Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lac du Portillon Hike in the Pyrenees Mountains of France

Discover the Pyrénées' low-altitude, medium-altitude, and high-altitude lakes in just one day!

This is the hike we did on which the views and scenery blew us away. I highly recommend it to all who want to discover the Pyrenees Mountains.

Our recommended itinerary for discovering this yourself is the following:

The hike starts at the Granges d'Astau resort, a stop on the famous GR10 and the starting point of many hikers to beautiful Lac d'Oô - the most famous mountain lake among French cruciverbalists... This lake is known for its gorgeous waterfall, and is the picnic destination of many families. You will reach it in about 1 1/2 hours, after a leisurely hike in the woods.

After a break at Lac d'Oô, you continue on to Espingo, a vast cirque around 2000m of altitude, where you can stop for lunch. The two lakes there are sufficiently inviting that some hikers dare to go swimming in their cold waters!


After lunch - and possibly drying up and warming up - you continue on to Portillon Lake, at close to 2600m of altitude. The temperature drops quickly, and the trail, albeit well groomed, becomes increasingly steep. The last few hundred yards are often walked on snow, even in the middle of the summer. After one last scramble up rocks, you will reach the refuge, which is located right on the lake. Swimming there is only for the very daring: ice floes are frequent due to the proximity of the glacier, even in July.

You can spend the night at the refuge, which offers dorm sleeping.

The next day you can hike back to Espingo, enjoying the view of this gorgeous cirque once more, then continue eastward on the GR10, over three easy passes, before a long downhill toward Superbagnères ski resort, with a view of the Maladeta and the Aneto, the Pyrénées' highest peak.

From Superbagnères you can reach Luchon by cable car (which is pretty darn cool with amazing views).


Day 1Take shuttle from Luchon to Granges d'Astau. Hike to Lac d'Oô and cirque d'Espingo. Picnic at Lac Saussat. Hike to Lac du Portillon. Have dinner and night at Refuge du Portillon (approx. 6 hours)
Day 2Hike to Hounts-Secs pass, Coume Nere pass, Coume de Bourg pass, and back down to Luchon (approx. 6 hours)

Best time of yearAny weekend between 5/15 and 9/30
Getting there: Take a train from Paris to Luchon. Get transport from Luchon to Granges d'Astau Resort. 
Elevation Gain: 2420 m / 7940 ft
Distance: 25 km / 16 mi


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