Mountain Walks – 16 May - 17 June 2011

France (mainly), Italy, Triglav!!, Switzerland

13 walks (9 in the Central Pyrenees, 1 each in the Cevennes, the Dolomites, Slovenia and Appenzell)
144km and a vertical 8200m

Click on any image to see a larger version

This was a longstanding inspiration, by friends
– walked and written back in 1985
We did it more easily, with
day-walks and a 5200km drive
The longest segment, for 14 days,
was our first visit to the French Pyrenees

We flew into Zürich. The next day we drove 777km SW to Le Rozier at the southern end of the Tarn Gorge (at the SW corner of the Cevennes). After 2 days and 3 nights there, we spent a food-filled weekend with friends SW of Toulouse. Then we drove SW to the Pyrenees for 12 nights, starting in the Ossau, then E to the Central Pyrenees / La Bigorre area, then E to the Cathar Castles area. A 1200km drive got us via Barolo to the Dolomites for 2 nights, then 1 night in Austria. 3 nights in Slovenia enabled the assault on our biggest-ever mountain, Triglav. (Denial of our age was of course the real purpose of the trip). After 3 nights at the conference in Bled, we spent the last 2 nights near Appenzell, including a warm-down walk to Seealpsee beneath Säntis.


In the Gorges du Tarn (SSW of Lyon) – Tue 17 May 2011

A striking gorge, map here, interesting surrounds, a little dry by French standards; but a great start. 8.5km and 250m, surprisingly tiring (what jet-lag?). Fortunately we met, and exchanged car-keys with, a couple from Paris, Susan Thompson & Eric Boschwitz – thereby avoiding having to walk back again

Proper Warmup on Pic Pibeste (S of Lourdes) – Mon 23 May

12km and 777m, 2.5 hrs up to 1350m, 1h35min back. Stony, and slow going, views south to the Pyrenees

THE OSSAU VALLEY – Basque Country, in SW France

We'd targeted the Ossau Valley, for a couple of walks, and cheese; and we picked the location and Pension well
– Bilheres and Veronique:
So we started the Pyrenees with an easy 1km and 150m above 2000m, after a gondola and train-ride:

Above Lac Arouste (S of Laruns) – Tue 24 May

The Lakes Below Pic du Midi d'Ossau – Wed 25 May

This is a great walk, up to the furthest and highest of the lakes,
then back down through the lake system, with the Pic lauering above
15km and 666m, 1420-2086m, a 5-7 hr circuit


We spent 6 nights in La Bigorre – too few! – fitting our walks (very nicely) between rain periods.

Cirque du Gavarnie (S of Luz-St-Sauveur) – Sat 28 May

This is a Grade A walk in the central-west of the area, 15km and 1050m. We started in Gavarnie, up the eastern wall of the valley, then across the alp to a refuge, and on up to the sharp col (hourquette) d'Alans; then back and south to the side-wall of the main valley. This led beneath striking limestone cliffs to, oh by the way, the highest waterfall in Europe; then back to Gavarnie along meadows on the valley-floor.

09:45 at the car-park
Along the stream
near the Refuge
The path up to
Hourquette d'Alans
The next Cirque,
Looking back down,
incl. the Refuge
The track up
beneath Pic Pimené
The overhanging cliff
The Gavarnie Cirque
coming back into view
The waterfall, incl.
people on the path
Mountains above,
torrent below
Meadow? Garden?
Or park?
1450m from stream
to Pic Pimené
Well-deserved beers

Pont d'Espagne (S of Cauterets) – Sun 29 May

14km, 650m. Despite the quality of the light and the scenery, and the considerable contrasts along the way,
it was a rocky track, and that and leg-weariness from the previous day slowed us down.
We needed the photos to remind us what a striking day it was.
The Pont D'Espagne ...
... at the top of a series of ...
... gorges and waterfalls ...
... late in the day,
plus figures
Lac d'Gaube ...
... a climb above the Pont ...
... crystal-clear water ...
... and the stream above it
A marmot ...
... inquisitive ...
... well, maybe hopeful ...
... but very healthy
The upper section ...
... rocky and tiring ...
... but along a stream ...
... with inspiring views
The view back down the track
Lunch on the glacial delta ...
... beneath Vignemale ...
... highest peak in the French Pyrenees
Walking back ...
... still looking at Vignemale ...
... and the other way
Alpenrose (rhododendron)

Cirque de Troumouse (S of Luz-St-Sauveur) – Mon 30 May

2km, 50m stroll around the vast meadow at 2100m, beneath the glacier-hacked walls. See the the Gavarnie Area Map.

