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The Thousand Lakes

Pyrenees

  • Where?

    France

  • Altitude

    2,833m

  • Duration

    6 days

  • Weather

  • Physical

    P2

  • Technical

    T2

  • P2 - Prolonged walking over varied terrain. There may be uphills and downhills, so a good solid fitness is required. Expect to be able to do a 6 to 8 hour walk over undulating terrain with a few punchy uphill climbs carrying a pack up to 6kg in weight.

    Visit our Grading Information page for a full overview.

  • T2 - Consider this a trek, although there may be occasion to use hands for short sections of easy scrambling. No previous climbing or trekking experience is necessary.

    Visit our Grading Information page for a full overview.

  • Overview

  • Date & Prices

  • Pics & Vids

  • Itinerary

  • Kit List

  • FAQ's

Overview

The Pyrenees straddle the border between France and Spain for 400+km and rise to 3,400m. The stunning 1000-lakes route through the Parc National d’Aigüestortes i Sant Maurici in Catalonia weaves between winding rivers, sheer ravines, cool lakes, raging waterfalls and fertile marshes, and reaches some of the range’s highest summits, fittingly, ‘Aiguestortes’ means ‘twisted waters’ in Catalan – you’ll see a lot of them! 360’s majestic 4-day trek explores these hidden beauties and embraces the unique camaraderie and warm hospitality of the remotely located mountain refuges.

We’ll be trekking through high mountain forest, rich in beech and pine, crossing meadows and mountainsides blanketed in colourful flowers and passing hundreds of sparkling snow-fed lakes. To reach the high passes that lead from one valley to the next where vibrant alpine flowers dot the rugged landscape we cross eerie landscapes dotted with huge boulders. With luck, you’ll spot the world’s largest bird of prey, the Lammergier, circling above, whilst Marmots whistle warnings to each other on the rock-strewn slopes.

Europe doesn’t have to be tame. This is an absorbing trek of extreme contrasts, taking in Catalonia’s iconic peaks and entering lush worlds rarely seen by travellers. It will challenge everything you thought you knew about European mountains.

Find out more
The Thousand Lakes, Pyrenees The Thousand Lakes, Pyrenees

Date & Prices

Departure & Return

Duration

Price (excl. flight)

Price (incl. flight)

Start: 29 September 2018
End: 04 October 2018

Price without flights:  £850

Leader: Rolfe Oostra

29 September 2018

04 October 2018

6 days

£850

N/A

Leader: Rolfe Oostra

Start: 04 July 2019
End: 09 July 2019

Price without flights:  £850

Private Expedition: John Healey!
Leader: Rolfe Oostra

04 July 2019

09 July 2019

6 days

£850

N/A

Private Expedition: John Healey!
Leader: Rolfe Oostra

Start: 09 July 2019
End: 14 July 2019

Price without flights:  £850

09 July 2019

14 July 2019

6 days

£850

N/A

Included

  • 360 leader
  • Airport transfers to and from Toulouse
  • Transfers to and from mountain base
  • 2 nights accommodation in Luchon based guest house with breakfast
  • Refuge accommodation during trek including breakfasts, packed lunch and dinner
  • Dinner on first night

Not Included

  • International flights to Toulouse
  • Personal equipment
  • Insurance
  • Alcohol, laundry and other items of a personal nature
  • Lunches on day 1 & 6
  • Final dinner
  • Any additional costs associated with leaving the expedition early

Pics & Vids

Itinerary

DAY 1 : Arrive Luchon

We will meet you at Toulouse airport at 11:30 and transfer you back to Luchon where you’ll have some time to settle into the guest house.

If there is time this afternoon and weather permitting, we can organise an afternoon of rock climbing before returning to the guest house for an evening briefing covering essential information for the following days, talks on food, personal equipment and weather forecasting before a relaxing dinner.

(D)

DAY 2 : Trek to Refugi de Saboredo

After an early breakfast, we’ll transfer (1.5hr drive) to our start point in the Val d’Aran in Catalonia, Spain. Without further ado, we launch into this spectacular trek. Initially we trek through native stands of Pyrenean black Pine opened up by lush meadows of Alpine flowers.  A steady climb brings us to our first big lake near the Refuge de Colomers where we have lunch. From here we enter a wild and rocky landscape as we meet the Haute Route Pyreneen and climb steadily over the Gran de Sendrosa pass (2,200m) to the beautifully located Saboredo Refuge.

