XPyr Day 5 or how the Pyrenees divide the world in two
Once again, in the moonshine and absent-minded, shivering because of exhaustion, I’m marching. Right in front of me I can see Pena Montanesa, whose summit is 1,600 m higher than I am right now.
Few comments to our situation: yesterday, with the last effort, we reached the right side of the river, just under the hill. The weather today should allow at least a little bit of flying, so my only option how to escape is to fly regardless the conditions. Tomorrow the conditions will be 100% unflyable. Jessie (USA) is not far ahead of us, behind us there are Zlatko (SLO) and Giuseppe (ITA), but they have to reach the TP from north, as they used a shortcut that I mentioned in the previous part of the Pyrenees tales. Although their distance to the TP was shorter “as the crows fly”, the trail they have to use is overgrown by dwarf pines and some other staff and the inability to take off probably makes their morning not very nice. Their only option is to go around the whole mountain and go along the same trail as I’m going now. The problem is that in the afternoon it will probably be overcast and also some thunderstorms are forecasted, so they probably won’t manage that.
But let’s go back to the point, I don’t know why, but this morning cold and dew after the yesterday’s downpour, I feel really light and somehow enjoy the walking. I don’t even feel all the aches and pains that my “chassis” sends, any more. Because you know, pain is just a kind of information, and as we’ve seen recently the information can be sometimes wrong or confusing. So better not to believe anyone and anything… nothing hurts me, and although it can be misleading, I like it.
The trail up the mountain is beautiful; I struggle through the bushes and skitter along the rocks. For breakfast I have the already mentioned evergreen from yesterday sitting on the last piece of asphalt road with the view of that rock. It’s hard to believe that I could manage it, but let’s give it a try.
Smartly lead trail goes around all the rocks, which hide it when you look at it from below. After couple of hours I reach the first plateau, grassy and sloping. Altitude is something around 1,800 – 1,900 m AMSL. The problem is the wind, it’s blowing from east and the east wind doesn’t usually bring any good.
Thus I have to continue in climbing the mountain because such cross wind would wash me down the rocks. Easier said and even much easier written, but you can bet your ass that it wasn’t that easy. It was only 300 m, but slope steep like hell and of course full of pure rocks like a rocky field waiting for Juraj to slip. Sometimes they are cover with strange mutated giant moss. The trekking poles help just a little, an ice axe would be nice :D
Knowing that in these conditions with cross wind I will barely take off makes me feel even happier. I reach the summit hopelessly and see the damn limestone razor blades peering at me from the grass. I walk for a long time like the protesters in front of the barricades, all useless and without success. Eventually, I do it like this. I unpack Avax on the unfortunate rocks, tighten the lines as much as possible so they don’t get stuck and wait for a blow.
When it comes, I pull gently the A-lines, with my ass clenched as I’m scared not to tear anything and I jump in. Avax is right above my head and cuts the Hispanic air cheerfully.
Straight away there’s a tiny thermal so I climb as much as I can. Funny is that it’s blowing from NE, what is actually the already mentioned east wind. I fly together with some vultures, sometimes I climb a bit until there’s the first jump. I have maybe 2,200 – 2,300 m altitude and let’s go. I finish at maybe 1,900 and I’m literary planing a ridge which is being blown by a valley wind. I plane it so much that I eventually land. Damn it. And if it’s not enough the thermal was not above the ridge but in the valley where I land. And my calculations went wrong, so instead of landing on a meadow I end up in junipers, good enough for catching the lines. Half-an-hour is enough to entangle all the lines and I’m swearing blind what an idiot am I. I will have to climb back up the mountain. No signal, Livetrack doesn’t work for sure. No trail, just junipers, rocks and trees. Scratched all over my body I go on up the mountain… full of doubts but full of determination as well. Doubts are caused by the lack of time as I see clouds coming from west, next, there’ll be problems with the take off and, as usually, with water. However, the biggest challenge is the take off, since the whole 2,700 m high mountain is covered with gravel, which starts as soon as there are no more trees at maybe 2,000 m and what’s more, the slope is getting so steep that it’s almost impossible. Each step means half a step of slip backwards. I have 3 decilitres of water and sun is shining (the weather is sweet :D just joking there’s nothing sweet there yet). I’m angry as a bull a therefore the time passes fast. Finally, I take off from a small rock into a blow, praying for not to meet a thermal straight away… as I’m at only 2,100 m, and it seems too low to me (only 100 m over the tree line and damn below the summit at 2,700), but I wasn’t able to climb and take off higher because of the steep slope and gravel all around me.
