Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

A Pyrenean Wander – Part 2

In Part 1 I covered my journey west from L’Hospitalet Pres L’Andorre to Luz Saint Sauveur, mainly following the GR10. After 3 weeks on the trail, which seemed to me to be dominated by endless days of big ascents/ descents through forests, I was eager to be in the higher mountains with open vistas & fresher air. On the positive side after completing 300km & 21km ascent was feeling a lot fitter.

The plan for Part 2 was to take in some of Veron’s High Level Route (HLP), some GR11 variations & generally take a bit of a wander to end up in Latour de Carol/ Enveitg.

I stocked up with supplies at the good supermarket in Luz Saint Sauveur then jumped on the morning bus to Gavarnie (€2). Setting out from Gavarnie at 10:45 is hardly a crack of dawn start but the intent was to have an easy day……just a hop over to the Val D’Estaubé.

Day 19 – Gavarnie to Cirque de Troumouse; 20km, 1600m↑, 900m↓.

Gavarnie was its familiar self with lots of tourists making their way towards the cirque, only a few whistling stuffed marmots graced the roadside though as recent rain had forced them undercover. A bit overcast but that would serve well for the forthcoming 1000m climb carrying a weeks’ supplies.

I took a lunch break just above the Refuge des Espuguettes, then climbed the remaining 300m to the Hourquette d’Alans, 2430m, a fine spot to admire the border ridge while contemplating the 600m descent to come (the pass opposite is the Puerto Nuevo de Pineta o de Lera, 2464m, which provides a connection route with the GR11).

Even with my deliberate dawdling it was still only mid-afternoon as I reached the Puente de Espuguettes, just upstream of Lac des Gloriettes. Options; sit around until all the day trippers disappeared or continue? Continue it was with the intent of walking for an hour or two, finding a quiet pitch & putting the feet up. Less than an hour later I found a nice spot.; a flat level pitch with water on the door step & no cattle.

But the first sight of the Cirque de Troumouse had wetted the appetite for a closer look.

The route proved easier to follow than I had anticipated, not overly used but well-marked with cairns & yellow paint flashes, I was soon passing the Auberge du Maillet, 1830m.

Beyond the Auberge a steep section of minor private road climbed up to the Vierge de Troumouse, an expanse of undulating grassland overlooked by the cirques’ cliffs. Unfortunately, the cloud base had dropped obscuring the cirque……perhaps in the morning? I soon found a good spot to pitch up well away from the road head & settled in for the night……time to consume some of that pack weight.

Day 2 –Troumouse to Cirque de Barroude; 14km, 1200m↑, 900m↓.

A chilly night & the morning brought clear skies with a cloud inversion filling the Heas valley.

The cirque looked magnificent but unfortunately the position of the morning sun precluded a full camera panorama.

I stuck my head into the Cabane des Aires, about 2km on from where I’d pitched, it would have been a good place to spend the night. Immediately above the bothy lay the route up to Col de la Sède (2640m), I say route rather than path as that’s what it turned out to be, a rather vague line of cairns that zig-zagged up the steep rocky slope.

Pretty impressive scenery over the pass though.

And a very atmospheric view down to the Barroude lake.

By the time I’d reached Col de la Géla (2678m) the cloud had really rolled in from the north obscuring the Pic de la Géla & the Barroude cirque below. Time for a lunch stop to see if it blew away……it didn’t.

With plenty of time on my hands to get down to Barroude I decided rather than take the direct descent from Pic de la Géla (2800m) to Hourquette de Chermentas (2439m) I’d take a wander. After visiting another cairn in the mist, Géla, I picked up the pack & headed off north following a cairned trail across the scree slopes to the Hourquette de Heas (2608m) & connection with the HRP.

Thick, wet, low cloud blanketed the route to Barroude reducing the vis to less than 10m, I only realised that I was at the lake when I stumbled upon the steeping stones across the outfall. I briefly thought about heading over Port de Barroude & dropping down to the Cabane de Barrosa for the night but dismissed the idea as it would mean an additional 600m ascent in the morning. I worked my way around to the north end of the lake & pitched up; it wasn’t even 4pm but who was going to see me!

