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Thread: First time to the Pyrenees

  1. #1
    Widdler
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    I am going to the Pyrenees for a few days for the first time in September and looking for advice on where to go in order to summit a few peaks. I have got the Cicerone guide on walks and climbs in the Pyrenees but it is difficult to benchmark these against typical mountain itineraries in Scotland (of which I have quite a lot of experience having done Aonach Eagach and some of the Cuillin peaks). I'd wondered about Gavernie or Balabaitous, but any recommendations for a first time visit that would be reasonably challenging for an adventurous hillwalker would be welcome.

    Chris

  2. #2
    Goon
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    Firstly, I'm happy to advise even though I've never been!!

    We're going for the first time in july and I've been gathering ideas from people. The consensus seems to be head for the area between Lescun or Etsaut/Borce and Cauterets. A walk between the two takes 5-6 days via the HRP. There are shorter circuits around each.

    Andy Howell has some great material on his website "must be this way".

    Also this area is very accessible by train from London to Pau or Lourdes in an overnight couchette that gets you there early in the morning. It costs about £110 return booking in advance and that includes two nights accommodation. Travelling overnight means you maximise your holiday time. Depends where you need to start from in the UK but trains leave London about 6pm. check seat61.comor raileurope.co.uk.

  3. #3
    Mini Goon Eddie Williams's Avatar
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    Hello Chris.

    I went for 10 days last June. You can read some suggestions of where to go and how i got on (towards the end)on this thread:

    http://www.outdoorsmagic.com/forum/f.../17038/V/8/SP/

    If you want any specific info on any of the areas i went to don't hesitate to ask.

    Gavarnie and Cauterets are excellent bases. The Gaube and Marcadau Valleys are remarkable.

  4. #4
    Ultra King Matt C's Avatar
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    I've been to the Pyrenees perhaps half a dozen times, maybe 9 or 10 weeks in total, and you really can't go far wrong for a first visit with the areas accessible from Cauterets or Gavarnie (unless perhaps you're hoping for solitude!)

    Chris, you don't say if you're backpacking through, or whether you'll have a car etc.?

    I've always backpacked, it's a brilliant area for wild camping, and I find the idea of journeying, linking the high valleys and passes, always becomes more satisfying than necessarily reaching summits. That said, if it's summits you're after then Grande Fache at the head of the Marcadau valley is an accesible 3000m peak well worth an ascent. Above Gavarnie, Le Taillon is another accessible via the Brech de Roland, and Pimene (around 2800m) towes above the village and lacks technical difficulty but always looks such a slog! None of these require you to carry any technical gear and they're all certainly well within the reach of someone with the UK experience you describe.

    Oh, and I've not done it myself but iirc Petit Vignemale from the Valle du Gaube is also straightforward and doesn't require glacier kit.

    But don't rule out 'journeying' rather than summiting, and do try to get to the Spanish side too..... the Ara Valley and the Ordesa Canyon are every bit as stunning as the Marcadau, Gaube and my favourite, the Arratile valley.

  5. #5
    ‹bermensch
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    Agree completely with Matt C. I've backpacked in the area many times but never climbed a peak. Why bother - you just have to come down again!. As a first timer just travel through, get to know heights, distances, terrains, timings etc and then return and do whatever takes your fancy. Suggested route is Cauteret, Macadau Valley and Lakes, Ara Valley, Ordessa Canyon , Brech de Roland, Gavarnie.

  6. #6
    Goon
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    Peter and Matt have good suggestions and living near the Marcadau valley I'm quite lucky really. It is a good area to get to know the Pyrenees and if you do want to climb a couple of 3000m peaks then the Petit Vignemale, Grande Fache and Le Taillon are straight forward enough. Balaitous is more technical and you would need to have experience of glaciers to go up one of the easier routes I'd think. Also September is a great month as there are few people around (come the beginning of September the majority of the French consider the hiking season over). If you are planning on staying and eating in refuges just beware that some do stop providing meals from the middle of September.

    www.hotel-cauterets.com

  7. #7
    Goon
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    sorry if this takes the thread in a slightly different direction but what night time temperatures might be expected in late June early July up on the HRP around Lescun and Cauterets?

  8. #8
    Goon
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    Well last year towards the end of June I was willd camping at around 2000m and it averaged between2 and 9 degrees in the evenings. You'd need a sleeping bag that goes down to 0 degrees easily as at the end of June there is usually still ice and snow from 2400m upwards. It usually starts getting warm from mid July.

    www.hotel-cauterets.com

  9. #9
    Widdler
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    Thanks for all the advice. I think all things considered, we'll be making for Cauterets and the Vallee de Marcadau for a first visit to the Pyrenees and the Refuge Wallon. We intend going by train and would rather avoid hiring a car if possible - this seems possible using Cauteret as a base. We don't plan to do any backpacking and plan to get four full days walking in.

  10. #10
    Goon
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    Chris if you are basing yourself out of refuge Wallon I would advise booking early. Outside of Chamonix, Wallon is the most visited refuge in France as the location is great and easy to get to. Even though it is the most run down of the lot and very draughty. Often there are 140 odd people there sharing one toilet. Also if you are a light sleeper they do have rooms for 2 or 4 people as well at an extra cost of EURO 2 per night. From Cauterets it is a 4 to 4 and a half hour walk.

    www.hotel-cauterets.com

  11. #11
    Goon
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    Chris, I just booked trains to Pau and paid £109 return from London leaving at 17.30 and arriving at 7.30. Return journey again overnight.

    You can get tickets up to three months in advance but I've found it cheapest to buy them about two and half months in advance.

    Train journey looks great, and you get a few hours in Paris both ways.

  12. #12
    Widdler
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    Thanks for the continuing really helpful advice - I'll get a booking at the refuge Wallon asap, although hopefully it won't be at its busiest by mid-September. I'll leave the train booking for a few weeks yet. The current plan is to travel Sunday night and get to refuge Wallon the following day and then return the following Friday night. Pity we won't have more time as it sounds great.

  13. #13
    Mini Goon briwy's Avatar
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    Just for info my daughter has just come back from Cauterets and flew down to Pau. (twenty quid return)

    Taxi to Pau station 20 Euros, train to Lourdes and bus to Cauterets 12 Euros. The Cauterets bus leaves Lourdes from the Railway station so it all ties in nicely.

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