I climbed thirty minutes up the road from Parzan to the start of the walk. When I arrived I saw a taxi card nailed to a fence post. It was a difficult decision: how much would the taxi cost, how long would I have to wait. I walked back to Parzan. What I didn’t expect was no answer at all, after I asked a Spanish woman to make the call for me in the cafe where the previous night I’d spoken with a friend. I wasted an hour and a certain amount of energy. It was hot. My rucksack was heavy. I didn’t want to undertake the long tedious climb up the track to the Ordizeto lake and Collata Chistau. Last time I hitched a lift and was very glad of it. At the top, Jose chatted with me for an hour giving me Pyrenees advice while his pretty wife looked after their toddler. “Get down to Benasque as fast as you can” he said. Use it as a base for day walks, don’t be confined to the HRP. They enjoyed the lake and I then descended to Viados.

As I neared the top this year the rain started, gently at first then stronger. I stopped to recover Goretex jacket and trousers from my rucksack. Gloves and hat too. The wind started and it was suddenly winter in august. I was cold. I didn’t know the Collata Chistau hut was there but was glad of it. Two French chaps were sheltering inside, halfway through the GR11. They told me one day the temperature had dropped twenty degrees in ten minutes. When they left I considered sleeping in the hut. It was difficult to judge but I wasn’t prepared if the weather became worse. My layers were adequate but not if it became colder. My sandals and Goretex socks were sufficient for a few hours but not for an extended time.

I reasoned the conditions would improve if I set off down to Viados and brisk walking would warm me. You don’t find that advice in hill walking books because it’s a borderline strategy. I do however sometimes rely on it. I was tired, cold, wet, disconsolate, and worried for my safety. It was the worst day of my trip, possibly the worst ever in the Pyrenees. The view here is looking back towards Parzan as the weather started to turn. I considered retreating and changing my plans, calculating the travel connections I would need. Paradoxically, this is one of the most poignant photographs from my trip.


Pyrenees Photography Book: Collata Chistau

Friday December 27, 2013