In the Cirque du Gavarnie - The Hiking in the Haute Pyrenees

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Monday 20 October 2014

In the Cirque du Gavarnie - The Hiking in the Haute Pyrenees

After our speedy ascent to Station Luz Ardiden on Sunday afternoon we wound our way a little further south and deeper into the mountains, ascending up the valley to the small town of Gavarnie right on the fringe of the Pyrenees National Park. After such an amazing bike ride we were feeling good and the mood was set to continue into the evening, since in addition to finding a very peaceful aire at around 1400m, we were also very lucky to meet Rob and Sue, 2 New Zealanders currently touring Europe in their Aussie motorhome. Kindly inviting us over that evening for a chat, we got to enjoy some excellent company and make some new friends, which can be tricky on the road, but Rob and Sue were so easy to chat to that we had a great time.

Monday dawned, bringing more fine weather to the Pyrenees and we were keen to explore. After a slow start to the morning we hitched a lift into the town with Rob and Sue shortly after midday and began a peaceful stroll towards the Cirque de Gavarnie, an amazing natural amphitheatre of rock set in the heart of the region, 30,000 hectares of which was given UNESCO’s World Heritage Site award in 1997, for both natural and cultural reasons. Only 27 sites in the world have received such an award to date. It was easy to see why.

Here, deep in the Pyrenees National Park and right on the edge of the French Spanish border we made our way slowly towards the Mont-Perdu Massif which rises more than 3000m in altitude. Directly ahead, the Cirque du Gavarnie confronted us. A rock wall 1700m high and several kilometres in circumference, tipped with the imposing summits of Mont Perdu (3352m), Marboré Peak (3284m) and Taillon (3144m). The cirque became legend when Victor Hugo, in his illustrious poem “Dieu”, described it as an “impossible and extraordinary object”, a “colosseum of nature”.

Picking our way over the loose stony path right into the cradle of the Cirque we ascended slowly to reach the foot of the 423m high Grand Waterfall until we stood right in the spray that spread gently out over the rocky scree. Looking back down the valley the green and lush Pyrenees extended as far as the eye could see - it was a really magical sight which the camera just couldn't do justice to. Hard to believe it was the 20th October!

As the shadows lengthened, emphasising the autumnal shades on the trees, we began our return to Gavaranie by the same route. As luck would have it we bumped into Rob and Sue once more and continued the rest of the way back in their company. An excellent way to finish our short, first hike since returning to the mountains. Although not one of our more challenging walks, it was good to reawaken our 'walking uphill' muscles and the rewarding views had been incredible and made us very excited about the days ahead.

Walk Information: 
Motorhome Base: Garvanie
Start/ End Point: Garvanie
Time It Took Us: approx 3 hours
Level: Easy / Moderate
Map: Carte de Randonnees Cartes no.4 'Bigorre'  1:50.000

Other Related Posts:
Hiking in the Hautes-Pyrénées & the Pyrénées National Park - Gavarnie & Cauterets

3 Big Hikes in the High Mountains of the Ariege-Pyrénées, France

See all Our Hikes in the Pyrenees

Road Cycling in the Hautes-Pyrénées - The Most Famous & Difficult Climbs of the Tour de France

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