GR 11 Update – The Storm, The Melon and the Cherry Line
Dear reader, here we are already three weeks on trail! I truly fell in love with the Pyrenees 😀 In this post, you will read about how we left the High Pyrenees for a bit and how quickly that goes. The climate was hotter at times, but colder at others. Happy reading!
Lake day and thunderstorm
The hut we stayed in was pretty crowded and the people didn’t give a f*ck about covid. We were more than happy to leave it. Normally, I like mountain huts, but here Sara and I said to each other that it was probably the first and last stay in a hut. We tried to start before everyone else, but that was kind of impossible. It was super windy and therefore cold when we came out of the hut. Luckily, the trail went uphill and we warmed up pretty fast. On this day, we hiked across the National Park Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici. The trail went uphill to the first pass of the three passes that we were going to hike over that day. On our way up there, we walked along the first lake of many more to follow.
It was beautiful scenery! Lots of people passed us while going uphill. On top of the first pass, it was quite windy, but the view blew everything away. We could see two more lakes and also the next pass, which wasn’t far at all. The trail descended to the lake and then back up again to the next pass. It took about an hour to get there. From up there, the view opened up into a new valley and guess what, many more lakes. Seven lakes to be precise! It looked just incredible beautiful 😀 Looking back, we could see Pico de Aneto, the highest mountain in the Pyrenees. The weather was again outstanding! We were just two very lucky mushrooms, as we used to say. We descended to the old Refugio Colomers and had our lunch break at the dam.
in the middle of wonderland
As best I can recall, I had ramen that day. We sat in the blazing sun and it was HOT. Lots of people walked past us and we got some weird looks haha. That day in general we saw lots of people. It was a really pretty National park with all these lakes and only three hours from Barcelona by car. We still had far to go and therefore we hit the trail again at 1 pm. The trail went quite “flat” for a while, passing some more incredible lakes! Here in the National park, it was even forbidden to swim in the lakes. We would have loved to jump in one because it was a really warm day. Soon the trail went up the last and third pass of the day.
We talked during the whole ascent and then before we knew it, we were at the top! The view into the new valley was a dream. From there, it only went downhill to the chapel we planned to stay at. The descent took its time. In front of us, you could always see this remarkable mountain with two peaks called Els Encantats! It was a steep descent until we hit a dirt road. We took a different turn than the original GR 11 to see a massive waterfall. Worth it! Beneath the Encantats, there’s another beautiful big lake. The last one for today… Lake count of the day: 16! After three hours, we finally hit the small bothy and the chapel next to it. It was a long and exhausting day, but so BEAUTIFUL!! We cooked dinner and while the food soaked we did some stretching.
To cowboy camp or not?
Because of the good weather, we thought we could cowboy camp underneath the sheltered terrace. So we set up our sleeping stuff. Before I snuggled into my sleeping bag, I quickly (and wisely) checked the weather. It looked kinda dark outside, so we set up the rainfly of Sara’s tent. We went in there and went to sleep. Not much later, the wind picked up slowly and got harder and harder. Then it started to rain. We checked our tent and all was fine. The wind and rain got really hard and all of a sudden everything was wet! It rained through the roof and our sleeping bags got wet on the side.
The situation changed very quickly and Sara ran into the bothy with our gear and then we set the tent down. In the hut, it was bone dry and warm. We laughed so much! I guess you can say – lesson learned. Use the hut also if the weather looks really good, you never know. Once safely snuggled again in our sleeping bags, we enjoyed the lightning show from inside 🙂
Town day = watermelon
In the end, we still slept well that night. It was a night we would remember for a long time. We packed our things together and made our way to the town of Espot. It was the fifth day without resupply, all we wanted was FOOD! The route went downhill on nice wide trails and dirt roads. One and a half hours later, we stood in front of the supermarket with a ton of fruit shelves outside -HEAVEN! We couldn’t hold ourselves back and bought a watermelon, grapes, cherries, and peaches. Then, of course, we also went shopping to resupply in one of the little shops. We met another thru-hiker from the Netherlands.
After all our shopping, we sat on a bench and had our fruit feast 😀 A hiker from Latvia, named Oscar, joined us. He was walking in the other direction and filmed his journey. Please go check out his GR 11 Series on his Youtube Channel: Hike Much. P.S. I also filmed a ton, but it’s gonna take a while until I share mine. Espot also had an Outdoor shop, so I checked it out and they even had single and foldable poles. I was super happy to have two poles again! We spent about 2.5 hours in Espot before we hit the trail again. While we hiked out, we got vegan ice cream because why not? We dropped that day down to under a thousand meters above sea level. That means we were in the foothills of the Pyrenees for a few days.
off to the best showers
You could feel it because it was so much warmer. We walked through a very cute hamlet that Sara and I immediately fell in love with. Then the trail went quite flat along the mountainside above the valley. Great views guaranteed! The vegetation was much dryer. Crazy how different it changed in such a short time. From a small trail it changed to a tarmac road. It was about lunchtime and we were walking in the blazing sun on the road! We could see the campground already from above and couldn’t wait to be there. The trail went through the small village called Jou. From there, it dropped steeply down to the campground. After having trouble finding the entry, we checked in at the reception.
