Hiking the Pyrenees (Canigou – Puig dèl Roc Negre)

Canigou, Pyrenees, Hiker

Read here the first two days!

After a couple of days of hiking, sleep tends to come quickly. This time however, we had managed to put our tent up onto a slope and we kept sliding down and sideways on our mattresses. So neither of us was extremely fresh or well rested the following morning.

The morning seemed to mock our sad bearings. It was ridiculously beautiful, fresh and well rested. We dragged our dreary bodies out of the tent to the chill air of the morning and looked around in awe. The world looked different to the one we had left behind last night.

The rising sun brought about a hunger as well, the stove was lit and soon I was sipping my hot coffee, warming my fingers around it. I had the feeling, every bit of energy was going to be needed this day as we were planning on climbing two peaks, which meant quite some meters up and down, partially off trail.

We started hiking around 9 am, which left us plenty of time to take it easy. The climb up to Canigou was even irritatingly mild. The perfectly serpentine trail was easy to walk and we were up in no time. The view up there was humbling, as it always is. That is one of the key reasons you climb to the peak, rather than just wobbling pass it. Canigou is the first higher peak of the Pyrenees on the Mediterranean side. With good weather your eyes can reach all the way to the sea in the east and far across the mountain range to the north and west.

Followed a chocolate munching session and a viewing of the landscape to determine the route down and then up again. We would have to scramble very steeply down before reaching a wide serpentine trail down to the bottom of the next valley, somewhere there we would separate off to our own way.

A bit later it started to get crowded op there on the peak, so we headed on… or well, down to be more accurate. The trail went through a gap in the rocky neck of the mountain and plummeted vertically for a few meters. With the backpacks it took some careful planning to get down from there. Waffle had to take his pack off and swing it down ahead of him to get through the steepest bits. We were both extremely happy for it not being wet.

Slowly but surely we advanced in our descent, and about ½ hour later we were past the vertical and back on something that looked like a trail. But the next issue was not far from us; water. Our map didn’t show us any sources for the rest of the hike. We might have to wobble all the way to the next refuge, which would mean additional meters up and down and a few extra kilometers in distance. That would mean that we would probably not make it back from the trail before it would start raining. What to do?

As normal responsible adults we moved on, to leave the decision to be made at the last possible moment.  In the wondrous scenery around us it was easy to forget a small detail like that. The valley we were descending to was one of those fairy tale mountain valleys, with meadows, lakes and a winding trail in the middle.

Then when we actually did happen upon a spring, right on our route, flowing with water, we were thrilled! No need for extra meters up or down. Furthermore, at that point we still had plenty of time in our hands, so we treated ourselves to a picnic, under a boulder. Hot coffee, plenty of water and cookies helps a long way!

In the meanwhile the sun had passed the midday point, the temperature was more tolerable for walking. Soon we found the point where we left the path and headed towards the Porteille de Leca, which would take us to the approach to the Puig del Roc Negre.

We ended up to a paradise of meadows, lakes and streams, just calling your toes to dip in. Some hippie looking people had been camping there with donkeys and a pony, those lucky people! I hope to return to that spot myself one day!

Our route went from one lake to another, over boulders and marsh. We even saw some marmots! Even though there was no real trail, there were cairns here and there, so we could find our way. We just had to make sure to follow the right ones so we would end up to the correct side of the cirque, and on the correct ridge further on.

Soon we left the small lakes and streams and marmots behind and started climbing higher, through patches of grass, scree and boulders. Waffle’s pack was full again, with all the water and he was starting to suffer as I navigated from cairn to cairn, higher into more and more difficult terrain. We advanced slowly but the climb was steep, so it wasn’t long before we reached the saddle between Puig del Roc Negre and Très Vents.

It is tiring, this type of hiking, where you have to be constantly alert, firstly not to get lost and secondly not to break your ankles. Neither of us was particularly fresh as we started the walk up to the Roc Negre. Neither of us was particularly happy to find out that the cairns disappeared and all we had in front of us, was huge slabs of rock piled together in a pretty unwelcoming manner.

So the hike didn’t really get any simpler and Waffle was getting visibly tired. We scrambled higher, slowly and fairly unsurely, until we ended up to a spot where we didn’t immediately see a way forward. The peak was just a few meters above us, but the slabs had gotten bigger, more vertical and the gasping holes in between them were terrifying to wobble over.

Well, we couldn’t stick there for a long time; I went to look for a solution. I found one, a bit further, on the other side of the ridge. If we just crawled over the sharp edge we would get some sturdier ground under our boots, what a relieve was it to see that! The fear of not getting there was subsiding. The journey started advancing again, as we didn’t need to check and double check every single step we took.

We still needed to make our way around a boulder or two. Then, the greatest sight ever: a trail! The ridge towards Batère reached to the distance in front of us, wide, soft and grassy. Alongside it a trail! The relief dropped me through my knees. Waffle was beside himself. We would be able to make it back to our starting point without hassle!

A few steps further, we found a saddle, with meadow. A camping spot in our language. Such a good feeling it was to get off of your feet, wrap yourself up warmly (the wind was icy!) and just wait for the sun to set and get resting for the next day.

It was such a straining day, both physically and emotionally.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hiking – Up and down in Wales

Previously: The road that led us to Wales…

…Had been long and tiering we had had our encounters with duct tape and and broken locks, bad and short sleep and small melt downs, but eventually we got here, under a mountain.

