We started to think about this trip right after back home from the previous one. We were considering Greece and some other options but we stopped on Pyrenees again. The plan was to put stop on Spanish side and spend more time here. Still we did not find a studio tipe accomodation at the Spanis side – instead we booked an apartment at camping site in village of Laruns in Franch side near the Spanish boarder.
I purchased a GPS tracker (MainNav MG-90D) to record our trips and to geotag Ilze’s photos. As usual we take care of track descriptions and maps.
Day 1. Pic Saoubiste (2261m)
At 9am on Thursday 18th September 2008 we land in Pau airport, get a Chevrolet Matiz and drive to the Spanish boarder – to Pourtalet pass (Col du Pourtalet). Our first hotel is an old white two-story building at 1800m above sea level right on the pass – the only building at the French side of the Spanish village El Pourtalet. We move in and hurry on to our first adventure which starts a couple of km back in France.
Our track goes by the main summit of the region – 2884m high Pic du Midi d’Ossau. We see it all the time during the trip (and we see it frequently during other days as well).
The track leads us to the rest house Refuge de Pombie (2031m), then to the passCol de Suzon (2127m) and to the summit Pic Saoubiste. We see goats and horses during the walk. The weather changes frequently – a cold wind is followed by warm and sunny, then drizzle. We spend 5 hours in total – not bad for the first day.
Day 2. Vertice d’Anayet (2559m)
We get up at 7:15am, take a French breakfast and drive to Coral de las Mulas – a sky resort some 10km deep in Spain. A road branch to the resort is barred by the gate. We see the other drivers stop by the gate, open the gate and drive further. We decide to leave the car by the gate and to proceed on foot. The resort is being prepared for the high season – the giant parking place is empty.
The weather is sunny but a strong wind blows. Behind the resort the stony path leads us up by the hillside. The mountains and the rocks are violet (they remind us the rocks in Corsica). We climb lakes of Anayet for the start. The lakes are sort of shrinked – one can see that they use to be considerably larger (when lot of snow melts, perhaps). Still they use to dry up totally. Next we climb to the pass and to the summit (Vertice d’Anayet). From the pass to the summit we follow the crest. There is a perfect view from the summit – Pic du Midi wrapped in clouds, the valleys full with white clouds.
Six French tourists climb the summit after us. They have a glass bottle of pink wine and wine glasses and they do use them on the summit 🙂 On a way down they ask us to join – to be sure we will not push accidentally the stones on their hads.
When back to the car we drive a little bit more to the South – till the town of Formigal. The town looks sort of empty as well. we have a lunch in a bar and then drive back to our hotel on a French boarder. The pass is covered with clouds.
Day 3. Puerto de Marcadou
We wake up at 7am and move out of the hotel. We drive again to Formigal. On the Spanish border we get stopped by the patrol – a group of men with machine guns and masks. Apparently we are not the ones they are searching for so we are allowed to drive further.
We drive through the Formigal and find a car park near the hillside. I try to talk with a Spanish hiker. He doesn’t speak English, me – Spanish. Since I suspect that the summit we se in front of us might need a special tools like ropes. My suspicion gets supported by the two other hikers. One of them speaks some English.
So we switch to plan B – Banos de Panticosa. This is a spa resort near the French border. Banos de Panticosa is surrounded by high mountains from three directions. The fourth is where the road comes in. The sunbeams touch the resort only a couple of hours around the noon. Currently the resort is very quiet – only the workers do their job to prepare everything for the high season.
Nobody gets in the resort with a car (except somebody with a right permit). We leave the car by the road in front of the post and move further by foot. First we have to pass the lake, then through the resort, then we find the path and climb uphill.
The path is stony and steep, nevertheless broad and safe. When we have elevated above the village we get the picturesque sigths on the lake and mountains across. We follow a quick stream Caldares de Banos with waterfalls here and there. Further uphill we have sights of reservoir – Embalse de Bachimana Alto. It looks strange – like lake with half water let out. We can see that the level of the water happens to be some ten or more meters higher.
We pass by the lake’s left side and climb uphill to the French border – to the pass to Marcadou valley (Puerto de Marcadou). There are interesting layered layered rocks on our way. The pass seems not enough though – we proceed to the summit on the left from the pass. There we have a short break and then descend the same way. On the way down we nibble with the wild (mountain?) raspberies.
On 5pm we jump in the car and drive to Laruns – to our camping apartment. It has two bedrooms, kitchen, shower room, toilet, and a place outside the building (rounded by 3m high hedgegrow).
After we have moved in we drive to the town center for shopping. Still we do net realize that we will need something to light the gas range on. This we foind out when all the shops are closed. I drive to the town again to obtain a fire 🙂 Thanks to a kindness of the owner of the vine store I get the lighter. That’s cool!
