Pic Perdiguere

The dark of a January evening in front of the fire surrounded by a soggy Dartmoor it is easy for my mind to wander back to recent mountain adventures in warm sunshine. This is one such episode that will live long in my memory as a grand day (or so) out.

Lac d'Oo
Starting out from the Granges d'Astau an easy path (GR10) leads quickly up to Lac d'Oo and the Auberge. Continuing further up the valley we reach Lac d'Espingo and its accompanying refuge. At this stage the GR10 has turned off for Bagneres-de-Luchon and if you started late the crowds will have thinned.

Lac Saussat and Lac d'Espingo
After the third piece of water, Lac Saussat, the path starts to climb through the Cirque d'Espingo in order to reach Portillon where the fun begins.

Cirque d'Espingo
Refuge du Portillon is in a stunning position on the HRP and surrounded by numerous 3000m peaks.

Refuge du Portillon
It took us about 4.5 hrs and 1400+m to reach the refuge where we enjoyed a cold drink with our picnic lunch sat in the warm sunshine overlooking Lac du Portillon. Rested we now cross the dam and set off up to Collado Inferior de Lliterola, another 500+m at 2964m.

Approaching Collado Inferior de Lliterola
The col marks the start of our real objective to gain the ridge up to Punta de Lliterola 3116m, Pico Royo 3103m and Tuca de Lliterola 3080m. Initially the snow can be quite steep although this can be preferable to the broken loose ground lying underneath! but gaining the crest reveals good rock and plenty of opportunities for scrambling.

Gaining the Crest
Approaching Punta de Lliterola
Pico Royo with Pico Perdiguero behind left
The ridge is followed easily down to Collado Superior de Lliterola. An initial fairly steep scramble establishes you on Perdiguero (or as it is affectionately known to my wife "Jenga Mountain" due to the generally loose nature of most of the blocks on the North face), so exposed crest or loose blocks, neither are that bad.

After the initial scramble Pico Perdiguero

Pico Perdiguro summit view

Portillon far below
The route is now reversed to regain the col to head directly back to Portillon, firstly on a large fairly steep snowfield, followed by boulder fields festooned with occasionally useful cairns. As the way opens up in a more northerly direction a path becomes more evident which eventually rejoins our earlier path to the Col Inferior.

Collada Superior de Lliterola crampon moment
Reaching the Refuge at 7pm meant they were going to be busy with their guests so we passed without a celebratory beer and continued a little further to a bivy spot for the night.(2200+m positive/850+m negative)

Looking back from Portillon at 7pm
Lots of hot coffee and sandwiches for supper we watched the stars on and off through the night before the 4hr stagger out the following morning.

Comfy Pyrenees bivy


Via-Alpina 2017

Another end to end hike.

We have always wanted to visit the Alps but never really decided where as there does seem to be quite a lot of them. Cicerone's "Trekking in the Alps" alone lists "20 classic routes" all competing for our attention, but there is nothing quite like starting at the sea and ending at the sea as the Pyrenean Haute Route does. So in what seems like a good idea in front of the fire on a cold Dartmoor evening tickets to Trieste are booked and we begin pouring over maps and kit lists in excited anticipation.

So its coming to the end of April, much planning, route worrying and kit selecting has been going on, most of which is totally unnecessary but still an integral part of preparing for one of our hikes. To make it "official" we announced to the world, or at least the Via Alpina Facebook page that we would be starting in June.........

Hi, we are Nick and Jo Mandeville. We live and work in the Dartmoor National Park in Devon UK. This year we start walking the Via-Alpina from Trieste on the 24th of June hoping to reach Monaco in early October. We have hiked, climbed, camped and bivouacked throughout Dartmoor, Snowdonia, Cumbria, Scotland and the Pyrenees. At a time of great change politically and environmentally we hope to discover an Alps that is inclusive and that inspires particularly the young who once captivated by mountains and wild places are sure to be their future guardians. If you see us stumbling along the trail please come and say Hi.

We aim to follow the "Red Trail" from Trieste as far as its intersection with the "Green Trail" (Alpine Pass Route) which we aim to take through Switzerland before meeting up with the "Tour Du Mont Blanc". At some point on the "TMB" we will break off to join the "GR5" which will form the basis of our route down to Monaco. 
Along the way if the weather is kind, we have the time and a little extra in our legs we will try and summit Triglav, Buet and Viso.............its a rough plan anyway!


