GR11 - Parzan to Puen de San Chaime, 2 days, 399km done

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August 9th 2022
Published: August 9th 2022
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Sunday 7th August
Parzan to Camping Forcalla at Es Plans
7am-2:30pm with few shirt breaks and 30mins at bothy by dam on the incline and 30mins on the wooded descent

After watching a terrific thunderstorm (only cool because we were in a hostal room rather then tent!) last night, we didn’t get to sleep until later then usual. This, plus being in a comfy bed and having enjoyed a rest day, made getting up this morning difficult. However, with another storm forecast for this afternoon we knew we had to get moving to be up and over the col by midday.

With 1500m to climb today, which started almost immediately once we left Parzan, not feeling warmed up, with one trekking pole down and without a morning coffee for Paul, it was a slow slow start. However, with easy forest road track pretty much all the way, once we got going, with music to boost us along, we did ok and, bit by bit, made our way up. We even turned down the offer of a lift as a car went past on the track!

A little bothy with bench by a stream with a view was too good to miss though, and ideal for a snack (and coffee!) stop. This helped a lot, and although another 10mins or so of getting back into a rhythm was needed, helped us to continue the steady incline all the way to the top. Admiring the view but noting the wind picking up we went to continue straight on, only to bump into our Dutch friend. Chatting and walking we began the descent down, on rocky but straightforward track (good for mountain biking), in and out if wooded sections , with a few sneaky inclines along the way, parting and meeting each other again as we went.

After a good lunch stop, noting the clouds building we cracked back on with the decline, when, nearing the bottom, the rain began to spot with a couple of rumbles in the distance. A brief moment of walking in the rain occurred (pretty much the first time this trip!) as we reached the river at the bottom and began to follow this along and round to a campsite. Perfect timing as the rain increased and we checked in and got a drink; getting the tent up, stretching, showering and changing in a gap in the rain. Still nervous about being in a tent in a storm, but at least it’s lower down at a site with others around; and whilst it did rain and rumble it wasn’t so bad, and after talking to a British guy going the other way, managing to cook and eat from the tent and playing some cards with our Dutch friend, we settled into a deep sleep.

Monday 8th August
Camping Forcalla at Es Plans to Camping Aneto in Puen de San Chaime
7:10 - 15:45 with a few small breaks, 30mins at Puerto de Chistau, 15mins by the river on the descent and 60min at Refugio d’Estos

Warm and cosy in our sleeping bags we didn’t want to get up this morning, but slowly we did and managed one of our quickest times from moving to being ready to go. This meant we left the same time as our Dutch friend, who is definitely quicker on inclines, but who we ended up walking with for the majority of the day. We also had a herd of people at the start, who it turns out are a group of families all hiking the day together, and who we eventually overtook on a brief flat section. It was a good, interesting, long, steep ascent, winding up thin rocky paths and across small bits of sloped rock and scree.

The side scree continued as we peaked over the col, pretty steeply at first, before levelling out onto dirt path again, meandering around down the valley, following the river. A beautiful section, with lots of marmots around, which stayed relatively simple, and allowed a good lunch spot at the Refugio (cold drinks that are not water are great!), lead us pretty much all the way down to Puen de San Chaime. You could tell we were near as the path widened, slowly but surely became more stone and tarmac, benches began appearing, and groups of people.

But here we are at the campsite! Making the last two days and sections actually in two days! (where we had initially thought and planned for three; maybe we are getting trail fit?!) The feet are achy this afternoon though, and with two of the three bits tape fallen off my shoes, one properly broken trekking pole (snapped yesterday when trying to fix it) and a large hole in Paul’s top, we are going to have another day off trail tomorrow, to bus to a larger town called Benasque with outdoor gear shops and more.

Tuesday 9th August
Rest day at Camping Aneto in Puen de San Chaime
0km (actually 6km to Benasque and back)

After a fun evening eating and chatting with our Dutch and American (he was still here as had had a rest day) friends, a morning without an alarm was lovely, waking at 7:30 naturally and being pleasantly surprised at how early it still was. Getting up slowly, we enjoyed a coffee and pastry at the cafe/bar and then walked (yes walked bot bus!) the flat easy 3km into Benasque. This larger town was recommended to us as a good place to see, and it was very pretty with some sold streets blended with newer places, and had lots of good outdoor shops.

Hitting the biggest 4storey shop, we enjoyed browsing the new, fresh, unworn clothes and things, resisting the urge to buy lots of things we knew we didn’t really need. We did however, successfully buy some very much needed items; me some new boots, new trekking poles and Paul a new top! Our Dutch friend also managed to buy a new cooker, as hers had broken, and so we all felt fancy with all our new gear.

Making the most of a bigger town, we found a cafe that was rated good for veggies (still a burger as the main option but tofu which made a nice change), used a bigger supermarket (although still not a great selection and very busy) and Paul even got a haircut. Win win. A gentle walk back feeling good, we then jumped into the campsites pool just in time, as the clouds came over and the rumbles began.

Another evening in the bar is an obvious choice, meaning we can also charge electrics, before getting an earlier night maybe. Ready to get back on the trail tomorrow, we are feeling refreshed and prepared for the next few days ahead, knowing there are no shops for a few days now with a few tricky bits ahead; although we have been told the first part is a long and boring ascent up a dirt road, which a bus also happens to go…hmmmm what to do.

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