I have long aspired to visit the Pyrenees and at last I spent a weekend with my friend Kathy hiking in the French Pyrenees.
I hadn’t done any hiking since Slovenia in the spring and this was a chance to go a bit harder and higher then I could with my daughter in tow. We hired a car from Toulouse and drove a few hours up to Pont d’Espagne, from where we set off on our Pyrenees hiking adventure in the rain.
The photo above shows the meandering river valley through which you walk in to Refuge Wallon. As you can see by the time we got far the weather started to clear. A cheeky marmot chucked his teeth at us while its partner called the alarm from a burrow up in the rocks.
Here is the Refuge Wallon, a fairly typical mountain hut, built from stone with cheerful red shutters in an impossibly picturesque valley. Here you can sleep and eat breakfast and dinner for around Euros 28. The delicious beef stew and a glass of wine were perfect accompaniments to poring over the map as we planned our hikes for the weekend. Freshly cooked food is also available to purchase during the day and a big cheesy omelette goes down well after a day’s hike!
The next morning dawned bright and clear so we set off early through meadows glistening with dew. I was hardly prepared for the beauty and variety of hiking in the Pyrenees, in fact you could say I was blown away by this amazing little mountain chain.
After walking through the lushly green valley, catching another marmot sunning itself on a rock, we ascended into a true mountainscape, including river crossings and exquisite blue tarns reflecting snowy peaks.
There was a bit more snow that you would usually expect in the Pyrenees in July but we didn’t find it a problem despite not having anything more than hiking equipment. The melting snow also had the effect of making the whole landscape alive with water as it rushes in boiling cascades down every channel to the plains below.
The views from the Col de Cambales across to the Spanish side of the Pyrenees were truly spectacular: turquoise lakes and more and more mountains. The softening snow actually made for an easy descent in the afternoon, although it also made it easier to temporarily mislay the path…
At the end of the day we sprawled in the sun on a rock beside the river waiting for the call of “le diner” from the kitchen door. A herd of dreamy cows drifted across the river into the meadows where they munch enthusiastically on the alpine flower garden. There was birdsong on the warm and fragrant air.
I loved hiking in the Pyrenees and will be back just as soon as I can! I think it is a great option for hiking in Europe.
By Natasha von Geldern
Cicerone publishes an excellent guide to day walks in the French Pyrenees, which is great for planning but should be teamed with a proper map of the chosen region.
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