GR11 Hiking

Day 9: Fog

Kilometres walked: 19km / Total distance: 212km/ Elevation gain: 872m / Elevation loss: 900m / Time walked: 6h45min

Last night was windy, my tent again flapping in the wind. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong when pitching it: all the guylines and corner points are taut but the fly is still billowing. Or maybe I just need to get used to the noise? In any case, earplugs seem to be the remedy.

At least the night was clear. The clouds that were rolling didn’t make it to “our” valley but they are still looming above the hilltop we are climbing this morning. It’s a short climb, and at the top we are greeted by cows (of course, cows everywhere) and fog.

Achar de Aguas Tuertas

Amazing. This is supposed to be one of the most majestic valleys of the Pyrenees and it is covered in fog.

To be honest, it adds a gloomy feel to it all which is quite nice, and the cold air is a welcome change from all the dry heat we’ve had the last two weeks. In shorts and rainjackets we make our way across the valley, sometimes following the river meandering through the middle, sometimes walking between huge fallen boulders along the edge. In both cases navigating around cows.

So many cows.

They’re cute though. The older cows don’t care for us at all, the young ones eye us curiously until they decide we are too close and they awkwardly jump or run out of the way. This valley, Aguas Tuertas, has been inhabited for millenia (although at the moment only by cattle) and it is easy to see why. Grassy plains, plenty of water, and protected on three sides by mountains.

It is those mountains at the far side of the valley -I think, I can’t see that far- that we are crossing and we slowly make our way up. First up a dirt trail, then rocks, and more rocks, and more dirt, and then suddenly there is a little bit of blue sky and the sun comes through and we can see that we are surrounded by tall peaks and we’re almost at the top. It is a majestic view with the clouds swirling around us.

The descent on the other side is through the fog again.

Shortcut

This stage officially goes to Refugio Lizara before going to Candanchú the next day, but we decide to take a more scenic shortcut (or so we’ve been told) so we can end in Candanchú today. The shortcut is the old GR11 route, now the Senda de Camille, and goes through France for a little bit. It supposedly also takes us past a mountain lake, which we don’t see until we’re literally 30m from its shoreline because of the fog. I’m sure it’s beautiful, but we can’t see it. All the day hikers must be here for a reason.

As we descent we realise we can suddenly see again! We are now below the clouds and soon after we walk through a magical forest where every tree and every rock is covered in moss. At the other end of the forest the trail circles round a steep valley, including a small boulder field and scree slope. And there are raspberries growing along the trail. We pick a handful each, stuffing our faces, using our trekking poles in the other hand to make sure we don’t slide down the mountain.

Eventually the trail spits us out on the ski slopes of Candanchú. I’m sure this is a lovely area in winter, but in summer the snow cannons, marked ski slopes and huge swaths of asphalt parking lot look extremely depressing. The town itself isn’t much better, although it has two things going for it: pizza (!) and groceries, in that order.

With full bellies and full backpacks we walk out of town again. Just for a bit, until we reach a picnic area with an open shelter where we roll out our mats and fall asleep.

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