The Pyrenean Haute Route
By Ton Joosten
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A guidebook for trekking the Pyrenean Haute Route, which zig-zags across the Franco-Spanish border and stays close to the main ridge in the highest and most spectacular central Pyrenees. It covers 800km with a total of 40km ascent, so is only suitable for experienced mountain walkers. The route is split over 45 stages and is largely unwaymarked.
SeasonsBest months: July and August. August can be extremely warm, however, and thunderstorms are an everyday hazard! In June most high mountain passes are still covered with snow but it's a good time for both the first section and, from mid-June on, the final section (if you avoid Pic Carlit). Late August and the first days of September often bring a short period of extremely bad weather but afterwards the first half of September can be exceptionally beautiful. There will be frost at night from the second half of September. Snowfall in the high mountains is not uncommon in September. Be ready for anything!
CentresRuns from Hendaye to Banyuls-sur-Mer, with nearest major towns: Bayonne, Pau, Tarbes, Foix, Perpignan and Toulouse
DifficultyEach day walk and variant is graded on a scale of 1 to 4, from E for exceptionally challenging (moderate scrambling, exposure, glaciers) to 3 for short, easy, waymarked routes. Most are graded 2 and represent a good day's walk with significant ascent and descent but no major obstacles in good weather.
Must SeeThe 10 summits: Grande Fache, Vignemale, La Taillon, Pimene, Pic Perdiguere, Pico de Aneto, Montardo d'Aran, Mont Roig, Pic de Certascan and Pica d'Estats; the national parks: Parc National des Pyrénées Occidentales and Parc National d'Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici; mountain lakes, cirques, canyons, peaks and pine forests.
The Pyrenean Haute Route is probably the most scenic, spectacular and challenging walk in the Pyrenees, and has become one of the classic walks in Europe. Unlike the GR10 and GR11 the Haute Route crosses the French-Spanish border many times, exploring both sides of the mountain range and staying as close as possible to the main ridge of the Pyrenees. As a result the Haute Route leads the trekker through landscapes of immense variety and impeccable beauty.
The Pyrenean Haute Route is a long-distance footpath from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean that follows the main ridge of the Pyrenees. It covers 800km of spectacular and challenging trekking through the highest and best of the Pyrenees. The route is described in 45 day stages and is largely unwaymarked. Furthermore, throughout the route, there are numerous alternative routes that allow you to avoid a difficult section, should weather conditions not be in your favour.
The Haute Route is suitable only for experienced trekkers. Those who undertake it must have wide experience of walking on all sorts of terrain, including steep scree slopes, boulder fields and snowfields. Knowledge of how to navigate mountains in difficult conditions is also a prerequisite. The Haute Route leads sometimes through untamed, remote areas where there are no waymarks or paths. The ability to read the landscape is necessary; a good intuition of route finding is useful and knowledge of how to use a map and compass is indispensible.
In addition to the Pyrenean Haute Route, this guidebook contains descriptions for ascents of 10 classic Pyrenean summits: Grande Fache, Vignemale, Le Taillon, Piméné, Pic Perdiguère, Pico de Aneto, Montardo d’Aran, Mont Roig, Pic de Certascan and Pica d’Estats.
When to go
How to get there
Essential things to take
Food and water
Money and insurance
Walks and climbs in this guide
Mountain safety and first aid
Wildlife and flowers
SECTION 1 Hendaye to Lescun
Day 1 Hendaye to Col de Lizuniaga
Day 2 Col de Lizuniaga to Arizkun
Day 3 Arizkun to Les Aldudes
Day 4 Les Aldudes to Roncevalles
Day 5 Roncevalles to Egurgui
Day 6 Egurgui to Col Bagargui
Day 7 Col Bagargui to Cabane Ardané
Day 8 Cabane Ardané to Source de Marmitou
Day 9 Source de Marmitou to Lescun
SECTION 2 Lescun to Gavarnie
Day 10 Lescun to Refuge d'Arlet
Day 11 Refuge d'Arlet to Candanchu
Day 12 Candanchu to Refuge de Pombie
Variant From Lac de Peyreget via the Col de l'Iou (2194m) to Refuge de Pombie
An easy summit Pic d'Ayous (2288m)
Day 13 Refuge de Pombie to Refuge de Larribet
Day 14 Refuge de Larribet to Refuge Wallon