Hourquette d'Aubert (S. of Baréges) – Wed 1 Jun

A striking walk of 16km, 1050m, 1450m to 2500m, from the Jardin d'Alpin up the valley, right up a steep slope, then on past the dam and the lakes up to the sharp col (hourquette). At one stage we accidentally followed a fisherman's path, and had to use the map and (for once!) the GPS to find ourselves, then rock-clamber 500m to get back to the path. The famous lakes on the southern side of the (2500m) ridge looked less interesting than the ones we'd passed. The weather looked threatening all day, but remained friendly (except for the very cold wind at and near the Hourquette).


The many castle ruins in the foothills SE of Toulouse have only a little to do with the Cathars (or Albigensians), but the interests of tourism dictate that it's the 'Cathar Castles' region. We squeezed in a short sojourn in the W, visiting Roquefixade and Montsegur, on the way up to Carcassone. We'd targeted Peyrepertuse and Queribus as well (SE towards Perpignan), but time and (mainly) weather beat us.

Here's a schematic map
of castles in the region:
And here's a real map:

Roquefixade (E. of Foix) – Thu 2 Jun

Roquefixade, at the W extremity, is small, but one of the best. Yet it barely even registers on the tourist guides. 1km, 100m, from the village up to the castle ruins:

Gorges de Frau / Mont Segúr (E. of Foix) – Fri 3 Jun

We'd booked a great Pension, Serre de Marou, 1km W of MS (Yves & Nicole Masset). We did a day-walk, followed by a quick climb to the ruins of the famed castle. 15km, 700m, 700-1400m, south up the Gorge, then north again via Comus and Col des Gargante, to a Point du Vue looking 4km NW to Mont Segúr. Unsettled weather, wet the days before and after, but merely cloudy on the day, down to low levels much of the time. +1km, +150m, up to the castle of Mont Segúr. The setting is great, the partially re-built castle ruins only so-so, and the path very poor considering the thousands who go there (in bad shoes). And the rain closed in. The last four shots below are from Yves & Nicole's place – two on arrival the previous evening and two during the evening after the walk

On arrival at the Point de Vue
View to the SW,
clouds clearing
NW to Mt Segúr,
4km away, nearly clear
Closer up,
incl. Y&N's place
Looking down into the Gorge
The Valley back
towards Comus
Just above Comus
The Gorge walls,
now in sunlight
MS from Y&N's verandah ...
... and per telephoto
Same shot, in the evening ...
... after another storm


Val de Sen Nicolo (S of Canazei) – Tue 7 Jun

1200km later and 48 hours later, we diverted to visit our frequent hosts and friends at the Dolomites Inn in Penia, Bob and Lucia. This short walk was 5km and 500m, from 1700m at Rifugio Baita Cuz, straight up the side of the valley, through and above sheer cliffs to 2200m, although with only a few vertiginous sections. We came back down another chute a little further west. +1km and +100m back up the road to the car. The drizzle held off until we'd got back. The last photo looks back up at the cleft through which the fifth was taken.


Triglav (The Mountain that defines Slovenia) – Fri 10 Jun

This was the target – intended as the culmination of our mountain-walking careers.

It turned out to be one or two levels again beyond what we'd anticipated ...

It was our longest (30km), greatest height-difference (1700m, from 1310m to 2864m, plus 150m rise and fall along the path), and hardest ever (a track that's only occasionally smooth, with a great deal of gravel, rocks, slippery tree-roots and 7 or 8 snow-crossings). We now understand why people normally do this as a 2-day walk. (In summer, several huts offer an overnight stay; but that option is only available from mid-to-late June to mid-September).

We walked 06:06-20:36. The indications were 6-7 hours up (it took us 8-1/4), and 4-5 down (we needed 6-1/4). The experience was exhilarating, but completely exhausting. This is not a hike / tramp / moutain-walking. It's a long walk followed by a 450m ascent of a rock-ridge, with quite some hundreds of metres of via ferrata, i.e. dangerous. For mountain-walkers like us, a mountain guide is essential. Without our polar-expeditioner mountain-guide Stane Klemenc, we'd have had to give up a long way from the summit.