(BLD)

(Trekking time 5-6 hours)

 

DAY 3 : Refuge de Ventosa I Calvell

Today we are well above the tree-line and before us lays a day of mountain discovery. An early start sees us traversing the banks of two beautiful lakes tucked beneath the Ratera Pass where we link up with the famous GR11. We drop back down to the Cirque de Colomers and its many sparkling lakes and tarns. Adding colour are dozens of alpine flower species and the loud squeaks of marmots. We make our way north and ascend the Colomers pass (2,400m) until we reach the refuge of Ventosi I Cavell which many call the most spectacularly located refuge in the Pyrenees.

(BLD)

(Trekking time 6-7 hours)

DAY 4 : Refuge de Restanca and Pico Montardo

After a hearty breakfast at the refuge, we’ll start our trek eastwards towards Pico Montardo, towering 2,833m above the refuge de Restanca. The path takes us from the refuge up to the Crestada pass on the Haute Route, one of the three long distance trails that cross the Pyrenees. From the pass, we head up the ridgeline to the summit of Montardo and outstanding views over the French border and across miles of Pyrenean summits, including its highest – Pico Aneto.  After our ascent we drop down to the friendly Restanca refuge situated at the lake sharing its name.

(BLD)

(Trekking time 5-6 hours)

DAY 5 : Out via col de Caldes and seven lake circuit

Today we say a spectacular goodbye to the thousand lake area by climbing over the col de Caldes (2,400 meters) and dropping into the Cirque de Travessani. Todays path links with the GR11 and joins what many call the show-case circuit of this area; the seven lake walk. Since we are in no hurry the brave can take on the seven-lake swim challenge (or dip!) and we descend back down to our starting point, Baños de Tredos for our transfer back to France and a fantastic celebration meal.

(BL)

(Trekking time 6-7 hours)

DAY 6 : Bagneres de Luchon and flight home

Depending on your flight times you can spend the morning relaxing in Luchon whether it be souvenir shopping or relaxing in the spa.

If you are looking for something adventurous then why not spend the morning enjoying any of the outdoor activities this beautiful mountain town offers, such as paragliding and mountain biking.

Transfer to Toulouse Airport.

(B)

This itinerary is subject to minor changes depending on flight arrival and departure times, weather, group dynamics and fitness and so on, but the itinerary outlined provides an excellent indication of the trek and what you will experience.

Kit List

Bags & Packs

Daysack

40-60L rucksack that is well worn in and with a good waist belt. A waterproof cover is advisable (remember that these covers are not 100% waterproof but act as a barrier) Whilst on the mountain you will need to carry all of the kit that you are not wearing

Dry stuffsacks

Pack some fresh clothing into bags to keep them dry in the event of a total downpour that seeps into your kitbag. Good for quarantining old socks

Waterproof rucksack cover

To protect rucksack from rain

Sleeping Gear

3 Season sleeping bag

3-season with a rating to around -5C. Down is lighter but more expensive than synthetic and ratings vary between manufacturers

Sleeping bag liner

Silk is best for keeping the bag clean and you a little warmer

Headwear

Warm headgear

This can be a warm hat, beanie, balaclava, anything to reduce the heat loss from your head

Wide brimmed hat

Keeps the sun off exposed areas like ears and the nape of the neck

Sunglasses

Category 4 wrap around style is highly recommended. These sunglasses allow for the highest available protection against harmful UV light found at altitude and from glare from snow and sand surfaces. Worth spending money on good UV filters. Julbo is our preferred supplier

Lip salve

Sun cream will not work on your lips and they are very susceptible to burn without proper protection

Sunblock

Buy the highest SPF you can find as UV intensifies with altitude

Upper Body

Base layer

This is the layer closest to the skin and its principal function is to draw (wick) moisture and sweat away from the skin. You can also get thermal base layers for use at higher altitudes that provide an additional insulative layer while still drawing sweat during times of high exertion

Quantity: 2

Mid layer

These are typically lightweight microfleeces or similar technology that provide varying degrees of warmth and insulation without being overly bulky or heavy to pack

T-shirts

A couple of T-shirts are advisable for this summer expedition.  The days are reasonably warm (with high temperatures at lower altitudes)