Variant Refuge d'Arrémoulit to Refuge Wallon
Ten classic summits — 1 Grande Fache (3005m) from Refuge Wallon
Day 15 Refuge Wallon to Refuge de Bayssellance
Ten classic summits — 2 The Vignemale (3298m) from the Refuge de Bayssellance
Day 16 Refuge de Bayssellance to Gavarnie
Ten classic summits — 3 Le Taillon (3144m) from Gavarnie
Section 3: Gavarnie to Salardu
Day 17 Gavarnie to Héas
Ten classic summits — 4 Piméné (2801m) from Refuge des Espuguettes
Day 18 Héas to Parzan
Day 19 Parzan to Refugio de Viados
Day 20 Refugio de Viados to Refuge de la Soula
Day 21 Refuge de la Soula to Refuge du Portillon
Ten classic summits — 5 Pic Perdiguère (3222m) from Refuge du Portillon
Day 22 Refuge du Portillon to Refugio de la Renclusa
Ten classic summits — 6 Pico de Aneto (3404m) from Refugio de la Renclusa
Escape route From Refugio de la Renclusa to Bagnères-de-Luchon
Variant Hospital de Benasque — GR11 trail
Day 23 Refugio de la Renclusa to Hospital de Vielha
Day 24 Hospital de Vielha to Refugi de la Restanca
Variant GR11 from Estany de Rius to Refugi de la Restanca
Day 25 Refugi de la Restanca to Salardu
Ten classic summits — 7 Montardo d'Aran (2826m) from Coll de Crestada
3-day Variant GR11 from Viados to Hospital de Vielha
Section 4: Salardu to l'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre
Day 26 Salardu to Refugi Gracia Airoto
Day 27 Refugi Gracia Airoto to Alos de Isil
Day 28 Alos de Isil to Refugi Enric Pujol
Ten classic summits — 8 Mont Roig (2868m) from Refugi Enric Puyol
Day 29 Refugi Enric Pujol to Refugi de Certascan
Variant 1 Via Tavascan to Pla de Boavi
Variant 2 Noarre via Camping Masia ‘Bordes de Graus’
Ten classic summits — 9 Pic de Certascan (2853m) from Col de Certascan
Day 30 Refugi de Certascan to Refugi del Cinquantenari
Short-cut From Coll de Sellente to Estany de Sottlo
Day 31 Refugi del Cinquantenari to Refugi de Coma Pedrosa
Ten classic summits — 10 Pica d'Estats (3143m) and Montcalm (3077m) from Refugi de Vall Ferrera
Day 32 Refugi de Coma Pedrosa to El Serrat
Day 33 El Serrat to Cabana Coms de Jan
Day 34 Cabane Coms de Jan to Refuge du Rulhe
Day 35 Refuge du Rulhe to l'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre
Section 5: L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre to Banyuls-sur-Mer
Day 36 L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre to Refuge des Bésines
Day 37 Refuge des Bésines to Barrage des Bouillouses
Variant GR10 avoiding Pic Carlit
Consolation walk 1 From Chalet-Refuge des Bouillouses to Pic Carlit summit
Day 38 Barrage des Bouillouses to Eyne
Day 39 Eyne to Refugi d'Ull de Ter
Day 40 Refugi d'Ull de Ter to Refuge de Mariailles
Day 41 Refuge de Mariailles to Mines de Batère
Variant The GR10 from Refuge de Mariailles to Chalet-Refuge des Cortalets
Consolation walk 2 The ascent of Canigou from Cortalets
Day 42 Mines de Batère to Moulin de la Palette
Day 43 Moulin de la Palette to Las Illas
Day 44 Las Illas to Col de l'Ouillat
Day 45 Col de l'Ouillat to Banyuls-sur-Mer
Appendix 1 Useful addresses
Appendix 2 Glossary
Appendix 3 Facilities list
The French maps produced by the Institut Géografique National (IGN) have a reputation for being accurate and reliable. The IGN 1:25,000 maps (Série Bleue or Cartes de Randonnée) show most detail, but on some 1:25,000 maps the Haute Route is not shown at all!
There is also a series of 25 walking maps to the Pyrenees at 1:50,000, published by Rando Editions. These should generally be sufficient for Haute Route walkers. These include Cartes de Randonnées, based on IGN data, and Mapa Excursionista/Cartes de Randonnées, coedited with the Institut Cartografic de Catalunya. Together these maps give comprehensive coverage of both the Spanish and French Pyrenees. This means that you can largely avoid using other Spanish maps, such as the Editorial Alpina and Spanish Military Survey maps, which are, in my opinion, of a relatively poor quality. For walking the Haute Route you should only use the best maps available! There is also a fine 1:400,000 map of the entire Pyrenees, also produced by Rando Editions, which might be handy. (For further information, contact Editions Sud Ouest at www.editions-sudouest.com/nos-editions/rando-editions; Institut Géografique National: www.ign.fr.)
In the UK, maps are available from Stanfords (www.stanfords.co.uk, tel: 020 7836 1321). The relevant map is always given at the beginning of each day’s route description.