A pretty miserable evening ensued, a stiff wind blew the wet cloud through the Duomid which condensed onto everything, even the mesh of the nest was beaded with water; I sat for hours in waterproofs not wanting to get the quilt out until time for bed.

Day 3 – Barroude to ‘A pond’; 11km, 800m↑, 800m↓.

2am and I awoke to a storm in full swing, lightning lit up the sky, the thunder seemed almost continuous, freezing cold & gusts were really hammering the Duomid making the pole bend too far for comfort. I spent the next couple of hours hastily grabbing the pole as I heard the next ‘freight train’ approach……& wishing I was in a cosy bothy. Marble sized hail battered down & sometime later the torrential rain started. After an hour or so the hillside was flowing with water & a stream ran through the Duomid; a good test of the nests’ bath tub which fortunately proved 100%. I must have finally nodded off for an hour or so, awakening at first light with the storm still rumbling on. At least the thunder was less frequent & rain sounded lighter; no point in rushing…..breakfast in bed!

It was after 9am, & 3 coffees, before the storm finally sounded to be moving on & I started packing up; nearly 10am before I was underway. Despite the heavy rain the world outside was still white with hail stones, in the gaps in the low cloud I could see torrents of water cascading down the Barroude wall.

I was a bit dubious about following todays’ planned route along the border ridge but on reaching Port de Barroude (2535m) I decided it didn’t look too bad so set off east (if the weather turned nasty again there was lots of potential escape routes).

Pico Del Puerto Viejo (2723m) was another windy cairn in the mist, beyond I managed to find a sheltered spot at Puerto Viejo de Bielsa (2365m) to grab a bite to eat before stumbling onwards. Pretty slow going along the ridge at times with route choices around obstacles being obscured & lots of annoying ‘wrong’ turns.

It was 5pm when I eventually decided to leave the ridge, about 0.5km east of Port de Héchempy, in search for a pitch for the night, 2km down the gently descending path I found a good pitch near a small pond (2365m, ~UTM 31T 274230 4733536) with only a few sheep for company.

Day 4 – ‘A pond’ to Bordas de Puyales; 16km, 1000m↑, 1700m↓.

Another chilly night despite going to bed with the fleece on, it probably felt colder since the quilt felt a bit damp from the previous night. A light frost coated the grass as I set off but I soon warmed up on the climb to Port de Moudang (2495m) with fleece & full waterproofs on. I continued along the border ridge amongst the clouds.

Pic Arriouère (2866m) was crossed & on towards the Pic de L´Espade (2820m) where I pulled up on a col about 500m from the summit; through the swirling cloud I got glimpses of the route ahead & I didn’t like the look of it at all. It appeared to be very steep scrambling up a rocky ridge…..I decided a bit of discretion was in order so back tracked towards Port de Arriouère (2579m) to have a think.

The optimum thing to have done would probably have been to continue back over Pic Arriouère & descend east down to Hospice du Rioumajou but I decided to descend west into the Trigoniero valley, just because I’d never visited it before.

Ibón de Trigoniero (2400m) was easily reached, it turned out to be a very pretty spot for lunch & warm enough to strip off the fleece & waterproofs.

The 400m descent down to the valley below was a little more challenging, the map showed a path close to the outlet stream, which cascaded very steeply down the hillside. After a number of tentative forays, I decided I wasn’t going that way without a rope & rappelling from tree to tree! I zig-zagged down, well to the left (south), only finding a path 50 – 60m above the valley floor & that was heading even further south. The ridiculousness of the mapped path became really apparent as I looked back (red = path on map; yellow = my descent route).

The descent down to the Parzan road (& junction with the HRP) was pleasant enough but thoughts of the long climb up the Urdiceto track (11km & 1100m ascent) were always in the back of the mind. The climb up the track proved less taxing than I remembered, probably since it was cooler than on previous occasions, I stopped a little short of half way up the climb & pitched up on an old terrace, a fine spot with level soft grass & water nearby.

