New to our programme in 2013, this trip sold out straight away - recognition that the route offers great ski touring terrain. The Pyrenees forms a natural border between France and Spain where the mountains separate the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extend for 300 miles from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean. Much of the Pyrenees are classified as true wilderness and are very sparsely populated. Whilst many of the famous ski tours in the Alps have become popular, the Pyrenean Haute Route is a superb opportunity to the avoid crowds - consider tackling this fantastic high level route in the Pyrenees before it becomes well known!
The Pyrenees offer huge scope for the ski tourer, with hundreds of peaks, and with reliable snow conditions from February until early April. The routes are seldom tracked and the huts are of a high standard and very friendly. Ski touring is becoming more popular here and responding to this, the refuges are now open early in the spring, where previously they were opened only for the summer walking season.
This is a six-day high level route which traverses a section of the long distance walking route; the GR10 and criss-crosses the French/Spanish border. The route travels from West to East and crosses the border several times, the tour lies entirely within the Pyrenees National Park. There is historical significance to several parts of the route, the major passes being used heavily in World War II and the Spanish Civil War. The highlight for many is an ascent of the highest peak in the French Pyrenees: Vignemale (3289m), although as always we prioritise finding the best possible ski conditions each day.
Fly to Lourdes or Toulouse and transfer to the meeting point in the town of Argelès-Gazost. Argelès-Gazost is an attractive gateway town to the Pyrenees. It has a compact town centre, lined with shops and cafes, a thermal spa and a medieval abbey. The town is nestled immediately below the Pyrenean chain.
We drive south up the Vallee de Arrens towards the massif of the Balaitous, one of the highest peaks in the chain. After a drop off at the road-head we continue up the valley on our skins to the Col de Martin (2295), the Spanish border. We cross into Spain and ski a south facing descent to the Respumoso Refuge beside two remote lakes.
Approximately 4-5 hours, with 800m of ascent.
Leaving the refuge on our skins, we make our way up shady west facing slopes to the Col de la Fache (2665m) and climb to the summit of the peak: Pene d'Aragon (2950m). From the summit a spectacular East facing descent leads down to the Wallen Refuge.
Approximately 6 hours with 800m of ascent.
Now we head towards Vignemale, the highest mountain in the chain. From the hut we skin up through the Arratille valley to reach the Col d'Arratille and again the Spanish border. We then ski east down into a remote vallon (in Spain) with striking views of the west face of the Vignemale; we then skin back up the other side across back into France by the Col des Mulets. From the Col des Mulets, an east facing descent takes us down to the Oulettes Refuge.
Approximately 6-7 hours with 1000m of ascent.
An early start and an ascent of the Vignemale (3298m) the highest mountain in the French Pyrenees. Then a long descent down the Ossoue valley to our accommodation near Gavarnie.
Approximately 8 hours with 1,200m of ascent
With the help of some up-lift we make the classic journey back to the Spanish border via the famous Breche de Roland (2800m). The Breche de Roland is a spectacular natural gap in a huge rock wall, it is 40 m across and 100 m deep. The place offers one of the most photographed and spectacular views in the chain. Once through the Breche we ski down into Spain and to the Goriz refuge.
Approximately 7-8 hours with 900m of ascent.
Note: When there is less snow or conditions are poor, we can opt for the Sarradets refuge situated just below the Breche de Roland on the French side.
A long and exciting day. After an early start we skin north and cross a remote and high pass, giving access to the north slopes of Mont Perdu. After another small ascent we cross back into France via the vast North facing Cirque of Estaube. After a steep and impressive ski down, we cross a final col, the Hourquette d’Alans (2430m). From the col, a long descent takes us down to Gavarnie and short road journey back to Argelès-Gazost. This is a spectacular day and not to be missed. We spend the final night back in the hotel in Argelès-Gazost.
Approximately 8-10 hours with 1,300m of ascent.
If we've stayed in the Sarradets refuge overnight, then we skin immediately from the hut to make an exciting crossing through the Breche de Roland and continue to make an ascent of an elegant Spanish peak called the Taillon (3200m). The route of descent is back through the Breche de Roland and down into the remote Valle d'Ossous which leads back down to Gavarnie. This route is approximately 6-7 hours with 600m of ascent.
Depart after breakfast.
