The destination today is Lescun. Not far, but little do I know of the way ahead. It starts off well enough until I find I have taken the wrong route out of Jeandel and am headed up Pic d’Anie. I retrack, annoyed at myself as I have lost time gained from an early start and added a couple of unwanted kilometres.

Jeandel in the summer has none of the fairy snow covered ski pistes. The scene is one of utter devastation, abandoned machinery, snow ploughs and pylons.

Eventually i get clear of the rock strewn deserted apocalypse to enter the limestone karst scenery with towering limestone cliffs. It is at this point i come to realise one does not simply walk into Mordor on a summer’s day…

A lone Ork-like creature appears up ahead on the path snarling. It’s eyes hard and vicious. I stand my ground, nowhere to go. It stands it’s ground. “WArghh Rahhh PhatTT!” I boom as loudly as I can. What do you know, turns out I speak Ork! I raise my walking sticks in my best Gandalf impression and strike the ground hard. No lightening but it does the trick. The creature watches me balefully as I pass. I spot a dead sheep’s carcass not far off, is it guarding or feasting on its flock?

Mordor

The landscape becomes more desolate. The markers are difficult to spot in the mist and I lose my way a couple of times. When you’re off the path a few metres, you are off the path a mile. I wish I had some hobbit and dwarf companion guides. I think qualify for some, my feet are certainly turning hobbit-like, toes splaying thick-soled.

The way gets narrower, steeper, higher and mistier. Not being able to see the drop does not calm the nerves. I concentrate on placing every step securely. Up finally to a gap in the rockwall, hang on to rope chains, climb pulling myself, my pack and poles up, over and I’m through. Phew.

Might not look that steep but it bloody well is! Spot the ropes.

As I am nearing Pas de l’Osque, I come across another lone walker, the first person I have seen today. Her name is Laurie, she started walking the GR10 on the 1st July and has another week to go. She tells me I am near the top, the sun is shining on the other side. She warns me “winter is coming, watch out for snow”. I warn her of Mordor, orks and chains. We wish each other well and pass on our way.

Lone Laurie

Finally I reach the pass, the clouds clear and I can see down into a bright sunlit valley.

As I descend I hear faint singing riding up on the breeze. Sometimes merry and upbeat, then switching to low and mournful. It’s coming from deep in the valley, from the Cabane du Cap de la Baitch.

Cabane du Cap de la Baitch

Well knock me down, it’s the dwarves! Eating, drinking, drunk on red wine and love songs. They have a small child with them and a great big shaggy friendly patous dog.

Frodo and friends

I don’t know if it’s the songs, the easy company or relief from surviving Mordor, but it makes me emotional and I can’t help but well up a wee bit. Don’t let the dwarves see of course, they think I’m barmy.

I have lunch (pork pate baguette) and soon I am on my way again. Goodbye Mountain of Doom.

Mountain of doom

Well that should have been enough for one day. Except I lost the path yet again! I can see it at the bottom but it is too steep to walk down to. My choice turn back, retrace my steps or the one I go for, slide down on my bum. I tie everything on tight, brace myself and push off. I pick up speed slashing through grasses and ferns as I go. And the occasional gorse bush. Ouch. My poles acting as brakes.

Bum slide

Ten minutes later I’m at the bottom. I dust myself off like i do this everyday and walk down into Lescun to the best gite etape yet. Hottest shower, sofest bed, a room to myself, friendliest landlady and a fabulous dinner. With a bottle of wine from USA Bruce, German Gert and a young Belgian couple for company, we put the world to rights late into the night.