Hard Shell

These jackets are thin, highly waterproof and windproof and worn over all other items of clothing. You’ll find these made of Gore-Tex or other proprietary waterproof yet breathable technology. Inexpensive hard shells that aren’t breathable will prevent evaporation, making you sweat intensely and are not recommended

Soft Shell

These should be windproof (not all are) and insulative. They are mostly made of soft polyester and sometimes resemble a neoprene finish which makes them very mobile and comfortable to wear. While offering a degree of weather repellence, they are not waterproof

Gloves

Lower Body

Shorts

A couple of shorts are advisable for this summer expedition.  The days are reasonably warm (with high temperatures at lower altitudes)

Trekking trousers

These tend to be polyester so they dry quickly after a shower and weigh little in your pack. Consider perhaps a pair with detachable lower legs as an alternative to shorts

Underwear

Merino or wicking material, not cotton. How many pairs you take is entirely up to you

Waterproof trousers

A lightweight pair of Goretex/eVent trousers that will act as a great windproof too

Feet

Walking boots

Well worn in 4 season waterproof boots with mid to high ankle support

Spare laces

Just in case

Comfortable trainers/Crocs

For use in the evenings. With most refuges, you will need to take your boots off when you go in. Some provide croc/slippers but not all.

Trekking socks

Single layer or wearing 2 pairs is a personal choice and lighter weight merino wool is a good option

Quantity: 3

Hydration

Water bottles / bladder

2L capacity either in a combination of bladder and Nalgene bottle or just Nalgene bottles

Quantity: 2

Water purification

Purification tablets are better than any other system.  Highly unlikely to be needed.  Always good to have in your bag

Evening Wear

Evening clothes

Comfortable clothes for the evening

Toiletries

Alcohol gel

A must have for good camp hygiene

Toilet paper

Provided on the mountain but a spare in your daysack may be useful if you need to hide behind a rock between camps

Wet wipes

Great for washing when shower facilities become a thing of the past, one packet will suffice

Expedition towel

Towels from the likes of Lifesystems are perfect

Wash kit

Keep it simple on the mountain. Essentials are toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. Moisturiser is advisable, everything else is a luxury!

Medications

Personal first aid kit

Blister patches, plasters, antiseptic, painkillers; (see FAQ’s)

Personal medication

Keep this in your daysack

Misceallaneous

Camera

Bring plenty of spare batteries and memory cards

Head torch

Bring spare batteries or a spare head torch

Snacks

Although you will be fed well we do we advise bringing a small selection of energy bars. Have a couple per trekking day

Ear plugs

For protection against the inevitable snorers!

Penknife (optional)

Swimsuit

For the odd swim

Trekking poles

These tend to be a personal preference but help with your stability and can dampen the pressure on the knees coming down hill

Documentation

Passport

Don’t forget this! Your passport should have at least 6 months validity.  With your passport expiry date at least six months after the final day of travel.

Copy of passport

Just in case

Dental check up

We recommend you have a dental check-up before your trip. New fillings can be an issue at altitude if there is an air pocket left in the gap

Travel insurance

Copy of own travel insurance details.  And relevant contact numbers.

We have a partnership with True Traveller and would recommend that you contact them when looking for travel insurance for your trip with 360. However, it is vital that you ensure that the insurance cover they offer is suitable for you, taking your personal circumstances (items to be insured, cancellation cover, medical history) into account. Many other insurance providers are available and we do recommend that you shop around to get the best cover for you on the expedition you are undertaking.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip.  To include medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip.

EH1C (formerly E111)

While you do have travel insurance, this can save you paperwork and reduce upfront costs should you have a minor ailment or need to see a local GP if you already have one

FAQ's

Food and Water

Where do we get drinking water from?

All drinking water is from the refuge or can be bought at various stops for the first day’s walking. We pass streams in various places that you can top up from if you should run out, so take purification to add to it in the form of silver chloride or chlorine.

What is the food like in the refuge?

The food in the refuges is plentiful and of very good quality, often using locally sourced ingredients. Breakfasts consist of pastries, fresh bread and jams and you can expect hearty meals in the evenings.

Do you provide snacks during this expedition? Or do you recommend that we bring our own?

360 provides some snacks for your days on the mountain, however do bring some of your favourite snacks from home, a range of fast and slow release energy snacks. The pure ‘energy’ style bars which are solid are quite tough to eat on the mountain so go with simple things. Flapjacks, shortbread, sweets, nuts and chocolate are great, snacks that you’re going to really look forward to eating and which will give you energy.

