Sébastien and Jérôme: two cousins, two ‘ramborneurs’

I used to receive once in a while pictures of esfr-bordermarkers of Sébastian Marc and I wondered who he was and if he aimed at ‘doing’ all the esfr-bordermarkers. To my surprise, he happened to be not a retired sexagenarian or septuagenarian but a young and athletic man with a passion to find and photograph every esfr-bordermarker.

Sébastien is 44 years old and works in logistics. Being a devoted Pyrenees-walker since long, he started with ultra-trailrunning in the Pyrenees 10 years ago. And then he discovered the esfr-bordermarkers and that became his next goal. He has covered ± 75% of all esfr-bordermarkers and remembers bm542 as being the most difficult to reach, bm510 as the most beautiful, and bm143 as unfindable until now.

But he is not alone: he dragged his cousin Jérôme Loubière into this passion and Jérome started his own project to do them as well.

Jérôme is 45 years old and a mathematics and language teacher. He also mentions the bordermarkers near Coustouges (bm536-524) as being the most difficult and thinks that bm601 is the most beautiful with its view over the Mediterranean. He has done ± 50% of all bordermarkers.

They often go together for one or two days but in order to catch up with Sébastien, Jérôme also makes trips alone or with his family. They call themselves ‘ramborneurs’, I suppose a combination of ‘Rambo’ and ‘borne’.

And how far are they? Well, Sébastien is way ahead of Jérôme with 524 bordermarkers covered so far while Jérôme has done 363 markers until now. They both refer to the total number of 602 bordermarkers but in fact, there are a lot more markers. In my definition and counting (see this page), there are 723 markers that fit somehow in the alpha-numerical sequence between no. 1 (Basque country) and 602 (Mediterranean coast). There are 6 markers missing (see this page)
That leaves 717 individual markers to be photographed to enter the list of the ones who did them all (see this post).

And to finish: Sébastien has even baptized a stone pillar on his property as marker 603, to prove his devotion. He is not the only one to have a personal bordermarker in the garden: see Serge Poncet’s bm583bis.

Champagne at the border: Corinne’s final bordermarker

Saturday 11 September 2021: a very special day for Corinne Gourgeonnet. After 6 years, she completed her quest to find and photograph each and every bordermarker along the French-Spanish border.

The last one to do was well chosen: bm311 at Col de Sobe. A touristic train

brought her to Lac d’Artouste which left 2 hours of climbing to bm311. She was however not alone: she brought her son Arthur (see http://blog.grpdesbf.nl/?s=arthur) ánd Michel Molia (see: http://blog.grpdesbf.nl/?s=molia), the famous discoverer of the 408III-IV-submarkers. I joined them halfway on their climb and together we reached bm311.

At the spot we celebrated the event, Corinne opening a large bottle of champagne

and together we toasted to Corinne’s achievement.

Corinne was moved and that is understandable. She has enjoyed so much all her adventures along the border, mostly done as solo-trips which has been an experience in itself. And now it is all finished, as if you have reached the destination of a long, long pilgrimage…

For Michel, it was also a final trip. He is eighty years old and it’s been enough for mountain walking. In a way, he celebrated his own farewell trip with the same champagne.

By completing all esfr-bordermarkers, Corinne enters the Gallery of Honor of men and women who have done them all. She is the third woman who has accomplished this and the first one to do them solo. The list is now:

1. Javier and María-Jesús Sancho-Esnaola
2. Charles and Josette Darrieu
3. Jacques Koleck
4. Myself
5. Michel Molia
6. Alain Gillodes
7. Corinne Gourgeonnet

Was this Corinne’s farewell to the bordermarkers? Well, she confided to me in secret that she thinks of doing a multi-day stretch of my GRPdesBF-trail next year. And Arthur stated casually that he will start ‘doing’ bordermarkers when he is grown up. We will hold him to it 🙂

New update GRPdesBF-site

Pleased to announce a new update of my main site, covering the 8 day trips I did in June this year. See for the details this page.

A lot of information and pictures,  might be a bit too much for some of you. If so, I suggest these two picks:
12 june 2021: together with Carlos and Conchita Roca climbing to bm407 and back

18 june 2021: one of my longest border-hikes ever.

Daredevil Jean-Marc climbs to bm436

The bordercross 436 is a remarkable one: it is almost invisible, engraved high above the ground on this fierce rock.

Without paint or chalk, it’s very hard to distinguish cross and number on the rockface. You have to know where to look. I was very lucky in 2010 that cross and number were painted black at that time, faded away in later years.

Corinne Gourgeonnet visited recently this area in her quest to ‘do’ all esfr-markers – her project soon to be finished – and had her own luck. Her companion Jean-Marc dared to do some rock-climbing to chalk cross and number for her.

As you can see, the numeral 4 has been engraved in mirror writing, I have seen that more.

The Bis of 330bis painted

A recent discovery of Corinne Gourgeonnet: besides the bordercross of 330(-bis) a large ‘Bis’ has been painted in recent years.

A ‘Bis’ because there are 2 crosses 330:
– one at its original location ± 4km west of this one on another border pass (engraved in the 19th century)
– and this one at Port de Clarabide, engraved in 2003. The original cross was considered to be lost or unfindable around 2000 and so a new one was engraved at Port de Clarabide.

But the original 330 still existed at the Port d’Aygues Tortes which was called Port de Clarabide on old maps. And that’s where the Treaty prescribed the engraving of bm330. But the toponyms of both passes changed on the maps in later years. And that explains the confusion.

See also this post and this webpage.