I have no idea how I deserved that but Aiolos helped me. Straight away I’m taken, together with an eagle, by a thermal broken like my knees. I’m turning, and turning and climbing and enjoying the flight… I will make it over the ridge for sure!
In brief: I climbed just below the cloud base, tried to climb over each ridge and hurried with tail wind until I reached the break point which is the high mountains in the back. Pic du Maupas seems to be the best option for a jump. By the way, west of me there’s a cloud the size of a pig and is taking me up. The cloud base is at 2,800. The saddle I have to do is at 2,850. Bugger!
Fortunately, it opens up for a while, the cloud rises a bit and I, with my ass clenched (once again), fly over the saddle with 400 m, at the level of summit just next to it. What followed was just astonishing, mainly the view I had. There’s fog in France! Up to the ground! Awaxiáš is flying around me, or I should rather say that I’m flying around it; it shows me that, just by the way, I’m in a lee. I can already see the TP5, Ceciré. I make it and I’m trying to figure out what to do next. The wind is turning; I can’t land in the valley because of the fog, but I won’t climb any more. I’m landing in a steep slope at maybe 1,100 m.
I have to change the SIM card immediately, as there’s no other way to let my support know to follow me… finally they told me, it was 180 km. I find a stream and can get lost in the fog. I’m marching up the mountain which is 2,200 m high, hoping to fly down to the Spanish side, what will spare me a long way to walk. I’m hungry as a horse because I haven’t eaten anything since morning, I can’t walk any more as I managed to climb maybe 2,000 m of elevation difference and there’s still much ahead of me. And if it wasn’t enough the fog is climbing much faster than me. Bugger, damn it! I must, must, must make it. But it’s not that easy. There’s no trail leading up the mountain, it’s way too steep, the grass is high, it sprains my ankles. There’s just one word to describe it: IDEAL!
When I imagine that after all this struggle, if I run out of water again and I will have no energy to go on one meter or one minute more, I find out that it’s not flyable on the other side… then… I’d rather not think about that.
Last meters can be compared to clinical death, sweat is running down my face, I didn’t put on my gloves or used the skydrop, or camera or glasses. It blows like hell from west. So I throw it to 8 m/s lee with height around 1.5 m over the edge… yeah!
When I manage it all, I fly over the milky fog praying for a gap. I must have been a really good boy because there just one sidelong gap ahead of me, therefore I couldn’t see it from above. I go down through it, nice VFR, and I’m kicked by the valley wind. I fly like a missile, overtaking the cars below me. Wow, awesome! It blew me some 5 km more than I thought. As I’m landing in someone’s cabbage field, I have again some hard times because there are poplars just in front of me and aren’t doing any good. I jump over the fence like a thief and hurry to eat something. Sitting around, eating sausages, feeling happy as a clam… I managed it! I crossed the TP5 and returned as well.
With full stomach I walk down the valley, across the town of Vielha (just by the way, I see quite pretty girls for the very first time, or maybe we’ve already been here for too long?!) until I reach a camp in the village of Garós. I’m done!
Some numbers: walked 22 km, climbed on foot: 3,000 m! Flown: approx. 60 km
I lost my camera in the hurry somewhere in the mountains… :/ I have no idea where because all the memories are somehow blurred. It’s just, you know … I lost it in that rush all day long, struggling in bloody conditions and thinking about thousand other things whether navigation, planning, following the weather and my own knees, water any man others…
And when I’m writing this and looking at it backwards, it doesn’t seem that bad when I compare it to that actual day.
And to mention the others struggling around me: Zlatko and Giuseppe stayed south, made it just half way to the TP4, they took off but didn’t manage as much as I did, that is to land after a jump and take off again in better conditions behind TP4. They didn’t have a place to land. I’m pretty much ahead of them; tomorrow they will have to conquer that bloody mountains on foot in storms and rain. I managed to overtake even Jessie, just few km, but anyway, in the morning he was quite ahead of me. So now we’re fifth.