After the long drive we had been resting a bit on the parking, poured some coffee down with a hearty breakfast, while glancing up to the climb of the day. We would be making our way up the famous scramble up the north ridge of Tryfan. Apparently quite some people are enthusiastic about climbing it, Waffle included.

Quite soon we got to see what all the fuss was about. After only a short hike up, we reached the first big boulders, over which the trail was clearly meant to be walked, crawled or scrambled. The trail reminded us from the hikes we had in Scotland a few years back. Direction is straight up; if there happens to be an obstacle, deal with it.

 

That is pretty much how we continued for quite some time. Slowly making our way up, boulder by boulder. The trail was not easy to follow, in fact, there were plenty of trails to choose from, some of them leading to dead ends, drops or too difficult spots to get up from.

We progressed slowly. On top of the difficulty of the ascend we were both dead tired and my heart was not having any of it. So we were not focusing, I was sitting down every 15 minutes and we ended up walking back the same track multiple times. As did some other hikers, who were looking for a way up.

This is probably the first ascend that I was, at times, feeling afraid and insecure. Pushing through those moments, climbing up a rock you thought you possibly couldn’t climb, hanging over emptiness while searching a good spot to hold on to. Those give you the most amazing rush of happy!

It took as quite a while to reach the top, but as always the view you get as a reward is splendid. The hike up might have just been one of the prettiest trails I have done so far. Very entertaining and rewarding.

After gaining our breath back we continued down on the other side of the ridge. We lost the trail among the boulders a few times and and got stuck with some verticals. So the way down was by no means boring either. The final bits took us to a lake and some soggy grasslands before heading to the car park, where our noble home on wheels was waiting.

Then started the vigorous search for the next place to sleep. Since we have built a trailer, and so become trailer trash, Waffle has attained an application that suits the lifestyle. He has a Park4Night -app in his phone, which has an abundant amount of places to sleep for a night with your moving castles. The fabulous app took us up to the beautiful, beautiful highlands on to a remote parking spot with a lake. Not bad, we also were provided with a small army of sheep to guard our wagon.

The next day there were no mountains planned, since the weather seemed to be turning wetter. Instead we would be strolling over some minor hills and in the bottoms of pretty valleys. Then the following day, Saturday, we would be tackling the Mt. Snowdon. Maybe.

 

 

 

 

 

The road that led us to Wales…

Snowdonia, A5, Wales

As usual, an approaching long weekend gave us a reason to anxiously keep looking at the weather and hikeability of areas not too far away. In our priority list the Swiss Alps were keeping a high position, but as the day of departure approached the weather was looking increasingly bad.

Eventually the only option was to leave for the always so sunny Wales!

We had been changing long looks with the Snowdonia National Park and this seemed as the perfect opportunity to explore its hills. I was still a little bit bitter, since I have been really anxious to go to the Alps, but then again, lemons become lemonade, or how do we say it.

On a Wednesday we had our boat ticket on hand and passports in tow and our house on wheels attached to the car as we headed for work for the day. Turned out, that was more or less everything useful we had packed. Slowly it all became to sink in. We had our shower, but no towels. Yay. We had our camping chairs, but no fire bucket. Yay, again. We had sunny weather coming up, but no sunscreen. Yay, I always wanted to look like 50 when I turn 30.

More importantly, we had forgotten the licence plate of the trailer. Not exactly a good thing when crossing a border. So Waffle ended up running around like a headless chicken to get a new plate made. In the meanwhile I was hunting down some duct tape, to attache the plate with, since we didn’t pack any screws.

Waffle also had found out, that the lock on the door of our trailer did not really hold. So our trailer door was casually flapping away as it was pulled around the highways. The duct tape came in handy here too.

After a vigorous day of working and running around we were finally on the road to Calais, France. On the same road there were approximately 2,73 million other people trying to spot a piece of coast to sit on. That all resulted into us being stuck in a jam for an extra two hours, missing 2 boat connections and arriving to Dover closer to midnight than anybody would have wished for.

Snowdonia, UK
On the A5 towards the hills!

Snowdonia, A5, Wales

Caravan, Road trip, Wales
Our road train!

As we rolled out of the boat, I propped myself into an upright position against the window in the desperate attempt to stay awake and keep Waffle company. Absolute failure that was, as I was soon slipping into the abyss of drooly, snorety car-sleep. Soon Waffle shook my grumpy ass awake, since he was falling asleep as well. We needed to stop and move ourselves to the sleeping room. We used some rope to make sure nobody could get in to our trailer while we snored, and crawled under the covers, to get an hour or two of shuteye.

The morning came all too soon, but the prospect of having some mountains to climb turned into motivation to get up and going. I don’t know how Waffle did it. I would have not been in any shape for driving with my crisscrossed eyes. But soon we entered the National Park and gasped at the sight of the first hills plummeting into valleys and rising up again to plateaus. I felt my hiking nerves tingle, deary me had I missed that feeling!

We parked our road train right underneath the peak of Tryfan. The first mountain we were planning on climbing that day. First, we tried to sleep a bit longer though, since the climb up would be scrambling, and somehow I think, a well rested brain is crucial for survival in such activities.

I’ll leave you here for now. More about the wonders of the hills, and whether or not we had luck with the weather,  in the next post!

Sneak a peek to our photos here!