It’s been a long time that we wanted to discover the Pyrénées and in particular the National Park (Link to the site of the Park). We took advantage of our summer holidays to hike four days from Cauteret to Gavarnie. A short trek between lakes, refuges and sumptuous passes.

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Day 1 - from Cauteret to Lac d'Estom

We arrived the day before at Cauteret. The city is friendly and very active. It also has the advantage of being easily accessible by train (with bus at the end). Last restaurant and especially last night in a bed before starting 4 days in the mountains.

Note on the duration of the hike: we chose to go slow during this trek and enjoy the mountain. Some days, especially the third, are relatively short but it’s good not to have to run. The crossing must be feasible in 2 days I think by walking at a good pace.

So we are ready to go up to Estom Lake this morning. The weather is gray and it is not very warm. We reach the beginning of the path that is near the intersection of the Avenue du Mamelon Vert and Avenue Charles Thierry (GPS coordinates: 42 ° 53’17.7 “N 0 ° 06’58.2” W). The beginning of the path climbs above the city in the undergrowth. We are accompanied by some morning hikers.

The section to La Raillière (1050m) is not very interesting, we follow the road a little higher on a path “civilized”. The arrival at the thermal establishment immerses us in a real crowd. This is the starting area to the famous Gaube Lake. On our side we fork to the climb of Lake Estom, there are still a lot of people with us.

The vegetation changes little by little, there are now less hardwoods and more conifers. We follow the Gave de Lutour, the landscape is nicer now but the sky is more and more threatening …

After some time we pass the Fruitière which marks the end of the road. We finally reach less “civilized” areas. We will stop a little further to have a snack next to the river and with a herd of cow for the animation. He still has a lot of people on the way.

The end of the climb to the lake will be in the rain. This portion will be long, it’s our first day of walking for a long time, the bags weigh and the weather does not help. Under the sun the mountain must be beautiful but in this case it does not benefit too much.

We will take advantage of the small Refuge to warm up a bit with a tea. They are full tonight, so we will sleep under the tent. We pitch it a little under the refuge to be sheltered from the wind tonight. It’s not too bad even if it’s never fun to bivouac in the rain but it’s part of the game …

In the end, a good first day with the necessary elevation and weather conditions unfriendly … Hope that tomorrow will be better, we’ll see.

Day 2 - from Lac d'Estom  to the Oulettes de Gaube passing by the Col d'Arraillé

A good cold and wet night as we like … The alarm clock is not very pleasant this morning and we would prefer to stay warm in the sleepingbag but we must go …

It is not raining for the moment but the sky is totally covered and gray. Once on our way we attack the climb to the Col d’Arraillé (2583m), the trail offers a beautiful view of the lake with green waters.

The weather is deteriorating as the temperatures drop, we quickly find ourselves in the fog and the few people we meet tell us that there is fresh snow in the pass … Quickly, we will be under our first snowflakes … The atmosphere is gloomy, we have not slept well, it is now really cold and it snows at least August … the Charm of the Mountain!

We finally arrive at the Col! The climb has seemed endless with this weather … It has a little bit of snow at the top but nothing nasty. Unfortunately, the fog closes us all the sight which must however be beautiful in good weather.

We begin the descent after a small meal break. We quickly lose altitude and this slope is a little more sheltered so we warm up a little. We are even entitled to our first rays of sun since our departure from Cauteret … The weather seems to want changed but it is shy for the moment. We are not the only ones enjoying a little warmth as evidenced by our meeting with a little fierce Marmot.

We will arrive quickly at the Refuge des Oulettes de Gaubes, it is a superb place! The Oulettes extend at the foot of the Vignemale in a kind of mini valley surrounded by high walls.

We will have a break at the shelter before going to pitch the tent in the spaces provided for this purpose west of Oulettes. There are not many people at the moment but there will be a lot of tents tonight.

Once the tent is up we have the visit of a curious who has understood that hikers are generous in apples or other treats!

The weather at the end of the day will be changing with some sunny moments but especially the greyness and the rain. Temperatures have also dropped a lot tonight. So we are wrapped up in the tent hoping to spend a night not too cold.

Too bad the weather is so ugly today but we still had a good day of walking and the Oulettes are very beautiful. In the late evening, the face of Vignemale will play hide and seek with us, offering us beautiful images.

Day 3 - From the Oulettes de Gaube to the Refuge de Bayssellance

The night was difficult! It was very cold as evidenced by our tent all covered with ice this morning. I took for myself a summer sleeping bag (comfort 5-10 ° C) so I had to sleep with the jacket to gain comfort. Fortunately, Hélène had a good 0 ° C comfort sleepingbag.

