Scenic place to camp on Tour du Canigou trail in Pyrenees-Orientales, France | Day 3 Refuge Pinatell, Col de la Cirera, Refuge Batere
In this trip report we are sharing our third day of Tour du Canigou trail in Eastern-Pyrenees, France when we hiked 17kms from Refuge Pinatell to the Refuge Batere and further down the trail.
The evening before we had a hard time choosing our camp spot because of extremely uneven and hilly terrain with lots of rocks. And at night we realized that it was a pretty bad side hill so we couldn’t sleep really well. Also the temperature dropped down to 5 degrees Celsius and it was quite chilly. We did regret not having our warmer sleeping bags with us as we took our normal light summer ones. It didn’t feel very comfortable already at the end of September at 1700m of elevation. So it was a good lesson for us to always take a heavier warmer bag at this time of the year in the mountains because usually we don’t have much experience hiking in colder times. So we were afraid we would feel sleepy all day long, we just hoped the following night would be much better.
For that day we planned to make 15-17kms more down the trail. It was our norm for the day because we have divided the whole trail in 5 days. We saw that on the weather forecast after that there was a big probability of bad weather coming with rains and cold so we needed to stick to this schedule. Studying the map it didn’t seem to have much elevation difference, we had to do only 700m up and down overall, so we knew it won’t be very challenging day and hoped to enjoy the relaxed pace.
The morning was beautiful and bright with the clear sky and warm sun that was very long expected and needed after having a cold night. So we started moving long before the sunshine came to us and by that time already had breakfast and wrapped everything in the backpacks. We did heat up our food as well to warm ourselves up a bit. The flysheet of the tent was all full of moisture and unfortunately we didn´t really have time to dry it up so had to pack it as it was. We´ve noticed that usually on our hikes the flysheet gets dry only in the evenings when we set it up early enough, it rarely happens in the mornings.
All the first part of the trail was going nicely in the forest shade and on a relatively flat terrain. We did hope that it will continue the same way through the day as we needed chilled out day badly. Our legs and knees were still feeling it after the day before extreme ascension to the peak du Canigou.
So we greatly enjoyed the peaceful forest paths and the marking was very good as we continued to follow the GR10 white and red sign. We´ve noticed that throughout all the Tour when there was a GR10 coinciding with the Tour du Canigou itself there was no separate red and yellow proper marking of this trail assuming that it is understandable. We would prefer to have a double marking though so that we are completely sure about the direction.
The temperature difference of the night and day was quite drastic and closer to the middle of the day we were quite hot with at least 25 degrees Celsius. The trail itself helped us to feel refreshed all day long as it was following the shaded forest paths.
We hiked through several waterfalls and river streams that day and were happy to learn that luckily there was no lack in water sources on this trail. So we didn’t have to overload ourselves with water from the very start knowing that we´ll be able to resupply on the way. Most of the times we did filter the water from the rivers but sometimes we met even the official water sources with faucets and already perfectly clear and drinkable water. It tasted really nice too, much better than a bottled one for sure. So it was very convenient.
Here and there we could still enjoy the seacoast views of the Rousillon region and it was very nice. At one moment we passed by the small refuge house where we were surprised to see several sheep laying inside in a barn room with lots of hay. And from that stage the trail from a relatively flat route began to climb uphill. So we knew we had to do at least several hundred meters up.
After having a little snack we were ready to hit that uphill in front of us. It turned out to be the only major uphill for the day. The trail was going quite steep at parts with lots of huge rocks to go through but mostly was pretty gentle and sometimes went completely flat through the pine forest. In the end we realized that it was just some hill crossing and no extreme mountain climbing. Again it was so magical to walk on the shaded trail and enjoy the fresh air with no direct sunlight.
So in a quiet pace we got to the hill de la Cirera at 1729m. It was quite a wide open plain with lots of trail directions on it and the amazing views on the Pyrenees mountain range and the Spanish side of them further in the distance. It was very windy up there and we were surprised that there was any wind at all that day as up until that moment we didn’t have it at all.
And as most of our trail of that day was going downhill or flat from the Col de la Cirera we did start to move downhill to the Refuge Batere. It was only 2kms away but we had to do 500m down. From that part we started to see the Tour du Canigou sign again and were happy to follow it as it was much easier and didn’t require any map checking.