Near the start in the forest at 1350m
The dairy flats at 1430m
The climb from the valley
The mountains hanging over the path, working up towards Studorski Preval at 1892m, up to the left
Then comes a 4km traverse SW, W then N around Tosc (mountain). 2/3rds of the section is visible here (taken the next day, with zoom, from our Pension)
Just below Studorski Preval, Stane starts on the first, SW segment of the traverse
Views down over forests to the Bohinj Valley, including Stara Fuzina and our Pension. (The reverse of two shots earlier)
Most of this segment had steep slopes below – a little light training for the ridge-line in the last kilometer of the climb
The path back E, with Stara Fuzina visible (taken on the way back)
The traverse swings North (with our track just above centre of picture)
Above pastures called Velo Polje
Looking at Miselj vrh (peak) at 2350m
(A little down) to Vodnikov Dom (house) at 1817m
One of the better parts of the path. (You don't take photos of the hard bits, because you're too busy)
Looking back down the path ...
... on the way to Konjsko Dom at 2020m
(This and the previous 4 shots were taken on the return journey)
Then a very hard section from 1817m to 2401m. (The first shot shows the easy bit)
Looking back at our path ...
... rising over multiple snow-crossings
At 2401m at Dom Planika, contemplating the steep snow and rocks up 324m to Male (Small) Triglav, and the further 140m up the (hidden) Triglav
From the same place, on the way back: the cloud that obscured Triglav throughout , and the left half of Male Triglav ...
... and a closer-up view of Male Triglav, showing the funnel, low-left to high-right, and the ridge-walk
After crossing steep snow in the cirque, up the chute onto about 800m of ridge-line, 25% via ferrata (i.e. steel rope)

On the ridge, pretending to be happy about it

Continuing up a 1-in-1 section
The ridge is commonly c. 3m wide, but as little as 75cm, esp. between Male Triglav and Triglav itself
From half-way up Triglav, looking back down to a following group of climbers who are on Male Triglav
Linda leads, and Roger staggers, to the silly, round shed that marks the summit
From the top, looking down on the meteorological centre
More views from the top
Coming back, at the dip on the ridge between the two Triglavs, looking up at Male Triglav, incl. the meteo station
Master Bergführer Stane Clemenc
Us, exhausted but successful
I'd wanted a view from Triglav towards Bled, and this is it ...
... or maybe this one's more interesting
On walks like this, it's normal to see marmots ...
... but it's unusual to see chamois, especially this close
And it's the only time we've ever seen ibex / steinbock in the wild ...
... five of them in all

The schematic ...
... closer-up
One postcard ...
... another
The Map
As seen by Andreja 2 yrs later, from Tosc (to the SE)
We walked from behind Tosc, around left beneath it, up the zig-zag path to the hut, then just above the hut to the right up the chute, then left up the ridge, over Male Triglav to the peak
As seen by Andreja from Visevnik (to the ESE), showing the hut, and the narrow ridge


Seealpsee (Beneath Säntis, NE Switzerland) – Thu 16 Jun

8km, 350m, a warm-down day, with our bodies still a little in shock from Triglav. From Wasserauen 868m up the (closed) road to Seealpsee 1131m, then up to the end of the valley with its multiple milk-huts, and back down via a treed gully on the eastern side of the cleft

From near our Pension, looking S to the walking-area
On the way up the road ...
... meeting new friends
Not a silk purse
Looking S over Seealpsee (1031m) up to Säntis (2500m) ...
... with the Agetaplatte at the head of the Seealpsee valley ...
... and from the other arm of the lake
Looking back N from higher up the Seealpsee valley
A close-up of Säntis
Looking back over the lake to the bluff above our Pension
Restaurant Wildkirchli on the W side, beneath the top of the Ebenalp chairlift
Looking back N, to the chocolate-box green-fields of Appenzell

Even after the Pyrenees, the Dolomites and Triglav, we were struck by this area. We once lived not all that far away (outside Zürich), but we'd never actually been on this side of the mountain. It's now slotted in for closer attention sometime (soon, or never!). So here are some more details.

The 1:25,000 Map
The Walks Schematic
Key Walk Segments
The Walks Sketch
Postcard looking South
Postcard looking North
Our 2011 Walk
How to extend it a little
And some more
And a nearby alternative

This is a page within the Clarke-Spinaze Photo Gallery, home-page here

Contact: Linda or Roger

Created: 25 May 2011; Last Amended: 8 Jan 2015 (added to the end of Triglav)