Col du Peyregret - James Lomax

Pyrenees summers are typically warm and stable. It’s a joy to walk there for two or three weeks compared to British hills which are a constant struggle. Will it rain, is there any sunshine, is there any summer.

Which is not to say Pyrenees weather is never challenging. When I arrived once at Etsaut it was too hot to set off. I spent the day relaxing, eating and drinking in a little cafe. On another occasion the temperature dropped about twenty degrees in fifteen minutes. Then it started raining. Fortunately I was near to a tiny shelter and I stayed there two or three hours considering what to do. One possibility was stay there for the night. Two chaps arrived walking the Spanish GR11. I was walking the HRP or High Level Route heading towards Estos.

After I’d dried a little I felt the rain had subsided and reasoned getting lower was better, it was downhill from the shelter, and moving fast would warm me. Had heavy rain returned, or the cold dropped further, I might have been in trouble. It was winter in August.

I sometimes rely on walking fast. It’s not a good idea as a general rule, but it is part of my hill walking craft. I was warmer, the rain lessened, and after an hour I removed my waterproof trousers and jacket and was back to shirt and shorts.

On another trip, the day began cloudy and rainy but you must set off into it to continue your walk unless to do so is directly dangerous. It could have been dangerous – but I didn’t and couldn’t anticipate it – when the rain became torrential. No clothing could protect you and my lightweight wear certainly wouldn’t. I was worried for the content of my rucksack, my down sleeping bag and cameras.

I considered retreating to a shepherd hut I’d passed an hour earlier. It could ruin my plans but I had no choice. As I walked back the way I’d come I noticed a huge slightly overhanging boulder which offered slight protection. Several other walkers were there too cowering from the rain which, if it did stop, would make the rock a good compromise.

Bad summer weather can last for days in British hills and the same applies in the Pyrenees. It commonly occurs in Scotland, Snowdonia and the Lake District, the Pyrenees less so, but it’s possible. Fortunately the rain subsided, so I could stride back to where I’d started my retreat then continue. It stopped, started again, stopped again, which meant I could have lunch.

I was an hour below Col du Peyregret which is what you see in this photograph. The skies were grey but the air was warm and I spread my jacket and opened my rucksack trying to dry the contents. It started raining thirty minutes later so I packed up and set off quickly. I wanted a longer rest but it wasn’t possible.

My book had described Col du Peyregret as a high pass with good views. It was the highlight of the day which I was looking forward to. 2,208 metres  means a spectacular outlook.

When I reached the col an hour later it was drizzling and cold but not so bad that I had to continue and descend from the heights. From there it was downhill to Refuge Pombie for my evening meal and camp.

I stayed at Peyregret for twenty minutes hoping the skies would clear and there might be sun. I scouted the compositions with my camera taking multiple photographs. This one is the best. I like it very much. I’ve since seen bright shots of roughly this view. It’s a wonderful place, more enjoyable and comfortable with sunshine, but that lacks the atmosphere of this shot. Click on the image to see a bigger version and the print options.

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