Note: Guidebook and maps by themselves will not always be sufficient to keep the walker on course. A compass or GPS can be useful, as the Haute Route sometimes passes through isolated, untamed mountain areas where you won’t find a path (and only a few waymarks). A compass or GPS can also be useful in case of poor visibility (in France, especially in the Basque territory, mist will be your worst enemy). A GPS is certainly not strictly necessary, but you should always have a compass with you (and the skill to use it effectively).
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Camping du Lauzart is closed for the whole of 2018 but in the meantime, there is a temporary campsite behind the existing one (now a building site) with toilet facilities and a water supply, food/ meals must be sourced in Lescun 2 kms away , after the 15th Sept you should check whether still open . They are hopeful that Camping Du Lauzart will be up and running again for 2019 season.
Day 7 Many thanks to Peter Forrest for this update
In Joosten's 2004 1st edition guide, the route goes from Col Bagargui to Refugio de Belagua, the day after to Lescun (2 days) in a total walk time of 16hrs50mins. The Refugio de Belagua had been closed since late 2004, hence the route change in the 2nd edition guide via Col Bagargui and Cabane d’Ardané (3 days) with a total walk time of 18hrs30mins. However, the regional government of Navarre has found money to re-open the Belagua refugio which is now functioning as a quasi-cabane with bunk-beds, pillows and blankets. It may re-open as a fully-functioning refugio in 2019. I inspected the building in June 2017 and it is OK. This re-opening presents an opportunity to revert to the 1st edition route, thereby saving a day. If you wish to revert to the 1st edition route then please contact Cicerone and we will send you a copy. Please note that the author has not checked this route so we will provide the pages without promising any accuracy.
Camping du Lauzart in Lescun is closed indefinitely (thanks to Peter Forrest of www.hrpguide.org for the update).
Page 133 slight amendment on the description to avoid any uncertainty of route choice.
4.45 Breche de Roland (2807m). Go down two or three metres on the Spanish side and turn right and follow a well used track W along the base of the southern (Spanish) side of the vertical walls of the Cirque de Gavarnie.
Days 32 & 33 Editorial Alpina Andorra (covering El Serat) & Alt Pirineu (covering Tavascan)
Many thanks to Peter Forrest for the following updates. They are the most important of a series, and Peter has set up a website www.hrpguide.org to make them available. He is also selling his GPX files for the route, with proceeds being donated to various Himalayan earthquake relief funds. Peter is a big fan of the HRP and his site has valuable information for trekkers.
Day 18: Refuge de Barroude was burnt to the ground 2-3 years ago (2014) so this is a long 10hrs day! Since then Refuge de Barroude is now partly compensated for by modernised but unmanned Cabane de Barrosa 8 hours into the walk (GPS ref: 267125/4731897). This cabane has 12 places. People were still rolling up to Heas in 2016, astonished to find the next refuge defunct!
Day 23: the refuge at Hospital de Vielha has closed. Drop down 1.2km on the GR11 to now-manned Refugio de Conangles.
Some maps listed in the guide are now no longer available so with The Map Shop help we have some suggested alternatives as follows:
Day 13 to 17 - Rando Map 4
Day 18 Editorial Alpina Bachimala
Day 19 and 20 Editorial Alpina Posets Malada
Day 21 to 24 Rando Map 5
Day 25 Editorial Alpina Val d'Aran
Day 26 to 31 Editorial Alpina Alt Pirineu
Refugi de Certascan to Pla de Boavi:
A Reader has commented that there is a well tagged way with waymarks and cairns between these refuges; it may not be necessary to improvise through the forest here.
With thanks to H. Setzer
The Editorial Alpina map mentioned in the book is no longer in print. A recommended alternative is from the official 1:25,000 series, number 91-1.
Many thanks to The Map Shop for this information.
GPS points in this book use the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) system
This is a welcome update to the first edition from 2004 with better route descriptions, extra stops to reduce some lengthy days and with around 500 GPS waypoints. I’ve walked a number of the sections and can vouch for the accuracy of the descriptions and the splendour of the route.
Each day has a detailed map, profile and excellent route descriptions with times and heights.
Justin Gutmann, Strider Aug 2009
'The descriptions of each day's walking are so detailed they almost take you there and the short highlighted summaries leave no doubt of what is ahead.
All in all, along with useful appendices, this is a practical guide to beautiful and often isolated areas which, with its lovely photographs and descriptions, makes it a gem of a book.'
Robin Merrick, Irish mountain Log, Spring 2010
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Ton Joosten has written six books on the Pyrenees which he has explored extensively over the last 20 years, walking all the long-distance trails, all major peaks and the national parks in both France and Spain, and has written on the best walking regions. When not exploring, Ton lives in Holland.View Guidebooks by Ton Joosten
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