Summer 2022 will be remembered either as the hottest summer recorded or the coldest summer of the rest of our lives. In yet another attempt to escape the scorching heat of the city, we planned a hiking overnighter in the Pyrenees. The six of us took the direction of Rabat-les-Trois-Seigneurs (Rabat the Three Lords), the start of our small adventure.
On a hot Friday evening, we split the group in two based on each other’s imperatives and left Toulouse. The drive normally takes an hour but that evening, a truck had crashed on the motorway and was blocking the way. Luckily, we had time to spare and borrowed every possible countryside road, traversing dozens of villages, stopping for views and enjoying the journey. After close to two hours of driving, we had finally made it to Rabat. Waiting for the others to arrive, we let the atmosphere impregnate us. Picture a small village, niched at the bottom of a narrow valley, with steep street almost too narrow for any car to pass.
A bench, a book-crossing shelf, a few beers and an hour to kill. We sat there, browsing through the oddest reads, settling for a “Top Secret” magazine. The temperature had dropped from 40+ degrees to a "chilly" 22. After a little while, the rest of the group arrived (Antoine, Mathis, Jules, Robinson and Pierre-Alexandre) and we walked towards Pierre-Alexandre’s family house. With the weather looking uncertain, we decided it would be best to spend the night in the valley and delay our overnighter to the next day. It would leave us enough time to prepare, enjoy a slow night around the barbecue and take advantage of the fresh air.
Based on our groceries, you certainly couldn’t guess we were here to hike. But who's here to judge our equipment and preparation? After putting close to 80 beers in the fridge, we got the barbecue going, prepared the sausage and cut the egg plants. All the ingredients for a fun evening were reunited: great friends, food, drinks and atmosphere.
Now, since this article is labeled as a hike, let’s get to that part. The next morning, we slowly woke up around ten. The rain had poured throughout the night and our decision to delay our night under the stars proved to be wise. Once breakfast was over, we packed our bags, exchanging and borrowing many items from each others’. The load wasn’t spread equally but everyone was happy with their bag. Two things remained, packing beers and making sandwiches.
In just an hour the clouds had disappeared and we left the house. Before heading to the starting point, we had to head back down into the valley to buy some bread and even more sandwiches. Twenty minutes later, the parking lot at the bottom of the trails was in sight. We could begin our hike, though only after eating a gigantic sandwich.
Although the weather there was colder than in Toulouse, it was still 30+ degrees and the first kilometers did take a toll on our supposedly easy hike. Crossing pastures, hungry horseflies attracted by cows obliged us to keep going at a rather fast pace. With only six kilometers to go until our campsite, we entered a dense forest that relieved us with shadow and fresh air. Of course, now that we are aspiring content creators, we stopped several times to capture videos and photos in hope of later turning them into reels.
Suddenly, the trees cleared up and the small red refuge was in sight. Perched on a plateau amidst a clearing, Pierre-Alexandre’s indications were right, we had reached our campsite. We had the usual “where to pitch” debate and settled for flatter grounds on the edge of the forest. From there, we could oversee a small stream at the bottom of the clearing and were a dozen meters away from a fireplace. We made the wise decision of pitching our tents/bivies/hammocks before dawn.
Everyone was satisfied with their sleep setup, so we grabbed our provisions and walked down towards the river. Warm beer is not an enjoyable beverage. We had to improvise a fridge by building a small dam and placing the beers inside. By now, you’ve probably guessed that this weekend getaway was about having fun and so far it was delivering!
The sun was now behind the crest and it was becoming quite chilly by the stream. After a rudimentary shower in the river, it was time to light a fire and spend the rest of the night stargazing. We scavenged dry wood around the campsite and got the fire going in no time. The place was idyllic, from the lush trees to the mountains surrounding us, we couldn’t have dreamed of a better spot.
Waiting for the night to unveil its starry show, we gathered a few larger logs and sat around the fire. Hypnotized by its flames, we shared stories, played games, listened to music, and laughed quite a lot. As the hours passed, shooting stars appeared in the now pitch black sky. Knowing the next day would be harder, we were quite reasonable and went to bed rather early. Some feared insects, others cows or foxes, but we all quickly fell asleep.
The next morning, the sun was licking the canopy and birds chirping woke us up. Bizarrely, we had all slept like babies and got to packing our stuff right away. We had a glance at the map to check for water resupply options during the day. Turned out, there were none! Fortunately, I had brought my filtering pouch, so we went back to our newly built dam to fill everyone’s bottles. We improvised a breakfast out of sandwiches, bananas, and boiled eggs before leaving the camp.
With our bellies full, we crossed the river and entered another dense forest towards the bottom of the main climb. The path, sometimes vaguely marked, traversed bushes, and branches, climbed up steep hills and winded through meadows. But with a little determination, we had already made it halfway up the climb. Though after leaving the forest, we traded fresh air for the scorching heat of the sun.
Shortly after reaching the col de la Pourtanelle, we finally had sights on the pic des Trois Seigneurs. At that point, the group naturally split into two and we continued our ascension. While the first half of the climb was enclaved without few things to contemplate, the second half rewarded us with miles upon miles of summits on the horizon. Suddenly, the complete silence was interrupted by raptors flying above us. Woosh, woosh — their wings displace so much air that their presence felt grandiose.
The last kilometer was quite technical and I had to store my camera away. The path, flanked by two precipices, disappeared behind large boulders. Below us, the sun was reflecting on hidden neves, contrasting the dark blue sky and orange-ish grass. We slowly made our way through the last meters and reached the summit. At the very top, a large iron cross, surrounded by hikers and mountains views. We waited for the rest of the group to arrive, shared a little snack and headed back down.
Though after a few kilometers of descent, we realized we were almost out of water. The filter worked well on flowing water but not on stagnant bodies. On top of that, the lake we were walking towards was still far away. We stopped to split our water reserves and let some have another snack. The sun was also beating down on us and a load of empty beers didn’t help.
The lake was now in sight, though a few hundreds meters of elevation separated us from plunging into its cold waters. Robinson and I rushed down the rather technical descent and were the first ones to jump in. The water wasn’t as clear as we would have expected it to be but it was definitely a nice treat. After eating our lunch, almost all of us were now dehydrated and our “afternoon by the lake” turned into a search for water.
Luck stroke once again and a few minutes after leaving the lake, we stumbled upon a stream of crystal clear icy water running down the mountain. Bottles after bottles, we replenished our reserves and contemplated the distant path we had walked on in the morning. The rest of the descent took place in yet another dense forest, marked by several steep rocky sections. For some, it was a walk in the park, for others, torture. At the bottom of the descent, we took a bath in the river waiting for the others to arrive. Antoine, on its last legs, without saying a word, just kneeled right into the river. The soft afternoon light piercing through the trees foliage made for a great photo stop.
Five minutes later, we had reached the parking lot at the bottom of the trails. We quickly jumped into our cars and headed back to Pierre-Alexandre’s place. Sitting in the shade, we emptied the last remaining beers and had a few more snacks. Two things remained, cleaning the house and reflecting on our small adventure! Away from any performance metrics, it had been a perfect weekend, paced by long laughs, funny anecdotes and great friends.