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Going solo

Wed 28 Jul 2010 19:04 » Jon

The highest point in the UK is Ben Nevis, at 1344m. Since I left Lescun on 26th June (over a month ago), I hadn’t been below that level until yesterday, when Klaas and I hitched down to Ax-les-Thermes to find some decent shops.

We had a pretty successful trip, finding fuel for the stoves, maps for the final section, food supplies and, of course, Magnums. Ax had a market going on, so we got some great dried fruit there – rather than just carrying peanuts and cashews, I’ve now got them mixed with raisins, cranberries, goji berries, banana pieces and papaya – it’s delicious!

Back at the campsite I drew the route onto the new maps and got the food ready to travel, transferring it to plastic bags that can be easily packed. Although there are shops every few days on this section, we both seemed to have enough food to get to Banyuls – it’s difficult to know whether little village shops will have things like couscous and muesili.

Hospitalet itself may not have had much to offer, but the campsite was pretty good – it’s the only one I’ve ever stayed on with wifi! One of the emails I picked up was from Di and Doug, who are a few days behind Klaas and me. They bumped into a park ranger at Refugi de Certascan (three nights after the lake where my tent was torn open), who told them that the imported bears are now successfully breeding with the native bears and the latest estimates are that there are 20-30 bears now. The ranger also said that the bears are definitely active in that area and, just like Pooh, have a penchant for honey – apparently they’ve been attacking local bee hives!

For the last three and a half weeks Klaas and I have spent pretty much every waking minute together, but today I left him behind in Hospitalet. We built up a really strong climbing partnership, trusting each other’s advice on routes across dangerous snowfields, tricky rock climbs and wet grass. At times I was even allowed to overrule the route in Klaas’s trusty GPS.

As well as a climbing partner, Klaas has become a great friend and I’ve missed having him around this evening. Sitting here totally isolated and alone by a lake at 2400m I’m wondering why we didn’t carry on together until our routes diverged. (Apologies if this is all sounding a bit Brokeback Mountain, but we’ve been through a lot together!)

One thing I’ve learnt in the last six weeks is that I’m not cut out for this solo nonsense. I’ve loved meeting so many people along the route, and I’ve learnt from the master how to be a golden retriever.

Today’s walk began well, but as I walked along the side of Etang des Bésines (first photo) I realised that, amid the emotional goodbyes, I’d forgotten to buy any toilet roll! I popped into Refuge des Bésines and was extremely grateful that the guardian there gave me some.

Since then I’ve walked round an enormous reservoir and up towards Pic Carlit (2921m), which dominates the skyline behind my tent and is the target for tomorrow morning. In front of the tent is the picturesque Etang des Fourats, as shown in the third photo.

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