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Are we about to quit the GR11? – Surviving the extreme night and making big decisions | Day 9 Lake Montcasau to Arties

On the day 9 of GR11 we made 11kms hiking down the valley from Lake Montcasau to Plan de Nera and river Valarties and finally came to the village Arties in Catalonia, Pyrenees, Spain.

For this day it was clear that we won't be able to do much distance and also because we felt like having a rest we decided to turn away from GR11 at the point where it was climbing up again and turn to the opposite direction to the village Arties. That way we still were going to do around 11kms. There we hoped to have a couple day rest at the campsite and return back to GR with new powers. Also we thought it was a good idea because the next couple of days due to forecast were going to be extremely hot as the whole Spain was hit by a heat wave..

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We had a pretty bad night in terms of sleep, in the first place because it was extremely windy the whole night and we were afraid for our tent to be able to hold it up with no damage. Secondly, because late at night we had a thunderstorm which was quite loud and intense but with little rain. And the terrain we chose for our tent wasn't ideal, very hilly and uneven. As a result we slept in for one hour and felt very broken apart that day.

Of course most of it was the consequence of the previous day with too many difficult kilometers of hiking. It was obvious to us now that this was clearly too much of a distance to do on GR11 and we had to look closer and study our plans better for the day ahead.

So without even having a breakfast we wrapped up our tent and went out on the trail thinking about getting lower and finding a place to snack there. The place itself where we camped was very scenic and had fantastic 360-degree views all around.

So we started to come down and the trail went very steep at first getting to the river gorge. We had to take our time there and to go with care. But there was almost no wind and it was a joy to walk at peace and in the shade. The morning air was very fresh and tasty smelling.

Then eventually we got to the gravel road part where we started to meet some cars, people biking and trekking with backpacks. It was going along the river for quite some time and we decided to stop at its bank to have our breakfast. We enjoyed this moment thoroughly listening to the sound of the water stream and eating with no rush.

After a 40min break or so we got back on the trail and were following the gravel road all the way down. Turning back we could see an amazing view of the mountain range standing as a rock wall behind us. Downhill was going mostly in the shade in the forest so we had no direct sunlight on us which was very nice. The forest was dense and filled with amazing green rocks covered with moss. It looked as if even a single ray of sunshine had a hard time getting through the tree branches.

The forest farm road continued in a zig zagging mode and at times was getting steeper and rockier. After several kms we came to the Plan de Nera and river Valarties which was a narrow green valley with few rock buildings on it. There our ways with GR11 were separating us going in the opposite direction to the village.

We came to the riverbank again to have a breather, as it was getting hotter and spent half an hour there snacking and soaking our feet in the water.

Then we were back on the road as we had 5.5kms more to hike to the village. We knew it was going to be hard because it was already the middle of the day and the sun was shining high and strong and there was no single cloud on the sky. And it was definitely cruel because the road was very sunny with little shade on it and it felt like an eternity.

When we finally came to the village Arties we saw that it was a cute little place with a small chapel on the hill and very unusual looking buildings for the Pyrenean village. It seemed closer to us to the Austrian architecture in South Tyrol for example. So we walked through it to find the campground and were disappointed to know that it was full of bungalows and had little place for pitching the tents. So they told us there were no free spots there and that it was necessary to make a reservation before.

So after considering different options we learnt that there is a bus going in direction to Vielha and the Vilaller where we hoped to find a free camp spot in one of the campgrounds that were there. So we had to make a change in Vielha that turned out to be a pretty big village and this way we got to Vilaller. There we did our shopping and had to walk 4 kms more on the car road till the nearest camping Alta Ribagorca. Fortunately, there were free spots there and we could stop at that place. We hoped to gather our powers, wait for the heat to cease and start again with GR11 soon..

Have you ever had to quit the trail? When and why was it?

We actually quit (or changed) the trail quite a lot, especially when we were hiking with our daughter. We took her on hiking tours from the age of 5. The reason to quit almost always was weather conditions (persistent rain, snow, heat), which often affects the condition of the paths, sometimes the condition of the path alone. We never had a bad feeling about quitting, because safety always comes first. We have and had the rule: as soon as 1 member of the party does not feel comfortable continuing on the planned route for safety reasons: change the plan if feasible or quit the trail when and where that is possible.

Thank you for posting such a lot on your European adventures. It is really helpful for us planning our hikes!

Arine Benschop said:

Thank you for posting such a lot on your European adventures. It is really helpful for us planning our hikes!

 Thank you so much for your kind words:) Happy to hear it helps you to plan your hikes, let us know if you have any further questions left.

May 22, 2022
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