/ Scrambling - French Pyrenees Ossau valley

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L RobertXXX on 18 Jul 2017
I am off to the Pyrenees for a couple of weeks and there are a few routes I would like to attempt but find it hard to judge from the guidebook (Reynolds Walks & Climbs) or from the French language websites (Topopyrenees, mainly) whether they are within my ability. My experience of climbing is limited to doing the InPinn with a professional guide, plus a few sessions on indoor climbing walls. So does anyone have a view on how risky it would be to tackle, alone, in good weather: Pic du midi d'Ossau, voie normale; Pic Palas : Cheminée Ledormeur; Pic Palas : Arête Geodesiens; Balaïtous : Grande Diagonale?
Ramblin dave - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to RobertXXX:

We did the Midi d'Ossau and Pic Palas via their voies normales last summer. I'd guess that they'd both be considered grade 2-3 scrambles in the UK, but they're quite different in character.

Pic Palas felt like a classic Skye ridge - fairly sustained, relatively exposed, never very difficult. We roped up and moved together but I might not bother if I did it again.

Midi d'Ossau essentially had two short hardish pitches of scrambling and a lot of steep walking. Relatively little exposure - falling off the top of either of the technical bits wouldn't be much fun, but there weren't any breathtaking drops down to the valley floor or anything. We abbed one of the putches in descent (there are bolted belays for this purpose), could probably have scrambled down it in a pinch but it didn't seem worth it given that we had the rope in the bag. Didn't rope up on the way up.

Usual disclaimers apply.

It's a great area!
ian caton on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to RobertXXX:

Given your experience I wouldn't do ossau.
Ken Applegate - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to RobertXXX:

Grant Diagonale on Balaitous is little more than a steep walk, and regularly used as a descent route. La Breche Latour route on Balaitous requires scrambling at grade 3ish, but is a bit loose in places.
sheelba - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to RobertXXX:

We've just come back from that area. With your experience I'd suggest starting on less remote easy F's (there's a few through the Breche at Gavarnie) and seeing how you feel, especially going on your own. I would say that routes like this feel considerably more serious than scrambles in the UK. The rock can also be pretty loose in pryrenees. Me and my partner are both reasonably experienced climbers/mountaineers and we roped up for a PD because the route was loose and the climbing and route finding not straightforward.
L RobertXXX on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to everybody:

Many thanks to everyone for such prompt and helpful advice. Having taken it on board, I have signed up via Laruns tourist office to do Ossau with a guide on my second day out there. I will make further plans depending how that goes.
Again, many thanks to all.

sheelba - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to RobertXXX:

Sounds like a sensible plan, enjoy. I'd recommend popping over to the Spanish side if you get the chance Ordesa is an incredible place even with the hordes.
L RobertXXX on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to sheelba:

I'll do my best. Went up to the Breche de Roland from Gavarnie via Echelle des Sarradets last year, which was pretty cool.
L SimonMayers - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to RobertXXX:

Climbing in the Ariege Pyrenees is, as you would probably expect, vast and varied. With over 1800 separately documented routes and peaks rising to over 3,000m (10,000ft), the problem is in choosing which route and face to climb! Fortunately, the Club Alpin des Montagnards have done the hard work of finding and documenting these routes, and in organizing them so that they are accessible.
At a broad level, there are 26 sectors, each assigned to one of the 11 areas shown on the map above, and with each area describing a few kilometers of the face in a particular valley or massif.
For each of these 26 sectors, there are maps showing the different routes or 'topos' that have been documented, an example is to the right.
https://driving-directionsmaps.com/
ian caton on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to RobertXXX:

It is a fantastic peak. Incidentally my profile shot is taken immediately after its ascent, in the campsite just below. Enjoy
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L RobertXXX on 12 Aug 2017
UPDATE

The guide arrangement went pear-shaped and I ended up soloing Pic du Midi, which was great. Did Balaitous in bad visibility via grande diagonal, at over 3000 m. cloud cleared enough to show me I was on the wrong ridge, and where I was was a great deal too aerien and impressionant for me, so retreated. Also did the Passage d'Orteig in both directions - great fun.

So my profile picture is now me on the summit of Pic du Midi d'Ossau.
Ramblin dave - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to RobertXXX:

> UPDATE

> The guide arrangement went pear-shaped and I ended up soloing Pic du Midi, which was great. Did Balaitous in bad visibility via grande diagonal, at over 3000 m. cloud cleared enough to show me I was on the wrong ridge, and where I was was a great deal too aerien and impressionant for me, so retreated.

It could be worse - the first ascent of Pic Palas was apparently done in bad weather by people who were under the impression that they were actually climbing Balaitous...

Sounds good otherwise, though!
Tom V - on 13 Aug 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

The technical bits are about twenty or thirty feet, as I recall, and any fall soloing would be disastrous.

L RobertXXX on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to Tom V:

If you mean Pic du Midi, the technical bits are not that technical. On a busy day, the only people roped were two or three parties obviously doing what I had intended - i.e. non-climbers with professional guides. I realise what other people are doing is not an infallible indication (I have seen someone on Striding Edge in stiletto heels on an August bank holiday) but you would be really unlucky to fall 20 or 30 feet - it just isn't steep enough.
Tom V - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to RobertXXX:

As someone who has taken an extremely long, slow and painful "fall" on pitch 3 of The Long Reach, I would take issue with the notion that a given piece of rock is not steep enough to cover a specified distance while making an involuntary descent.

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