Friday, 25 June 2010

Etang Bleu - A classic walk in the Ariege Pyrenees

Having set the day aside to finish breaking in a new pair of Asolo Alpiniste boots before the forthcoming trip to climb Vignemale... I decided to head up to Etang Bleu, a small lake at the height of about 1800 metres, under the east face of Pic de Peyroutet. In the local guidebook this is described as a hike of medium+ difficulty that should take about four-and-a-half hours.

From the La Hasta gite it takes 15 minutes to drive up the Courbiere valley to the car park at the start of the hike. On the way you pass a sign marked 'Cascade'... If you have time it is  worthwhile stopping here for a little while and taking a short walk to look at the waterfall...

From the car park, take the forest road up through the woods until you get to the 'Embanels' meadow (see the above photo). This is a delightful place for picnicking, fishing or doing a spot of wild camping.

Continue over the meadow and cross the river via the wooden footbridge... Shortly after this there begins a zig-zag path that climbs steeply up through beech woods until suddenly you round a corner and are faced with the Cirque d'Embans, sitting below the magnificent west face of the Pic des Trois Seigneurs. This is a great spot to take a breather as it offers a glorious view of the horseshoe of mountains including Pic des Trois Seigneurs (2189m), Pic de la Journelade (1945m) and Cap de la Dosse (1948m).

Leaving the trees behind, continue up from the cirque...On the day that I did this section there torrents of melt-water cascading several hundred metres down the face of the cirque... And also many surviving large patches of snowfield... Truly spectacular.

I finally arrived at Etang Bleu after about two hours walk... The lake is actually more emerald-green than 'bleu', and is a glorious sun trap... Time for a sandwich!

Anyone wanting to extend the walk can continue up to the Col de la Couillate, from where it is possible to head west along the ridge towards the Pic des Trois Seigneurs, or east towards the Pics of Pioulou (2166m) and Bassibie (2114m). From the ridge there are wonderful views of the chain of the Pyrenees.

The walk back down takes about one hour and thirty minutes... I made it back to the car with boots that are now ready for the trip to Vignemale!

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