Gavarnie - Le Taillon by Breche de Rolland. Video.


The Breche du Rolland is a large gap in the ridge wall, and reaching it seems to be the goal of any fairly able hiker who visits these parts.

Some (ie, me) go a little bit further and climb the adjacent peak Le Taillon, as it's reckoned to be the easiest 3000m peak in the Pyrenees.

Below the Breche is a mountain hut, and I'd hoped we could stay there.

We'd climb out of the valley to the hut on them first day, stay overnight, then tackle the Breche and Pic early the next morning with firm snow.

However, the hut was fully booked, even in late June, so we switched to plan-B.

The Camping Car Aire above Gavarnie has a water tap and some sandy trees, so we camped there, sorted kit and packed rucksacks.

Overgrowing road from Col du Tentes on right
It's close to the Refuge des Granges de Holle, and there was a steady stream of GR10 walkers.

The following morning we drove to a very high car park in the National Park (so no camping overnight) at Col de Tentes (2208m) starting our walk at 7:15. (This would be a superb road ride).

With much less height gain than hauling out of the valley, it's the easy way to the Breche Hut which we reached at 09:15.

The first section of the walk is along a road which was intended as a route to Spain.

However, the Spanish side was never built, and the French side is now impassible to vehicles, gradually disappearing below rock falls and overgrowing vegetation.  It seems popular with mountain bikers as a fast, exciting route to Spain.

Descending waterfall
Hiking to the Breche Hut there's just one tricky section where you climb alongside a waterfall, sometimes through the water itself, hauling on fixed  chains for protection.

Actually, they're far more useful on descent when the melt water has increased.

All the overnight guests had left the Breche Hut by the time we arrived and the staff were cleaning before the influx of day visitors.

We immediately started up the loose scree slope to the Breche itself, making a note to descent by the snow.

Over a lip, and the last haul to the Breche involves a diagonal climb up and across a glacier.

Early in the morning we felt crampons were needed so we stopped to fix ours. I noticed many other people managed without.

We also used our ice axes, and these were very reassuring in case of a slip.  Yet again, most other people just used poles.  We'd brought very light ice axes and flexible crampons, which we've had since hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2002.

Even though our excellent and highly recommended Inov8 Roclite Boots are too flexible (ie comfortable, like slippers) to be sold as suitable for crampons, they worked just fine in the softish conditions we faced.  The crampons stayed fixed.

Breche hut in late afternoon with many day-visitors
All of a sudden Spain lay below us.

We were looking through the Breche, down a route which three backpackers had just taken, heading towards the Ordessa Canyon.

They were headed down, but I still wanted to go up.  I was itching to climb Le Taillon.  

Liz was put off by the fact I started on the wrong path (again - whoops!) and it was yet more scree, which she hates.

The guidebook reckons the summit climb should take less than an hour and a half, and once I was on the correct track, a wide, obvious path, I could really motor.

The climb gets steep, with one of two hands-on moments, but it's never tricky and there's no exposure.  And the views from Le Taillon are superb.  Watch for yourself.  (the story continues below)


This whole route is a long up-and-down-in-one-day, whch explains why most people use the hut. The whole thing took us eight hours, although we took our time on the descent.


We considered spending the night in the Col de Tentes car park, but it's inside the National Park and wondered whether a ranger might move us on. 

So we remained there until about 9pm, when the heat of the day had gone, and then drove down to just outside the National Park.  

We pulled into a flat area near a ski-lift, and woke to the sound of cow bells right outside our windows.

We needed a rest day and a campsite, so we headed down the valley to our next cycling base, Luz St Sauveur.  The king col of the Pyrenees lay ahead - the Tourmalet.

What's this about? We took our campervan down the Pyrenees this summer, riding classic cols and hiking great walks. Now I'm sharing the info about best campsites for the best rides.

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