Back in Time – Pyrenees 1993 Part 1   23 comments

As new hikes are currently on hold its time to go back to the 1990’s and relive some memories from trips gone by. 1993 was a year of contrasts for me. I managed to get myself fired from my job and ended up up out of work and back living with my Mom and Dad for a year. On the plus side I managed a couple of superb trips to the mountains. This is the first of those and it remains a classic.

I’ve been very lucky indeed to travel to some wonderful places over the years including Australia but this trip still has a special place in my heart for reasons that will become clear through the next few posts.

1993 was a simpler time. An age without digital photos (hence the rather lower quality of images scanned from photo prints). It was also an age without the Internet so these trips involved planning by guide book, poor quality maps and a whole lot of guess work.

None of us had ever been to the Pyrenees so we thought it would be a great place for a May/June half term week away. Being the high mountain obsessed group we were, we wanted to climb Pico D’Aneto, the highest mountain in the range so we headed for Benasque, the nearest mountain village. Armed with climbing guide books and some frankly appalling quality Spanish military maps we were underway.

In those days we did some pretty intense travelling by car. This trip was started off by seeing Ben Elton (when he was still funny) in Manchester and then driving pretty much straight down to Dover, night ferry to Calais and then a very, very long drive to the Pyrenees via Paris and Bordeaux. At a guess it must be about 1200 miles which we did pretty much non-stop (other than the ferry) starting off late Thursday and arriving late Friday night. I don’t think there is any way I could undertake such a madcap journey now, but we always used to enjoy them. We had no idea whether Benasque had a campsite but as luck would have it did and we found it in the dark! Different times.

We felt we needed to “warm up” before tackling Pico D’Aneto so on our first day we headed off into the Estos Valley to find a wild camp base and climb some mountains. No idea what the valley was like, whether the path was any good or what we’d find. We just found a sign-post by the road, parked up and headed off. Different times!

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It was stunning. Green pastures, clear water streams and towering mountains. Magnificent

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Obviously with this being 28 years ago we all looked very young and had hair! Here is TBF, sporting a very 90’s hairstyle. I should point out that I didn’t have a camera in those days and Smartphones were a long way in the future. The photos are taken by UF and TBF which gives you the dubious pleasure of seeing yours truly in many of them which should give you a laugh if nothing else.

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Having passed the Estos Hut we spied a likely spot down by the river to camp and it was just magnificent.

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Perfect flat grass, right next to the river with mountain views, what could be better. For those of you old enough to remember that’s a Vango Force 10, classic! Lightweight backpacking tents were starting to appear at this point but we thought we could all squeeze into one tent, albeit a heavy one, to be sociable. Different times!

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Not a bad spot eh!

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For our first day out in the mountains we headed up towards the Pico de Posets, second highest summit in the range. I don’t recall if we were actually planning to climb it (much of my recall of the fine detail of this trip is sketchy at best) as its quite hard and loose.

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What I do remember was that bashing up the grassy steep slopes was hard and that in late May there is still an awful lot of snow in the Pyrenees. We had no idea or any way to work out what conditions were going to be like and were rather surprised to find all that snow when we’d expected bare slopes of rock. That snow was very deep, very unconsolidated, very wet and very hard work to climb. Different times!

If we ever did have plans to climb Pico de Posets, I can tell you we got nowhere near it.

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Not that it mattered. The scenery was magnificent and we did manage to climb a couple of small peaks. Looking at my guide book they may have been either or possibly both of the Agujas de la Paul, but in truth I have no idea.

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You can tell from the smiles in most of these photos that we were having a blast anyway. In case you were wondering, that’s me in the middle in the above photo, flanked by THO and UF.

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Summit photo with THO sporting the garden gnome look, me going through a phase of plastering my face and nose with white sun block and looking pretty stupid into the bargain. THO still owns and wears that hat. In fact looking through these photos has me feeling sentimental about t-shirts, shorts and hats that accompanied me on many travels. Different times!

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After hours battering through deep snow we were knackered and feet were wet so we headed back down. Through more wonderful high meadows backed by crags and towering peaks.

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We were much keener, much fitter and much faster in those days but even then we always found time for long rests.

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Still can’t believe how young both me and THO look in this photo! Different times!

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Back to the tent for an evening of fun and frolics by the tent. This involved a fun game of “chucking the onion” between me and THO. How long did that game last? Until the onion went in the river and was washed away of course. Evening meal of tuna, pasta and onion now reduced in taste and quantity by 30%!

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23 responses to “Back in Time – Pyrenees 1993 Part 1

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  1. Have been looking forward to reading your blog of this trip. Nice to fill in a few gaps in my memory and to reminisce over the photos. Don’t think we look that different now tbh. Not!

