Pyrenees – Greenwich Mean Time

Pyrenees - gmt

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Luz-Saint-Sauveur: 42.869454, -0.002081
Lac Bastampe: 42.858185, -0.015040
Le Pic des Quatre Termes: 42.910156, 0.171279
Cirque de Gavarnie: 42.735041, -0.010827
Taillon: 42.712836, -0.050086
Pic du Midi: 42.908283, 0.144966
Lacs Ardiden: 42.878117, -0.046023
Pic de Leviste: 42.968545, 0.007132
Los Mallos de Riglos: 42.347774, -0.727121
Pic de Madamete: 42.895288, 0.105693
Pic de Gela: 42.728114, 0.096485
Pont d’Espagne: 42.872879, -0.109400

We have rented an apartment in Luz-Saint-Sauveur. As we found out later the apartment is located in Western Hemisphere while the local castle just a pair of km away is on the Eastern Hemisphere. Kind of Greenwich πŸ™‚

Our trip starts on 16th July 2011 4am and ends on 1st August short after the midnight.

Photos by Ilze and Imants Photos Photos

Pic des Quatre Termes

Day 1. To Dresden

We start our journey at 4am from our friends house in Grobina, West Latvia. It’s full moon and dark outside. We drive through Lithuania (the gorgeous sunrise dispels the fog) and reach the Poland at 9am in a bright sunshine.

The driving through Poland is just fine – if not the road repairs that follows one after another. We loose our way through Warsaw because of one of them. The picture after the Warsaw is just the same – one long road repair. The medium driving speed is about 50km/h.

This changes dramatically after the Vroclav when we come to a brand new freeway that takes us to our first accommodation near Dresden.

We reach the border of Germany at about 7p.m. The German policemen are checking our documents accurately.

Day 2. Cascades du Herisson

The road repairs continues in Germany as well – with only one more thankfully πŸ™‚ Perhaps we lost an hour because of that. It starts to rain as well and the rain follows as through the Germany almost till the France border. It’s sunny when we reach our second accomodation Auberge du Herisson (Hedgehog’s Inn).
We change our clothes and go out to view seven waterfalls of Herisson stream. The path takes us down some 250 meters by the waterfalls. Having a good view of them all we return by the same path. The dinner at the Auberge du Herisson completes the busy day.

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Day 3. Le Viaduc de Millau

We drive further on to Pyrenees by the Clermont Ferrand and Tolousse to le Viaduc De Millau. The tallest pillar is 343n high (the tallest bridge pillar in the World as our brochure says). The cars drive as high as 270m above the ground level and Tarn river.

There is a large parking place just before the bridge. Leaving the car there we follow the wide path up to the bridge. The view of the bridge is excellent here and we enjoy it a lot.

We drive further to town Albi next. Albi features a huge cathedral (the largest brick-made cathedral in Europe). We take a look on the cathedral, it’s beautifull garden and the stone bridges across the Tarn. There is a special point where one can make a shot of the two bridges as if they are one two storey bridge. Looks perfect.

Next we proceed to our Pyrenees accommodation in Luz (Luz-Saint-Sauveur). We find it only after making inquiries in a local cafe. The door of our apartment is open and the key is in the lock from the inside. We have a living room with a kitchen, parents bedroom, the small niche with a two storey bed (for children πŸ™‚ ), a bathroom, wc and a balcony.

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Day 4. Lac de Bastampe

The clouds have covered the mountains around in the morning – we wonder what the weather will be like. The today’s trip starts near the Luz. We have to drive across the impressive Napoleon bridge and then up by the mountain road a pair of km to the start of the track.

The path to Lac de Bastampe goes up the beautiful woody slope. The lake is 2019m above the sea level, the height difference is about 1000m, the total distance – 15km. The weather is capricious – partly sunny, partly foggy. When up near the lake we get surrounded by wet clouds. We get wet and cold – hence we decide to go down after a short rest.

When close to the parking the sunny weather is back. That’s ok.

Later on we stroll the center of the Luz and buy some treats. There is no internet in our appartment – still there is one outside the doors. That’s ok πŸ™‚

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Day 5. Le Pic des Quatre Termes

Our track starts near the mountain pass Col de Tourmalet. We park the car four km behind the pass in an empty parking place (a ski resort out of the season).

There is llama herd next to the parking place. The track to the 2724m high Le Pic des Quatre Termes follows the ski slope. The direction is upwards though. At the half way to the summit we turn to the steep path in a slope full of rocks and stones. The climbing is not so easy anymore, we have to work hard to get to the 2660
meters high pass. Standing on the pass one can see that our summit is wrapped in clouds. What we can see apart from the clouds looks like steep cone of solid rock. We decide that we will not manage this and select a slightly lower summit to conquer. The gorgeous view to the summits and number of lakes is the reward for this effort. Next we move further by the Quatre Termes because the descent is planned down the other side. Still the path we select takes us surprisingly to the Quatre Termes summit. πŸ™‚

The descent is a tough one – all the way through the chaos of rocks. The trip ends at 7p.m., it lasted more than 9 hours. We have walked about 10km, height difference 1100m.

