Last weekend, Monsieur J and I set out for the Pyrénées. After an hour and a half, we arrived at the parking lot for the hike we'd planned to go on: pic Cagire. The information we'd found on the internet warned that the hike was steep, but well worth it for the beautiful views.
I can now confirm that this is an accurate description, though we added a detour.
Unfortunately, we got a little confused by the signage and turned left. This path seemed to wind around the mountain rather than climb up it, ooops. We were a little disappointed but still had lovely views to enjoy and lots of wildlife to take in.
It wasn't until about 2 hours later that we ran into a race. We asked the organizers how to get to the top of the peak and they recommended we turn right and follow the "runners." They weren't actually running, but were muscly creatures moving at quite a clip as they had to pace themselves for the 48 kilometer trek covering three peaks that they had signed up for.
We followed them until we arrived at a refuge, a set of two cabins intended for shepherds and hikers. The runners may have continued on past this checkpoint, but we stopped for sandwiches, cherries and a much needed break.
We asked the man recording the runners' times at the checkpoint how to get from the refuge back to the parking lot. He was curious to know how we'd gotten this far. When we explained the path we'd taken he stared at us in disbelief and bellowing of laughter said, "you turned left out of the parking lot? Do you realize that you added an extra 9 kilometers to your hike?"
He kindly explained that if we continued to follow the runners up to the peak and then down the mountain we would eventually reach the parking lot. Whew. What he failed to mention is that you need to be part mountain goat to reach the top.
The difference in elevation between the parking lot and the summit is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3280 feet; there was still snow on the ground. Translation: this probably wasn't the best idea for our first hike of the season, but I don't regret it.
My legs may have been sore several days afterwards but it's pretty hard to beat a beautiful hike in the mountains.