Day 5 – Bordas de Puyales to Camping El Forcallo; 16km, 900m↑, 1000m↓.

A day on cruise control, a good track/ path & having past this way previously it was just put one foot in front of the other. I did call into the Cabaña de Llisier (~1750m), around 2km before the road junction in the Cinqueta valley; found it in reasonable condition with water nearby.

Cruising on I found myself at Camping Forcallo at lunchtime, so I enquired about the possibility of eating………Si…….10 mins. I waited on the menu nursing a beer (I had thoughts of moving on) when a large bowl of pasta bolognese arrived, the ideal backpackers’ lunch!

Before I finished the pasta a plate of salad & another of pork chops & chips had arrived, they must be mind readers; thoughts of moving on evaporated & I ordered some wine…….well, cloud was also moving in & it looked like rain again. Fortunately, the storm didn’t break until after I’d pitched up & showered.

Day 6 – Camping El Forcallo to Ibón Grande de Batisielles; 16km, 1700m↑, 1100m↓.

Rather than to follow the GR11 trade route I’d decided to take the more scenic GR11.2 over to Benasque, after a gentle climb up past the Refugio de Viadós a turn south marked the start of the 1100m climb.

The scenery just got better & better.

And the granite wilderness stretched out east beyond Collado de Eriste (2855m).

I had thought to pitch up at Ibón de Eriste but I’d arrived quite early (3pm) so I climbed above the lake a little, found a shady spot & put my feet up to ponder where to head. I noted a group heading for the lake with what were the largest backpacks I’ve seen in years (short of being on a Sherpas’ back), a bit of a long range shot for the camera but you’ll get the idea.

I eventually continued over the Collado de Plana (2703m) & descended to Ibón Batisielles finding a nice lakeside pitch.

Day 7 – Ibón Grande de Batisielles to Camping Aneto; 7km, 100m↑, 1000m↓.

A bit of a lazy start but it was a sparkling morning, nice setting & no wind; another baking hot day was definitely in the offing though.

Besides it was an easy cruise into town kind of day with the only thing timetabled being a long lunch, plus tomorrow was going to be an R&R day since I was a few days ahead of my schedule.

Day 8 – Camping Aneto to Ibón Bajo de Ballibierna; 4km, 500m↑, 0m↓.

The days’ normal start time was long gone before I even awoke, there’d been a slight hiccup over yesterdays’ lunch. All went well until the eating had finished, I’d only had a couple of glasses of vino in anticipation of an early departure when I starting chatting with an English couple doing the GR11 (Steve & Susan). Well one thing led to another & before you know it a lot of vino had mysteriously evaporated. I had resigned myself to spending another night on the campsite but the baking heat running up to midday spurred me into action……the tent was down & bag packed……I headed for another 3-course lunch then jumped on the 3pm ‘Cloud bus’ up to Vallibierna (1960m, on the GR11). The ‘Cloud bus’ (€13.50) is an alternative to a 4 hour hot slog up a forestry road, well worth it in my opinion; take the RH window seat to admire the 3 – 400m drop into the river at the roads’ edge!

The dawdle up the valley from the road head was slower than usual thanks to a full stomach & ½ bottle of vino tinto. I was heading for Ibón Alto de Ballibierna at around 2480m, only a 500m climb but I opted for the slightly lower Bajo de Ballibierna, 2440m, when I spotted a decent pitch.

Day 9 – Ibón Bajo de Ballibierna to Hospitalet Vielha; 16km, 800m↑, 1500m↓.

An early start after a good nights’ sleep in the cooler mountain air ensured that I made the easy 300m climb from the lakes up to Coll de Ballibierna (2725m) in the morning shade.

Then clicked on the cruise control for the familiar journey over to the Anglios lakes in the increasing heat.