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Day 6. Cirque de Gavarnie

We decide to take a look at the Cirque de Gavarnie – one of the popular tourist sites in Pyrenees. The track starts in the village Gavarnie. It is cloudy and rainy while we drive but the weather gets better when we arrive at the parking place (4 euros). The track follows the main street of the village initially. When out of the village it transforms to the wide path and starts to go uphill. The Cirque de Gavarnie is covered by the clouds mainly. When it shows up we see the high rock wall with several waterfalls looks stunning. We proceed to the main waterfall to take some shots (and get wet there in a second).

We take another path for the way back – it goes by the mountain slope to the Pailla cirque. The track is really good with beautiful views to the mountains.

We get back to our car and drive to Cirque de Tromouse. To get there we have to pay 4 euros and to drive 30 road bends. Still the cirque is not there – at least we cannot see it because of the fog πŸ™‚ We take a short stroll to the monument of the Virgin de Tromouse as long as we are there. The monument stands on a hillock in front of the (invisible) Cirque de Tromouse.

Back in Luz we by a Grand Polka (a large round loaf of bread) and go home to eat it πŸ™‚

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Day 7. Taillon

After the close examination of the weather forecast we decide to climb the 3144m high Taillon. It’s cloudy but we hope that higher in mountains it will be sunny. We drive to Gavernie and then to 2208m high Col du Tentes. The bright sun shines over the pass still the mountains around (Taillon inclusive) are wrapped into clouds. The track starts on an old unused road full of rocks and stones. The road ends by the pass on the Spanish border. There we turn to the track that takes us up in to the mountain to the Sarradets refuge. Next we follow the path over the glacier to the Breche de Roland (see here about our previous hike to Breche de Roland). We take a short rest in the gap and then follow the track by the Spanish side of the rock wall to the Taillon. The cold wind pushes a cloud across the path while we climb up the mountain ridge to the summit. And then we are up on the summit. The clouds are below us and we enjoy a gorgeous view around. Pic du Midi de Ossau with the observatory on top inclusive.

We find a shelter against the wind to have some rest and a snack. The latter activity attracts a number of alpine crows and some tomtit-like birdies. We treat them with bits of apple and take some shots.

We descend the same way.

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Day 8. Pic du Midi

Our destination for today is the 2872m high Pic du Midi. It’s cloudy but the weather forecast for Pic du Midi says – sunny. The track starts at the Tourmalet pass (2115m). The temperature is one degree above zero, but the weather forecast tells the true – the sun shines brightly above our heads.

At 8:30am we start our way by winding road and llama herd. The road moves in and out of the mountain shadow. It’s cold in the shadow. Still the views are great – to the mountains and to the white observatory building above our heads inclusive. The last section of the track is a steep path on a stone covered slope. We follow it up to the terrace of the observatory. It’s cold and windy. Having enjoyed the gorgeous views we find a shelter from the wind to have a rest.

When descending we notice that the clouds cover the summit in a quarter of hour. When we are down in the Tourmalet pass it is covered by a cloud as well.

We drive to a Campan village to see dolls – they are a human height and located everywhere. Some in the courtyard, some sits or stands on a balcony. We see there fireguards, a soldier with a canon, a wedding processy etc.

Having enjoyed the dolls we proceed to Col d’Aspin and then back to Luz. We find out that our apartment is located in Western Hemisphere
only half kilometer from the zero meridian while the local castle just a pair of km away is on the Eastern
Hemisphere. Cool πŸ™‚

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Day 9. Lacs Ardiden

No summits for today – we have decided to look at lakes Ardiden. We drive the mountain road through villages Sazos un Grust, then turn on the road suitable for jeeps mainly. Imants drives carefully and takes us safely to the parking place.

We start to walk a mountain path through a rocky pasture. The weather is cloudy-foggy. We get guide volunteer in a shape of black doggie. It gives us the directions and manages at the same time to herd cows and sheep we move along (not sure this is a paid job πŸ™‚ ).

Step by step we have ascended to a number of lakes Lac Grand d’Ardiden inclusive.It’s misty and cold. We find a shelter and have a lunch – our doggie guide inclusive.

We descend the same path – the fog transforms in clouds gradually and then clear away. Our volunteer guide switches to the next customer group to proceed with his duties πŸ™‚

On a way back to Luz we take a stop near Pont Napoleon and descend in the chasm below it. The bridge is even more impressive from there.

