This blog describes my 24-day traverse of the Pyrenees from Atlantic to Mediterranean, July 2011.
The Pyrenean Haute Route is around 800km with 42,000 metres of ascent.

Map of the route | Schedule

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 9 - Oulettes du Vignemale to Héas

9th July 2011

HRP - Day 9

I knew this was going to be a long tough day, so the alarm was set for 5am, and I was hiking up the hill towards Hourquette d'Ossoue by 5.50. It was pretty cold and grey and windy, so I didn't hang around much, and just went straight past the Refuge de Baysellance without stopping.

Being a Saturday, the trail was super busy with folk hiking up kitted out with axe and crampons, until I got down to the Barrage d'Ossoue. I had a few minutes slumping on the grass, before heading on down the road to Gavarnie. I'd already hiked the GR10 that winds around the opposite hillside and knew that the road option would be much quicker.

At 12.30pm I arrived in Gavarnie, once again slightly nervous about whether any food shops would be open. Thankfully the supermarket is open all day, so I stocked up with what I could carry for the next couple of days.

Gavarnie is a funny place. Full of touristical kitsch, and paying homage to another era. You'll find plenty of hotels, camper vans and donkey rides. But I just wanted to find the quickest way back out onto the trail.

I remember at this point an American lady saying to me "Gee, looks like you've had quite a work out", but I was too tired and focused to be able to respond.

I started hiking towards the Cirque de Gavarnie, but the route then turns sharp left and launches into zig-zags up towards the Refuge des Espuguettes. There were quite a few day hikers around, but once I climbed further and crossed the Hourquette d'Alans 2430m, I was back on my own.

The next section reminded me of the Mull leg of the Scottish Islands Peaks Race where you hit a never ending descending traverse into a long valley, that just goes on and on. There was nobody around and just a few staring cattle, so it was quite a relief when the strangely green Lac des Gloriettes finally came into view.

I kept on seeing perfect camping spots, but knew I needed to keep pressing on towards Héas. After the dam on the lake, there was a rather grim road section leading down zig-zags into a gloomy steep-sided valley. I finally arrived in Héas at about 9pm, so was feeling moderately shattered after a long day. The so-called "Auberge Le Refuge" turned out the perfect place to stay. They served me omelette and fried potatoes with salad, and had a barn full of comfortable beds making for a great night's sleep.

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