It was baking hot by midday as I reached the Refugio de Anglios so I descended to the valley to a shady picnic spot beside the Riu Ixalenques (table & seats with a back!), shoes & socks off, relax for over an hour.

The cruise ended about 1km east of the old Refugi de Conangles on a plateau next to the Barranc D’Estanh Redon; after a hot day, it was good to have a rinse down in the river.

Day 10 – Hospitalet Vielha to Estany Del Port de Caldes; 13km, 1300m↑, 500m↓.

7am & on the move again, the morning sun provided a spectacular view up the Ribereta valley to the Coll de Mulleres (2928m).

Another baking hot day had developed by the time I reached Refugi Restanca but I managed to find a shady spot away from the day trippers & settled down for a long lunch break.

After a 500m climb up to the Coll de Oelhacrestada (2480m) I entered the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici (what a mouthful) with its annoying (but understandable) camping restrictions; the scenery is really wonderful.

It’s worth noting that a hut to hut tour, the Carros de Foc provides a popular weeks’ outing around the park, not particularly arduous & great scenery.

I wasn’t in any particular hurry & took a bit of a wander around some of the lakes finally ending up near Estany Del Port de Caldes where a suitable pitch for the night (clear of cow muck) had been stumbled upon.

Day 11 – Estany Del Port de Caldes to Estanyoletes de Garrabea; 19km, 1200m↑, 1300m↓.

Once over the Port de Caldes (2560m) it was an easy downhill passage down to Lac Major de Colomérs (2122m).

I planned to bypass Salardu & follow a high route east so I crossed the dam following the GR11 for 500m before turning NE heading for the Refuge Saboredo. After a gentle start the path turned east & climbed quite steeply to the Coth Deth Tuc Gran de Sendrosa (2456m) before descending into the upper Saboredo valley.

Rather that follow the path to the refuge I took a short cut down into the grassy corrie to join the track just across the meadows; well I say track it looked more like a dry river bed.

3km down the track I turned off onto the GRM 16 (yellow flashes) which after a short steep climb contoured around the hill to Port Bonaigua (2077m) where I’d thought to spend the night. It turned out to be not a ‘nice’ place; ski lifts, large bulldozed carparks, gravel roads & the streams were dry. I suppose I could have bought some water from the nearby restaurant but my mind was made up, ahead there was plenty of lakes & streams ahead shown on the map.

About 700m down the road (SE) I turned E & climbed a feint path which zig-zagged up to Bassa de Boscàs; a muddy livestock wallow, not the best start on the water hunt.

A short climb led up to Coll de L´Estany Pudo (2336m) overlooking Estany Pudo.

Plenty of water down there & what looked to be good pitches but I’m too lazy to give up height unless I have to. A pleasant path contoured above the lake before gently climbing to a col (2391m) overlooking the Garrabea lakes.

I got pitched up near the upper lake, 7pm, a little late but the grassy level pitch with water nearby was worth it.

Day 12 – Estanyoletes de Garrabea to La Noguera Pallaresa; 15km, 650m↑, 1500m↓.

A bit of a later start than usual due to over-sleeping after the long day yesterday, 8am. The route down to the lower lake was plain enough to follow then got a bit vague around the outlet with lots of boulders. My planned route, contouring directly northeast looked a bit impractical, very rough ground & many boulder fields.

I ended up descending east for 500m or so down to a meadow just above Estany Del Rosari D’Àrreu & picked up a feint path which I presumed to be the GRM 16 Var shown on my map. I spotted a few yellow flashes but soon lost the path, a bit of ‘improvisation’ was needed to get up to Estany Superior Del Rosari (2281m) where I stumbled on the path again. The path led easily up to a col overlooking Estany Petit D’Airoto & the Cabane d’Airoto.

The bothy turned out to be one of the best maintained I’ve come across in the Pyrenees & a good place to stop for lunch.

Claude turned up as I was about to leave, he was ~30 days into the Veron HLP west to east & I’d kept seeing him in the distance some way behind…… after a few brief words we said our goodbyes.

