/ Cauterets area - scrambles and easy climbs

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Ramblin dave - on 11 Sep 2017
Hi folks!

We're heading out to the Cauterets area next week. Has anyone got recommendations for adventurous walks, scrambles and easy mountaineering routes we should do while we're in the area? I think we're probably after stuff from Facile up to about AD, maybe stretching to D for relatively short, technical rock routes that we can approach like British multipitch.

The Kev Reynolds book is a bit sparse around there, whereas the Ollivier guide is a bit dense, so some hand picked suggestions would be really helpful! Also, any tips for bad weather options would be appreciated.

ben b - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

The classics are up via Lac de Gaube to the Vignemale (huts at Oulettes and Baysellance) and the ?9 Tarns from the Marcadau valley. There's some good scrambling I believe on the frontier above the Wallon hut around the Balaitous, but that's from memory of the KR guide.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=186179 typical idyllic day in the Marcadau

Have a great trip - nice area and Cauterets is quite pleasant as a base (magnificently the 7-11 store opened from 8-12 and then 4-8, unless there is a sign in the window saying "tomorrow we are closed - for tomorrow the mushrooms are coming!"). Also Mrs B claims the torsades aux chocolat are the best she's had (although she was a bit manic as we had a rather too close call to a lightning strike earlier in the day)...



Ken Applegate - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:
If you can get your hands on it, 'Mountaineering in the Pyrenees' by François Laurens is definitely worth getting. It's an up to date book, translated into English, with plenty of options on both the French and Spanish side on the Pyrenees, all of which are within your grade range.
Post edited at 06:09
drolex - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Ken Applegate:

As said above, the Marcadau valley from Pont d'Espagne is a nice (but long) walk to the Wallon hut, then you can go towards the col de la Fache and the Grande Fache for an easy 3000er. It's an easy scramble from the col with a nice view towards the Spanish side.

The normal route of the Vignemale Pique Longue is a classic from the Oulettes hut. A tame glacier and a bit of scrambling at the end. Following the ridge towards Cerbillona and Montferrat makes a nice day. A more exposed route would be to start on the Petit Vignemale from Bayssellance and follow the ridge towards the Pointe de Chausenque and then the Piton Carré. Doing the whole ridge until Montferrat gets you 8 3000ers in a day.

I hear there are a few routes on Pic d'Ardiden worth looking (not done myself).
louiswain - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

From memory, Passet Ridge is about AD+ from the Sarradets refuge to the Pic du Marbore; plenty of other routes in the vicinity at F ; also recommend the eastern flank of the crete de Troumouse at about PD, a little bit further east but very accessible, if a bit loose.

Agreed that 'Mountaineering in the Pyrenees' by François Laurens is worth a tenner or so: if your French is up to it, definitely look out for the Ollivier guides (complete not selected), and I quite like 'Cretes 45 Courses faciles a difficiles' by Laurent Montier - a new guide to ridges you'll be able to pick up for about EUR15: I got a copy a month or two back in the newsagents in Gavarnie.
ben b - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to drolex:

The PV to V traverse looks fabulous but not sure of the grading accuracy (photos look moderately epic!). Have you done it?
drolex - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to ben b:
I've done it a few years ago. The initial descent from PV to Chausenque was relatively scary for me but otherwise it's not that bad. A bit exposed at first but technically easy. PD+ sounds alright.
Post edited at 10:54
Ramblin dave - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Thanks all!

We're hoping to avoid lumping axes and spikes down there - are there sensible routes on and off the Vignemale peaks that avoid the glacier?

I suspect that getting to Sarradets is either a bit much of a hike or a bit much of a drive from Cauterets (and I think the refuge is closed this season anyway?) Thanks, though!

I've had a look at the Laurens book, and I think that for the immediate Cauterets area it doesn't have that much really easy stuff. As I say, we've got the Ollivier guide, but it's a question of working out which of the stuff in there is actually worth doing and what gets PD because it's a horrible slog up scree followed by a loose 20m chimney or something.

