Short GR10 hiking trip

In the summer of 2017, we did a short hiking trip in the Pyrenees. For this trip, we had the following criteria:
  • Access with public transportation
  • Comfortable stays in hotel/hostels every night
  • Hiking a beautiful section of the trail, which to us means a section with many lakes, streams, and waterfalls
  • A combination of long days walking from one pre-booked hotel to the next (bringing all our belongings with us) and "rest" days where we stay based at one place and could take shorter day-hikes as desired, depending on our energy levels and the weather
What follows is our trip report with recommendations. Wehope this can help anyone who is interested in a similar trip.

Highlights:

  • 3 or 4 days of hiking through a national park, from Luz-Saint-Sauveur to Vielle-Aure
  • Longest hiking day takes 8 to 10 hours for about 23 kilometers (14 miles) and highest peak 2509 meters (8230 feet)
  • Skinny dipping in Lac d'Aumar
  • Terrains include forest, meadow, and bare rocks

The trip

Start at Luz-Saint-Sauveur

Luz is a nice little tourist village with lots of supply shops and a good supermarket, which is also open on Sunday. We stayed at the Hotel Terminus, which was excellent - by far the best hotel and best price/quality of this trip. All clean, spacious, decent wifi, private shower/bath and wc, comfortable double bed.

To Barèges

In 2017, the normal, 4:30 hour route from Luz to Barèges (southern route on the map) was blocked because there was construction on the trail. Instead, we took the GR10-f alternative route (northern route on the map) which was an easier route that passed non-touristy but very pictoresque little towns on the way. This took us just 3 hours.

Hotel

In Barèges we stayed a few nights at the Hotel Alphée, which directly faces the central square. The hotel is mostly okay, except for the fact that there is poor noise insulation. There are regular childrens' parties going on on the square opposite to the hotel, which feature obnoxiously loud childrens' music. Therefore, wewould recommend trying a different hotel in Barèges if available. Everything in Barèges is in walking distance, on the main street.
Some other good-to-know information: there is a small, expensive supermarket in town and no restaurant will serve you dinner before 18:00 (6PM).

Pool

In Barèges there is a nice swimming pool and there is a thermal spa. The spa doesn't list prices so you need to first make an 'intake appointment' where they consult you on what 'treatment' you should purchase. This is common practice in French spas, although nobody knows why.
The pool, however, was a welcoming and cheap place. The water was about 30°C (85°F) in the smaller pools. The bigger pool was as deep as I am tall and maybe 15 meters (50 feet) long.

La Montagne Fleurie

From Barèges there are are several hikes that lead back to the village. On the central square there are large signs that show you what the options are and where to go. We chose to do "La Montagne Fleurie", which is a 5 hour hike, circling up and down the mountain to the north of Barèges.

The long day

The longest and prettiest day is from Barèges to either Lac d'Oredon or Lac de Oule. Lac d'Oredon is a little closer to Barèges, but it does not save more than an hour. This is because the path to Lac de Oule has less altitude differences. However, we went to Lac d'Oredon.

We woke up at 6:30 and were out of the hotel before 7. We hiked up through a deserted Barèges, then turned left over the river and towards Tournaboup. This was the longest day, and by far the most beautiful. This day, there was a lot of mist and moisture, and sunshine was not a problem. However, for most of the route there were no trees providing any shade, so it may be tougher when the weather is clear.

The highest col of the day was the Col de Madamète at 2509 meters (8230 feet). As we approached the col, we climbed over big boulders in the mist, sometimes not being able to look more than 10 meters ahead. There were many lakes with small fish in them right under the col.

When we reached the col, we had climbed 1200 meters (4000 feet) on rough terrain, but we were only half of the way to the lake. It was easy enough to stay warm when we were hiking up the mountain, but on the other side we found that there was more wind and precipitation, and we had to put on all of our layers.