The path from the bothy climbing the 200m up to the Collada Del Clot de Moredo (2420m) proved easy to follow, time for the 1200m descent to Alos de Isil.

The descent was easy enough down the Bordes de Moredo (1700m), where the ‘fun’ began; I’d been this way previously on the HRP & got really confused. About 200m beyond Moredo the route turned steeply downhill & entered the woods with numerous cattle tracks. I eventually found a way down to the village, definitely not the optimum route, encountering three parties equally confused trying to find the ascent line; nothing that a chainsaw wouldn’t put right!

By 3pm I was sat in the village square under the trees musing about where to head for; I could continue up the Comamala valley but I knew the first decent pitches were a 500m climb OR walk to the Refugi del Fornet about an hour up the road OR head up the road & hopefully find a stealth pitch……….I decided on the stealth option.

I finally hit the road about 4:30pm & who should be 50m ahead but Claude, it turned out he had the same plan. We eventually found a good spot on an old riverside terrace very near the bridge over to the Comamala valley. We were well screened from the road but still waited until around 7pm to pitch up & were soon joined by a couple who’d been idling the time away by the river.

Day 13 – La Noguera Pallaresa to Bordes de Graus; 13km, 1500m↑, 1500m↓.

Claude was up & away at the first crack of day-light (before 6am); just as I was getting the morning coffee going. It took around 1 ½ hrs to climb up to the grassy meadow where I’d thought to camp (~1900m).

No time to dally though there was still a 600m climb up through the rough ground to get to the col. An easy path led up to the small Basa de Sobriu (2070m) to where the rough stuff began……lots of boulders to climb up to the Coll de la Cornelia (2485m).

And then the very steep grass/ scree descent down to the Estanys de Tartera below.

After a brief stop at the lakes to top up on water, intake some calories & it was off up the gentle climb to Coll de Curios (2428m) where I left the HRP. Turning south, passing the Estany Calberante (2380m), crossing the outfall then picking up an ‘un-mapped path’, signposted ‘Els Tres Estanys’. The path climbed gently to surprisingly, three lakes, with only Estany de Dalt (2420m) being named on my map. It would have been a fine place to pitch up for the night with a multitude of good spots & little cow mess but I was for pressing on so made the short ascent east to Col del Forn (2520m), a fine place to look back & admire the scenery.

The 1200m descent down to Graus proved pretty rough going, little in the way of a path, steep grass/ scree & as usual lots of boulders, quite hard on the knees at the end of the day.

I made it to the bar at the Bordes de Graus at 5:30pm, consumed a large cold one before pitching up, showering & then hitting the restaurant for dinner. The Bordes de Graus turned out to be a good ‘find’; the cheapest camping I had in the Pyrenees (€5.50), the pitch & site facilities were good & the restaurant served up good 3-course meals for €15 including wine. I ended up staying a couple of nights & eating lots, a very pleasant stop over.

The Bordes de Graus also houses a Refuge which seemed to be very busy with folk embarking on the La Porta Del Cel, a five-day hut to hut circuit (~65km & 6.5km ascent), the record is under 12hrs! 

Day 14 –Bordes de Graus to Estany de Baborte; 16km, 1700m↑, 600m↓.

It took about an hour to wander down to Tavascan just in time for the shop to open at 9am, as anticipated the shop wasn’t very well stocked (not the place to stock up for a week) but I only needed to top-up on some lunch food (saucisson, cheese & bread).

I joined the GR11 for the climb south up to a junction at c1540m where I turned north, on the Porta del Cel, the path climbed gently but with no breeze penetrating the trees it felt baking hot; at least there was plenty of streams to keep the water bottles topped up along the way.

I finally stopped for lunch near the Cabaña Ribera (2200m); the bothy looked to be a good place to get out of the sun but as the roof looked as though it was in danger of imminent collapse so found a spot elsewhere.

The Collada de Boldís (2460m) was only a short climb east, where I turned north climbing the short way up to the ridge & a welcome breeze…….bliss………..not in any hurry I propped myself up against a rock & watched the world go by as I cooled off.

