Hike and wild swim your way around one of the worlds most stunning mountain ranges
Day 1 and it's time to get cracking. We'll pick you up at Toulouse airport around 11.30 and bring you back to the guest house in Luchon. In the afternoon there's the opportunity to go rock climbing (if there's still time, and weather permitting). In the evening we'll have a chat about the plan for the following days going over all the essentials - food, equipment, weather, etc. All clued in it'll be time for dinner and a chill ahead of the adventure to come.
It's an early start on day 2 so we can make the most of it. After breaky we'll drive an hour and a half to the start point in the Val d'Aran in Catalonia, Spain. Without skipping a beat it's straight into the trek, which kicks off weaving through Pyreneen Black Pine before roaming out to expansive fields of alpine flowers. After a bit of a climb we'll discover our first sizeable lake near the Refuge de Colomers where it's time for a spot of lunch. Grubbed up we'll head out into the wild and rocky terrain meeting the Pyrenean Haute Route heading over the Gran de Sendrosa pass (2,200m) to reveal the Saboredo Refuge.
(Time on the move 5-6 hours)
It's day 3 already and time to discover the mountains. We'll be traversing the shores of two stunning lakes pitched below the Ratera Pass where we join the GR11. We then stroll back down to the sparkling lakes of the Cirque de Colomers. Listen up for the marmots and soak in the colourful alpine flowers. We're then in for a treat as we head up the Colomers Pass (2,400m) to the Ventosi I Cavell refuge, which many think holds the best location of all huts in the Pyrenees.
(Time on the move 5-6 hours)
Fully recharged and refuelled we'll head for Pico Montardo, looming 2,833m over the Refuge de Restanca. The route winds its way up the Haute Route to Crestada Pass. From there we'll move up to the ridge line to the summit of Montardo and its jaw dropping view of the Spanish/French border. You'll gaze out over inimitable Pyrenean peaks like Pico Aneto. Suitably awe inspired, we'll then trek down to Restance Refuge, known for its friendly atmosphere.
(Time on the move 5-6 hours)
It's come time to love and leave the Thousand Lake area as we ascend over the Col de Caldes (2,400 meters) progressing to the Cirque de Travessani. Our path here meets the famous GR11 taking us onto what is for many the highlight of the circuit, the Seven Lake Walk. Now comes the icing on the cake for the wild swimmers amongst us who can attempt the seven-lake swim challenge. This is sure to be one you won't forget showing off your doggy paddle in an emerald lake surrounded by snowcapped peaks. It's then time to head back down to catch our transfer back to France and gorge on our celebratory feast!
(Time on the move 5-6 hours)
So does that mean it's all over? Maybe not. If you've got a later flight you can choose to either take a chilled morning to visit the natural spa and perhaps hit the shops for a few gifts. Or if you're up for it, get yourself out for some world class mountain biking and/or paragliding in this outdoor mecca before the transfer back to Toulouse.
What are the refuges like? Is it better than camping?
All drinking water is from the refuge or can be bought at various stops for the first day’s walking. We pass streams in various places that you can top up from if you should run out, so take purification to add to it in the form of silver chloride or chlorine.
The food in the refuges is plentiful and of very good quality, often using locally sourced ingredients. Breakfasts consist of pastries, fresh bread and jams and you can expect hearty meals in the evenings.
The guide provides some snacks for your days on the mountain, however do bring some of your favourite snacks from home, a range of fast and slow release energy snacks. The pure ‘energy’ style bars which are solid are quite tough to eat on the mountain so go with simple things. Flapjacks, shortbread, sweets, nuts and chocolate are great, snacks that you’re going to really look forward to eating and which will give you energy.
Nothings better than camping! But we'll let you off this time.
The refuges are basic, these are inaccessible mountain huts – albeit large. They all have running water, so flush toilets are standard. Most will have hot showers, but on a busy day that hot water will be in high demand and may run out.
Accommodation is in dormitories, so earplugs are recommended if snorers keep you awake. Food will be good with ample carbohydrate content – think pasta, rice, potatoes etc, but don’t expect a la carte, food often has to be flown in by helicopter! Given we are all carrying our own kit we don’t want to be weighed down by tents and cooking equipment, and as the refuges have beds and washing facilities they are considered the sensible and more comfortable option on these routes.
You don't need porters! This summer trek is a hut supported trek. Where we will get breakfast, packed lunch and dinner at each hut. Therefore there is no need for tents, fuel stoves etc.
A rucksack of around 40-60L should do you just fine. Aim not to carry any more than 10kg. You will be able to leave some kit with the minibus for when you get back off the mountains. If you are borrowing or buying a rucksack, ask someone to help you adjust it to fit your back. And ensure you are making these adjustments with weight inside it, not empty. Generally it should sit reasonably high on your back so that the weight is acting vertically downwards, not forcing your shoulders back or drooping past your backside. Again, it’s about how you feel comfortable wearing it and important to get right.
Make sure too that it is either waterproof or you have a waterproof cover for your rucksack. It’s not a bad idea to pack your gear into waterproof stuffs sacs, or even bin bags, in case of a deluge.
No, this is a trek, so standard walking gear outlined in the kit list should suffice.
The refuges all provide blankets so you can just take a sleeping bag liner with you which will save you some weight.
Some of our leaders prefer to take a one or two season sleeping bag, if you would prefer your own sleeping bag we definitely recommend looking for something lightweight – you will be carrying it!
Summer in the Pyrenees can be busy within striking distance of the main car parks and operational chairlifts as they attract the local walkers, bikers and day trippers. But once you are a few hours away from these it will feel like you have the whole mountain range to yourself, with occasional people sharing the same path as you. It is a huge area, and most of the time you’ll see more wildlife than people. In the evenings the huts can get busy as people tend to centre on them having come from all directions, but the next morning all those people will disappear once more.
Although we’re not at altitude, or in somewhere like the Himalayas, don’t underestimate this trek. The days are relatively long with reasonable altitude gains (and losses) each day. If you make an effort with fitness before coming out you’ll enjoy it far more than if you are struggling up every hill each day barely able to notice the spectacular views.
Of course! But they aren't heated...
It’s likely to be lovely and sunny, and reasonably warm (pretty hot lower down). However, we’re in the mountains, and not very far from the Atlantic, so there is every risk of rain, thunderstorms, and wind. Night time temperatures high up will be decidedly chilly.
The climate of the Pyrenees is generally better than the UK, but there is still the risk of inclement weather, so we advise in the kit list to pack accordingly (see above). And just like any other holiday, having a quick last minute look at the forecast before you come out can be a useful pointer of what’s in store.
We haven’t included flights as this gives you options from the UK. There are many flights that come to Toulouse daily from many different airports.
We will be at the airport at 11.30 am on day one of the itinerary. On the day you leave, we will be dropping the team off at Toulouse airport for 2.30 pm. (These times are approximate and are TBC.)
Please, therefore, find flights that work for these timings.
If there are any issues with this please let us know and we will also try and help however it might mean in getting a hire car/train or taxi to your start/finish point.
Bagneres de Luchon is 1h 40 mins drive away.
You must carry individual travel insurance to take part in the expedition. We cannot take you on the mountain without proof of insurance.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip. To include medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip.
Your insurance details are requested on the booking form, however this can be arranged at a later date.We will be requesting your insurance details 8 weeks before your departure.
On and off, don’t rely on it but there could be exposed points where you get a signal, notable higher up. In valleys you’ll be hard pushed to get a signal unless they are populated. For selfies...yes.
Yes, all our trips are for people of 18 years of age and older.