A slightly longer drive than expected due to a head on collision between a motorcycle and a car got us to La Ralliere where we abandoned the van by the side of the road. Traffic was slow and being turned back there as the parking at Pont D’Espagne was “saturated”. Strange expression for a car park but that is what we were told.
From there we took the Sentier des Cascades up the valley with hundreds of other people, most of whom were scantily dressed and very bumbly. Well worth the walk though as the waterfalls are amazing. A picnic by Refuge des Clots and the crowds disappeared, then followed the river left towards Refuge Wallon.
The Refuge was closed due to renovations (and massive extension) so there were tents spread all over the meadow. We found a spot sheltered from the wind by the stream and pitched our little tent. After a dehydrated meal we hit the sack as the wind made a game of cards in the open air rather tricky.
An 8am start and uphill mode to Col de la Fache where we dumped the big sacks and gained the Grande Fache via the North ridge unburdened. Again very windy but not cold and beautiful views of Vignemale, Los Infiernos, Blatious and the Pic Midi D’Ossau from the summit at 3005m. Back to the Col to pick up the sacks and have a cup of tea before taking the path (more like boulder hopping searching for cairns amongst piles of rock) on the Spanish side under Pene D’Arragon to gain Col D’Arragon and more scrambling up the ridge to Pic de Cambales. Strangely enough we had the summit to ourselves and saw nobody on the way up or down. More fantastic views and a snack before finding our way off down the North ridge to Col de Cambales. This was more tricky, scrambling down with big packs, though fairly well marked with cairns. Some very “airy” and exposed sections and definitely not for the feint hearted.
Once at the Col we joined the well worn path through the lakes towards Refuge Wallon and found a secluded camp spot by Lac de Cambales at about 5pm. Again, no cards, dehydrated meal and bed.
Day 3 and an hour downhill to gain the path up to Lac Nere and on to Lac du Portet where we started seeing other hikers. Then a long descent via more lakes down to Refuge du Clots and lunch by the river. Back to Pont D’Espagne where we waited for the Navette (bus) to take us back to La Ralliere.
All in all a grand excursion to re-charge the batteries.