Cabane de Beille – Merens les Vals
Elevation: +1030m, -2031m
Fuel: Brioche and jam, bread and jam, lots of coffee, peanuts, teeny tiny tuna rice salad… finished with a bottle of wine and delicious tapas to celebrate the end of our journey!
This morning was the beginning of the end. We’d be climbing to the peak of Crete de la Lasse (2439m) before running down down down into the valley and out of the Ariege. Out of the GR10. Out of our adventure.
But before we could think about that, we had to deal with the whole wet tent situation.
Usually, morning rolls around and I pretend it hasn’t happened. Snuggle deeper into the warm sleeping bag and wait until Mat literally drags me from the tent with the promise of brioche. But this morning, there was no warm sleeping bag. There was a wet sleeping bag crumpled at the end of the wet tent. I couldn’t wait to escape the tent and start our trek.
Two squished brioches smeared with strawberry jam later, and we were on our way. It wasn’t raining (thank the hiking gods!) but it was the coldest we’ve been on the trail. Middle of July and we’re hiking in triple layers. Granted we’re at over 2000m but still…it’s summer!
With only four hours’ sleep between us, we didn’t have much in the way of conversation as we dragged our zombie-like bodies up the hill. Thank the hiking gods it was an easy trail, as I’m not sure we could have worked out where to go with our depleted brain power!
Then, we bumped into the Spanish salesman. He was full of conversation and excitement, as we’d have been if we’d had a good night’s sleep that didn’t involve a flooded tent, endless thunderstorms and a pack of horses. The most he’d had to contend with was a sheepdog trying to steal his hiking sock. He didn’t know how lucky he was! But his energy was infectious and made us forget, briefly, how mentally exhausted we were.
I’d love to tell you about the rest of the hike to the refuge, but all I could focus on was putting one leg in front of the other as we climbed ridge after ridge.
As the caffeine infiltrated our bodies, we realised we were at Refuge de Rulhe, some 2185m high, surrounded by jagged snow-kissed mountains. The gorgeous people at the refuge fed us and caffeinated us and consoled us, then, when we were strong enough, sent us on our way, destined for our final peak: Crete de la Lasse.
We glided over the icy rocks, soaking in every last step of our adventure. This was it. This was our final climb. The elation at the top was diluted by the thick mist, but we high-fived, took a deep breath and started the long run down. Our final destination, Merens les Vals, was a mountain village at 1050m – high but still a good 1500m below where we were standing.
We ran down the zig-zags, watching as the rocks turned to streams, to wild flowers, lakes and then forest. Then, in just two hours, we could see silver rooftops, sparkling in the misty rain.
We were almost at the end. Mat took a final pee in the bush, we dodged the few loyal bitey flies who came to bid us farewell, and entered the village.
We were done. We hadn’t finished the whole GR10, but 700km in 25 days is a pretty solid effort. I could never have anticipated hiking up a mountain every day. Actually, there are a lot of things I couldn’t have anticipated, but that’s for the next blog. For now, we have a bottle of wine and we’re not afraid to drink it!