Downhill turned out to be quite steep at parts with the small rocks coming down which were the most unstable ground of any but fortunately, it wasn’t too long. At that part there were few trees already and we started to feel the hot sun getting on us. There were many red orange side hills on the way and under our feet the ground all of a sudden got red. It was always delightful to see how from one side of the mountain to the other you can get so different terrain depending on the components and minerals contained in it.
So we got to the open fields where we saw lots of sheep pasting and could feel the characteristic smell that only the sheep have. We were amazed to see the people paragliding there also, landing and setting off for a flight. So we did spend half an hour just observing their activity and as we are very interested in it and would like to try one day it was nice to study some small details up close. We would have spent even more time just looking at the peaceful picture of many paraglides floating in the sky but we were sitting in the sun and it was burning us badly so we had to keep going.
Soon we came to the refuge Batere which appeared to be a large grey building that looked like an albergue with lots of rooms and dormitory to stay. We did want to buy some fresh veggies or fruit if possible but unfortunately they didn´t sell it and all we bought was a handful of rice that we wanted to have as a backup in case we didn´t finish the trail in time. It was a common issue with most of such refuge houses that they do not sell anything to take away, they just serve some food in their restaurant or bar. And for us who don´t really enjoy eating restaurant food it was a huge disadvantage.
Then the trail turned back to the forest again and we decided it was about time to have our lunch. Also being a third day on trail we needed to charge our power bank badly as we did used up all the power already charging our electronics these days. So we did lay our solar panel down on the ground in the sun while we were having our meal. And it was a nice way to charge at least a part of a power bank as this day we hiked mostly in the shade and up until this moment it didn’t charge very well. At the end of the day we did get our power bank all charged.
When we got back on the trail it was obvious that we had to do another downhill to some river. And our ways with GR10 have separated so we did follow only the red and yellow sign of Tour du Canigou that was marked nicely.
That downhill turned out to be the steepest of all, the path was very narrow, sometimes going through the bushes on the sides and lots of pine cones on the ground. So it was a challenge to do it and we had to watch our step in order not to fall backwards. We’ve found that even though the steep trails are hard either way doing it downhill adds up a level of difficulty always. It was only 300m down and maybe 1.5 kms long but it took us some time.
Then we were at the river and faced the last uphill for the day. So we realized that we have to do the same elevation gain we just did down but this time climbing up. It felt always a bit unfair and disappointing to go all the way down only to know that you have to go up all the same distance but it is the character of the mountains and we feel like what develops character in humans too.
We were happy to know that these 300m uphill wasn’t as steep as the downhill and even had some flat parts on it. It all went through the green dense beautiful forest and lots of river streams. On the ground we saw many places with lifted soil which was a definite sign of the presence of wild boars. We have never actually seen them at daylight in summer because their lifestyle is extremely cautious so it would have been an exciting meeting.
So we did our uphill for the day and at that part we decided to cheat a bit and take an easier dirt farm road leading to the same destination. It was partly because we wanted to get quicker to the camp spot and partly because we were afraid that there won´t be any flat spots again if we´d go on the side of the hill. We hoped there were more chances to find it along the car road. It was our last 3 km stretch and at that moment we already felt extremely sleepy and tired.
This road was a bit long and boring just going around the mountain hills and for the long time we didn’t see any flat areas. There were many blackberry bushes on the way that were very tasty and sweet so we could snack a bit on that. The route was very calm with no cars going on it. From time to time the forest was opening to a golden view of the mountain gorge in a magnificent evening light with the trees already getting their colorful leaves. In the end after collecting some water in the river we were able to find a good spot in between the trees above the dirt car road and it wasn´t seen from it. It looked like a perfect place to camp and we couldn’t believe our eyes that we found it after seeing only deep gorges with deep forest and rocks. It was one of those times when the effort of searching paid off tremendously and one of the scenic camp spots to remember. We had to clean it up a little bit from the branches, rocks and pinecones and it was just enough space to set up a tent then. At that moment we had only around an hour of daylight left and we had to rush cooking our dinner as we don´t like to use flashlight when wild camping. So we did cook one of our fast meals – mashed potatoes with dehydrated tomatoes, shitake mushrooms and spices mix. And we went to bed as soon as we had it thinking about a beautiful peaceful day we had that was one of our favorites so far and also the day ahead that might be more challenging.