We set up our tents quickly, loaded the washing machine, and took a shower in the meantime. I can tell you, they had the fanciest showers of all time! It had a rainfall shower, I think that says it enough already. Then we shopped for some groceries and had a late second lunch. The rest of the day we chilled in our tents while it was storming outside. For dinner, we made burritos with rice and beans – yum! The campground even had a playing room, which we had dinner in. Outside, it was cold and very windy. Full of food, we went to bed early.
cold instead of warm
We woke up pretty early because we had a big climb (1300 meters) right in the morning. The trail went first along the main road until we turned to the right and started the climb. It was cold in the morning, but we warmed up very quickly. We changed as usual from leggings into our shorts. The trail climbed steeply until the abandoned village of Dorve. Only one house was nice and someone lived in there, the other buildings looked very rough. We still had 800 meters of elevation to climb. Mostly the trail went gradually up through the forest. The higher we got, the colder it got and so we changed into our long pants again. The sky was covered in clouds and a cold wind blew. Almost at the top, we met Thomas from the Netherlands again. He was camping up there and had had a late start.
The forest opened up and we could look back from where we came the day before. You couldn’t see any bits of the mountains and we knew it was snowing up there. How lucky to be here and not there! I know from Switzerland that it can snow also in mid-July. We went fast over the pass and made our way down the other side. It rained on and off for awhile. Thomas caught up to us and we hiked for a while together. Oscar had told us it’s gonna be hot and dry in this section. We had quite the opposite, but we weren’t sad about it. We knew it would be warm soon enough when we got closer to the Mediterranean. About lunchtime, we walked through another small hamlet and had our lunch break there together with Thomas.
After an hour, we set off again. The trail went gradually uphill from the valley. We walked past another abandoned hamlet, then the trail made a turn and went up the pass. The vegetation was so different from only two days ago. We hiked through big bushes. Almost at the top, we crossed paths with two hikers from the Czech Republic, who were hiking to the Atlantic. It was already the 11th and 12th people we’d met from the Czech Republic haha. The weather changed from blue to cloudy every hour or so. From the pass, we had a nice view of the valley. On the descent, we walked through a very small village and searched for water. The local people tried their best English and therefore we found it eventually. Suddenly I got a sharp pain in my right butt cheek. I did some stretching, but it didn’t help.
There was no other option than to hike slowly further on. I was glad that the trail went mostly on dirt roads. After a while, the trail traversed at the same height and it was quite exposed. The views from there were awesome! We weren’t sure where to camp, so we kept pushing further on. Just before the town of Tavascan, we found a spot for our tents. It followed the normal routine of setting up and stretching and cooking dinner. I was quite tired. For dinner, I had lentils and pasta with curry spices 🙂
Cherries all over!
I didn’t sleep that well. We left camp before 7 am, which is rarely the case. In the town of Tavascan, we filled up our water bottles and went ahead. There were only two ladies on the road cleaning the hotel terrace. It went steep uphill for a bit and then the trail traversed on the mountainside. The trail was old and very rocky. We were mostly in the forest and sometimes we had a view of the valley. After about 3.5 hours, we passed two small villages. In the second one, we discovered a huge cherry tree. We ate as many cherries as possible in the break we took there. Our hands and mouths were purple from all the cherries. It was hard to leave this amazing place behind. The trail wended up the pass, mostly on a dirt road.
On top, we met a Dutch couple. They said Thomas was just ahead of us. Fun fact, Thomas knew the other guy from before! They had hiked the GR 20 in Corsica together a few years back. Small world! I didn’t take many pictures that day. Looking back, we still could see the Encantats. On the way down, we took our lunch break at some huts. I had boring cold oatmeal with raisins. It was a love-hate relationship between oatmeal and me ;D. The weather was much better today than the day before. We hiked into Àreu at 4.45 pm and went straight to the shop. Of course, the shop was closed when we got there. The people in the restaurant were quite unfriendly when we asked about the shop. We waited outside for 10 minutes and then all of a sudden a woman reluctantly opened the shop.
weird looks and baking chocolate
She stared at us while we tried to figure out what to get because the options weren’t great. We were happy to leave the shop and walked over to the campground. There we set up our tents and took a shower. We met an older man who camped next to us. He was curious about what we did and told us about his adventures in his younger years. I was very impressed when he told me he climbed a lot of Swiss peaks like the Matterhorn, for example. Somehow I had another nosebleed, but gladly it was just a quick one. Sara noticed it because my mask got red… In the shop, I didn’t buy chocolate and in the evening I regretted it. I asked at the campground, but they only had baking chocolate. Good thing I love baking chocolate, so I got a half one 😀
It doesn’t take much to make me happy, chocolate is one of them. Life on trail is great!
In the next post, you can read about how we crossed Andorra and had our biggest day ever!
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