Accommodation

What are the refuges like? Is it better than camping?

The refuges are basic, these are inaccessible mountain huts – albeit large. They all have running water, so flush toilets are standard. Most will have hot showers, but on a busy day that hot water will be in high demand and may run out.

Accommodation is in dormitories, so earplugs are recommended if snorers keep you awake. Food will be good with ample carbohydrate content – think pasta, rice, potatoes etc, but don’t expect a la carte, food often has to be flown in by helicopter! Given we are all carrying our own kit we don’t want to be weighed down by tents and cooking equipment, and as the refuges have beds and washing facilities they are considered the sensible and more comfortable option on these routes.

Kit

What? No porters?!?

This summer trek is a hut supported trek.  Where we will get breakfast, packed lunch and dinner at each hut. Therefore there is no need for tents, fuel stoves etc.

So what bag do I need?

A rucksack of around 40-60L should do you just fine. Aim not to carry any more than 10kg. You will be able to leave some kit with the minibus for when you get back off the mountains. If you are borrowing or buying a rucksack, ask someone to help you adjust it to fit your back. And ensure you are making these adjustments with weight inside it, not empty. Generally it should sit reasonably high on your back so that the weight is acting vertically downwards, not forcing your shoulders back or drooping past your backside. Again, it’s about how you feel comfortable wearing it and important to get right.

Make sure too that it is either waterproof or you have a waterproof cover for your rucksack. It’s not a bad idea to pack your gear into waterproof stuffs sacs, or even bin bags, in case of a deluge.

Do we need any technical gear for this?

No, this is a trek, so standard walking gear outlined in the kit list should suffice.

The Trek

I’ve skied in the alps, I’ve seen how busy it can get in winter, is summer the same?

Summer in the Pyrenees can be busy within striking distance of the main car parks and operational chairlifts as they attract the local walkers, bikers and day trippers. But once you are a few hours away from these it will feel like you have the whole mountain range to yourself, with occasional people sharing the same path as you. It is a huge area, and most of the time you’ll see more wildlife than people. In the evenings the huts can get busy as people tend to centre on them having come from all directions, but the next morning all those people will disappear once more.

How fit do I need to be?

Although we’re not at altitude, or in somewhere like the Himalayas, don’t underestimate this trek. The days are relatively long with reasonable altitude gains (and losses) each day. If you make an effort with fitness before coming out you’ll enjoy it far more than if you are struggling up every hill each day barely able to notice the spectacular views.

Can we swim in the lakes?

They’ll be cold but there’s no reason why not.

The Weather

What’s the weather like up there?

It’s likely to be lovely and sunny, and reasonably warm (pretty hot lower down). However, we’re in the mountains, and not very far from the Atlantic, so there is every risk of rain, thunderstorms, and wind. Night time temperatures high up will be decidedly chilly.

The climate of the Pyrenees is generally better than the UK, but there is still the risk of inclement weather, so we advise in the kit list to pack accordingly (see above). And just like any other holiday, having a quick last minute look at the forecast before you come out can be a useful pointer of what’s in store.

Travel

Flights aren’t included what time should I arrive and depart to Toulouse?

We haven’t included flights as this gives you options from the UK. There are many flights that come to Toulouse daily from many different airports.

We will be at the airport at 11.30 am on day one of the itinerary. On the day you leave, we will be dropping the team off at Toulouse airport for 2.30 pm.  (These times are approximate and are TBC.)

Please, therefore, find flights that work for these timings.

If there are any issues with this please let us know and we will also try and help however it might mean in getting a hire car/train or taxi to your start/finish point.

Bagneres de Luchon is 1h 40 mins drive away.

Insurance

Do I need special insurance for this trip?

You must carry individual travel insurance to take part in the expedition. We cannot take you on the mountain without proof of insurance.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip. To include medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip.

Your insurance details are requested on the booking form, however this can be arranged at a later date. 360 Expeditions will be requesting your insurance details 8 weeks before your departure.

Electronics

Will my mobile work?

On and off, don’t rely on it but there could be exposed points where you get a signal, notable higher up. In valleys you’ll be hard pushed to get a signal unless they are populated.

As I sit in warm sunshine, I’m asking myself …

‘Did we really do that ?’ If we did, it was because of you.

Thank you!

 

Jonathan Thomson, Trans Pyrenees Cycle Raid, 2017
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