I'm in the preliminary stages of planning for the Pyrenean Haute Route. As the topic title says, I would like to find out just how early in the summer (spring?) its possible to start the walk. I'm comfortable using snowshoes, microspikes, or crampons and ice axe, but I have no interest in postholing for days at a time or hauling skis. I would like to avoid too much hot weather and I would prefer to avoid crowds as much as possible. I understand that the snowpack can vary greatly from one year to the next, but if someone on this forum has an idea of when the route becomes feasible without skis, I would appreciate a rough idea of when to plan on starting my trip.
In reply to markfelber: I was out there at the end of august last year and a lot of stuff was snow free up high. Still a fair few people about but mainly only when you come down. This year I was there for most of June, there had been a lot of late snow this year, but it should all be melting off now, especially after all the floods they had in June due to the rain. August is good but hot and there are a fair number of people about. September is cooler, there are less people and there should be less snow (though you could get fresh, but I wouldn't expect much). Either way the high route isn't as popular so it should be too busy whenever you go. Enjoy it!
In reply to goatee: There was a lot of snow in June but it is very unusual. Not saying that the unusual won't happen again but normally from end of May until late September you are supposed to find a clear path (no crampons required) at 2000m. But I wouldn't go before May.
I am speaking for the western Pyrénées, surely someone will have more detailed advice for the centre/east.
For the time of the year, it depends what you are looking for. Are you interested in fauna and flora for example ? Then try mid June to mid July, best moment to see the pyrenean flowers and most of the animals.
If you are doing the haute route, I don't think you will suffer from the hot temperature (but maybe I am used to it).
If you don't like crowds, try to avoid mid August.
In reply to markfelber:
Thanks to all for the replies, this has been a great help. Pyreneenemec, I thought about September/October, but I'd like to see a bit more greenery and wildlife as drolex suggested. I also like the longer days in June.
Goatee, the photos gave a very good idea what to expect. Drolex, where I live 27 degrees Celsius is about as hot as it gets in the summer. I did a bicycle tour through the Pyrenees in June 2001 and thought it was ridiculously hot!
In reply to markfelber: I've walked of of it in mid to late June, but one year in early September. Risk of thunderstorms in June, but usually had done most of the walking by the time they started (assuming a 6 / 7am start). One year I took an ice axe but it wasn't really necessary, even though I was walking solo.
Mid-June has the advantage of being able to use refuges in addition to wild camping and usually plenty of water for drinking. I had one year with lots of snow, also this year there was plenty.
Great advantage of June / July is that the flora is superb, if you are into that. Using 1:50,000 maps it's possible to be flexible in regards to the route. Good luck.