Mount Canigou

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July 23rd 2009
Published: July 23rd 2009
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Tuesday 21st July - Mt Canigou

There was another way to make it up Canigou. There was a dirt track Col that ran up towards a refuge at Marailles that shaved a couple of hours off the hike to a more manageable 8 hours. But the track was not suitable for non 4x4 cars or for road bikes. Well the beemer should be fine - but I was unsure of my abilities. Actually it was quite good fun - it was basically a sandy track, deeper at the edges on the hairpin corners, with a mixture of rutted track (but dry) and large boulder like stones sticking out. OK if you picked your route. I am not going to pretend I was anything like fast up it and never got out of second gear, but I enjoyed it. Half way up though two thoughts dawned on me:

(1)I had (sensibly) brought a wealth of kit for punctures. This included: patch kits, spindles for removing the wheel, two tubes of “slime” tube sealant (goes in through the valve - I even tried removing a valve before I came), tyre levers, a hand pump and enough CO2 for a Motorhead concert. Why oh-why then when I was now on a track infinitely more likely to get a puncture on and where no Mr. BMW man would come and fix me had I not brought any of it?

(2)Going up this dodgy track was fine - but I didn't think it would be such a picnic descending, especially if I was tired after the walk.

Having safely (and carefully) ascended the track I set off on the hike. It was now about 8:30 am. I had set off from the camp site at 7:30 am, to miss the heat of the day at least for the ascent. Stunning scenery - hopefully you will get a feel from some of the pictures. As the walk headed opened out into a valley the hike grew steadily steeper and I found myself breathing like an old fart - taken aback at my sudden apparent deterioration in fitness it was only when I passed other walkers in the same condition that I attributed it to the altitude. OK, hardly Sherpa Tensing stuff but at 9000ft there is enough of a drop to notice and work your lungs and heart harder.

The last hour or so it was hard (for me) to stick to the right path and hard (for me) to tell which was Canigou. So I promptly climbed to the summit of the wrong mountain. Only when looking across at a group of people on a mountain top slightly higher than mine (how could that be) and the fact that I was on me Jack Jones did the "you're a muppet mate" feeling sink in. This random peak selection added an extra hour to the trek - sensible...

I was already quite tired, but wanted to reach the top so I back tracked and finally made the top. The last couple of hundred metres or so was pure climbing. The rock had kindly worn away in a step like manner so it wasn't too difficult, but it was steep. I reckon I am not too bad at climbing, but what I discovered shortly after is that I am a complete blouse at descending - I took forever to get back down this part.

Towards the end of the return walk, fatigue set in. No matter how hard I tried every time I stepped over a rock I kicked it with my toes which were getting increasingly p1ssed off with me as they were getting bruised. Yes I had the sense to take trekking shoes and although vastly superior to trainers they were a poor second to boots. There was a waterfall crossing which I made a hash of - I may as well have swum across, I would have gotten no wetter. Finally at 5:30 pm, 9 hours of hiking later I was back at the bike. However I was in no fit state to ride it - I was completely exhausted. I figured sugar could be the answer and 2 mars bars and a fat coke at the refuge later gave me enough of a lift to get down the track.

Not my most impressive bit of riding, but it was quite tricky and I really didn't have the strength to pick the beemer up if I'd dropped it. To be honest I spent most of the descent in first gear idling with my foot continually on/off the rear brake. I daren't apply the front brake as it would have washed out. One of you off-road types may explain a better way (Eddie?) but it got me down safely and without a puncture and that was good enough for me today.

Back at the tent and it had been a very successful day, but I was comatosely tired and after a quick bite to eat and shower just crashed straight out in the tent.

Additional photos below
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24th July 2009

Gary, It's 6.45 and I'm at the studio. I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. I look at your posted shots of the hillls - such a beautiful part of Europe and then I look out of my studio window facing north over New Cross Gate - not such a nice part of Europe. That sounds like a syperb day. Well done you old poof for getting down wihtout falling off - I know how tired you must have been, I was in those hills on the XR400 - you didn't do too badly - I spend four days in first gear and that included the road sections. Vince.
24th July 2009

I had to laugh at your twin peaks effort. Fair play for still bothering to go up the second. Wouldn't you of felt a greater chump when you finally made it to spy the same crowd on your original mountain?

Tot: 2.229s; Tpl: 0.074s; cc: 15; qc: 28; dbt: 0.0389s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb