Trying to make sense of grading systems when it comes to getting out in the mountains can be a real head ache. Different sports have different grading systems and more often than not the same sport has many different grading systems. Continue reading MOUNTAIN GRADING SYSTEMS
This is trip I am putting together for the coming year. I’ve guided it before and it has to be one of my most favorite treks in the Pyrenees. It is the best trek to get an idea of the full scope and beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Gavarnie/Mont Perdu. The trek will be leaving on the 4 of October this year. It is only open to experienced hikers. If you think you are up to it, why not get in touch.
Step 1: Gavarnie village (1384m) – Espugettes refuge (2000m) 9km 790m+ 175m-
It’s nice to start a trek gently and thats exactly what step one is. A gentle climb into the majestic Cirque de Gavarnie and it’s mile high cliff walls, takes us to the base of the tallest waterfall in Europe. We continue to gain altitude slowly, leaving the crowds of people behind us. We eventually pierce through the tree line and ascend through the high plateaus to the Refuge d’Espugettes for the night.
Step 2: Espugettes refuge (2000m) – Pineta refuge (1248m) 12.5km 955m+ 1694m-
The second day of the trek is a real test and set the tempo for the rest of the week. The ascent from the refuge to the Alans pass is easy enough, then further on we attack the climb up a steep and narrow passage in the mountain to reach the Tuqueroye pass. There is often snow left over from the winter on the trail that leads to the pass, and the ground can be quite loose. Mountain boots are a must. From the pass you can observe the spectacular north face of the Monte Perdido. This is the highest limestone summit in Europe and the summit sits upon a beautiful glacier. We head down from the pass into the Pineta valley. This valley is massive and the descent is very long. I would highly recommend walking poles. Down in the valley we stop at the Pineta refuge for a nice meal and a warm bed.
Step 3: Pineta refuge (1248m) – Goriz refuge (2200m) 10km 1603m+ 674m-
This third stage is up hill all the way. From the refuge to the Anisclo pass is an impressive 1200m straight ascent. From valley floor, through the tree line, pass the mountain pastures into the world of rock and ice. From the pass the pass the climb is not finished, as we head towards the Monte Perdido. We flank the massive mountain on one of it’s large shoulders. To get to the path we pass over a very large inclined slab of rock which has been equipped with a hand rail. We get the impression to be in the land of the gods as we walk along the path high above the Anisclo canyon. This comfortable trail takes us all the way to the Goriz refuge where will be spending the night.
Step 4: Monte Perdido summit (3348m) 10km 1214m+ 1169m-
Summit day!! We will be woken up very early no doubt in the refuge by the trekkers getting ready for their push to the summit of Monte Perdido. There is however no rush, and we can take our time getting ready. Today there is no need to take all our equipment and just the bare essentials will do. The summit is not a technical climb and the few places where you might need your hands for help there has been hand rails put in place. The ascent begins on solid rock, and transforms to the loose rock you might have accustomed to find on high summits. We will not take the direct route back down as this often means the day is too short. On the contrary, we will make the most of being high up on the south side of the Cirque de Gavarnie to go for a wonder in this incredible lunar environment. That night we spend at the Goriz refuge again.
Step 5: Goriz refuge (2200m) – Breche refuge (2570m) 8km 752m+ 366m-
The big days behind us, we continue our circumnavigation of the Monte Perdido by heading north and back to France. The route is well used and has been for centuries. We head back in the lunar landscape of the high altitude and make our way back through Rolands Breche. A massive gash, cut out of the mountain by the ancient glacier. The Breche creates a gigantic gateway through which crossing from Spain to France is made easy. If there is time, an optional summit called the Taillon can be easily climbed on the way back. The descent from the Breche to the refuge can be tricky depending the conditions. The glacier of the Breche is no longer existant but some ice can remain meaning we have to be carful with our footing. Before heading into the refuge for drinks and food, we take a little detour to be able to look down into the Cirque de Gavarnie from above. The view is without a doubt one of the most spectacular of the Pyrenees.
Step 6: Breche refuge (2570m) – Gavarnie village (1384m) 9km 46m+ 1201m-
The final day is down hill all the way. Leave the refuge after a nice warm coffee and brave the cold of the morning. Cross over the Sarraadets pass and down towards the village of Gavarnie. We need to be carful when we cross the stream just down from the pass because it can leave some of the boulders covers in ice in the morning. We head down to the plateau Bellevue and into the sun. From here is an easy walk down in to the valley and back to village.