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    • Hard to believe we hadn’t even reached our thirties on that trip. I can still remember some of it like it was yesterday, other stuff is very vague indeed! Photo scans came out pretty well I thought.

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      • Def a few photos I didn’t recognise. It’s interesting how the whole narrative of a trip often becomes framed by a handful of photos. Nowadays you’d have had hundreds if not thousands to choose from. Different times indeed! 😊

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        • Photos cost money in those days. Bad memories of films that wouldn’t wind on, photos that didn’t come out like you expected etc. Much prefer the digital age.

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  2. I thought I was doing well trying to remember detail from a trip last year and you went for 1993! I’m impressed. Stunning scenery and some rather steep looking ascents. Would you feel inclined to tackle that now, 17 years on?

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    • Brilliant trip made all the better for the fact we pretty much made it up as we went along! This was a relatively easy day. we actually climbed some proper mountains the rest of the trip. Would I do this again? I doubt I have the fitness or stamina these days but technically I reckon I could do it!

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  3. Chuck the onion? Classic.
    Some of these photos look familiar, but if I have seen them before I guess it was probably a long time ago. I didn’t realise that you took the Force 10, blimey you really were younger and fitter weren’t you? It was huge though as I remember, we had it out in the Lakes a couple of times I believe?

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    beatingthebounds
    • Lots more classic tales of wind ups and stupidity to come (one obvious one of course to finish the story).
      You forget just how many photos from that far back you have and how very rarely you look at them yourself, let alone share with others. It took several days to scan all these in but as a one off activity its worth it and they don’t look too bad. Depending on how much time I have in the coming weeks there will be more. I wanted to post about the classic trip we had to the Alps and Brittany but I haven’t come across any photos yet, possible I don’t have any.
      I think we decided that having one tent between four of us wouldn’t be much heavier than two tents and more sociable. It wasn’t, but it was a laugh all being in together.

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      • I hope that I have some photos of that Alps/Brittany trip somewhere, not sure where though. I might have to try scanning some pictures!
        And yes – I have so many photos, particularly from Scotland I suppose. Hmmm…..

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        beatingthebounds
        • Part of me hopes I can find time to do more of these retro-posts but mainly I want to be out of this lockdown and back on the hills creating some new stuff.
          Other trips lined up for this treatment are the big Alps trip I did the same summer and the classic Cannich/Ullapool trip from 1989

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  4. A few years ago my wife and I spent a week on the French side of the Pyrenees and a week on the Spanish side. Great experience. I would go back in a heartbeat. Looks like you would too!

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    David Gascoigne
    • Hi David. The Pyrenees are wonderful for hiking, less objective dangers than the Alps. We also did a hut tour around the French/Spanish side a few years back, also marvellous although much better planned – mostly – than this trip!

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  5. Enjoyed that. Great range for backpacking. Spectacular mountain scenery to walk through without too many ‘so scary, I’m going to die here’ moments of the higher alpine peaks. When you have a wardrobe on your back you don’t appreciate vertical descents and scrambling the same. Good memories to look back on.

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    Blue Sky Scotland
    • Its one of my favourite all time holidays. One of those trips where everything just “clicked” and we laughed a huge amount, sometimes at our own daftness! The Pyrenees has its moments of scariness but in the most part its lush green valleys with lakes and clear rivers, perfect for wild camping, backed by rocky mountains. There are so many parts I’d love to go back to.

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  6. The photos are pretty damn good for a scan, shows that the cameras back then weren’t all that bad after all. I was in lower sixth form in 1993, just saying!!

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    • I just scanned at the highest resolution I could and they came out much better than I thought. I really wished I’d kept that huge box of negatives, I chucked them as being no use not long before it became possible to scan them as digital images.
      Lower Sixth in 1993!!! You are too young to be reading my blog 🙂

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  7. Wow, what amazing scenery and what a fantastic job you have done scanning these old photos. I remember following your family holiday hikes here, not that many years ago. The scenery seems very different and to me Swiss like.
    Aussie’s will often drive that distance in that length of time, especially to get to the snow slopes. You must have been as mad as us back then.

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    • This was a very experimental trip, we had no real idea where we were going (apart from one route) or what to expect. We just had some vague ideas, jumped in the car and headed off. All our summer trips back then were like that. We drove through the night and the next day to reach the Alps. No way I could handle that nowadays, I’d spend half the holiday asleep and recovering!

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  8. It’s funny but the 1990’s doesn’t seem so long ago but it’s over 20 years. Time compresses as you get older. But your photos show just how much has changed in that time.
    Great photos despite “old technology”. Makes me want to be there.

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