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GR10 – Gabas to Gourette
Posted by pdittman on September 26th, 2018 in '18 - Pyrenees-GR10, Hiking/Trekking

The Gabas to Gourette section of the GR10 probably falls into the category of “what were we thinking!”. On paper, it was big, over 13 miles, with an elevation gain of 5300 feet, and an elevation loss of 4600 feet. A mile up, a mile down!  Book time was 8-9 hours, but the GR10 signs were saying nearly 10 hours. We’d already learned to respect the signs. Reflecting back, this hike was Epic all around.  Besides the numbers, it had some radically different terrains.  Wooded and rocky leaving Gabas, alpine with vistas through the Gave de Soussoueou, elevation and scree field scrambles to the Hourquette d’Arre, and alpine trekking into Gourette.   Epic!

GR10 signpost - to Gourette
GR10 signpost – to Gourette
Route from Gabas to Gourette
Our route from Gabas to Gourette.

We were up and out relatively early, or at least certainly early judging by the darkened dining area at Hotel Le Biscau.  After a quick petit dejuener and collecting our brick of the infamous brebis cheese (frommage d’ossau) we’d purchased the day before, we were back on the trail by 8am, exiting the village and following the roadway a short distance before turning into the woods and gaining elevation.

Gabas - looking northward through the Vallee D'Ossau
Gabas – looking northward through the Vallee D’Ossau
Passage Vertigineux - trail junction
Warnings of a vertiginous passage at a trail junction

The initial few miles seemed very familiar – wooded and dotted with a few rocks here and there – not unlike the terrain we often see in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The woods walk was relatively short-lived though, because the elevation continued to get steeper and the rocks became more frequent. First, passing a hydro power station in a gorge, buried deep in the woods (how’d they do that?), and shortly afterward coming to a junction giving us a choice – a “short-cut” or a longer section – both meeting back up about 30 minutes beyond.

We chose the “short-cut”, though maybe we should study french a bit more. The short-cut came with a ‘warning’ passage vertigineux – the vertiginous passage was indeed that – a trail section skirting a rock wall carved by an old avalanche – the path not quite as wide as what we had on Chemin de la Mature, but equipped with a cable through it’s length.

Cable-assisted "passage vertigineux"
Cable-assisted “passage vertigineux”

Fortunately, my vertigo didn’t kick in (too much!) – maybe because of the trees on the lower slope – thought it was still slow going through the section. Soon enough we left the cable behind and continued on the rocky and wooded ascent, gradually emerging into the alpine zone again.

Emerging into the Alpine zone
Emerging into the Alpine zone
plateau de cezy
Plateau de Cezy – 6 hours to Gourette!

Beautiful and challenging as the wooded section had been, time-wise we’d only covered a bit over 3 hours, and still had 6 hours to go (remember, in the Pyrenees, hiking distance is measured by time, not by actual distance).    This was where the real hiking started!   The trail opened up, following along a slope headed in an easterly direction toward Hourquette d’Arre (the highest point of this GR10 section) and Gourette beyond, and which looked out into the Plain de Soussoueou carved out by the Gave de Soussoueou (see the pictures below).

gave de soussoueou
View southward through the Gave de Soussoueou, with Station d’Artouste on the ridge to the right.

Rather than blather on about the hike, the elevation gain, the views, the snow (!), let’s just let the pictures do the talking… Below are some pix, beginning from our emergence into the lower alpine zone, headed toward Hourquette d’Arre with a beautiful view of the Plain de Soussoueou.

In this entire stretch, we did not see another hiker – no one. A beautiful stretch of countryside, but also very isolated.

The Hourquette d'Arre saddle in the distance
With the Gave de Soussoeou off to our right, the Hourquette d’Arre saddle was visible in the distance
Approaching hourquette d'arre
Approaching the Hourquette d’Arre with a patch of snow up ahead.
hourquette d'arre
On the scree field leading to Hourquette d’Arre
hourquette d'arre
Looking backward toward Gave de Soussoueou
col d'aubisque
View from the Hourquette d’Arre toward Col d’Aubisque – Gourette is in the valley beyond the ridge line to the left
gourette - valley
Descending from Hourquette d’Arre into the valley leading to Gourette

And before departing, a few words about Gourette.   It is a classic European ski resort area – earily quiet in this shoulder period between some summer months and just prior to their high season.  We stayed at a mountain hotel – La Boule de Neige – hosted by Claude and Isabelle Soule.   We were their last visitors before some well-earned vacation for them prior to what is undoubtedly a very busy winter season.    For us, it was perfect, very quiet, very welcoming, almost as if we were visiting friends.  It was just the right way to end some Epic hiking in the Pyrenees.

gourette
Celebratory Campari and soda at Le Boule de Neige!

Read more: as we head to our Vacation in Arcachon

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