Day 4. Pic d’Er (2205m)
The trip starts by the tiny parking place 2km before village Gabas. We cross the road, sneak in the wood and climb the path uphill right through the bushes full of sweet blackberries. Marking the fact for later use 🙂 we proceed uphill by the path that runs through the wood – covered here with stones and there with fallen leaves of beech. After a couple of hour hike we get out of the wood ina small meadow, then again through the wood we walk round the hill to Lac
Getting at the lake we take a rest on the small hill near the lake. After having enough rest we proceed to the summit. It appears to be not obvious which is the right summit. We walk partly by the path and partly just in sort of right direction accross the meadow. Then we notice the group of people having a rest on the summit above us and direct our way right to them. To our great pleasure this appears to be Pic d’Er. The last stage of the path follows the mountain ridge – not a big surprise.
While we discover the summit a group of French people join us. After some chat (“where are you from” type) we start to descend. Initially we let them go ahead of us but on a halfway down we outrun them and get the approving comments – obviously on our downhill techniques 🙂
Having reached the blackberries we accomplish our trip-long dreams 🙂 The blackberries are perfect!
We finish the day in our outdoor rest place with a cider and a mountain view.
Day 5. Pic du Lurien (2826m)
Our day starts at 6:30am. We drive to lake Fabreges. Here is the cable car that takes us to the tourist train Petit train de Artouste. It pretends to be the highest train in Europe. Still our plan today is to climb from the lake 1600m up to Saint Lurien summit and then down to the lake Artouste where the train track ends.
We leave the car at the base of the cable car track and walk by the lake to the start of the path. We find it after a km walk and about 9am start to ascend at the level of 1200m. The path goes steeply up through a pine wood which ends at 1600m. Further on we go across the meadow up to the lake. The herd of cows pastures here. The cows are all around – by the lake and high up the hills in between the rocks. Looks idyllic.
Nearby we see a couple of cow’s skeletons and a one half eaten specimen – a natural landscape. Perhaps it happens that a cow falls down from the rocks?
We proceed to Lac du Lurien and to the pass of the same name (2250m). At the pass we take a rest and then by the stony/rocky path climb to the summit Pic du Lurien. Several times we have move on all fours. The last stage to the summit goes by the mountain ridge (an easy path as the guidebook tells – still some of have a different point of view). Still we make it to the summit and does not regret that. A gorgeous view on the lake
Artouste and several other lakes and mountains around from the summit.
A quick snack here and we proceed to the Lurien pass and further to lake Artouste. Looking from the pass lake seems at a close range. Still we spend more than hour untill we are there. The last part of the track we have to hurry up to catch the train at 4:15pm.
It is warmer at the lake Fabreges though. We have a coffe, tee and tarts (apple and bilberry) at the cafe. Delicious!
Day 6. Aas, Eaux-Bonnes
The weather is cloudy and damp. We get up at 7:30am. Breakfast and shopping, then off to explore what’s nearby. Our track goes uphill to the villages Beost un Aas. Aas village is famous of it’s whistling language that has been practised by the local shepherds. We found the memorial plaque by the wall off the church yard – the last whistling language practitioner has gone to the better world in year 1986 🙁 This is a pity because this leaves only therr places on the map where they still use a whistling language – namely Turkey, Canary Islands and Mexico.
We have planned to climb to the nearest summit next. Still we get lost and walk to the nearest town instead – to Eaux-Bonnes
(good waters). The town is situated at the steep uphills of the narrow valey. Our track goes by the side opposite to the town and we have a perfect sight of it. After having a stroll through the Eaux-Bonnes we walk back to our camping by the old Laruns road. It rains all the time – the lazy day for our camera.
We take another stroll in the afternoon – around Laruns. Our camping is situated by Quartier Pon which is the old block of the town with only one very narrow street and houses stucked closely in a row. Looks like a street is just another room for the locals – everything looks so close and tiny. Charming.
Day 7. Pic Sanctus (2482m)
Cloudy outside today. We select a track that goes from the close by sky resort Gourette to the Spanisj borer an Sanctus summit (Pic Sanctus).
We visite Gourette last year as well. This time the picture is very much the same – the town is empty because the high season has not arrived.
We start to go at 9am to lake Anglas. The weather changes frequently from foggy to sunny and back. We have a look at old iron mine, at least what has been left out of the iron mine – old railway track and a carriage. Right by the mine we see flying two giant vultures. They fly unpleasantly close to us.
When we are up by the lake Anglas, we hardly see it because of the fog. While we walk by the lake the fog disappears and we have a full sight of the very picturesqye lake.
Further on we climb to another two lakes – Uzious and Lavedan. They are beautifull as well and they get covered and uncovered by the fog several times while we walk by.
From lake Lavedan we ascend to pass Uzious (Col d’Uzious), then by the stony and steep path we proceed up to the summit Sanctus. The weather changes again from the perfectly sunny to the cloudy when we approach the summit. Close to the summit two vultures start to circle above our heads. They fly so close that we clearly see how they move the heads and watch us. We try to look as upalatable as possible 😉
Back to lake Uzious we follow the same path. Further we select another track that looks perfect at the beginning but later becomes steeper and steeper. We have to hang to the chains and then climb down by the large water-pipe. In a while we are in place where the track goes just vertically down. Ilze opens the track description and reads that we must climb down between the cliff and the pipe. To our surprise we manage to do that and to get down!
