An itiniary to die for…

Remember this?

We promised we would be back to finish the job. Instead we’ve chosen to ignore the distant summits of unconquerable mountains, instead plotting a five day yomp through the unspoiled lunacy of the Pyrenees. Si – expat, cheese counter, structural engineer, bike guide and all round good egg – has planned something rather special. After two months of dithering, I finally confirmed my attendance today.

My dither was on many levels; financial, logistical and any emotional even loosely associated with guilt. Nothing I can do about the first two, it almost feels good to steal some money from the bottomless pit of home improvement, with the third being assuaged by the promise of enjoying a camping trip with the family on my return.

Assuming I do get back. There was more than a whiff of danger on the previous trip* especially on the first day. Many opportunities for a quick – but painful – death presented themselves to the four lost souls** clinging to the side of a proper mountain. A single mis-step and it was the five second tour to the valley floor some 300 feet below. Your fall would have been broken by sharp rocks and brutal boulders, leaving the final vertical plunge to administer permanent darkness.

So keen to go back? Of course, especially after Si produced an itinerary/bare faced lies about what might happen. I’ve annotated his happy thoughts in italics.

ALL FLY IN MONDAY 1st August, stay over at mine

Build bikes, borrow Si’s spare car for shakedown ride. Nearly kill all occupants during spirited debate on how I always drive on the right, I’m British. Return to Si’s with best intentions of an early night with low alcohol content.

Get battered. Derby on bikes at 2am. Great fun until gushing head wound brings the evening entertainments to a close.

Day 1 (Tuesday 2nd )

2pm ride out from my house to Pylon above 700m 8km 1.5/2hrs, not to hard, We did it before with a short but nasty push to the mine track “ then 1000m descent to Amelie 1hr, quick coffee/beer (Yeah like it’s going to be one) then road ride 25km 500m 1hr to Prat de Mollo (good job I’ve been getting all that roadie practise in)“ overnight hotel Bellevue 2 star 25 euro per

head 1 x 4 man room

Going to be stinky. And “ if history is any vector “ drunken.

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Ride out from Prat de Mollo vertical(ish) to refuge Cabane des Estables (un manned refuge) 1000m 15km 4 to 6hrs, REST!! (Beer? Lie down? Possible call for Ambulance?)

Then this is the hard bit, after rest, on and up 500m climb in 2.5km VERY STEEP/HARD to Puig de Guillen at 2300m! (Ow, that’s going to hurt) then descend 600m (while knackered, excitement unbounded) to Refuge Marialles (food beds etc) at 1700m for overnight. (37euro ish for half board)

I am STILL unsure if the last 2.5km up to Puig de Guillen is ride-able? It may be a push? (No shit! That’s not a climb, it’s a wall) So best take spare pair of shoes (non SPD) in case eh? (This is a reference to our five hour walk on a cliff edge in riding shoes last year. I’m still in therapy)

Day 3 (Thursday)

Descend from Refuge to Vernet Les Bain 1000m for lunch via new Black run 20km!, (sounds shit doesn’t it?) then descend to VilleFranche catch yellow train at 3.30pm, (these are fantastic, bike hangers, clean, cheap, better than slogging along the road) 1hr+15 to Mont Louis at around 1600m alt then on ride to Club Alpin Refuge des Bouillouses in the centre of the national park 15km 300m climb on private road, ( the park is one of the most beautiful places I been) for overnight (food beds etc) (37euro ish for half board) (again sounds shit 🙂 )

Day 4 (Friday)

Ride out from Refuge to Les Angles, this is a bit uncharted at present about 12km cross country! (Oh Gawd, i’ll practice my bike carrying. And swearing) Then drop into Les Angles for lunch. Spend afternoon playing on DH course’s at Les Angles, (What could possibly go wrong here?) then overnight at Hotal Yaka center of town / piss up in Les Angles. (25euro per head room only) breakfast 9 euro extra (assuming anyone is still alive)

Day5 (Saturday)

Descend by either Train or ride down?? (ride of course, it’s DOWN) 1200m To Ville Franche (investigating an off road option)- Catch SNCF train to Ille Sur Tet (no really that’s what it’s called) and ride up to St Marsal 700m (lovely alpine climb this. Less so on a fat tyred MTB when you’re knackered and hoisting a 10k+ pack) for a hero’s welcome and overnight at mine (more beer then?)


Disassemble bikes (assuming there’s anything worth disassembling), fly out.

I may have learned my lesson about hydration and beer and not confusing the two. An emphasis on lightness shall come down on the stinky side of kit selection. My bike will be examined for the slightest sign of imminent component explosion before we leave, and I’ll carry some tools if they do.

I’ll be putting in a big riding shift – in the next three weeks – to make hauling fat packs up big mountains a little easier. And teaching myself inner calm for when the inevitable RyanAirRage takes hold.

Before all that, I’ve something else to do. I’m going to be excited for a while 🙂

*Certainly by the last day. Not so much a whiff, more a weapons grade stink.

** Three times as bad for Si. As we were lining up to push him off as a reward for his blighted navigation.

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