In the south of the Haute-Garonne, the Pyrenees chain stands out majestically as a perfect playground for thrill-seekers.
Something for everyone
From the viewing table on the plateau of the Superbagnères resort, the 360° view which presents itself to visitors will leave more than one speechless ! Up there, you‘re almost rubbing shoulders with Paragliding and gliding enthusiasts flying over Bagnères-de-Luchon. In Saint-Béat, it’s rafting and canyoning that counts, as people hurry to enjoy the white water and experience the cool freshness…
In the Pyrenees, vigorous activities aren’t in short supply and rambling figures on the list. A multitude of paths and itineraries await walkers in this well-preserved, beautiful natural environment. And in the towns and villages, people live in symbiosis with this environment, maintaining, from time immemorial, cultural traditions and typical mountain crafts.
Luchon and Superbagnères...
Around Bagnères-de-Luchon — Luchon or the Queen of the Pyrenees to friends — several peaks rise to over 3 000 metres : Gourgs Blancs (3 129 m), Perdiguerre (3 222 m), Maupas (3 109 m), l’Aneto (3 404 m) and les Posets (3 369 m) on the Spanish side. The little town possesses a number of retro buildings and typical old streets around the old market hall (1), plus the allée d’Étigny where each year the floats parade during the very popular Flower Festival and where the spa establishment which made its reputation is to be found. The thermal baths include a « vaporarium », a real cave-cum-natural sauna, at a constant temperature of 45°C.
Then, from the height of 630 m above sea level of this charming little place, you only have to take the ski lift, summer as in winter, to reach the mountain resort of Superbagnères at 1 860 m above sea level. Standing high above, overlooking Luchon, the winter sports resort has existed since 1913, and is one of the oldest in the Pyrenees. From 1 450 to 2 260 m above sea level, it has an exceptional area open for skiing, as much for beginners as for experienced skiers, for alpine skiing , cross--country skiing, snow surfing and other new snow sports.
At the bottom of the Larboust valley, after going through the village of Oô, Les granges d’Astau, 1 139 m above sea level, are the starting point for many rambles of varying difficulty. One of them leads to the Oô lake, a favourite walking destination in the Pyrenees, accessible via the GR10, after 1hr 15 mins walking and 392 m height difference. The path then continues towards the Espingo and Le Saussat lakes, and still higher, that of Le Portillon. Then via the Pique valley, after many zigzags, the most experienced walkers will reach Port de Vénasque (Bénasque in Spanish), on the frontier with Spain. To get here, a historic path linked to human and animal transhumance leads up from the Hospice de France or the Hospital de Bénasque. To fully appreciate this path, you can borrow (free) a digital guide which covers various themes (culture, heritage, history, fauna and flora) and consult an information screen at the Tourist Office. From there, you can get to the Monts Maudits massif with la Maladeta and l’Aneto peaks (highest summit in the Pyrenees at 3 404 m).
(1) Luchon market takes place every morning with a larger number of traders on Wednesday and Saturday mornings; the market hall is open every morning.
Aspet and Le Mourtis
At the foot of the Pyrenees, in the hills of the Comminges, the village of Aspet is the starting point for walks or excursions leading up to the col de Larrieu (towards Arbas), the col de Portet d’Aspet (towards the Ariège), the col des Ares (towards Les Frontignes and the Garonne valley) and the col de Menté (towards Spain). From its summit 1 912 m above sea level, le Cagire dominates the landscape crossed by footpaths going through places and landscapes to take your breath away (the Planque, Coume and Ouarnède waterfalls…). Here, with about 150 kilometres of waymarked footpaths, the rambler will be in seventh heaven and MBK enthusiasts will enjoy the 500 kilometres of circuits organised by the Espace VTT Pyrenees Comminges. Higher up, almost at the entrance to the Val d’Aran, the road over the col de Menté guides you to the resort of Le Mourtis (1 420-1 860 m). Very popular thanks to its ski runs through a magnificent pine forest and its 30 kilometres of cross-country skiing trails, Le Mourtis has something for everyone, winter and summer. Whether you’re a rambler or a free rider, on skis, on a snowboard, snowshoes or an Airboard, three sunny mountainsides overlooked by the massif of la Maladeta let you be as daring as you like !
A major destination for caving, the « Trombe » network plunges to a depth of 1 500 metres. The « Henne Morte », chasm, beneath the Coume Ouarnède massif, part of the Arbas massif, is the most impressive formation in a system of galleries and cavities carved out by the water and extending over 100 kilometres. Access to the caving network is possible, for beginners, with a state-qualified monitor to accompany and guide them.
The water of the Oô lake— from the gascon iu or èu, « high mountain lake » — passes through an 11,7 kilometre long underground gallery. After passing through pressure pipelines, it drives the turbines of the EDF hydroelectric power station which came into service in 1921(visits possible ; contact the Luchon Tourist Office). One of the attractions of this 42 hectare lake is its 275 metre high waterfall.
Between Vénasque in Aragon and Luchon in France, history has written itself through human and animal transhumance over the same track. On this historic path is the Arboretum of Jouéou which holds a vast collection of deciduous and coniferous trees. A scientific laboratory, for more than ten years it has played host to researchers and students from the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse. In 2002 it was dedicated to Professor Henri Gaussen(1891-1981), internationally renowned geographer and biogeographer who was also one of the most famous botanists of the 20th C.
Open from 10 - 18.00 including week-ends, closed on Mondays.
« Once in love with the untamed, wild peaks leaping up towards the sky, and with their black rocks surrounded by eternal whiteness or solitary lakes, you love them all your life »