Meeting Maurice

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Refuge Tomy

Refuge Tomy

After many years of wondering who he was, I have finally met Maurice, on my last day walking the Pyrenean Haute Route. I had slept the previous night in ‘his’ Refuge Tomy and was slowly descending to Banyuls when I bumped into a man wearing a red bonnet climbing up, carrying an empty container. It must be him!

Tomy

Tomy

There were no grapes to be harvested, he told me, so he was on his way to take water up to the shelter close to the summit of the Pic de Sallfort. What dedication!

The shelter is named after his poodle Tomy, who was also a runner. He used to follow his master up the slopes but he aged more quickly than Maurice so he was left to rest under an overhanging rock. This led Maurice to think of making a shelter for hikers as well. He started work in 2003 or thereabouts.

 

My sleeping bag on the bench

My sleeping bag on the bench

 

Miniscule is the word for it. From the outside it looks like a little greenhouse, half hidden 100m NW of the point where the GR10 drops over the ridge. Inside there is everything a walker could need: benches which convert into a bed for three, mattresses, a gas stove, pans, and most importantly containers full of water. The nearest water is 20 minutes’ walk away. Maurice brings it up from the spring at least once a week in summer. He has had it analysed; it is drinkable.

We talk about the other springs at this end of the GR10, about walking, and I learn about Maurice’s friend François Grand who helped him build the shelter. But it is only when I arrive home that I discover I have been talking to a Pyrenean legend. Maurice Parxes has competed in the Course du Canigou 34 times. This year he yomped through the 34 km and 2180m ascent in 5h47. He is 74!

 

The François Grand spring, named after a friend.

The François Grand spring, named after a friend.

 

A note on the spring. The first time I saw it I thought it was almost dry but I had misunderstood how it works. The spring is only a trickle at the best of times. So Maurice has installed a cistern with a tap low down on the right (not easy to see). The overflow drips at the same rate that the water arrives, but there is always a supply of water.

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