I spent a lazy half hour or so watching a number of Red Kite hunting the grass slopes (coming within 20m), vultures circled in the distance & I even had a Golden Eagle soar past.

Finally, the inactivity had to come to an end & I made my way over Roca Cigalera (2659m) & started the descent down from the Coll de la Llaguna (2594m)……..the usual grass, scree & a short section of boulders led to a junction with the HRP in the Sellente valley.

Turning SE a 10min climb led to the Coll de Sellente (2485m) where the Refugi del Baborte (2438m) came into sight.

I had thought to stay at the bothy but didn’t fancy a hot tin box for the night so pitched up ~200m away & enjoyed a sluice down in a nearby stream.

Day 15 – Estany de Baborte to Refugi Pla de L´Estany; 14km, 1200m↑, 1500m↓.

A lovely cool morning to start the day but the clear blue skies promised another hot one.

The trail down past Cabana Bacello (1972m) to the Vallferrera valley proved easier to follow than I remembered & I was soon wandering up through the Pla de Boavi (1475m); some lovely camping spots here & on the ascent ahead ( the ‘park’ rules state bivouac only above 2000m & 8pm to 8am on pain of up to €3000 fine….but I did see 2 tents amongst the trees at 11am).

On leaving the meadows the cruise control was clicked on again for the 2hr climb up to Refugi de Baiau (2517m), a nice walk but the refuge stands out from miles away making the approach feel a lot longer than it really is……..& it was getting hot!

No shade to speak of around the refuge so I made my way partly up the climb to Port de Baiau (2757m) & found a spot by a large boulder to rest up for an hour & have lunch.

The climb to the col was as horrible as I remembered, very loose scree for the most part which gets steeper with height. The HRP/ GR11 descends south from here but I thought to take another wander. Just 200m east is the Collada Del Forat Dels Malhiverns (2822m) with a descent route directly to Pla de L´Estany, a short cut to the refuge?

The descent looked to be the usual steep scree to a boulder field.

I’d give it a go…….a steep ‘path’ zigzagged down the scree then small cairns marked a route across the boulder field leading to……more & more boulders……..not particularly difficult but slow going for over a km. The cairned route continued down across even more boulders on a direct line to the bothy but I abandoned it in favour of a trail down across rough grass into the head of the corrie & then turning back south. It had taken me less than 2hrs to make the descent from Port de Baiau to the bothy (& I’m not known for being the fastest downhill), probably quicker than the normal HRP route. The Refugi Pla de L´Estany (2030m) turned out to be in very good condition, as I’ve found with most of the Andorra bothies, the grazing horses were a bit of a pain (probably down to day trippers feeding them) until I chased them off with a broom. I even got desert thanks to someone who’d left half a melon wrapped in foil……very tasty!

Day 16 –Refugi Pla de L´Estany to Les Planes de Sornàs; 12km, 800m↑, 1300m↓.

Still being ahead of my planned schedule it was time for some earnest ‘slack packing’, I had the journey to Encamp marked down as a single day but decided on a lazy 1 ½ day pace.

Click on auto pilot; stroll into Arinsal; bear left; climb to Coll de les Cases (1958m); descend to Arans. I called into the Font Blanca for their €14 bottomless buffet (very good BBQ – lamb, pork, etc) & a couple of beers while watching the rain pour down as a thunder storm passed through. The day ended with a stroll up to Les Planes de Sornàs & a good pitch up on old terraces bordering the woods.

Day 17 – Les Planes de Sornàs to Encamp; 11km, 850m↑, 1100m↓.

I suffered another broken nights’ sleep thanks to another thunderstorm which dropped lots of 12mm hail; the result, a bit of a sleep-in & a late start. Back on auto-pilot; over Coll d’Ordino (1983m); down into Encamp; lunch; shopping then campsite. I met up with Steve & Susan (from Camping Aneto) again, they were still in good spirits & confident of completing the GR11.