Later on in Luz we take a stroll in the town center enjoying the warm and sunny weather and the 11st century Templars church. Then across the bridge we walk to the neighboring village Esquieze-Sere to look at the castle ruins up on a hillock. Short before the castle we cross the Zero meridian – then enjoy the views of Luz (in Western hemisphere) from the castle’s terrace (in Eastern hemisphere) πŸ™‚

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Day 10. Pic de Leviste

The weather forecast tells – rain, partly cloudy. We secure us with raincoats and everything. The track starts near the ski sation Hautacam. The last kilometers to the parking car we drive in a fog on a bumpy road through puddles. We have alternatives here – to select (on a last stage of the track) one of the three summits. Shortly after we have started to walk it starts to rain and this continues all the way. The last stage before the summit is a steep, wet and muddy path. The magnificent nature and a pair of beautiful lakes uplifts us though.

The sights on the summit are perfect – on us I mean because there are no other ones. We find out the name of the summit (Pic de Leviste – 2463m high)Β  only when back home πŸ™‚ After taking some shots we slither back down.

The last two challenges for today – how to get out of the wet raincoats and boots and to get in a car without get drenched completely. And how to find a place in our apartment for all those wet things.

We have walked 14km, height difference – 900m.

To get back to senses we open up the second wine barrel πŸ™‚

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Day 11. Los Mallos de Riglos

The evening before we found a place where they does not forecast a rain. The place is called Riglos – it is a village in Spain 200km drive far from Luz accross three mountain passes. We found in the web ( the descriptions of a couple of trips near Riglos and other villages near it.

While driving in France it rains all the time. When we enter Spain across the Pourtalet pass the picture changes – the rain, clouds and cold does not follow us across the border.

Riglos is a tiny village at the front of huge reddish rock columns. The view is just stunning.

We start to walk from the village center and proceed uphill between the giant columns. The path bows around the columns – we can look at them and take shots from different sides. The track length – 5.5km, height difference – 400m.

Next we drive to the other side of the valley to the Aguero town. It has similar giant columns beside it. We tale a view of the church in the village center, stroll the streets and then drive a bit out of the village to see another church – a 12 century one.

Then we drive back. After a hot and sunny day to a rainy and green France.

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Day 12. Pic de Madamete

The destination for today is Pic de Madamete. The start of the walk is not far from Luz – near Gaubie bridge 5km behind Bareges village. It rains a bit while we are driving then the sky clears up and the sun rules. We take a moderately steep path through pastures (the herd of whitish cows and sheep with black and white legs there). We pass a number of smaller and larger lakes while ascending to Bareges pass (Col de Bareges – 2469m), then descend some 300m then up again to Col de Madamete and 2657 high Pic de Madamete.

One can see a number of lakes both our side and the other side (Park Neouvielle) from the summit. The Neouvielle summit is screened by the cloud unfortunately.

Gradually the mist comes up from the valleys. Still it is warm and sunny here on the summit.

The track we take to descend has a number of beautiful lakes to view. Along one of them (Lac Blanc) our path goes by the top of the huge dam.

We have walked 19km today, height difference 1400m.

For the diner we have goulash soup prepared by Benita in two large pots. We pour it into plates by metal cup (there is no spoon available in our apartment). We did not manage to save something for the next day πŸ˜‰

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Day 13. Pic de Gela

We wake up at 6am and drive to Cirque de Tromouse. We strongly believe that today the weather will be better then the couple of days before πŸ˜‰

The weather is cloudy and there is a fog on a way up to the parking place. Still our worries are baseless. When we leave the car the sun appears above the mighty rock wall.

We start to walk. While we move closer to the wall we get into wall’s shadow a couple of times to enjoy the sunrise again πŸ™‚ We walk by the wall there and back. Then ascend by a steep slope of marble to the Col de Seda and across it to the other side of the Cirque de Tromouse. There we move down to Col de Gela. The herd of about 40 wild goats moves by above us.

Next we ascend to the 2851m high Pic de Gela. Its cloudy on one side and sunny on the opposite. We take a rest and then start to descend.

We have walked 20km in 9 hours, height difference 900m.

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Day 14. Pont d’Espagne

We have an easy walk for today – a 500m up by the full of riffles Marcadou stream close to town of Cauterets. We walk a wide rocky path through the wood full of rocks. We are not moving fast because somebody stops all the time to shot the next rock or waterfall. We spend three hours on way up (instead of one and a half as the itinerary tells.

The end point of our walk is 1500m high Pont d’Espagne. The huge parking lot is full of cars. A lot of people have come to enjoy the bridge and the waterfalls near it.

We descend the same path. It’s warm and sunny, the lizards and snails are out on the stones to catch the warmth of the sun. In Railliere near end of the track we visit some souvenir shops and not in vain πŸ™‚

This is a last trip of our journey – tomorrow we return home.

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Day 15 and 16

We wake up at 3.30am and move out shortly after 4am The itinerary – Lourd, Narbonne, Millouse, Nurnberg, Chemnitz. We leave Luz in the dark and reach Chemnitz in the dark at 9p.m. after 1800km of driving. Tomorrow morning we proceed to Latvia.

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