Over the full moon weekend of the 29/08/2015 I visited the Pyrenees mountain range for the first time, with friends who had the intention of reaching the summit of Puig Carlit (Carlit Peak). Carlit reaches a height of 2,921m (9583ft) above sea level, and offers beautiful views over the lake strewn panorama, where to the east nestles the tiny commune of Angoustrine-Villeneuve-des-Escaldes. The terrain was rough, the sun scorching & the air pure.
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When the idea was put forward, by a worthy & trusted friend & camarda, to assault the east face of Puig Carlit, I seized upon the opportunity with fervour.
My history of 'mountain climbing' is short...
1996 Errigal (751m / 2,464ft), Donegal, Eire.
1995 The Paps West (An Da Chich Anann (An Chioch Thiar)) (690m / 2,264ft), Kerry, Eire.
1995 Screig Mhor (848m /2 ,782ft), Donegal, Eire.
1985 Cadair Idris (893m / 2,930ft), Gwynedd, Wales.
...and none of these are more than a days hike there & back, (though I climbed Screig Mhor at midnight, under the light of a full moon).
Of course my main passion, (besides the sheer love of being bathed in nature), is photography, and the hike provided me with many opportunities to practise my skills over the weekend.
We set off by car from Barcelona late morning, aiming to arrive at the car park at Col Del Pam by mid afternoon. The day was bright & warm, the driving smooth & the five of us were in good spirits. We stopped for lunch & food supplies at a small town called Puigcerdà along the way, eventually arriving at our destination in good time.
We immediately donned our packs, & having applied lotions to protect the skin from the sun, set off along the marked trail, intending to cover a good part of the journey to the peak before sunset, when we would set camp & enjoy the predicted super-moon scaling the crystal pocked evening sky.
We had been careful to pack plenty of water (heavy) & nourishment (food, heavy), a tent each (heavy), sleeping bag (heavy-ish), & I with camera equipment (heavy), including tripod (again, heavy). I soon realised I was in for a gruelling couple of days when I estimated I was carrying about 15kg, & I was way out of shape for this kind of hike. I didn't know how far we would be walking, I imagined it would be 3 or 4 km each way. I had seen no maps, done zero research & my boots were borrowed (though excellent for these kind of shenanigans & fitted very well). I was relying totally on the knowledge of mi camarada who had visited here 2 or 3 times before, and, though never having previously climbed the summit of Carlit, claimed to know the area well enough to guide us there.
We walked for an uneventful but pleasant 2 & a half hours before reaching a decision to make camp a short distance from lake Le Noir. Although my pack was heavy my body seemed to be enduring it well enough. I had a couple of sore areas on my left foot, but besides that, enjoyed the afternoons hike. The air was refreshing & heavily scented with pine; the sky mostly cloudless. We expected a cool night, but temperatures weren't predicted to drop below about 8C, & my sleeping bag rates to -10C, so I was confident that within my brand new €22.95 tent from Decathlon I would be snug & cosy.
The super-moon did not fail to impress as it eventually emerged above a silhouetted pine skyline, huge & magnificent. At the time it rose I was photographing behind some trees & missed its initial appearance, so by the time I arranged my tripod to catch it reflecting in Le Noir, it had moved away from the earth far enough to look regular in size. (I took a load of shots, but none of them turned out any good, so I've cropped my best shot of the moon (pictured above) & enhanced the detail as best I could.)
We ate supper &, as the nights coldness drew in, retreated to our tents to sleep. However, a family had decided to camp very close by, & one of their two children insisted on crying 'no!' at the top of her voice for about two hours into the night, making any chance of sleep almost impossible. We could only speculate on what she was 'no!'-ing about so desperatley & for so long...
After a reasonable sleep, albeit with crazy dreams, & a touch too cool, I emerged from my tent into a lovely warm morning, & after packing up & eating a little breakfast we set out for our days hike.
Retrospectively, we had covered only one third of our journey to the peak on the first afternoon, which meant we had possibly up to ten hours of walking ahead of us. That is alot of walking over fairly rough rocky terrain, even if more than two thirds of it was track, carrying 15kg. We strode on in good spirits & after some time arrived at La Têt Reservoir, kept in place by an unremarkable dam. So far we had covered 5 or 6km & were almost half way to Puig Carlit. Near the dam is the resort hotel 'Bones Hores' which is situated by the reservoir & at the start of the main body of the hike to Carlit.
After a brief rest for water & a snack we headed onto the main trail that would ultimately lead us to Puig Carlit. There were quite alot of people entering & leaving the trail entrance, many of them wielding dual hiking sticks, & most with very little in the way of baggage. The trail was great; rocky & wooded, strewn with boulders, & streaked with glistening streams, wending their way down from the mountains & snaking through the cool shadowy pine woodland. We walked, clambered & straggled our way to a higher track which led to the base of the summit of Carlit. Along the way our group decided to split; for me because the pace was too fast to take photographs, & for another because he wanted a more relaxed experience, & had no desire to participate in what would turn out be a trial of endurance to reach the peaks summit. So while 3 headed further up the trail, & one headed back via an alternative trail, I immersed myself in the surrounding features of the land, & began to shoot.
I took my time, also heading along the alternate path back to the hotel, shooting pictures of the gorgeous landscapes as they unravelled before me. I passed lake after lake, peak after peak, had lunch beside a small waterfall, & made it back to our pre-arranged meeting place (hotel Bones Hores), in plenty of time. I washed my feet in the cold clear water of the reservoir & enjoyed the intimate invasion of a small herd of thirsty horses.
The final stage of the hike, back to the car park was tough, but determination kept us going & I taking pictures up until the end. The three of the group that went ahead made it to the top, though they needed to leave their bags some way down the trail, as climbing was required near to the summit. Just so you know if ever you were to find yourself there...
The Pyrenees I have discovered are beautiful, & hope to return for more adventures.
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I am a freelance photographer specialising in performance arts.
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