The price includes all guide fees and expenses, all accommodation with 2 nights B&B in Argelès-Gazost and 5 hut nights on half-board basis.
The price does not include travel to/from Argelès-Gazost, local transfers, personal expenses (e.g. drinks, snacks)
The cost for local transfers, taxis and uplift should be no more than about 80 Euros for the week.
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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming to one of our Ski Tours.
During the tour you will be staying most nights in catered high mountain huts and will need to carry all the equipment and clothing you require for the duration of the tour. The huts are comfortable but basic with limited facilities.
Any clothing or other items not required on the tour can be left in a travel bag at your first hotel ready for your return on the final night.
We recommend keeping the weight of your pack as light as possible. If you are new to alpine multi-day ski touring, try taking your pack out on the slopes before the tour to see how it feels. You quickly realise the benefit of ‘skiing light’.
If you are uncertain or need further information, don't hesitate to contact us.
For all touring trips it is essential you ski with an all-mountain/freeride type skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings then you will need to rent skis. The same applies if you have downhill ski boots, you will need to rent ski touring boots.
For alpine ski touring we recommend an all-mountain/freeride touring ski that isn’t too heavy, a really lightweight ski comes at a cost to performance on the descents so are only recommended for really good off-piste skiers with a strong interest in ski touring.
There are plenty of great skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from the following manufactures:
Dynastar Skis: www.dynastar.com
Movement Skis: www.movementskis.com
Black Crows Skis: www.blackcrows-skis.com
Trab Skis: www.skitrab.com/en-us
Scott Skis: http://www.scott-sports.com
Volkl Skis: http://www.voelkl.com
If you are planning on buying skis for ski touring and general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us to discuss the options available to you.
It is essential that you have ski touring boots for all touring trips as walking up hill is much more comfortable in these types of boots with a walk mode and great flex. A dedicated touring boot or a hybrid freeride boot is best.
Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used for touring but they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack plus canister. So unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one.
Over a long multiday tour every gram of weight is important as you have to carry and move it yourself. Carrying a heavy pack will hinder and tire all but the most experienced and fit ski tourer.
The “Safety Trilogy” - required on all our ski tours and off-piste courses.
Food and Water
We suggest you bring with you or buy in resort snack food that you can take out on the hill with you each day. Things like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, sugary sweets or your favorite hill snacks. When you’re staying overnight in huts its best to take supplies for the days you are away. Huts do sell food but it’s expensive and sometimes stocks run low.
If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements especially if you are a Coeliac (Gluten free) or have a dairy allergy we strongly recommend you bring some food with you that you can supplement your dinners with. The huts are fairly good at providing for vegetarians but less so for other dietary needs.
You have to buy bottled water in the huts as usually any running water is non-potable. Bottled water is expensive in French and Swiss huts; you can be paying upto 12-16CHF per 1.5L bottle of water. So please ensure you budget for this cost.
France a Western European country with Paris as its capital city. The country is diverse with countryside, mountainous areas and many beautiful beaches. The country is renowned for its food and wine as well as well know places like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.
Its population is around 66 million people (2013). The highest mountain is Mont Blanc at 4,810m which is visited by many every year to climb.
It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.
For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
For our Pyrenean Haute Route Ski Tour we start and finish in the French town of Argelès-Gazost.
The nearest airport is in Lourdes which is just 13 kms from Argelès-Gazost. The only direct flights from the UK to Lourdes are with Ryanair from Stansted.
The airport in Toulouse is served by Easyjet, Flybe and Jet2 and the transfer time to Argelès-Gazost is about 3 hours - shuttle bus from the airport to the train station (20 mins), followed by train to Lourdes (2 hours 20 minutes) and from Lourdes by bus to Argelès-Gazost (20 minutes)
All our ski tours are led by our team of IFMGA Mountain Guides. The team is led by Olly Allen, Matt Dickinson and Nick Parks.
The first and last nights of the trip will be spent in a comfortable hotel In Argelès-Gazost on a B&B basis. The rest of the nights will be spent in high mountain huts on a half board basis.
IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV
The IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV symbol is the logo of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association.
Nick, Olly and Matt are all fully-qualified UIAGM Mountain Guides and members of the British Mountain Guides Association.
The International Ski Instructors Association is the world body for professional ski instructors.
The ISIA was formed in 1971 and there are currently 39 member nations representing the very best in ski instruction around the world.