Day 18 – Encamp to Refugi D´Ensagents; 13km, 1500m↑, 200m↓.

Took off from town along the GR11 & made the 400m climb up to Estany D’Engolasters (1620m) & turn off onto the Cami d’Ensagent. The first 3km turned out to be a very easy dawdle along the top of a capped canal taking water to the lake. After a carpark, the route narrowed to a good footpath that climbed through the woods to emerge in a high valley close to the small hamlet of Bordes de Rigoder (1950m), quite pretty apart from the large ski-lift that ran up the valley for another 5km to a ski complex; fortunately, I wasn’t heading that way.

A bit of an improvised short-cut across the meadows soon connected with the continuation of the Cami d’Ensagent heading off south-east up though thinning pine forest.

I reached the Refugi D´Ensagents (2425m) before 3pm.

I had half an idea to stop the night but with a few people already in residence after an hour lolling about I wandered up the hill a short way & found an ideal spot to pitch up.

Day 19 – Refugi D´Ensagents to Pas de la Casa; 13km, 1100m↑, 1600m↓.

A chilly night & morning so it was fleece & jacket for the short climb & broad ridge leading to the Collada Dels Pessons (2813m) which gave a good view of the route ahead.

The trail wasn’t as bad as it appeared from the col & I was soon down at the far lake, Estany Primer (2312m), together with hordes of day trippers. I quickly turned off the tourist trail & started to climb again……..½ hr or so later …….’this doesn’t look right’……..I was climbing SSW not SE.

In my impatience to get away from the crowds I’d set off climbing to the ‘wrong’ col; back down the hill & found the ‘right’ path, the GR7 with the familiar marks leading to the ‘right’ col!

The weather had taken a turn for the worse, light rain, low cloud & a strong wind; back to full waterproofs for the passage along the ridge to Portella de Joan Antoni (2674m). I left the GR7 which descended SE & climbed NE to Pic Envalira (2813m). Not much of a path up the ridge, more like a sheep track but it provided a good short cut to Coll Dels Isards (2655m) from where a short descent north to the Collado Fontnegra (2545m) led to the route down into Pas de la Casa.

Despite the cloud & rain the town was still buzzing with ‘duty free’ shoppers. Thanks to my navigational blunder & poor weather I’d arrived later than planned, ~4pm. I resisted the urge to continue in favour of getting out of the now continuous rain, the Hotel Catalunya (€30 B&B) fit the bill nicely.

Day 20 – Pas de la Casa to Barrage de Lanoux; 19km, 900m↑, 750m↓.

A bright but chilly morning as I left town despite the blue sky, cool enough to need a fleece, surprisingly a light covering of snow had appeared in the mountains.

The route over to Col Du Puymorens (1900m) was easier to follow than when I last passed this way with recently installed ‘headstones’ along the path & yellow flashes.

From the col a good track led up the Rossó valley gently climbing to the Cabane Cortal Rousso (2100m), a bit of a concrete box but it was in good condition.

About 1km further up the track I entered an expanse of water meadow, the path led off across the meadow to climb steeply beyond, I chose to follow a gentler route, continuing up the track to its’ end at a series of water intakes & a linking path. The link ‘path’ turned out to be a concrete capped water channel but it served the purpose.

The 200m climb to Portella de Lanós (2480m) provided the first view of Carlit, well a mountain cloaked in low cloud.

I left the main trail & headed directly for the dam only to find that the route across the dam is now firmly closed. I headed down to the meadow below, then thought I’d check out the Maison des Ingenieurs du Lanoux (2126m) not far away.

It looked better than it turned out to be, 80% the building was locked up (presumably for dam workers), only one cramped room with four 3 tier bunk beds & seven fishermen in residence. After a chat & a cuppa I moved on making the short climb up to the east side of the lake, following the GR7, where I knew there was good camping. Ended up finding an excellent pitch just north of the HRP turning to Carlit; early but being well off the path I pitched up.

