We have paid for breakfast and we head out to the restaurant where we get hot chocolate, coffee, bread with butter and jam. We stuff our faces before starting leaving to start hiking. The first section makes us go through a very narrow canyon named Arpidia reminding me of some scenes in Lord of the Rings: very mossy rocks, little light, tall and weirdly shaped trees… I almost expect to run into an Ent! Apparently, there are some tunnels that can lead to the main La Verna cave system (see pic below)
The ground is wet, zigzags through the Leche Woods and it is a bit of a struggle for me to make my way to the first main stop of the day – a fountain with a weird statue on it. We finally exit the woods to find ourselves on a hill covered with blueberry bushes again! Since E had complained about missing the last ones, we take a ziplock bag and fill it with those delicious and sweet berries. With full bellies and purple fingers, we continue our way to the top.
The landscape is very barren, there are no more trees and the weather is turning. We need to put our rain jackets on and they will not leave our backs for the rest of the day. We can see the others slowly making their way up on the switchbacks above us, facing the ground to avoiding the rain and winds that hit us hard. We finally enter the clouds and it is in this foggy atmosphere that we start walking through the desolated landscape that is a ski resort in the summer. Our goal for lunch is the Jeandel Hut, where we hope to get a nice hot cup of cocoa. When we get there, the whole gang is here, looking for some respite before heading out in the rain again. E is touched that we brought him some blueberries even thought he saw them this time and ate a handful! This time, this is real goodbyes with E since I am going off trail tomorrow. He will end up finish the GR10 30 days later!
We settled inside with Marine and her boyfriend. They are getting a cab from the ski resort as it is the end of their hike and leave us with a lot of food leftovers. We were looking at a sad sandwich at the beginning of our lunch and are now eating a pasta salad and some cookies! Thanks guys! The atmosphere is very cosy, even if the surroundings are very ugly. The inside of the hut is warm and inviting. I take a (too) short nap before a dozen of Italians barge in, soaked. They are staying here for the night. No more peace and quiet and we regretfully put our rain coats on and head out in the rain.
Time to cross the Soum Couy area – a very rocky terrain with sharp stones everywhere (and crevasses too!). Because of the weather, everything is wet and very slippery. The fog is still here, we focus on each blaze as it would be very easy to get lost which happens several times (R was zoning out again :)) The area is known for their groundhogs and we see some peeking their heads out of their holes here and there. We finally reach the Osque Pass, a very narrow and exposed breach in the mountain where someone put together chains and ropes to help hikers. Quite helpful with this weather!
There are at the bottom of the valley, two shepherds cabins opened to hikers according to the young woman at the hut. If not, we would have hasten our pace to get to the Aberouat hut since there are little suitable spots for camping here – the slopes are so steep and transform the valley into a wind funnel. If you add the rain on top of it, it’s not a nice place to camp.
It is still raining when we start making our down the valley – it is about 4 pm and we need to get to the cabin soon. When we finally reach it, talking about what we will do for dinner, the door doesn’t open, it is locked!! Nooooooo!! The lady had told us they were opened! We aim for the second cabin. it is on top of a huge rock, 400 meters further. R decides to scout ahead and see if it is also closed. As he arrive to the door, two people with umbrellas show up and they start talking. With the rain and wind, I cannot hear anything but since he does not call me up, I assume the cabin is closed as well… I am determined to sleep in a dry spot tonight and the Aberouat hut is supposed to be opened. R finally comes back – the two people told him those cabins are always closed in this season as they are for shepherds and not for hikers. Damnit! But they told him about a small shed nearby. It is 30 minutes away, on top of the hill and there are no real trail to get there. They gave him indications on how to get there so we decide to go for it. It’s bushwhacking and following sheep tracks on steep and grassy slopes. R is fast and disappears in the forest. I am alone and since we are not following any blaze, I am scared of loosing sight of him and start screaming his name. Suddenly the ground gives way and I find myself ankle deep if mud/cow shit and let out a very nasty expletive thinking nobody can hear me (turned out it was not true). I finally get hold of R again, we have been walking for 30 minutes already and still not shed. I do not think at this point, I am so cold and tired that I am mindlessly following R. He suddenly shouts “THE SHED!” and I can finally spot a small stone shed in the fog, surrounded by cows. My heartbeat pumps like crazy as R’s hand get close to the handle. Please be opened, please be opened, please be opened. I hold my breath as the door resists and let a huge sigh of relief when it creaks open. DRY SPOT FOR THE NIGHT!
The shed feels like the best thing ever: there are bunk beds, a table, inner wooden walls with shelves full of books and comics, candles, dried flowers. And best thing of all…. a STOVE! <insert happy dance here> We settle and I pick the bed on the other side of the table that has a nice mattress. There is some wood someone left there to dry and R manages to get the stove started. Soon our wet clothes are hanging over the stove and our shoes are drying right next to it. My quilt wrapped up around me, I am in a delicious warmth cocoon, reading comics and enjoying the dry and warmth of my clothes. We cook an insane amount of pasta and by 9 pm, I am snoring blissfully away.