The HRP / GR11 blog series
Crossing over to Spain
Total miles walked: 62
HRP Stage: 18
Location: Valle Barrosa
When I awoke this morning, to blue skies and rising temperatures as usual, I found that a hiker was sitting on a boulder at the other side of the stream, apparently looking at my shelter. As I began to strike camp he wandered over. I saw that he was an older gentleman carrying a light load in a ZPacks ultralight rucksack.
‘You have a Trailstar!’ he exclaimed. ‘And a ULA Circuit rucksack. You must be British – am I right?’
I confirmed that I was, and we chatted about equipment, and the various friends and acquaintances we had in common. Lightweight backpacking in the UK really is quite a small scene and we both knew many of the same people.
John is hiking the HRP eastbound, and it isn’t even his first crossing; he knows these mountains very well. Since we were heading in the same direction, we started the day by hiking together, up over the Hourquette de Heas and through the savage rock architecture of Pic de la Gela to the Lacs de Barroude. Because John has been doing greater mileages than me per day (which goes with the territory as a thru-hiker), his pace is a little faster than mine – and to my surprise I found that we reached the Barroude far more quickly than I had anticipated.
The Lacs de Barroude is a magical place. These lakes nestle in a deep cirque beneath the rock wall of Pic de Troumouse and Pic Heid. To the left of the cirque, a tiny glacier clings on for life.
I had heard the previous day that the Barroude refuge had been destroyed, and now only a levelled ruin remains. But as we sat there for a rest, many hikers approached and looked confused, only to ask what had happened to the refuge.
John hiked on after an hour or two, but I stayed at the Barroude longer. I’ve fallen into the habit of taking at least a four-hour break during the hottest part of the day – a good habit to have, I think, although the breeze today made it feel less hot than it might have been.
Although tempted to wild camp in the cirque, it would have been a very short day so I decided to press on at about 18.00. I crossed the Puerto de Barrosa into Spain and began the incredibly long descent down endless switchbacks into the valley below.
I haven’t quite made it all the way into Parzan today, because I don’t know if there will be anywhere to camp there, so I’ve found a secluded spot in the forest nearby instead. This is a magnificent location – vast craggy walls rise up on both sides, although the mountains are looking more and more arid the further east I walk.
Once again this is a campsite infested with flies (both the ordinary kind and biting horseflies). I’m very glad I brought my bivy on this trip.
Tomorrow I resupply in Parzan before heading east along the GR11 towards Biados. Very soon I’ll have to decide whether to take the north route or the south route. It has been windy today; rumour has it that the weather is due to change tomorrow, after a week of heat and blue skies.