We arrive in Pyrenees by car from the Vannes – the picturesque town in Brittany. You can read about our adventures in Brittany here. We are staying in a beautiful house in village of Lescun. We move in on June 25th 2012 and stay until July 5th. While here we used every single day to hike the mountains around. You can get the impression here. Not a problem if you don’t speak French – just click on any of the pictures and you are in a description of some route where you can view the route maps and photos.
Day 1. Gorge de Caqueta
Driving to Pyrenees. While moving through one of the towns we have to deviate from our route because of road repair works. We get to the road uphill to the castle. We have noticed the castle before but decided not to go because of lack of time. Still the Providence in shape of repair works have decided otherwise 🙂
Having done with castle viewing we proceed to Gorge de Caqueta in Pyrenees. Gorge de caquets is several kilometers long and narrow chasm with a wooden footbridges, handrails, waterfalls, wierd moss-grown trees and similar items. At the other end of the chasm there is a little grotto where comes out the stream we walked by and over all the way in the Gorge de Caqueta.
Getting back from the Gorge de Caqueta we drive to Lescun to search our accomodation. We drive very narrow serpentine about 30km. We have been instructed in an e-mail that we have to stop by the second house at the right in the village and ask for Mr. Passet. Everybody in the village knows him therefore no problems should occur. Except that he speaks only French. Thank god Ilze understands French 🙂
It turns out that theses instructions work very well in practice. We stop by the second house at the right. There is a correct name on the post box. The door is not locked and a sympathetic Frenchmen in his best years comes out to meet us. He shows where to drive (our accomodation happens to be near the house of Mr. Passet) and comes to show everything. Our house looks exactly as perfect as we have seen on the web page. In our disposition for two weeks will be the ground floor in a three storey house at the edge of the village. Here are three bedrooms, kitchen with everything we could need, guest room, bathroom and a terrace. At our disposition will be excellent view on the mountains and a small courtyard with a lawn. The only shortage (is it really a shortage?) is a lack of internet access – this is available whenever we will need but only in the house of Mr. Passet.
Day 2. Pic Ansabere
Perfect weather in the morning – sunshine, light wind, warm. We get ready for the first trip to lac Ansabere. When we arrive after 5km drive to the parking place we decide to get use of the excellent weather and to climb the Ansabere summit as well. The 2360m high summit is on the Spanish border. Height difference – about 1400m.
We get to the summit rather exhausted. The toughest are the last 200m to the summit. We take a rest here and watch how two mountaneers climb the nearby rock. The rock-column is close to our summit – there is only a 30-40m wide abyss between us and them. The column is about 300m high.
We return the same path. On a half way we replenish our empty water-bottles with very tasty and cold water.
Day 3. Le Pic d’Anie
It’s sunny and for the afternoon 36 degrees are forecasted. Therefore we get up earlier and move out to Le Pic d’Anie about 9am. Le Pic d’Anie is the highest summit in this part of Pyrenees – it has 2504m above sea level. The first hour we walk almost plane forest path. The sun is low and out path is mostly in a shadow. Despite of that we see some lizards by the path. Later on the forest ends and we come to stone covered mountain meadows with sun and wind. The wind is just what we need because it’s getting really hot.
Soon we are at the shepherds hut. Here the path turns into two and we are not sure wich one to follow. The shepherd helps us to decide. He guards himself with the large umbrella and we see why – his face and nose is badly burned.
After the shepherds hut the path gets steeper and stonier. We walk another couple of hours uphill around the mountain to get on the summit. We have spent for this almost four hours. There are more hikers on the summit except us. We shoot the mountains and ourselves, take a rest and then walk back down the same path. The descending is rather steep here and there 🙂
Day 4. Cueva helada de Lecherines
Through the 8.5km long tunnel of Somport we drive to Canfranc in Spain. Canfranc is located only a couple of kilometers after the Spanish end of the tunnel. Initially we walk the forest road and path, then about 20 minutes we ascend the hillock full of dog-rose bushes in blooms. We ascend to the shepherds hut and then follow the stony channel to the Cueva helada de Lecherines (ice cave). We approach the cave from the flank and I noticed it only when I am almost there. The entry hides itself in a rocky wall (at a 2050m height). The cold from the entry is as from the fridge. We put on extra clothes, take the lamps and in we go. We have to walk carefully because of the ice and water between the rocks in the cave. Having examined the cave about 100m deep we return – it is cold there and full of rocks and ice.