When you get down to Lac d'Aumar, you can either go right past Les Laquettes (a series of lakes) and then steep down to Lac d'Oredon, or you can maintain altitude and walk an easier path to the foot of Soum de Monpelat (2474 meters - 8110 feet) which is an easy path and short climb and then descent to Lac de l'Oule where there is a refuge.

Skinny dipping

Lac d'Aumar is also a good lake to go skinny dipping; it is fresh and there is little activity above the lake. When we arrived there coming from Col de Madamète, the weather was too bad and we were too tired to go swimming in the lake but we came back the next day and went for a swim. So we walked on to to Les Laquettes, which are also beautiful, but with too much activity around these lakes, they are not the best option to go swimming. From Les Laquettes, the descend to Lac d'Oredon was difficult because it is steep and the many tree roots exposed were very slippery due to the precipitation.

One side of the lake sees more visitors because the GR10 goes all along the lake, and there are also non-GR10 hikers that go to the lake. The other side of the lake can also be hiked and offers more privacy for swimming.

Hotel horrors

Unfortunately, our stay at the Chalet Hotel Oredon was a huge disappointment. After having hiked the longest and hardest day of our trip, we arrived at the lake and could see the hotel up on the hill, but we could not find a route to hike up. The first two hikes up in the direction of the hotel led us nowhere, and with the third hike we discovered that the route to the hotel was an unmarked path. A sign would have been useful.

The room

We had booked a "Duo Comfort" room over the phone (they don't do email or any confirmations). When we arrived it turned out that they don't provide keys to any of the rooms. Also, our Duo Comfort room was next to a communal bathroom, and many of the other guests accidentally walked into our room because of the adjacency, at all hours of the night. Our Duo Comfort room also did not have a private bathroom or private shower, but just a bed. The room was very cold with no heating. Because the room was small, we did need fresh air in the night, but the window could only be closed or opened fully. We had to improvise tying the window up in a way that let a little air in while not chilling us too much.

Food

The food at the hotel, for €25,- per person, was simply terrible. For a vegetarian meal, we were offered a soup broth of the meaty soup of that evening, but simply filtered so that there were no hunks of meat, or potatoes or veggies, in the soup anymore. Then we got a small plate of fries to be shared by 4 people, with large hunks of salmon on it, because salmon is not an animal? After explaining to them that salmon is in fact an animal, they removed it and served the tiny plate of fries for the four of us. Then, they served us a bowl of lettuce leaves. Literally, just leaves without dressing or anything to go with it. The food that we were served could not have been more than 400 kilo calories per person. Luckily, we did have our own vegan food reserves.
After multiple complaints to the staff, the proprietor remained unapologetic about the situation.

The Refuge Oredon down at the lake is a much better place. It serves food from a menu 24 hours a day (as opposed to only a deficient dinner at 8pm in the Chalet Hotel), and it has acceptable vegetarian food. The downside for couples is that they don't have two-person rooms. Even so, wewould go there next time as a couple.
Refuge Oredon only takes reservations made by phone, but the staff at the Refuge Oredon spoke good English, Spanish, and German, in addition to French.

Tranquil day back to civilization

From the lac D'oredon you follow directions to the Col d'Estoudou, which is the highest point on the way to the next valley. Just under the Col d'Estoudou you rejoin the GR10 on your left that comes from lac d'Aumar (see image on the right, looking back towards lac d'Oredon and lac d'Aumar). If you come from the lac d'Aumar it is a nice and easy path to the Col d'Estoudou.

From the Col d'Estoudou it is a steepish walk down to the lac de L'oule, but with a clear path and no slippery roots or boulders to climb the descent is not difficult. At lac de L'oule, you can go right for the refuge or left around the lake to slowly gain altitude again.

Once you are a bit higher up, overlooking the lake, there are some nice water streams towards lac de L'oule. You circle the southern slope around the Pichaley mountain peak towards the Col de Portet at 2215 meter (7270 feet). From there, the path to Vielle-Aure is mostly downhill and easy.