The first person known to have walked along the spine of the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean was a Frenchman called Frederic Parrot. He completed his traverse in 53 days in 1817 thus laying the foundations of the modern Haute Route Pyreneene footpath (the HRP as it is known in France). The trail weaves its way roughly along the border crest of Spain and France at moderate to high altitudes. We offer two weeks of trekking along the High Level Route. Every night is spent in a different mountain refuge. This six day trek covers one of the most spectacular sections of the trail from the Pic du Midi d’Ossau past the Balaitous and includes an ascension of the Petit-Vignemale, just under the highest peak on the French side, the Vignemale.
– Back and forth across the French/Spanish border
– Six days trekking on the Pyrenean High Route
- Ascent of classic peaks La Grande Fache and Le Petit Vignemale
– No vertiginous sections
Date: 13-20 July 2013. Price: 875€ pp. which includes 7 nights accommodation (2 nights hotel, 5 nights refuge), all breakfasts, dinners, and 5 picnics, 6 days guided trekking, transport to and from trek start and end points. Contact and Book: Sian.
Collection from Lourdes train station. Your first night will be spent in Argeles Gazost in order to be closer to our departure point, two valleys westward, tomorrow. Group briefing over a drink in the evening.
We collect you and head to the starting point of the trek in the Ossau Valley. The first day takes you from a small lake above the village of Gabas past the stunning Pic du Midi d’Ossau. Local people refer affectionately to this mountain as Jean-Pierre. We trek around the mountain via lakes and cols to the Pombie refuge.
We follow the HRP east down through the woods before climbing back up to open mountainside and the Arremoulit refuge a short distance from the Balaitous (3144m) . This small refuge is set in a magical cirque beside the lake of the same name and we are warmly welcomed with great food including home-made bread!
From the Arremoulit hut, we cross over to Spain via the Palas mountain before heading up past the Embalsa Respumoso (lake) and climbing over steep mountainsides to the Col de la Fache. It was through this col that many allied pilots escaped Nazi forces during the Second World War but it was also the col through which Republican forces fled from Franco in the Spanish Civil War. From the col fit walkers with some scrambling experience can reach the summit of the Grand Fache before walking down to the Marcadau forests and the Wallon refuge.
We cross the border again today as we trek up the Arratille valley and back into Spain at the Col d’Arratille. A short climb brings us back to France at the Col des Mulets. As we descend from here down to the Gaube valley we get a first glimpse of the spectacular north face of the Vignemale. Our refuge, les Oulettes is at the foot of this great summit. Memorable views from our dinner table!
Day six is the shortest day’s walk this week and yet we take in the impressive summit of the Petit Vignemale. We climb up to the Horquette d’Ossue and then up steep and slightly exposed slopes to the peak from where we have panoramic views and can clearly see the great Ossoue glacier. Looking westward on a clear day, we can make out our long and impressive itinerary via cols, summits and lakes. We walk down to Baysellance – the highest guarded refuge in the Pyrenees.
The Vignemale is the highest peak in the French Pyrenees at 3298m. and its glacier, the second longest in the Pyrenees. It was the Irish-French Count Henry Russell who made the Vignemale truly famous when in 1889 he purchased a 99 year lease on the mountain from the town of Cauterets and constructed impressive caves in which he threw pompous parties! We edge around the base of the Ossoue glacier and these legendary caves on our way down through the lush pastoral Ossoue valley towards Gavarnie and a rendez-vous with our transport back to Luz.
Catch the SNCF bus out of Luz to Lourdes train station. If you are catching the night train you have the day spare to spend in Luz, Argeles or Lourdes. Visit the beautiful village of St Savin, do the Tour of Luz valley walk or just laze around and enjoy the scenery.
Please Note: This itinerary may be altered if conditions and weather are judged to put the safety of the group at risk, or if they indicate another route would be preferable for the group’s comfort. Our guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary without notice. These changes will be explained to the group if they occur.
Fitness Level: This trek involves relatively long days with an average altitude gain of 1000m/day. To consider this trek, you should be comfortable walking for 8 hours in the mountains at your own pace with, of course, short rests here and there and a decent lunch break. The following day, you should be able to get up and do the same again! We are walking in high mountain terrain and although, for the major part, we are on paths, you still should feel happy with rock or scree underfoot.