Pyrenees Haute Route Variants

Having through hiked the Pyrenees twice, deficiencies in Ton Joosten's HRP route become more evident. Obviously individual timescales, snow conditions, prevailing weather and re-supply strategy all make demands on route selection but there are some sections that can certainly be improved. A look at the original George Veron Guide is useful.
One such section is that from Gavarnie to Biados. Here Joosten will send you all the way down to Heas with a road walk to the Auberge and camping that in high season is often full. Following the climb out to Hourquette Heas, Hourquette Chermentas and Barroude you descend once more through the Cirque de Barrosa to a very busy road to follow towards Parzan before which you turn up a dirt road for the long climb up to Collado de Urdiceto. In effect you have traversed through a wild, high section of the Pyrenees mostly on road and track and to a large extent low down, not very Haute Route.
There is an alternative, not for bad weather, but certainly far more interesting and within the spirit of the HRP, this would be the George Veron route.

Follow the HRP from Gavarnie through the Hourquette d'Alans and head down the Cirque d'Estaube to Lac des Gloriettes. At the southern end of the lake a bridge leads to a rising path heading East, follow this as the way becomes clearer and eventually a broad grass track that intersects the road leading to the Cirque de Troumouse, follow the road to Auberge du Maillet.

Cirque d'Estaube
The Auberge has rooms catering for hikers, meals and a bar, it is also possible to pitch a tent opposite as this is outside the National Park.
From here you will have to follow the road and/or take the paths between the hairpins until picking up the path leading to the Cabane de la Vierge. Paths abound, some human some animal but it is fairly easy to follow the curve of the Cirque in order to reach the Cabane des Aires.

Cabane des Aires, Troumouse.
North East of the Cabane is an obvious hill (Tuc de l'Escaurede), keeping to the South side of this a vague path becomes clearer as you approach the steep flank of Pic de la Sede.Once started the way is clearly marked with many cairns, zig zaging up the steep limestone height is gained quickly to reach the Col de la Sede.

Improbable from here, cabane, hill and flank of la Sede.
There are stunning views of the Cirque de Troumouse from the Col de la Sede.

Cirque de Troumouse.
At the Col rather than going through climb up onto the ridge and head South towards Pic de Gerbats where you will find a vague path through the scree and boulders below the cliff of its Northern flank. On arriving at the grassy edge there are increasingly dramatic views into Barroude as you get closer to Pic de la Gela.

Barroude and the ridge to Rioumajou.
If you have the time there are great views from Pic de la Gela or continue to skirt below its peak on a traverse to gain the ridge at a grassy col and continue North Westerly to gain Horquette de Heas. (This final section of ridge is quite narrow and rocky, a la Striding Edge, approach with caution in poor conditions)

Approaching Hourqette de Heas.
Back on the standard route now heading East and then South through Hourquette de Chermentas on a clear path to Barroude. Really miss the Refuge for it's friendly welcome and sustenance, I hope that one day it will be re-built.

Lac de Barroude.
From Barroude it is a short climb up to Port de Barroude. Here Joosten's guide has you descending the Cirque de Barrosa and on down to the Parzan road before joining the GR11 up the long dirt road to Urdiceto. Instead we turn left and follow the ridge over Pic de Port Vieux.

Leaving Barroude.
This is a long day, through hiking with a reasonable pack at least 9hrs walking so be prepared and take enough water for the day. The ridge is generally wide and easy but poor visibility could lead you into problems with steep ground and you would be very exposed to stormy weather, having said that it is escapable at fairly regular intervals on reasonable paths. The way is obvious in places, but not always, there are cairns and the occasional white paint mark indicating the way but in good weather sticking to the ridge the way is pretty obvious.

Pic de Bataillence.
The real sting comes right at the end if the ridge where you arrive at a well marked col just South of Pic de Lias. The initial down climb is steep and loose and seemingly heading into an abyss, but orange paint marks on your left (looking out) on better rock provides a fairly easy descent that soon eases.

Un-named col South of Pic de Lias.
There is now a long traversing descent to reach Hospice de Rioumajou that is not to be under-estimated, nothing difficult but route finding can be taxing as the path disappears repeatedly in the grassy sections as you search for orange paint flashes on the odd rock!

Long way down to Rioumajou.
Hospice de Rioumajou is not going to be of any use as I think it closes at about 4pm, but there is a water source, a bivouac area and a good foot soak in the river on a nice evening can set you up for tomorrow.

Hospice de Rioumajou.
Veron now takes you South on a very pleasant hike to Port de Urdiceto where we can rejoin the GR11 to Camping Forcallo or Refugio de Biados. There is also Port de Plan which will also lead on down to the GR11 and Port de la Madera which catches up with the GR11 beyond both the camping and Refugio.

Leaving Rioumajou.
A fine route, highly recommended for inclusion in anyone's Haute Route Pyrenees crossing.