The GR10 is a Grand Randonnee route that traverses the Pyrenees from coast to coast. Generally speaking it takes about 60 days to complete the entire trail. I was fortunate enough to take a small group upon one of the week stages of the trails. We did the week that takes you from Luz to Bagneres de Luchon.
Day 1 Luz – Bareges
Day 2 Bareges – Refuge de l’Oule
Today was really an amazing day. The views, the weather, the rhythm, the stage… Everything came together to make a really wonderful day in the mountains. We left the Gite de l’Oasis in the cool of shade. The sky was blue above our heads as we headed out towards the Pont de la Gaubie. The Ardiden mountain, behind us, was shining brightly in the sun. We enter into the Neouvielle nature reserve after a little snack break and drink of water. Today the route is long and will be hard under the beating sun. The route takes us up into one of the most beautiful areas of the Pyrenees. We head up into one of the most savage valleys of the reserve. Along cool mountain streams, past dried up mountain lakes, through the pine forest, into the high altitude plateau where the little caban d’Aygues Cluses sits amongst the lakes at the foot of the vast summits that surround it. We stop to eat and drink before ascending the nest and most demanding section of the day. The trail gets steep ned rocky, making its way around high lakes and the last remains trees until there no vegetation left. The trees are placed by snow and ice as we finally reach the Madamete pass, we’re stop again. We eat, drink and rest. We take in the view and admire the beauty all around us. After well earned rest we descend into the eastern part of the reserve and reach the Lac d’Aumar. From here the traverse and final climb to the Col d’Estoudo feels long and tiring. The trail is up and down then the final climb to the Col makes the main difficulties of the day over. Everyone is tired, worn out and in high spirits! They are happy to be in the mountains, to feel their bodies aliveand to be serrounded by such majestic landscape. The descent is steep and you need to be careful not to slip. This is quite demanding when the fatigue of each of us is taken into consideration. We finally make it to the big Lac de l’Oule. Is few kilometers of flat to get to the other side of the lake and we’ve made it. In the refuge the food is excellent, the welcome is vey warm, the showers warm and the rooms comfortable. I’ll take this opportunity to praise the Refuge de l’Oule for the amazing welcome they gave us as well as the great food. Pierre, the guy who runs the show, is a great guy who takes great pleasure in his job. If ever your in the Valley d’Aure in the Pyrenees you must pop up and see him.
Day 3 Refuge de l’Oule – Village d’Azet
We leave are refuge reluctantly to head off towards the Vallee d’Aure. We walk the length of the Lac de l’Oule and begin to claim towards the shepards hut. From the hut we head into the ski resort of St Lary. The resort is vast and the pistes cover over 100km of pistes. In my opinion it’s the best ski resort of the central Pyrenees because it offers a great variation of skiing and has a great after ski life. But now is summer and the snow has nearly all gone. Just a few patches remain where there used to be a few kickers. The climb to the Col de Portet is easy going. What remains is hthe e massive descent that takes us down into the valley. The sun is blazing hot and we all suffer from the fatigue that sets in. A few of us suffer from sun burn and tendons and joints begin to hurt. We finally make it into the valley and stop at the tap by the cemetery to refresh. We cross the valley and begin the final climb to the village of Azet. It’s not far but the last 400 meters are hard work. We finally make to the village and find our accommodation which is called the La Bergerie d’Azet. Once again we are fortunate to come across a wonderful accomodation at the Bergerie. The food is genuine and good, the abiance relaxed and the wine inexpensive. I highly recommend La Bergerie if you are driving though the Vallee d’Aure for a meal or to stay for the night.
Day 4 Azet – Germ
One of the shortest stages of the trail takes us from the village to the Col d’Azet which over looks the Val Luron ski station and the village of Loudenvielle. The walk up to the pass is the old pastoral trail and we walk past barns and fields in the shade of the ash trees. Once at the pass we have a little break and take in the views. The paraglider groups head up to the Tuc de Lathue at 1850m in their mini buses and 4×4’s. The ski begins to fill up with the paragliders and we begin the steep descent to the village and the lake. Once we reach the valley floor we stroll through the village to the Lac de Loudenvielle where we settle down for lunch, a siesta and a little in the river to cool down our feet. The sun gets really hot and it easy to just lay there in the shade of the trees and watch the paragliders landing nearby. We finally muster the energy to make the final 400m ascent to the village of Germ and our final point of the day. As we walk through the village you really notice how lovely it looks. The streets are clean, the buildings authentic and well renovated and the is a good selection of local services. We leave the village behind and make our way up the pastoral trail in the welcome shade of the trees to the village of Germ. The sun is backing hot and the path very steep. This makes progress difficult but the group are on form and before we know it we arrive at th village, all be it totally drenched with sweat. The Centre de Montagne, our accomodation for e night is right near the point where trail enters the tiny village. The Centre itself looks wonderful and the group are really excited to see that there is a swimming pool. The meal a the Centre de Montagne de Germ was very good and filling, despite being mainly frozen food. The style is very relaxed and participative, very much like a refuge. I would personally recommend the Centre, despite the welcome being a little cold.
Day 5 Germ – Granges d’Astau
Today is a big day! We will be doing over 1000m of vertical positive and negative.
Granges d’Astau – Bagneres de Luchon
Another big day awaits. As per usual we wake relatively late, in mountain terms at least, and after a brief breakfast we head out on the trail. In contrast to yesterday, the trail is shrouded in mist. It is warm and cooling all at the same time. The large trail leads past the beautiful Lac d’Oô then before we reach the Espingo refuge we we ascend the GR10 on a steep and steady gradient. It really blows me away how well the team walk. They keep up a relentless pace, begging me to push them harder. If only all teams were like this. I would certainly be a lot fitter than I am today! We reach the pass after pass, pushing to reach the final one for lunch. By the time we finally reach it the team are hot and tired and overjoyed to be able to sit down to lunch. The view for lunc over the high summits of the Luchon valley is always magestic. We can see many high peaks in the distance covered in snow. Behind the main ridge line we can make out the Aneto peak, th highest summit of my home mountains. The glaciers still look big and very white, despite the time of year.
Day 6 Granges d’Astau – Bagneres de Luchon