Day 8. Pico de Baciasa (2671m)
Waking up at 6am. Cloudy – but with a room for improvement 😉 We drive to Spain – to Banos de Panticosa again. On the way to the border there are still clouds around but later it changes to sunny, yet chilly. A thermomether in a Spanish village shows 6 degrees. We leave the car at the road side just before Banos de Panticosa – the same place as the first time.
We ascend by the path in the hills shadow. It is cold – we eat frosted billberries. Only at 11am we are out of the shadow and in the sun (we have a plenty of sun after that – the faces get burned red). We climb up to lake Ibone del Brazato. Later on when over the hill we see another three lakes
– Ibones Altos del Brazato. Mainly the track goes over the stone covered fields. It leads us to a pass Cuello Alto del Brazato and at last to the summit Pico de Baciasa.
We notice that there is a cold wind when ascending and descending from the summit. Still – it is warm and no wind at the top!
On a way down we nibble with billberries again – thawed this time. We have raspberries as well.
On a way home we get stucked before Eaux-Chaudes. A giant flock of sheeps has filled all the road. We follow the flock some five minutes (several cars in a row behind us). Then shepherds asks as to drive by. We do that – by the roadside and then just by the meadow next to roadside. Still we get through somehow.
Day 9. Pic de Peyrelue (2441m)
We drive to the Spanish border – to Col de Pourtalet. Some 3km before the border we stop at the tiny parking place and off we go. There are clouds here and there but above us the bright sun shines. We ascend to the shepherds hut Cabane de Peyrelue and further up to the beautiful meadow surrounded by the hills. Here we see the other hut and Pic de Peyrelue behind it. The summit seems so close that we decide to take another track before. We climb the pass Port View de Salient and then a little bit higher towards Pic d’Estremere. We stop at the place with excellent view to the Spanish mountains and Coral de las Mulas where we have been a couple of days ago.
Having had enough sightseeing we go back to the meadow and then to the summit Peyrelue. Behind the hut we loose the path and further climb up straight to the summit. This is not hard to do because the way up goes through the meadows. We find our path again somewhere between pass
Port View de Salient and summit Peyrelue. Further on our path goes by the mountain ridge and Spanish border. We see the Spanish mountains and villages again, further on the reservoir Embalse de Lanuzo and village Lanuzo. We see Formigal and village El Portalet where we spent the first two nights.
We proceed by the ridge to the summit. Cold wind blows while we go to the summit but up there is warm and pleasant weather. We spend there some time enjoying the landscape. For the way back we select another valley – Ourade. There pastures one sheep, another one we see close by – dead and partly eaten. In a stream nearby lays a horn. A perfect souvenir.
Ilze finds an amazing view to a close by cliff – it looks like lying dog. We descend to the first hut and then to the car.
On a way home after Eaux-Chaudes shepherds goad a herd of cows. We outdrive them without major problems, except maybe a couple of corns too close to our car windows.
Day 10. Pic de Sagette (2030m), Col d’Aubisque
Waking up at 7am and cleaning our apartments. Today we drive once more to lake Fabreges and leave the car in parking place near Artouste cable car. The plan is to walk uphill by the mountain-biker’s path to the Pic de Sagette. We thought it will be an easy walk – but the reality is a little bit different. I would rather not drive by that kind of path!
The weather is sunny but not particularly warm (8 degrees at the parking place). We nibble the blackberries and billberries. A birdie in a bush apparently enjoys beeing photographed. The path mainly goes through the wood. We meet several whimpering dogs runing downhill. Seems like they have been taken uphill and then released to run down. But that’s only our interpretation.
We walk up to the upper end of the cable car track. Then we go by the tracks of Artouste train (apparently this section not used for a long time). Then we make it to the path that leads us up to the summit. There is a panorama tablet – we can find on it the mountains around. It is great there on the summit – we sit for some half hour and enjoy the sun and the beauty around us. Bad luck with the Lurien – the clouds does not allow to see it. We see though another summit we have conqueered – Ayon, d’Er, Saoubiste. We see lake Boius d’Artigous – empty last year, now full with water.
When back at Fabreges we eat tarts again – bilberry and basque (the second one is not a berry 🙂
We decide to have one more adventure before returning home. We drive to Col d’Aubisque – the pass we visited last year and did not see anything because of a blind fog. This time it is different – the sun shines over the pass and dark clouds move around and this makes a brilliant landscape (some shots are as good). Like last year we walk to the close by summit Soum de Grum. Watch the sights we missed last year.
In a parking place we eat croissants and drive away to Pau. Next morning flight to London and Riga.