So the new 330 is in fact a second 330-bordercross and should be referred to as 330bis. That’s why the ‘Bis’ has been painted. But who is responsible for the painting? We think it is Jean-Paul Laborie – commissioner of the Pyrenean border committee – who talked about it on our joint trip to the new ADR-bordermarkers in 2019: see this post.

And indeed, it was Jean-Paul Laborie who did the job, I guess in 2020. He wrote me that he took a chisel and red paint to the Port. But his chisel proved not to be sufficient for this type of hard granite. He could only engrave the “bis” rudimentarily and paint it red. He was glad to see on Corinne’s picture that it is still in good shape. He sent me this picture with the ironical subtitle “the engraver of the peaks in his works”:

 

Another fire on the border

In February 2021, Javier Martinez Ruiz reported a devastating fire on the borderline near the Atlantic Ocean (see this post: The Basque-border on fire).

The same situation occurred on the 31st of July on the very other side of the border: at the Mediterranean coast, live witnessed by Corinne Gourgeonnet:

Not long after, she went – together with her son Arthur – to the scene to see if the bordermarkers were damaged or not. Well, they survived pretty well:

Arthur is the youngest one in our band of brothers (& sisters) of the border. He made a splendid introduction by swimming, together with his mother, in 2018 to the cave with bm602. See this post: Corinne & Arthur: swimming to bm602!

Gorospil: the Bermuda-triangle of the esfr-border

Michel Molia (website) reported to me on July 9th that bm076 in the Basque country has disappeared:

Not an easy act of vandalism because bm078 was a massive pillar:

Bordermarkers do disappear or are destroyed on some occasions but in the case of bm076 (and bm076), this is not the first time. At least 5 or 6 earlier versions of bm075 and bm076 have been thrown into the valley or have been demolished. On this webpage, you can read their history. See also this blog post.

In the valley west of the ridge of bm075-076, a few of the lost markers have been refound in earlier years. We call it the Gorospil-cemetery:

Two weeks later, Michel undertook a search in the ‘cemetery’. But he couldn’t find this last lost bm076. What happened to it?

Alain Gillodes: all bordermarkers done

Alain Gillodes reported to me that on June 19th, 2021, he visited his very last esfr-bordermarker. It is perhaps the most iconic one: no. 602 in the Cova Forada, a cave at the Mediterranean coast, accessible only by boat or swimming.

It was a birthday present of his two sons who hired a boat to bring him to the cave. But the sea was quite rough,

too rough to get close to the cave.

The only way to reach the cave was by swimming – together with one of his sons – and it took 3 trials to get safely into the cave.

It was with immense joy that I could finally photograph this last marker“, wrote Alain.

With bm602, Alain has completed his quest of visiting all bordermarkers on the French-Spanish border. He started in 2015 and his pictures can be seen on this page and the interesting accounts of every trip on this one. He is not afraid of a dull bm-afterlife. As an enthusiastic cycler, he has conquered 6800 cols worldwide and he wants to reach the number of 7000.

By completing his quest, Alain has entered the Gallery of Honour of men and women who have covered each and every esfr-bordermarker. This Gallery  features (as far as I have information):

1.  Javier and María-Jesús Sancho-Esnaola
2.  Charles and Josette Darrieu
3.  Jacques Koleck
4.  Myself
5.  Michel Molia
6.  Alain Gillodes

And there are some people working hard on reaching that goal: Carlos and Conchita Roca (approximately 75% done) and Corinne Gourgeonnet (who wants to finish this year). Good luck to them.

Border-path in construction

In the middle of the Pyrenees, we find the river Garonne, originating in Spain and passing into France at Pont du Roi. The borderline follows the thalweg (= the line of deepest points) of the river for ± 750m. marked by bm409 and 410 at the north and south side of that stretch.

After the building of a barrage in France in the 1960-ies, the water level in the riverbed increased and its width got enlarged. To mark the borderline (thalweg) in the river 14 submarkers were placed along the elevated riversides. Seven on the Spanish riverside and seven on the French side, each showing the distance to the thalweg. They all look like this one:

Carlos and Conchita Roca (of this website) discovered last week that at the Spanish side, a concrete path is in construction, connecting the Spanish road south to bm409.

 

Let’s show some of Carlos & Conchita’s pictures:

This picture shows the connection to be made with the Spanish road.

Further on we see how the concrete path-in-construction looks like.

At the narrow parts, they are working at these kinds of constructions.

The concrete path is ending at bm409, with no sign of an extension north on French territory.

One wonders why such an effort is made: there was already a decent and scenic track along the river. A bit of improvement, safety cables at a few vertiginous spots, and a clear connection to the road south would have done the job. Never mind, I have another goal to check out in the summer when we can travel again (hopefully).

The Basque-border on fire

Javier Martinez Ruiz informed me of a devastating fire on 20-21 February 2021 along the borderridge in the Basque country between bm001 and La Rhune. See also this news-article

He sent me some pictures and comparing them with my pictures of June 2020, you can see the destruction.

This is a picture of mine of bm002 from June 2020.

And this how Javier found the terrain back.

And this is bm008 in perfect order in June 2020.

And this how bm008 looked right after the fire. We see a damaged marker but Javier is not 100% sure that it is caused by the fire. But shortly before, it was still in good shape.

I’m reluctant to say it but for us, as border-enthusiasts, such a fire offers also opportunities as I experienced on 12-9-2012  at the other side of the Pyrenees. An impenetrable maquis-terrain burnt to the ground and could be easily explored afterwards.,,,

By the way: Javier is a remarkable man. Living in Irùn, he published in 1995 a profound study of the bordermarkers 1-196 (see my literature-list, Javier agreed to make it accessible as a pdf-download). He still visits every single year almost every bordermarker from 1 to 235.