PYRENEES NATIONAL PARK TOUR
Ski from the Balaïtous to Mont Perdu
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A classic route along the Haute Route Pyrenenne (HRP) and justifiably one of our most popular ski tours. Stunning mountains, no tracks, good huts and great skiing with lots of opportunity to peak bag along the way. You ski for six days through remote valleys and climb to the highest peak in the French Pyrenees, the Vignemale (3289m), as well as the mythical Mont Perdu – hidden behind the dramatic Cirque of Gavarnie and accessed through the natural rock doorway on the Spanish border known as the Breche de Roland.
You weave your way West to East, criss-crossing the French – Spanish border at several key points: the Col de la Fache, the Port du Marcadau, the Col des Mulets as well as the Breche de Roland. Many of these crossings have been used as trade routes for centuries but more recently were used as escape routes over the Pyrenees in the Spanish Civil War and World War Two.
• Six days through the Pyrenees National Park
• Summit the Vignemale (3298m), through the Breche de Roland and Mont Perdu (3344m)
• Follow the footsteps of Count Henry Russell
GRADE : D2 : A2 : F2
see our grade coding here
This price includes :
• 6 days guided ski touring with a qualified UIAGM high mountain guide
• 7 nights accommodation
• All dinners & breakfasts, picnic lunches
• Lift passes
• Hire gear
• Transfers from/to Lourdes
Meet in our valley base of Luz St Sauveur by late afternoon so there is time to check equipment and collect hire gear if necessary. Night in a central Luz hotel and dinner in a local restaurant.
Our first day takes us over to the Respumoso refuge in Spain via the Col de la Pierre St Martin, just east of the famous Balaïtous mountain. It is a relatively long day without any particular difficulties.
We cross eastwards to the Wallon Refuge (Marcadau Valley) through the Col de la Fache. It was through this pass that many allied pilots escaped Nazi forces during the Second World War, but it was also the pass through which Republican forces fled from Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Just after the pass is our first opportunity to ski a peak – the Pene d’Aragon, before skiing the 1200 metres or so down to Refuge Wallon.
From Refuge Wallon we make tracks up through the Arratille Valley to reach the Col d’Arratille and the Spanish border. We cross here, ski down for a few hundred metres and then climb back to France at the Col des Mulets. Afterwards there is a great ski down to the Oulettes Refuge below the daunting north face of the Vignemale… the objective of the next day.
You leave the Oulettes Refuge early and climb first to the Horquette d’Ossoue before making a short descent down to the Baysallance Refuge. From there you cross past Henry Russell’s caves before climbing up the long glacier and reaching the summit of the Vignemale at 3298m. From the summit we ski back down the glacier before heading east through canyons and gorges following the snow out to the Barages d’Ossoue. A long gentle ski brings us out to the road head where we meet our transport to Gavarnie and a comfortable bed.
We set off heading back to Spain via the Breche de Roland, a huge natural doorway through cliffs on the border and the subject of much French folklore and legend. After the Breche we ski down to the Goriz Refuge early in the afternoon.
Today is the longest and most challenging on the tour. You leave the hut early and head up steep slopes to the Lago Helado and the Col du Cylindro. A fit group can climb to the summit of the Mont Perdu from here on crampons 400 metres above the pass. Most groups though decide instead to cross to the north face of the mountain to get the most out of the ski descent. A great ski is interrupted by a small abseil over steep slopes on a cliff face. You then carry on skiing to the bottom of the Breche de Tuquerouye, another extremely impressive ‘breach’ in the mountain. You then climb again, but this time on foot for just 150 metres before putting your skis back on to ski down a steep (40 degrees) slope into France and the Cirque of Estaube. This can be a great ski in good conditions. From Estaubé we put the skins back on and climb 400 metres to the Hourquette d’Alans before the final 1200 metres ski on north west facing slopes back to the village of Gavarnie and our transport back to Luz St. Sauveur.
Transfer to Lourdes airport or train station for your return transport.