After 'tackling the Tourmalet' on Thursday afternoon we had taken a short drive that had allowed us to move slightly west to an adjacent valley, where we had based ourselves in the small town of Cauterets. Our plan was to try out a few hikes in the Haute Pyrenees and this small town looked like a good staging post.
With the sunny weather continuing on Friday we rose early and enjoyed some morning exercise and a healthy breakfast before donning our hiking gear and setting off into the midday sun. Our aim was to head up the slopes of Pic du Monne, or as some signs called it 'Moun Ne' (no the missing 't' is not a typo'). Standing more than 1800m above our motorhome the rocky twin summits of Pic du Monne and nearby Pic de Liou (2565m) looked like a daunting task and we knew that with just 6-7 hours of daylight left that we were unlikely to make the summit, but we'd see how we got on.
Unlike in the Alps, where we had found excellent signs marking routes to pretty much any nearby summit or col, we actually had a hard time finding any signs at all to point us in the direction of the lower paths marked on our map. As we were using the 1:50,000 Carte de Randonees series (No. 4 for this area) it was hard to make out the tangle of streets in Cauterets, but after a few false starts and an uncertain half an hour or so we did emerge onto an identifiable slope and began the long climb upwards.
The weather was amazing, and from this east facing slope the view over towards the ridge above Luz Ardiden was beautiful and as we climbed higher the peaks to the south began to open up as well as we could see over the nearby hills. After 2 hours of climbing we took a pause for lunch and considered our options. It was already 3pm, but the summit looked so inviting, so we decided to push on for another hour or so before turning around. It was definitely the right choice.
The late afternoon sun cast a soft light on the slopes as our shadows grew longer and as we passed 2000m altitude the view was just stunning. Looking south into the highest parts of the Pyrenees we could make out the massive summits of Vignemale, the Pic du Midi (and the Col du Tourmalet just below that we had visited the day before) and countless others beyond silhouetted against the sky. With nobody else on the mountain it felt like a magical early evening, exclusively for just us two.
We eventually turned round at 2400m probably just an hour or less from the rocky top, but it would have been a push to get back before dark and we had already enjoyed so much of the view that we felt content to leave it for the day.
Motorhome Base: Cauterets
Start/ End Point: Cauterets
Time It Took Us: 7 hours
Ascent: approx 1800m
Map: Carte de Randonnees Cartes no.4 'Bigorre' 1:50.000
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