The Thousand Lakes
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.
T1 - No technical skills are needed. A good steady walking ability only is required.
Visit our Grading Information page for a full overview.
Date & Prices
Pics & Vids
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 ponds, 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 7-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
Date & Prices
We currently have no scheduled dates for this expedition, however if you give the office a call on 0207 1834 360 it would be easy for us to get this up and running.
- 360 leader
- 1 nights hotel accommodation with dinner and breakfast
- Refuge accommodation during trek including dinners & breakfasts
- Packed lunches during trek
- International flights to Toulouse
- Personal equipment
- Alcohol, laundry and other items of a personal nature
- Lunches on day 1 & 7
- Any additional costs associated with leaving the expedition early
Pics & Vids
DAY 1 : Fly to France, trek to La Restanca
We fly to Toulouse airport where a minibus will be waiting for us. It’s about a 3 hour drive to our start point at Val d’Aran in Catalonia, Spain. Without further ado we get booted up and have a gentle introduction to the trek. We have a two hour walk up to our first refuge of the night – La Restanca – on the shores of the eponymous lake.
DAY 2 : Pico Montardo
Towering 833m above the refuge to the east is Pico Montardo. The path takes us from the refuge up to the Crestada pass on the Haute Route, one of the three famous trails of the Pyrenees. From the pass we head up the ridgeline to the summit of Montardo, and to the outstanding views over the French border and across miles of Pyrenean summits, including its highest – Pico Aneto. We drop back down to the pass and continue along the eastbound Haute Route in a south easterly direction through the Travessani Cirque until we reach the refuge of Ventosi I Cavell situated above Estany Negre – the Black Lake.
DAY 3 : Contraix Pass
Today will be one of the toughest as we climb from Estany Negre up the steep and rocky valley that takes us to the Contraix Pass, boulder hopping and scrambling through scree. Once over the pass we have a more gentle walk down the Contraix Valley, following the stream that tumbles all the way down to Estany Llong, and the refuge beside it.
DAY 4 : Monestero
Leaving Estany Llong, we have quite a few passes to negotiate as we cross a number of big ridges that go across our path, rather than along the length of our way. The two big ones we cross are Portaro d’Espot (2,400m) taking us towards Estany de Monestero, and up and over the Coll de Monestero (2,700m), and then past the high Estany de Gran Peguera until we reach the Refuge de Maria Blanc sitting on the edge of Estany Trullo (2,300m).
DAY 5 : Amitges Refuge
From Estany Trullo we make our way onto the San Maurici area, peppered with yet more lakes, with the relative lower altitude bringing more trees and greenery with it. Towering above this stunning lake we are surrounded by the impressive peaks of the Amitges, and we climb up above Estangy San Maurici until we reach Estany Gran d’Amitges, and our refuge for the night.
DAY 6 : Ratera
From Amitges we head up hill towards the Ratera Pass, potentially taking on the summit of Ratera itself. From its 2,862m summit we can enjoy the fabulous views across the hundreds of lakes of the Cirque de Colomer. From there we drop back down, make our way across a high plateau before finally descending out the mountains into the Val d’Arans and the Tredos baths to finally meet civilisation once again, a welcome beer, and our bus back to our hotel, where showers and a hearty dinner await.
DAY 7 : Return to UK
We are taken to Toulouse airport for our flight home.
These are 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.
Bags & Packs
Approx. 40L capacity. Your day to day pack that you carry with your daily essentials, fitted with shoulder straps and importantly a waist belt
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
A 80-120L duffel bag to transport kit. A duffel bag is a strong, soft, weather resistant bag without wheels but with functional straps for carrying. Suitcases and wheeled bags are not suitable
Waterproof rucksack cover
To protect rucksack from rain
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
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
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
Sun cream will not work on your lips and they are very susceptible to burn without proper protection
Buy the highest SPF you can find as UV intensifies with altitude
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
These are typically lightweight microfleeces or similar technology that provide varying degrees of warmth and insulation without being overly bulky or heavy to pack
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
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
Thermal insulation for the lower body
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
Merino or wicking material, not cotton. How many pairs you take is entirely up to you
A lightweight pair of Goretex/eVent trousers that will act as a great windproof too
Well worn in 4 season waterproof boots with mid to high ankle support
Just in case
For use in the evenings
Single layer or wearing 2 pairs is a personal choice and lighter weight merino wool is a good option
Water bottles / bladder
2L capacity either in a combination of bladder and Nalgene bottle or just Nalgene bottles
Purification tablets are better than any other system. Highly unlikely to be needed. Always good to have in your bag
A must have for good camp hygiene
Provided on the mountain but a spare in your daysack may be useful if you need to hide behind a rock between camps
Great for washing when shower facilities become a thing of the past, one packet will suffice
Keep it simple on the mountain. Essentials are toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. Moisturiser is advisable, everything else is a luxury!
Personal first aid kit
Blister patches, plasters, antiseptic, painkillers etc.
Keep this in your daysack
Bring plenty of spare batteries and memory cards
Bring spare batteries or a spare head torch
You’ll be fed well and given snacks everyday however we advise bringing a small selection as little bit of a comfort. Bring 2-3 snacks for each day and a few more for summit night. A variety of slow and fast release energy such as flapjacks and jelly babies.
For the odd swim
These tend to be a personal preference but help with your stability and can dampen the pressure on the knees coming down hill
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
Copy of own travel insurance details – And relevant contact numbers. Please ensure you have appropriate insurance for your intended trip to include medical evacuation and coverage up to an altitude of 2,900m
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.
What? No porters?!?
We’re trekking in summer, so you should be able to pack light. You really just need fresh socks, a pair of shorts to walk in, some trousers for the evening, your boots, and waterproofs in case of sudden showers (we are in the mountains). Then a light summer sleeping bag and book. So a lot of that kit you give a porter on a Kilimanjaro expedition isn’t as necessary here. You will be sent a comprehensive kit list when you join.
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.
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.
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.
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.