Returning back the same way we notice wild goats. and enjoy another time the hillock with dog-roses. Benita on the way back collects milfoil flowers. In the evening the terrace of our house gets decorated with a plate of milfoil and clover design 🙂
Day 5. Pic d’Aspe
The Lescun is covered by clouds in teh morning. We decide to go to Spain for the sun. We abandon the option to take a route at the French end of the tunnel of Somport because it is cloudy here as well. So we get into the tunnel and get out of it in a totally sunny weather 🙂 We drive to Villanua then turn West and proceed a narrow serpentine to Aisa. Then we take the road to the North and drive to the end of the road – el Riguelo parking. A cow feeds her calf in the middle of the road – we have to wait before we are allowed to park the car :-).
We follow the flat path to the shepherds hut, then cross a stream and then by a steeper path proceed to the “uneven carstic terrain” (a citation from the itinerary). The terrain is oneven indeed – it takes an hour to make our way between (šķirbainas klintis). The last section of the route to the summit is a very steep path and a strong wind. We spent another half an hour at the Aspe summit for recreation and shooting – Spanish mountains in a brigth sunshine to the South, West and East, clouds over the French mountains to the North. Perhaps the clouds get stuck in Lescun 🙂
Having seen everythin we move downhill.
Day 6. Le Pic de Gabardaille
Todays route starts near the (Espelunguere) parking place close to the French end of the Somport tunnel. The last 700m of the road is a wooden road featuring large pits. The path goes steeply uphill from the very start. Soon we get to the waterfall, then to the meadow full of beautiful flowers. After a couple of hours walk we take the wrong path and climb it about half an hour before we understand we are at the wrong side of the mountain. We don’t see another option than to turn back and to find the way to the correct side. The rocks here have a brownish-violet color.
Getting on a 2019m high pass we take a short rest and then by the mountains Spanish side climb to the 2258m high Pic de Gabardaille. We enjoy the stunning views despite of the strong wind that blows here. We recognize our yesterdays Pic d’Aspe. Very beautiful is Lac d’Estaens. We discover that laying down one can save oneself from the chilling wind :-).
We take another side of the mountain for the descend. Having lost the path we descend just straight down. This turns into a couple of hours of adventure. Several times we have a trouble to find a way to continue 🙂
We feel relieved when we get to the path at last.
Day 7. Pic de Anayet
It’s cold and cloudy. We drive to Spain – to the Canfranc ski resort. There blows a strong cold wind. We get into all the clothes we have and walk on. Strangely it gets warmer and the sun shows up from time to time between the clouds. We walk uphill by the Canal Roya – a several kilometer long dell, sided by the mountains. Marmots greet us whistling. Some of them show up.
At the heigth of 2km there should be the lake Anayet. We don’t see it because of the (ir fog). We procees to the summit hoping it will be above the clouds. Still the summit is in cloud as well, no sightseeing.
Descending from the summit we do find the lake Anayet and horses next to it. We stay here a while and enjoy the lovely sight. Then move on to the cold and windy (still) parking place. Shortly before it we notice the flock of about 40 vultures. This is impressive – time to time some of the huge birds take off, other ones land. We can not guess the reason for them collecting here. Hopefully not some tired hiker 😉
Day 8. Pic des Moines
The route to Pic de Moines (monks summit) starts in Spanish ski resort Astun near the Somport mountain pass. We spend an hour to find the start of the track. Our map should be out of the date because it does not show the route we follow.
It is sunny and hot. We ascend to the lake Escalar. There we take a short rest sitting near the lake. Then we move uphill to the Pic des Moines. The sights from the top include a number of lakes and the Pic du Midi de Ossau summit. We decide to make the way back longer by walking the mountain ridges at the Spanish border. What looks easy from the top appears to be more complex in practice. We descend by the rodge of one hill, then ascend to the next and this repeats again and again. After a long walk ouor car gets into sight at last. We decide to go down straight. This endeavour turns out to be more exciting than we expected. We slither down here the grassy ground and there the stony slopes. Finally we manage to get to the mountain road and then to our car.
