View across to the mountain range which separates Valley d Arrens from Cauterets
Link to detailed route page and map click on route title
There is a 5 – 7 day circular tour (see picture) that one can do in the summer and we decided to hike the stage from Arrens-Marsous to Estaing and then back along the lower GR 10 route. Difficult to find out much info on distances and heights on the internet as you are pushed towards getting the guide book for the tour (in French) or paying for an organised trip. Mike estimated it as about 18 km (so got that broadly spot on) whereas I was way under at 12km!
Day started well with a great coffee to get us going in AM. The start of the hike took us steadily up through an arboretum (what a great idea for using land on the side of a steep slope above the town) and then into high (steep sided) mountain pastures which afforded us fantastic views of the Valley D’Arrens and the Pic des Taillades. First landmark was the Pic de Predouset, seen from the valley floor an imposing ‘tooth’ above the town. Time for our cheese sarnie before the fun begun!
The trail we took contours round Courade det Mail and although we are walking through hard pack snow to start with it is not too bad as the slope is gradual. However, after crossing the fence line, where we saw a party of skiers, the exposure became more extreme and the snow pack was much more firm. With no crampons we decided to head upwards away from the path in the hope of reaching a slightly less exposed shoulder (we did) and sun softened hardpack (debatable). When there is nothing to arrest a fall and it is hard to make an impression on the snow surface progress is slow going and for me each footstep needed to be taken with care.
We were very glad to reach the col of Harbourade et Peyrelade and heaved a big sigh of relief that neither of us had slipped – or wanted to go back the way we came. Anyway sitting next to the ruined hut, in fantastic conditions having our tea and pate sarnies and admiring the view made us glad we had persevered.
Lovely hike down off the shoulder and through a wooded river valley where we joined up with GR10 and a nice gentle walk back to the car. Without the snow in spring this would have been a much easier hike than it turned out to be.