It was cold but this morning, O happiness, it is very beautiful !!! Our first rays of sun after 2 days of bad weather what joy! The Oulettes de Gaube reveal all their beauty under the morning rays. The north face of Vignemale is superb. All this is good for the spirit.

We take out all our things to dry them on a big rock. After 2 days of rain everything was wet. We continue with the breakfast that we share with another couple. We feel that this morning everyone takes their time to enjoy the weather.

We are not in a hurry to fold the camp and it is only at 11am that we take the road to the refuge Baysselance. It’s a short walking day in perspective but as I said in the introduction we wanted to enjoy the mountain and its beautiful landscapes.

First step, going back on our step and join the fork that we had taken under the pass of Arraillé. There are a few people on the way but it is ok. We often stop taking pictures because we finally see further than 200m! We discover below Lake Gaube and in front of us the beautiful red rocks of the mountains closing west of Oulettes.

Once the bifurcation exceeded, the climb is steeper but the view of the Vignemale and the small glacier that resists somehow motivates well and moves us forward.

We will finally arrive quickly enough to Hourquette d’Oussoue (2734m) before descending to the refuge Baysselance (2651m). We discover a brand new view that now extends eastward with Gavarnie in the distance. The location of the refuge is superb.

We meet a lot of people who have made the way from the dam Oussoue to climb the Petit Vignemale and its 3032m.

Our arrival at the refuge will be accompanied by a good cheese omelette and a nice piece of pie! The shelter team is very nice.

We are in the early afternoon and we enjoy the sun.

We will eventually go up the tent a little away, near the cliff, on a promontory that offers us an absolutely wonderful view of the Mountain with, in the distance, the circus of Gavarnie.

The evening will be magic. It will be a succession of changing lights, shadows, clouds of fabulous shapes. One of my most beautiful bivouac in terms of scenery and what happiness to finally have this weather!

We will fall asleep above a sea of glowing cloud.

Day 4 - Climbing of the Petit Vignemale and descent to Gavarnie

The night was cold but nothing really bad. The program of the day is charged: ascent of Petit Vignemale (3034m) and then long road to Gavarnie.

For the climb we will travel light: we leave the bags at the shelter to just take water and our cameras. The weather is beautiful, it’s perfect!

First step join the Hourquette d’Oussoue 100m above the refuge, it is quickly done. We then turn left to follow a set of rather clear trails towards the summit. It is early we are only two groups to climb for now.

We will reach the summit in barely an hour. The view from here is absolutely beautiful! To the north, the Oulettes de Gaube, which extend under a vertiginous precipice, to the east the chain of the Pyrenees which continues as far as the eye can see. It’s sumptuous! We photograph, we observe, we take advantage of the moment especially that we are almost alone at this time.

Back to the refuge after this beautiful moment, there were already many more people in the climb. We stop for a coffee and we begin the long (!) descent to Gavarnie: 1200m D- and 15km  …

The beginning of the trail is rapidly losing altitude, it evolves in the canyon dug by the river. The landscapes are beautiful. There are some marmots to accompany us.

We will arrive quickly to Oulettes d’Oussoue and its dam. It is very hot now as we have lost a lot of altitude and the sun is hot. Short meal break and we hit the road again. We follow the GR10 at about 1800m. The landscapes have changed a lot. We left the high mountain for the pastures and there are many cows. We will also explain that these cows are all Spanish because an old Napoleonic treaty leaves summer access to our Iberian friends …

The end of the hike, even if the landscapes are beautiful, will be very long! Between the 1600m of cumulative descent, the horizontal distance and the temperatures, we will be happy to arrive in Gavarnie in the prospect of a good hot shower, a good bed and a restaurant!

Joy nuanced by the impressive crowd that the circus attracts. On the other hand all disappear after 6-7pm and the city becomes dead until the next day 8pm for a new human tide. However the circus is worth a visit because it’s impressive. We did not have time to do it but the hike to the breach Roland also looks great.


For a first time in the Pyrénées we were not disappointed ! Despite the first days of bad weather we still enjoyed the beautiful scenery on the second half of the trek. This crossing offers a good patchwork of possibilities that the Pyrénées reserves.

What is certain is that we will come back because we did not have much time and the list of hikes that make us want is long: the Breche de Roland, the Vire aux Fleurs, the Néouviel … to mention them.

We advise you to discover or rediscover this beautiful mountain range that extends all the same over 400km, there is plenty to do …