col du Palas, surprisingly still energized. It was the first one that had some snow on it. I have microspikes for a couple more weeks just in case I need traction on the snow, but they weren’t needed for this since it’s been a below average snow year out here this year.

Looking down from Col du Palas on what I went up.

It was after Col du Palas that I started to feel the effects of today. My mind and body were not as nimble as I’d like. It took me a bit to figure out the next highpoint, the Port du Lavédan. It was all medium and small sized rocks I needed to traverse and then climb. Eventually, I noticed some white blazes to help navigate, but it was slow going for me. My legs were beginning to feel the effects of the bonus climb.

On the way up to Port du Lavédan.

The Port du Lavédan was a narrow and steep cut I needed to climb up to get over the ridge. It was not something I enjoy. There was one large rock jammed right in the middle I had to climb over. Doing that with exposure and a pack on, is always uncomfortable for me. I put my poles away and scrambled up. It also seems to be a bit of a tunnel for wind, so I was thankful when it was over.

Then came the final task, the very long descent to the refuge. Instinct would be to go straight down, but it’s recommended to follow red and white blazes on a long traverse that eventually weaves down. It was the safest option, so I was happy to have it. On the Sierra High Route, I’d have to dive right down.

I need to get to the far end of all those lakes.

By the time I got to the Refuge de Larribet, it was 5:45pm, and my legs were done for the day. Most of the way down was on small and unstable rocks that kept rolling under my feet. It made for slow progress and a tired body. I don’t do this often, but it’s a vitamin I (ibuprofen) night.

Looking back. I came from the upper right notch.

There aren’t too many at the refuge. I’m the only one in a tent, and have a great spot out of view of the refuge. Two nights in a row, it’s worked out that I have the amenities of a refuge with water and a toilet while still getting solitude in an amazing setting. Heck, if all of them end up like this, I’ll gladly stay at more! They do have a unique toilet setup that I’ve never seen before. It looks like a standup shower and you have a spot to put your feet and squat as if you’re outside. Then you step off and push a button to flush and it sprays the whole floor clean. Interesting.

Can you see my tent real small in the center? So far, there’s no wind and I can hear the stream rushing down below. Hopefully another great night of sleep! What a day! Now time to top it off with the season two finale of Breaking Bad.

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