Surviving the Freezing October Night in Pyrenees, Spain | GR11 section hike to Puigcerda and Llivia
On the second day of GR11 section hike in Catalonia, Spain we started from Pleta dels Anyells at 1800m and had to descend approximately 15kms down to the village Vilallobent, then a town Puigcerda and camped in the fields of Llivia.
We had the coldest night ever at our place on the mountain plain when the temperature must have had dropped down to a zero degrees Celsius. And so starting from 4am we couldn’t sleep well as this is when the temperature is at its lowest during the night. Our summer set up with +10 degrees sleeping bags didn’t help either, we had all our warm stuff on us but still it wasn’t enough. We were still waiting for our autumn bags to arrive to us from Aliexpress store that stated shipping in 3 weeks but we had waited for more than a month and a half already then and couldn’t let it stop us going on a hiking trip.
So we had to wake up very early, when it was still dark as we felt very cold and needed to start moving. We heated up our water for drinking to help us to warm up from the inside. And we regretted not having the drinking cup with us for a more convenient use as we had to heat the water in the cooking pot which we had to clean first from the rests of the food. Also we weren’t happy about our gas container that wasn’t staying in the place and required a special set up stabilizing it with the rocks. It was just too small and compact to be stable. As well as the gas itself seemed to not be distributed efficiently to the stove when there was less than halfway left inside, probably because of the elongated form of container.
When we heated up our water, it was time to heat our breakfast and pack all our stuff. It was a hard task this time as our hands were too cold and could not work fast. That night we tried one technique suggested to us by one of our subscribers to lay down the emergency blanket that we barely used before on the bottom of the tent body underneath the mats and sleeping pads. It was supposed to act like an isolation layer from the ground protecting us from wetness and cold. And we didn’t know whether it actually made a difference or not but we didn’t feel much cold at all coming from the bottom. And all the wetness was left under it so were happy to admit that this first try was successful and were determined to test it out more.
When it was time to pack the tent we realized that almost all of the outer side was covered in frost as well as the inner side of the flysheet. It was the first time when it happened to us as we don’t hike much in cold times and we were a bit afraid of damaging the tent. Astonishingly there was no frost and very little wetness on the side of the flysheet where we put a huge fir branch to act like a block from the wind. We got another evidence that this trick works as we were always doing it when we could find anything for a block and when the weather was windy and cold. Looking in between the trees we could see the same picture with no frost on the ground. So it was another proof to us that it is always better to camp in the forest close to the trees and bushes. That time we just couldn’t find a flat spot there.
So when we finally got on the trail the sun was already out and it was so long-awaited that we couldn’t help to stay for several minutes with our faces turned towards it. But the wind was still quite cool at the start of the day so we needed to keep ourselves moving.
Our plan was to descend down around 15kms to the town Puigcerda and then turn to Llivia village to find our spot to camp. We knew that it was probably going to be an easy trail as it was coming down to the Cerdanya valley following gentle downhill.
The first several kilometers were going on the farmer’s dirt roads in between the forest. The views were amazing from there. We could see the Tosa d’Alp Peak (2,587m) right on the side which was the highest point of the La Molina ski resort and the whole Cadi-Moixero mountain range in the distance which looked great in the morning light.
Then the trail turned to the forest path and in some places we even were wondering whether there was going an official trek because of how untouched they looked. We had to get through the huge tree trunks and branches fallen on the trail and overall the path was narrow and not obvious sometimes. But checking back with our GPS we knew we were on the right trek.
Then again we came out to the wide gravel route that was going mostly in the dense forest with lots of shade. It would be very nice trail to take on a hot summer day but back then we wanted to be out on the sun. We followed the mountain river stream for a long time and saw many grey cows pasturing there in between the trees and getting through the challenging terrains.
The trail was constantly going down following the nice gentle descend as expected so we could move relatively fast. We enjoyed a lot walking in such peaceful and calm environment. As we were walking in the gorge and the sun was quite low at this time of the year, we had to hike a good 5kms to finally get out to a more open space. Then we started to feel warmer and could take off some of the warm clothes. We felt a bit sleepy but still wanted to take advantage of every minute of this hiking adventure.
From there the views of the Cerdanya valley lower at the altitude opened to our eyes with its black roofed villages and plenty of fields. It was all framed by the magnificent autumn colors from all sides and it was taking our breath away just looking at this beauty from above.
There were still quite a lot of flowers left as we were getting lower and the bumblebees were collecting the last bits of pollen from them. We were lucky to meet and film the Eurasian Jay as well while it was doing their unique sounds and probably hunting for the insects.
Walking along that forest farmer’s road we came across many people carrying their baskets and we saw some mushrooms in them. And we knew that it is a mushroom autumn season but as we are no experts in this field we were afraid to collect the unknown mushrooms but have been always eager to learn more about how to differentiate them. As we love to eat them, we wanted to make some special meals with the different kinds.
So in such quiet pace enjoying the views of the valley and some snowy peaks in front we came down to the village Vilallobent. And we were out on the dirt route in between the fields. There we decided to have our lunch break stopping at the field with the horses. There were quite a few of female big horses and several babies too which were very cute. It was so lovely to have a rest there laying in the sun and finally getting warm.
Then we continued our way through the fields and beautiful autumn foliage. Here and there the roads were quite muddy but for the most part it was a pleasant and easy walk all the way to the town Puigcerda. We crossed several bridges and rivers and in a few kilometers got to the town.
We needed to shop for some food and also to find a new gas container for our stove because the one we had wasn’t giving enough flame already. So we went searching in a different shops and gas stations but had no luck there. Then we decided to cross to the neighbor village Bourg-Madame but still didn’t find any gas there. When we almost gave up on the idea we went to the last hardware store left back in Puigcerda and fortunately were able to buy it there.
As we wasted more than two hours in a search at that moment we had only an hour of daylight left and had to decide which way to go. In the end we were heading to Llivia village but following the different route through the village of Ur. Quite fast we were able to get to the route leading to Llivia as the trail was very easy. There we hoped to find a nice flat spot in the fields and be warmer at night as it was much lower than our previous night camp. When we got to the place it was already dusky but fortunately we were able to find the spot quite easily just getting away from the main routes deeper in between the fields. So we set up a camp, cooked our dinner and were good to rest thinking about the beautiful sunny day we had and the next day when we planned to hike up to Odeillo Via crossing the valley.