Back in Time – Pyrenees 1993 Part 3   12 comments

Back out into the mountains (without the water melon) to set up base camp for more adventures. We drove to the road end of the Esera valley and headed towards the Plan de Aiguallut. It looked like a good base to climb Pico d”Aneto and we hoped it might be a nice spot to camp.


As you can see it was a magnificent place to camp. A huge open pasture, flat grass, fresh water from the stream and a surrounding of rocky snow capped peaks. We thought it would be hard to top the previous wild camp spot but we’d managed it!


We had to ride out a tremendous thunderstorm overnight. Here’s another very happy picture that’s been up on my wall for many years. Proving that while heavy, a Force 10 wins hands down over a backpacking tent for interior space!


Before tackling the high point of the Pyrenees we decided we needed another training day. On a whim we took off along the Valle de Barrancs heading vaguely for the ridge to see what we could find to play with. The route was almost immediately in snow, patches covering hidden boulders and holes, which we fell in regularly especially on the way back down.


Whilst it was really hard work, deep snow, and very hot, the views were just sensational and the sense that we were the only people up there (read, only people daft enough to try and climb mountains at this time of year) made it feel like a proper adventure.

I’ve always liked this photo and the symmetry of our little group of pioneers.


We reached this snow covered lake – Lago de Barrancs – at around halfway. An amazing spot, the incongruity of deep snow and hot sunshine very apparent.


Our target was the col on the right of this photo (Collada de Salenques I think) so still plenty of deep snow to trudge up yet to come.


Another photo of me rocking the style of multi-coloured sun hat, shorts and gaiters. Like the hat I have fond memories of those shorts as well!


The final slopes up to the col.


The views were majestic and I’d forgotten until I dug out the old photos that we had a pretty decent cloud inversion as well.


Looking back down to our route of ascent and the icy covered lake.


Not 100% sure but I think that’s Pico de Aneto.


Another photo that’s been up on my wall for years as part of a montage (hence the half faded look). TBF is sporting some kind of turban look fashioned from a T-Shirt. She’d been complaining about headaches so we pointed out that perhaps not wearing a hat whilst being out all day under bright powerful sun might be the cause (hence the rest of party’s own daft looking headwear). This was her attempt to rectify that oversight, not having brought a hat.


We tried to climb one of the nearby rocky peaks (the Aguja de Salenques) but they looked technically quite hard and the ridge was narrow and exposed. THO made it to the top of one but he’s the proper rock artist of the group.


Satisfied with a superb day out we headed back to base camp. More deep snow, now even softer and wetter then the morning, more deep holes to fall in. Here, TBF has given up any attempt to keep dry feet and just stomped through the stream. Yeti gaiters were a godsend on this trip.


We had some superb cloud effects while we chilled out at camp and ate tea.


The reasons escape me but on this trip we were always short of food and severe rationing was in place. We had conversations that went “can I have another hazelnut? No! you had one this morning” and such like. We also survived on some of the most tasteless and stale looking bread rolls you could possibly imagine, from a brand called Bimbo (make your own jokes please).

Ever since then, whenever I’m backpacking or wild camping I always take far more food than I could ever need for fear of going hungry. I also carry the weight of proper food as far as possible. After a hard day in the mountains there is nothing more depressing than looking into the food bag and realising that the evening meal is something dehydrated, grey and bland (Chop Suey Beanfeast anyone?). Give me fresh stir fry vegetables and chicken any day!


Another superb day from the history books. We were now ready to tackle the big one.


12 responses to “Back in Time – Pyrenees 1993 Part 3

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  1. Wow! Those hats really were a bit special weren’t they?
    The lake looks miles below from the col – any idea how much ascent you did that day?
    The campsite looks stunning – it reminds me a bit of an alpine meadow we camped in, that time we backpacked in the French Alps – I have very fond memories of that trip and particularly of that camp.
    You all look very young. Proof that THO and UF both once had hair. On their heads!


    • We had some very “special” moments on that trip!! 🙂
      The campsite was about 2000m and the col about 2800m so quite a climb in deep wet snow. The Pyrenees is just built for wild camping, a lot more so than the Alps which has more rocks high up and farmed pastures lower down. I lost count on this trip and the more recent one of places I’d have just loved to have camped.
      Indeed very young looking especially the tent photo – memories of hair are long gone as mine started to disappear around that time!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Some fantastic photos in this post and a bonus inversion


  3. Certainly very different to the dry, dusty peaks we climbed in August in melting heat. Did you still have to treat/purify the water before drinking it from the streams? That range is even more beautiful under snow with lush green valleys and rushing water. Amazing how different it looks.


    Blue Sky Scotland
    • In a way it’s much better to walk in the early summer for views and manageable weather but it does make crossing the higher passes a bit more technical. In our naivety we never expected there to be this much snow especially as it was still very hot at the valley bottom although pretty chilly at night I seem to remember.

      We never filtered water in those days and even though I own one now, I still rarely use it unless I’m taking it from standing water. It sits in my pack as a backup more than anything else


  4. Another cracking write up and some great photos I don’t ever remember seeing before.
    It was certainly one the best ever wild camping spots, although I do vaguely remember reading sometimes later that camping was banned in that area. Not that I remember seeing another sole around to complain about it.


    • Even though we climbed some mountains, my best memories are from hanging out by this campsite and also the couple of hours exploring the valley behind before we left (coming in the next and final post). Cracking few days. Very easy to pick this trip as my first retro post.
      I think in the very popular areas of the Pyrenees, near huts, at the base of major mountains they put restrictions in place around the hours and number of tents but I think with discretion you can still camp pretty much anywhere.


  5. I too love that photo of you guys in sync. It seems TBH has been a part of your life for a very long time.
    The back packs are interesting.


    • Its good that photo isn’t it! I met TBF at University in 1983, started as a couple in 1984, married in 1997 so 37 years in total!
      The backpacks are for carrying the big load up to base camp so they look a bit baggy when only carrying stuff for a day


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