Day 21 – Barrage de Lanoux to Rivière D’Angoustrine; 15km, 250m↑, 1000m↓.

After a very chilly night the light rain of the previous evening had been transformed into a veneer of ice coating the Duomid. Thoughts of going over Carlit were put aside, I didn’t fancy climbing the final steep ‘staircase’ when it was coated in ice. It was fleece, jacket, gloves & hat on as I made my way north following the GR7 to Cabane de Rouze (2269m) & junction with the GR10, I turned east & climbed up to the Portella de la Grava (2440m). On the descent, I met up with a couple of Spanish guys complaining about the cold but they were a little under-dressed for the weather; I was cosy.

Once down to Lac de Bouillouses it was time to find a sunny spot amongst the trees for a long lunch before strolling down the lakeside to the dam & joining the hordes of day trippers. It was only 3pm but 100’s seemed to be returning down the track to the parking at Pradella, fortunately we parted company as I turned off on the path towards the d’Angoustrine valley. A few km’s further I started looking for a pitch as the ground further down the valley didn’t look to be very friendly. It took a while to find the right spot, plenty of good pitches around but I also wanted stealth.

Day 22 – Rivière D’Angoustrine to Enveitg; 15km, 300m↑, 1000m↓.

Another frosty morning & the spot I’d chosen the night before had one flaw, no morning sun!

It was an easy pleasant stroll down the valley to the village of Angoustrine & decision time; continue along the Tour de Carlit or short-cut down the black top. I decided on the short-cut, a couple of kms of minor road led down to Ur & a junction with the very busy N22. Only a short distance down the road I jumped the road-side barrier & picked up a track paralleling the ‘Little Yellow Railway line’ which led straight into Enveitg. Camping Robinson was full to the brim (arriving on a Saturday was probably part of the problem) but fortunately the owner let me pitch up on the lawn near the pool, probably the best pitch on the site, before legging it down to the Bistro for lunch.

I’d a lazy couple of days around the campsite not bothering with anything more strenuous than walking the 100m to the supermarket or the 500m down to the Bistro de la Gare.


The second half of the trip, where I endeavoured to stay high, definitely proved far more enjoyable than the first; both parts were of similar mileage, ascent & duration but a completely different geography.

The wide variation in the weather experienced was a bit unusual for August, everything from blistering 30C+ heat to frosts, continuous rain & cold days at the end of the trip; it just goes to show that you need to be prepared for all kinds of weather in the Pyrenees.


6 comments on “A Pyrenean Wander – Part 2

  1. Kirsten
    August 30, 2017

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, Paul. Very interesting, useful details and super photos. Many thanks.

  2. Nick Mandeville
    December 17, 2017

    Looks like another cracking trip, looking forward to returning again next year, no real plans yet.

    • Paul Atkinson
      December 17, 2017

      Thanks, I really enjoyed it, so much so I’m planning another outing in 2108, the Pyrenees is just wonderful backpacking!

  3. Rob Stalman
    April 10, 2018

    Hi Paul,

    Really enjoyed reading your story… I’m in the fortunate position that I may walk the GR11 in 2019 having three months available thanks to my generous employer… May I ask what would be the optimal time of the year to make the trip in your opinion and based on your experience? Many thanks!

    • Paul Atkinson
      April 10, 2018

      Timing is always a sticky subject; too early & the high ground east of Refugio de Respomuso (about 2 weeks from Irun) may still be snow bound; starting early July with a 6 – 7 weeks pace will coincide with the smaller resupply shops being open (July & August hols) but the last week to the Med will invariably be in baking heat; starting later will guarantee a snow free passage & a cooler end but water sources may be dry in the later stages. A lot of Spanish/ French trekkers choose an East – West passage starting in June & finishing in July, which makes a lot of sense IMO.

      • Rob Stalman
        April 10, 2018

        The point with the supply shops & water situation is a good one. I’m still not sure about going W-E or E-W and will take this and the heat into consideration for sure.

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2017 by in Trip Reports and tagged , , .

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