Vallée d’Ossoue to Lac de Gaube via Bayssellance

Taking advantage of a couple of days of good weather and a willing walking companion we set out for a two day trek between Gavarnie and Cauterets, sleeping in the Baysellance Refuge. There are flowers everywhere along with water pouring out of every crevice and newborn lambs being taken straight up onto the remnant snow by their mothers. I wondered if this was to protect them from eagles – the snow being white so acting as a sort of camouflage.

Starting in the Ossoue Valley (just near Gavarnie) we headed up the valley towards the Bayssellance Refuge where we had booked in for the night. Once past the Ossoue dam there were big patches of remnant snow all the way up the path slowing our progress but definitely making the walk and the scenery more varied and interesting. At this time of year the valley floor is in full spring bloom, however 800m higher the mountain remains enclosed in its winter snow cover. The contrast is huge. Rhoderdendrons at one altitude only have tiny buds and those lower down are in full bloom. Different flowers are out at different altitudes. Marmots were everywhere! The most surprising thing was definitely the newborn lambs being led onto the snow by their mothers. I’ll ask one of the local farmers what that is all about when I get the chance. My companion was my brother in law’s mother who was the only grandmother in the refuge.  ‘Chapeau’ as the French say.


Day Two saw most people heading from the refuge down to Gavarnie and us climbing up to the Horquette d’Ossoue and down into the Gaube Valley, beneath the Vignemale. The first 100m were steep and we were very happy to have our crampons well strapped on, and our walking poles for balance. Once past this we had a long traverse through the snow until just above the Oulettes Refuge. We then picked our way down the partly snow covered path through steep zig-zags to the Oulettes Refuge.

Once past the refuge we were out of the snow and into the easy end of the walk.  Hence lots of photos of flowers, waterfalls and two butterflies mating (we think).

It’s a great itinerary, taking in more Grand Sites than you’d think possible in two days – the Gavarnie Cirque and the Breche de Roland seen from a new angle, the Ossoue glacier under the Vignemale, the views  of the Petit and Grand Vignemale, the flat delta like Oulettes de Gaube, the Lac de Gaube itself and then the Pont d’Espagne and all its waterfalls. We stopped at the Pont d’Espagne and hitchhiked first to Cauteret and then from there to Pierrefitte, but the walk down to Cauteret is also spectacular for its waterfalls. All in all, a great June outing, although only possible with crampons and ice axes and if you are comfortable walking in snow for relatively long patches. And, as usual, what is best is often the unexpected. We had originally planned to climb the Vignemale with a guide from Luz who was going up the same day, and then come back down the same way. The last minute change of plan turned out to be fabulous – except that I now have to pick up the car which is still at the departure point!

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