Les Haute Pyrenees, France Week 79 30th October - 3rd November 2012
In our endless quest to be somewhere else we continued south.

First crossing La Dordogne. A bit of mist on a just above freezing morning.

Then Le Lot.

One day we'll figure out why some French rivers are masculine and some feminine.

Either that or we'll learn that they are all one or the other.

We stopped the night at Preignan.

Rolling farming country. Lots of grain silos.

The day started cold, damp and miserable.

It cleared as the Pyrenees appeared.

Le Pic du Midi.

I guess its the big one in the middle.

Its full name is Pic du Midi de Bigorre. 2877m. There's at least one other Pic du Midi nearby!

The plan was to head south then west. Some sort of traverse of the mountains.

So up the road to Col de Aspin.

Wide enough to pass whatever was coming down. We pulled over a bit just before the shadow.

Mountains to left of us!
Le Pic du Midi from the Col de Aspin, at 1489m.

Someone has been here before us! No parking for camping cars between 19:00 and 07:00 hrs.

Still about 30 km away.

Yes, its a cable car to the top.

But first down to Ste Marie de Campin.

We returned here for the night.

We headed up the Col du Tourmalet.

We've seen the piccies from the Tour de France.

Too busy navigating the narrow streets and taking photos to see the "Ferme" sign.

At 2115m its a bit higher than Col de Aspin.

La Mongie is the ski resort. Below the pass.

A strange and unattractive place for us. The ski season hasn't yet started.

The base of the cable car up Pic du Midi.

Not today. Having discovered the pass was closed we turned back, had lunch a half km down the road, then down to the valley floor for the night.

We've had a bit of tv reception and the weather forecast doesn't look good. The rest of France has been bad for a few days.

We followed a truck down the several km of down.

We were in third gear with the help of the exhaust retarder.

Brake lights on the truck in front were on almost all the time.

Its been difficult to figure out what makes the architecture different.

Steps on the gable ends seems to be the most distinctive feature, but there's more to it than that.

We backtracked through Lourdes then headed back into the mountains.
To Gavarnie.

A drive up the hill towards Col du Tentes which was closed.

We went for a walk. Wondered about the weather arriving from Spain, just over the hill. But still clear to the north.

We were watched carefully by some chamoix.
Looking north again. The valley we drove through.

Gavarnie is out of sight, just below us.

The Cirque du Gavarnie.

Having seen it we retreated to the warmth of Tardis.

Near Col du Tentes. The weather closed in as we watched.

In St Eyzies the barometer was as high as 1020 mbar. As we cook tea its 898 mbar and falling. 841 mbar the next morning, but rising. A few high clouds. Strange how I'm missing the internet, I could look up the effect of altitude on air pressure. We are camped at 1480 m in the Aires at Gavarnie.

I guess that in the days before the internet we wouldn't have carried a digital (or any) barometer so wouldn't have known!


There were a few people who drove up towards the pass. A few less that went for a walk. A few more less that cycled down. And these two up and coming tour de francers.
A not very flattering picture of "Our Lady of the Snow".

Madonna and child.

We are 911 km from Santiago de Compostella. As the person walks.

Possibly on part of the Camino de Santiago. A long distance Christian pilgrimage track.

Having swapped the use of our hose to fill a motorhome for a photograph of a walking map we set off to the Cirque de Galvarnie.

Surprisingly the weather stayed nice enough. Blue skies, clouds, a hint of snow, occasional cold wind, and a very large rainbow.

Cirque de Gavarnie is reputedly the most stunning of several cirques in this part of the Pyrenees.

Same glacial action that formed the coires on the Isle Of Skye and the cwms of Snowdon.

Being French the height of La Grande Cascade (the frozen waterfall bit on the left) is measured as three Eiffel Towers.

There's a narrow river gorge, we're guessing there was once a lake behind the barrier. 

It got better as we got closer.

Three stages of sedimentary rocks. Contorted and twisted.

Its facing north, and well north of the Tropic of Cancer, so doesn't see much sun at this (or any other?) time of the year.

Even though its World Heritage listed its accessible and our camping is free - its the off season!

To be gazed at in awe!

No lake now. Just lots of broken rock.

And the occasional noise as ice breaks off and cascades down.

The ice reminds us of flowstone in caves.

Must be the same process of water flowing - depositing a new layer of ice crystals rather than mineral crystals.

Alternatively, its also like Christmas cake icing.

Bother. We forgot to buy a Christmas cake and pudding before leaving England.

Haven't seen anything like in the French supermarkets yet. Maybe if we put them on the shopping list.

Strange walking in sunshine with light snow. The wind meant faces felt a bit weather beaten. Temperature is "adequate" if we keep moving.

Gavarnie is behind us.

This photo was taken by an Englishman living locally. Of course the locals don't use the passes to get to Spain so we are none the wiser as to whether there are any open further west, or if we'll have to use a tunnel. Also told us that the weather forecast suggests today is the last good day.

This is what we look like about half way through our trip.

Just to our west (right) the strata are almost vertical.

A contorted land.

Gavarnie is about 5km away in the valley bottom. Basking in the sun.

The hotel (centre bottom of phot) is at the top of the river gorge, the entrance to the cirque.

Closed for the off season.

Yesterday's view of the cirque was from  somewhere above the trees on  that ridge to the left.

The cirque is the very obvious U-shape at centre bottom of this relief map.

Gavarnie is directly north where the valleys join at the top of the map (Y-shape).

Still camped at Gavarnie the barometer is 844 mbar and rising as we cook tea.

We'll take tomorrow as it comes.

A little overcast and a bit draughty. A good day to drive.

Advice from a friendly French couple was that passes to Spain are generally closed this time of year.

But they did give us a bottle of their local wine!

Northwards, back the way we came, through Esqioeze-Sere.

Turn left at Lourdes.

We've really not understood the idea of pilgrimages.

Not sure how we'd describe our trip, apart from simply seeing the world, because its there. And perhaps its nice to not have a purpose.

Westwards a bit within sight of the Pyrenees.
Then south towards the Col de Portelet.

The green sign says "ouvert".

We stopped the night at El Fomigal. A small, very closed, ski resort.

Next morning the view disappeared rapidly as cloud filled the valley.

Northern Spain, Poza de la Sal, Picos de Europa, Spain Week 80 4th - 6th November 2012

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