Hiking Montagne du Rey (1349m) from Louvie-Juzon - Springtime in the Pyrenees-Atlantique

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Tuesday 10 March 2015

Hiking Montagne du Rey (1349m) from Louvie-Juzon - Springtime in the Pyrenees-Atlantique

The Montagne du Rey, positioned at the mouth of the Vallee d'Ossau, may seem small compared to some of the Pyrenean giants nearby. However, this narrow peak which towers above the small village of Louvie-Juzon is ideally positioned to give wonderful views deep into the heart of the valley and also far out onto the flattened plains to the north. Climbing this peak really gives a great impression of just how suddenly the Pyrenees rise up out of the rolling Acquitaine countryside, with a 1000m height difference emerging in just the space of a few kilometres. Our March climb to this summit really allowed us fully appreciate all of the surrounding countryside, from mountains to pastures, beneath a springtime sunny sky.

We found this hike suggested on an information board positioned in Louvie-Juzon the day before, on our way back from our attempt on the Col du Pourtalet, and decided to give it a try since we could walk straight out of our base at Camping le Rey. In fact, from our motorhome window we could look up and see the summit we were heading towards, a mere 900m above us!

After the short walk into town we soon picked up the start of the trail which begins along  the Rue Du Rey on the west edge of the village. The tarmac road soon gave way to a gravel and then dirt track which initially passed through open fields before entering the wooded lower slopes of the mountain.

Reminiscent of a Lake District summer day, it felt amazing to be hiking once more in green and lush hills with the smell of moist air, trees and leaves. As much as we had fallen in love with Spain and the dry, sunny hikes we'd enjoyed in Cabo de Gata, there memories of long days hiking in the Lakes made us feel quite nostalgic as we followed the switchbacks up through the mountain.

Passing the first flowers of spring bravely emerging from the damp ground, still very wet from the recent snowmelt, we felt the freshness of the air and it made us feel very happy as we climbed upwards. Reaching an altitude marker at around 800m we paused to gaze out over the mouth of the valley and the flat plains of Acquitaine stretching north. Hard to believe that the mountains could rise so sharply from this rolling landscape.

As the route continued we negotiated several fallen trees and turned right, leaving the "Tour d'Ossau" route and instead heading toward the "Sommit Montagne du Rey". A few more fallen trees later and we reached the end of the stony track at 1054m.

From here the route became much steeper, traversing southwest up a steep grassy slope, made very muddy and slippy by the melting snow which still covered much of the ground. That final 300m of climbing turned into a great upper body workout as we used our poles against the pull of gravity on the increasingly slippy floor, but the reward would be worth it.

As the climb goes up the northern face of the mountain the view south into the heart of the Pyrenees is hidden, until you reach the top that is. Stepping onto the col at 1274m a magnificent vista was suddenly revealed, with snow capped, sharp and rugged peaks in all directions to the south, with the iconic Pic du Midi d'Ossau straight in front of us.  It was beautiful.  Standing on the ridge it again reminded us of the sudden drop to the flatten plains in the north.

Settling in, watching the Griffon vultures wheeling above, I found a great spot to lie in the sun and we whiled away the next hour just breathing in the fresh air, absorbing the warmth of the day and reflecting on how lucky we felt. Gazing over such a marvelous sight, the snowcapped Pyrenees in the springtime sunshine, was a wonderful treat.

As we negotiated the return hike, retracing our steps back to Louvie-Juzon, we felt thankful once more that we had chosen this route north. We had never expected to be back in the mountains so soon and now we had enjoyed a great bike ride and a great hike as well. With less than a week now until we are due to arrive in Holland I wonder what the next few days will hold?

Walk Information: 
Motorhome Base: Camping Le Rey
Start/ End Point: Louvie-Juzon
Total Distance: approx 9km
Ascent/Descent: 853m
Time it took us: 4 hours
Level: Moderate (last 800m Hard)
Map: Catre de Randonnees no.3 - Bearn 1:50,000

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