Grand Fache and Pic d'Ardiden are both on the list.

oldie - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> We're hoping to avoid lumping axes and spikes down there - are there sensible routes on and off the Vignemale peaks that avoid the glacier?<

Haven't been for many years and glaciers may have changed. However crampons were unnecessary, a spiked walking pole would be sufficient for the Vignemale glacier IMHO, but personally I'd take one of the cheap featherweight axes now available. I think the Vignemale glacier is the obvious way to go and is not difficult, there were a few seracs above the path at one point.
Voie normale on P Longue already recommended. On an 'off' day my mate did a route up the Petit V from Ref Oulettes de G while I did a good scramble along the ridge above the right side (looking up) of the Gaube valley descending near the lake...it wasn't in the Guide Ollivier but there were one or two pegs.
Later did the original Route de Prince de Moskowa up Grande V from Ref O d G returning via V glacier with an unfit 63 year old dad over 2 days, staying at a cabane on the Spanish side, some scrambling.

> I suspect that getting to Sarradets is either a bit much of a hike .......from Cauterets.

Quite correct. Good area though.

drolex - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to oldie:

The Ossoue glacier is getting ridiculously tiny. Axe not needed, crampons are useful but some people climb without them. YMMV. I haven't seen seracs in many many years in the Pyrenees.

Correct, the Sarradets hut is closed this year.
oldie - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:
Actually rather than saying"Voie normale on P Longue"in my previous post I should have said Arete de Gaube to the summit of Grande V. This was about AD as I remember (hardest near summit), we picked our own line on the face left of the route to the start of the ridge which wasn't hard but exposed.
The ridge on the right side that I mentioned would have been the continuation of the Arete de Gaube but going away from Vignemale.
Also when I referred to Glacier Vignemale (ie the one near the tops) I'd forgotten it is called Glacier d'Ossoue.
I've just looked in the coffee table book de Bellefon's 100 best routes (1976 in French) and he lists the ridge from Petit V to Grande V via Pt Chausenque (omitting Piton Carre via the G de Ossoue), ADinf. He does recommend crampons on the G d'Ossoue late in the season, though this was in the 1970s.
Ramblin dave - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to drolex:
It's also a worry that none of us have done any glacier travel before - just regular winter walking - so we're a bit nervous about jumping into something without knowing what the risks are and what we ought to be doing or, even in the case where it _ought_ to be fine, having the experience to spot when something's not as it should be. Basically, I don't know how much there is that I ought to know, and that worries me!

Sort-of-relatedly, it looks like the Petit Vignemale to Vignemale traverse should go in either direction (jn fact, the Kev Reynolds book has the trickiest bits being in descent from PV towards PC), and hence could be done as an out-and-back from Petit Vignemale to Pointe Chausenque if you wanted to avoid the glacier. Is that right? The Kev Reynolds book doesn't suggest it, which seems odd.
Post edited at 12:23
drolex - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Your concerns about glacier travel are the mark of a sane man but if you go there mid-september there should be really no trap there. There are no snow bridges that would hide a crevasse and in addition you will see some well marked paths. Don't put your leg in the bergschrund and you will be fine. I think it has more to do with regular snow travel than real glacier. Last time I went there 2 years ago we ended up glissading on the glacier on the way back. There were a couple of crevasses and wells but really obvious things. Ask at the hut for the state of the glacier, they will be able to give you accurate info - the man at Bayssellance (Peyo) is usually relaxed and reliable (the woman is reliable too but a bit stressed).

The real danger when climbing down is not the glacier it's the scramble down from the summit where a lot of people choose to descend on the grey limestone choss when the yellow ophite veins are a lot safer. A helmet is useful.

If you are really really concerned I think you can follow the rock wall on the north of the glacier, that should be doable but maybe a bit awkward (confirm that somehow, I am not entirely sure).

Regarding the PV-V traverse, I have never seen anybody doing it back to PV (which means nothing). However you might end in the way of other teams, which would be an annoying situation I suppose.
Ramblin dave - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to drolex:

So you'd essentially treat the glacier as you would a large snowfield, then, and not rope up?

Actually, I might actually go and start another thread on glacier travel because it's getting a bit beyond the scope of this thread.

Thanks for all the help!
drolex - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

In the last years it looked unusual to rope up in August-September there, from the people I could see. I didn't rope up.

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