Kilometres walked: 22km / Total distance: 584km / Elevation gain: 1380m / Elevation loss: 876m / Time walked: 6h18min
Okay, Andorra has redeemed itself on the way out. The last section before leaving the country, from Lac de Engolasters to Refugio d’Illa is absolutely stunning.
But first the descent into town (Encamp) from our campsite on the col. We’re there in a bit over an hour and head straight for the café/bakery where I order a coffee and a strawberry cream cake. Yum! Then it’s time for groceries -unfortunately no peanut butter, but I do buy a massive bag of popcorn- and I decide to hike out of town alone.
I’m in a weird mood this morning. Easily irritated by…everything, for no particular reason. The rocky steep trail, my wet tent, other people on the path. In an attempt to snap out of it I put on some music and blast past everyone on the touristy path along the lake. It doesn’t help. Only later, when the path climbs away from the lake and starts the long, steady ascent to Refugio d’Illa I get in the zone and the irritation melts away.
The climb up to the refugio, which is just below the pass that marks the border with Spain, is beautiful. Today and tomorrow will be the last alpine stages of the trail and this makes me sad. The end is nearing, even though there’s well over 240km to go.
For a moment I contemplate crossing the pass and camp in the next valley, but as I approach dark clouds are gathering overhead and it starts raining big drops 30 seconds before I arrive to the refugio. What a timing! Luckily they have space and I decide to stay here. A good decision, because the rain turns to hail which turns into a huge thunderstorm right in the valley where the hut is located. I can see the lightning strike on the rocky outcrops around and am, once again, very very grateful to be inside.