Refuge des Besines from l'Hospitalet-pres-l'Andorre - Up Close with the GR10 once again

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Sunday 23 November 2014

Refuge des Besines from l'Hospitalet-pres-l'Andorre - Up Close with the GR10 once again

Having rediscovered our hiking legs on our 7 hour trek to Refuge d'en Beys the previous day, we were on the trail again on Sunday, this time from the very edge of France at l'Hospitalet-pres-l'Andorre just a mile away from the tiny country of Andorra. Having driven up here from Ax-les-Thermes early in the day we slipped on our hiking boots just before lunchtime and set off. Our target was the Refuge des Besines at 2104m, around 700m of climbing and around 10km away, and as we began the switchbacks that rose east from the village our legs felt the ache of the previous day's efforts.

Situated on the main road running from Toulouse towards Andorra, L'Hospitalet-pre-l'Andorre marks the point at which you can either head into the small mountainous country of Andorra or veer east to remain in France a short while longer. With a large EDF power station and just a few small houses this felt like a strange place to be based for the night, however, with a free aire and some excellent trails climbing out of the village we were happy to be taking advantage of the continued mild weather for a couple more days. We'd also realised we even had the map for this area from our visit to thePyrenean way in September 2013!

After a moderately steep initial climb the path towards the refuge, which follows the GR107 trail (a variant of the GR10 Pyrenenan Way), began to climb much more gently, traversing north and then east around the mountainside into the valley that sloped up towards the refuge revealing beautiful views along the Haute Vallee de l'Ariege running north back into France. The trail was mostly surrounded by trees losing the last of their leaves and as we crunched along beneath mostly grey skies it felt a lot like a Lake District hike, at least until we looked up to see the much higher mountain tops around such as Pic d'Auriol at 2695m to our left and in the distance Pic d'Etang Faury at 2702m. On the other side of that rocky summit was the Refuged'en Beys that we had reached just 24 hours beforehand and now we were approaching from the other side as we climbed through the Bois Long forest, arriving at the Etang des Besines lake at 1938m after 2 ½ hours of hiking.

From the lake we were treated to amazing views of the high summits ringed around this valley, with sharp ridges dotted with rock spires that had withstood the weathering of the ages to cling on to their precarious vantage points. In the distance we could also now make our the refuge just half an hour away, where the GR107 would meet the GR10 proper and continue on all the way to the Mediterranean Sea! Sadly we wouldn't have time for that today, but one day perhaps we would make the hike the entire way from sea to sea.

However, for today we arrived at the Refuge des Besinges content to just sit on the wooden veranda and enjoy the incredible view back down towards the Haute Vallee de l'Ariege and beyond to the rest of the distant Ariege mountains lying to the west. The slightly dark skies and chilly breeze gave the area a very wild atmosphere which we loved. Having seen barely anyone on the trail all day it felt like we were much further from civilisation than we really were and so we stayed to enjoy that feeling for as long as we could before making the 3 hour return hike in the soft evening light to the relative warmth and comfort of our motorhome. As long as winter stayed away from the mountains we decided we would stay to walk the hills with each passing day feeling more precious than the last.

Walk Information: 
Motorhome Base - l'Hospitalet-pres-l'Andorre
Start/ End Point: l'Hospitalet-pres-l'Andorre
Time It Took Us: 5 hours
Level: Moderate/Hard
Map: Carte de Randonnees Cartes no.8 'Cedagne-Capcir'  1:50.000 (see below)

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