David von Oheimb's Photo Gallery: Brèche de Roland, Pyrenees, France, 21-23 Oct 2011

Since the weather forecast was not very promising for Sunday Oct 23rd, I expected to do just a day trip around the Cirque de Gavarnie, and because I wanted to travel light, I did not bring my proper mountain boots. What I had not taken into account was that just before the mountains had received some light snowfall, such that the upper northern face of the Pyrenees still had a thin snow cover. After learning that the weather would be great for at least all of Saturday and that is possible to drive up the Col de Tentes to 2208 m and thus reach Brèche de Roland pretty quickly, I spontaneously re-arranged my original plan (which was to traverse Monte Perdido from West to East on Sunday morning, crossing a small glacier) and put Monte Perdido back on my plate, but already for Saturday evening and to return on the next morning again via the Brèche.

Arriving at Gavarnie on Friday just after sunset, it was already pretty chilly (around freezing point). So I quickly gave up the idea of car-camping and had to look around for a while until I found an inexpensive place that was still open and not fully booked. Very unusually for me, in particular when being in the mountains, I overslept the next morning, but this was not a problem in the end as sunrise was pretty late.

I started hiking at 9 AM and soon reached the snowy stretches (some of which where also a bit icy), where I regretted having brought only a pair of trekking sandals, which inevitable lead to cold toes. On the other hand, I was able to go very light and fast, reaching the rocky door to Spain before 11 AM, and then my expectations of a very sunny, warm and snow-free continuation proved right. On the way to Góriz turning eastwards, I did not care too much to follow the official route, and I ended up walking just a bit south of it. This put me a bit more in touch with the rather rugged and deserted landscape, where the only creatures I encountered where two chamois, one of them pretty huge, standing on a ridge carefully watching me passing a bit below. As I reached the refuge already at 1 PM, I still had plenty of time to climb Monte Perdido.

On my way out the next morning, it was pretty cloudy, but initially with some sunny patches, which provided dramatic lighting. This time I diligently watched for the cairns and followed the official path, which was very convenient and mostly level and thus shorter than the route I took the day before. Close to the Brèche there is a short somewhat exposed section, where inexperienced mountaineers can hold on to a chain. Going down from the gap through the slightly icy snow with my sandals was a challenge, but not a dangerous one; my butt just hit the ground several times. Since I had to slow down quite a bit on this quarter of the trail, in total I took a bit longer than on the way in: from 8 AM to 12:10.

A GPS recording of our hiking route is available for download as GPX file or KML file for Google Earth. The recording (using an HTC Desire S) of the section between Góriz and the Brèche was very noisy, such that I needed to smoothen it heavily using an enhanced version of my GPX file post-processing tool.
It can be directly viewed on Google Terrain Maps (including waypoints), on Trailguru (including statistics), and on GPSies (including both).

Toulouse - Gavarnie

Gavarnie - Col de Tentes

Col de Tentes - Brèche de Roland

Brèche de Roland

Brèche de Roland - Góriz

At this point, see also Monte Perdido (including Refugio de Góriz)
Góriz - Brèche de Roland

Brèche de Roland

Brèche de Roland - Col de Tentes


Gavarnie - Lourdes

URL: http://David.von-Oheimb.de/gallery/Pyrenees/Roland.html, Last modified: Sat Dec 22 21:41:45 CET 2012