Pyrenean routes through Alta Ruta de los Perdidos y Vignemale

Late July 2021, my co-founder Ricardo and I headed to the Pyrenees for 7 days of hiking through some beautiful high routes. If you’ve never heard of the Monte Perdido and the Vignemale, here’s where they’re located:

Yes, pretty much in the middle

One of the greatest things of this loop is that it jumps multiple times between Spain and France. That means that some mornings you’ll get to eat croissants while others plain boring white bread (I don’t mean to offend anyone here). Here’s a closer look at our loop:

The little trace going West is a little ascent we added on our “rest day” because… who needs a rest day in the middle of the mountains? Certainly not us. More on that later.

This loop was about 136km with 7,790m of positive elevation according to Komoot (yes, the trace is available to everyone, so go save it). Needless to say that it’s a rather serious 7-day trek. Here’s a little elevation map (looks too good not to be here):

This was our itinerary, going from refuge to refuge for the most part:

  • Day 1: Pineta to Góriz
  • Day 2: Góriz to Bujaruelo
  • Day 3: Bujaruelo to Panticosa
  • Day 4: Panticosa to Bachimaña
  • Day 5: Bachimaña to Clot
  • Day 6: Clot to Gavarnie
  • Day 7: Gavarnie to Pineta

Day 1: Pineta to Góriz

The Pineta Valley is quite beautiful, especially as it opens up to the Añisclo canyon. It’s also where you can climb the Monte Perdido, the third highest mountain in the Pyrenees.

Day 2: Góriz to Bujaruelo

After a pretty terrible night at the busiest refuge of the area, we left the canyons and headed towards “la Brèche de Roland”.

La Brèche de Roland (2,804m)

There’s a few different names for this one as you cross the border between Spain and France. You might hear “La Brecha de Rolando” or in Aragonese, “La Breca de Roldán”. We picked a really great route that took a bit of scrambling to get to the top. Once the “brèche” passed we had truly epic views.

A heart in the mountains? Yes, we saw one:

This is the kind of descent we like

We didn’t have a chance to stop at the Refuge de la Brèche de Rolland, but I’d highly recommend it as it’s been fully renovated and the area is gorgeous.

Don’t worry, I asked and there’s helicopters regularly bringing food there

Day 3: Bujaruelo to Panticosa

Day 4: Panticosa to Bachimaña

The “ibones de Bachimaña” were one of the highlights of the trip. The term “ibón” is the Aragonese name for a small lake from glacier origin in the Pyrenees. There’s dozens to see and we could’ve spent many more days there.

Going through those snowy patches, we slowly got to the “Cuello del Infierno” (2,721m). We missed the opportunity to do a loop as presented here but that will be for next time.

And here’s the Refugio de Bachimaña. Among a number of other good things, it’s one of the only refuges whose lunch pack would actually feed me for a whole day.

Day 5: Bachimaña to Clot

We arrived at the Puerto de Marcadau (2,541m), ready to return to France for a bit. A beautiful rocky landscape presented itself. We started a long descent to Refuge Wallon-Marcadau (currently closed for renovation) and then to the Refuge du Clot (pronounce the “t”), making sure we’d have to climb all of it again the next day.

Apparently some people need a beer after a day of hiking

Day 6: Refuge du Clot to Gavarnie

After a night of heavy hail hitting the roof of the refuge, we woke up to a clear sky and some very soft light, feeling lucky we escaped some apocalyptic weather. On top of it, we were served croissants for breakfast (notice a pattern?)

This is what the hail looked like…

Our first stop of the day was around the Lac de Gaube, a gorgeous place.

While we had great weather planned for the day, we knew the next day would likely be awful and that there was a possibility we might have to combine days 6 and 7. From our planning, it would be about 26+21km in a single day. That sounded crazy but why not.

With that idea in mind, needless to say it didn’t take too long before we reached the Hourquette d’Oussoue pass, sitting at 2,734m. From there, we could’ve climbed the “Petit Vignemale” but we thought it’d take too much time and skipped it.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

 J.R.R. Tolkien

A recurring theme in the Pyrenees was that feeling of discovering new worlds. Just before every pass, we’d get excited at the idea of discovering a new valley. The Ossau Valley was one of the most beautiful.

We then kept going towards Garvernie, which turned out to be a lot longer than expected.

The zigzagging in the following photo lasted for what felt like forever. After looking at the map again, we realized that we had close to 33km to walk on the day, and not 26. In the mountains, 7 kilometers do make a difference.

We felt like in a dream, not sure when the last turn would finally come.

For the last part, the weather started to change, only letting us see herds of cows.

Those lovely creatures do look a lot less friendly in the myst. We weren’t too sure if their staring was abnormal, or if the exhaustion was making our brains go “wild”. In any case, we had no plans to disrupt their day and continued to Gavarnie in auto-pilot mode.

Arriving in Gavernie with heavy legs, I went straight to the first grocery store I could find and bought more fresh fruits and cheese than a man could reasonably eat. Weirdly enough, I didn’t feel any better afterwards, but what can I say? I had just seen cows talking to me and I wasn’t totally thinking straight.

If that wasn’t clear, we weren’t doing Day 7 today (Day 6 was in fact already 2 days combined). What we were doing was stay in a hotel; a totally normal one where we’d have light dinner.

As weird as it might sound, the Hôtel Le Marboré was actually one of the highlights of the trip. A review online read: “this hotel has a quaint charm to it that makes it quite memorable.” And memorable it was.

Day 7: Gavarnie to Pineta

A day of fairly technical hiking, for which I only have a few iPhone photos as the weather wasn’t great. The descent from the Port Neuf de Pinède (2,466m) was incredible.

The photos that never made it to Instagram

Here you can learn more about what we ate, how we recovered from the long hikes (or not) and how short shepherds were in the past.

If you want to plan a similar trip…

Here’s a few resources and notes to plan a trek in the Pyrenees:

  • Get the book “Shorter Treks in the Pyrenees” from Cicerone. A number of our routes were from the Tour de Vignemale and La Alta Ruta de Los Perdidos section.
  • Our Komoot itinerary (if you’re not using Komoot already, something’s wrong with you).
  • Consider whether you’re ready to do over 1,000m of elevation per day. We went down into a valley pretty much every day which made the trip a lot more tiring. We were, to some extent, forced to do so because a number of refuges were either fully booked or closed (for renovation or covid). If you’re willing to camp, there’s a number of ways you can stay high up in the mountains.
  • Most refuges suck (award to Góriz for giving us beds that resembled tombs), and there’s high chances you’ll get that snoring dude in our room (he seems to always be there, no matter the refuge). Bujaruelo and above all Bachimaña were great though.
  • While none of the routes were particularly technical, there can be quite a bit of scrambling, so pick an alternative route if you’re not feeling overly confident (same goes if weather is bad).

And that’s it. Hope you enjoyed following us around.

Be safe in the mountains! Until next time! 👋


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