Day 9. Chemin de la Mature and Pic d’Ayous
I wake up at 6am and catch sight of the summits of the Cirque de Lescun reddish in the beams of the rising sun. The sight is that magnificent that I hurry up to shot it.
We have planned for today to take a route that starts in valley Aspe and ends in the neighbouring valley Ossau. To do this I will walk the first section of the route with the others, then walk back and drive to the end point of the route, and then walk to meet the others. We calculate that Ilze, Benita and Imants will have to spend 8-9 hours for the route.
The route starts in Pont du Cebers. It follows the highroad then the stony path. In a quarter of hour we get to the start of the Chemin de la Mature (se more on Chemin de la Mature in a story of our previous trip). It is hot and we are wet with sweat while walking up the steep path of Chemin de la Mature. After less than hour we part and I return to the car to drive to lake Bios-Artigues in valley Ossau. The upper parking place is closed (perhaps it is full) therefore I leave the car in a stony meadow that is used here as a parkng place. The meadow already has some 50 cars and the paths are full of people. Obviously the vacation time has started.
I select the route by the right side of the lake and walk uphill to Pic d’Ayous. I walk alone so I am not sure about having the right direction. I follow the path by the lakes shore for too long and hence have to return to find the right path. Then I walk uphill the forest path and arrive at the pass where I can see the summit. The itinerary book tells that I have to walk another hour to get to Pic d. Ayous. At the moment I get the message from Ilze that they are already on the summit. With some message conversation over a very poor network we agree to go downhill separately and to meet near the end of the route.
Ilze, Benita and Imants have reached the pic d’Ayous after a five hours walk at about 2pm. The height difference 1650m. The path was not particularly steep (not so steep as the pastures of the horses). On the way they met several groups of hikers, one of them being a family that have rented a donkey. The family ascended slowly and reached the pass Ayous.
The rocks here are brownish-violet, the same as near Le Pic de Gabardaille. Descending from the summit my comrades walked near the three beautiful lakes. The main summit of this part of Pyrenees – Pic du Midi D’Ossau is at our sight most of the route.
I meet the others shortly after the end of the route.
Day 10. Oloron-St-Marie
The Lescun is in the clouds again in the morning. We decide to take a chance in Spain. The closer we get to the tunnel of Somport though, worse the weather gets. Thunderclouds accumulate. We get the hint, turn back to North and drive to Oloron-St-Marie. Oloron is a largest populated place in the region and we have to drive 40km to get there. It is warm and partly sunny in Oloron. An old lady suggests that we must see the cathedral of St. Marie, which is very beautiful. We follow the advice and the lady appears to be right. After seeing the cathedral we purchase very tasty muffins and consume them sitting on a bench in front of the town hall. Afterwards we move uphill to explore the Saint Croix quarter. It has a wonderful plane tree allee that looks like tunnel instead because the branches of the plane trees forming the arch above the heads of walkers.
On a way back to Lescun we take a stop in a tiny town of Sarrences. It is located a the foot of the hill in a bent of the road. We take a look on a local church and poke our noses through the gate of the monastery. We hear the voices from inside – perhaps of the pilgrims. The route of Santyago de Compostela goes through Sarrences and the writing on the gate reads that the pilgrims are welcome (not us 🙁 ).
Finally we drive to Lescun – tomorrow morning we will start our way back home.
Day 11. Carcassonne
After the 4 hours driving the Pyrenees serpentines (there we find an interesting monument of the Tour de France), then by the the highways we arrive in Carcassonne. The city has a long history. The first populated place was created there 3500BC, but a celtic town Carsac was a well known center of commerce 6th century BC. The romans started to erect fortifications here about 100BC, the lower part of the walls of the Carcassonne stronghold a remaining from this time. The old city (Cite de Carcassonne) is located on top of a hill inside the walls of the stronghold. The rest (Base de Carcassonne) – downhill outside the walls.
The stronghold gets visible as soon as we drive in the central part of the Carcassonne. The stronghold is very impressive – two rows of walls with 53 towers. You can get inside the walls through several gates – inside you will find old narrow streets with craftsmans and souvenir shops and cafes. We take a stroll through the streets, the cenral part of the fortifications and on the walls. Then walk to the close by pedestrians bridge accros the Aude river to take some overview shots of the stronghold. Then we proceed to the airport. In the evening we fly to Bruxelles Charleroi airport but next morning – to Riga.More photos