GR10 – Refuge D’Ayous to Gabas
Posted by pdittman on September 27th, 2018 in '18 - Pyrenees-GR10, Hiking/Trekking

We’re really not backpackers/campers. Our multi-day/over night adventures include some aspect of mountain huts/refuges. In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, you can find us at one of the Appalachian Mountain Club huts. In the Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia, it was the a refugio, such as Refugio Grey, and in the Jungfrau region of the Swiss Alps, the Berghaus’ were the overnight accommodations (see our blog on the Jungfrau).  Staying at the Refuge D’Ayous hut would be yet another “hut experience” – French style.

refuge bunks
Refuge bunk room

As mentioned in the previous post, staying at the Refuge also enabled us to break up the bigger GR10 section between Etsaut and Gabas.   And we were glad we did – both because we underestimated the magnitude of some of these sections (it ain’t the distance, it’s the altitude changes?), but really because the hut itself is in a spectacular location – there’s no other way to describe it.  Some of the most beautiful scenery to be found!

refuge dinner
Dinner, family style

The Refuge is staffed by a family – check out this youtube (sorry, in french) to hear about the hut from the innkeepers themselves. Dinner was family style and was accompanied by what we imagined was a detailed description of the Refuge, perhaps how it operates (food, electricity, etc) – unfortunately, entirely in french (with no english subtitles!).     Not surprisingly, wine was available for purchase, though it seemed many had brought their own.   Dinner conversation was almost exclusively French, so after our meal, and our very long day, we headed upstairs for bed.

Refuge to Gabas
Trax from the Refuge to Gabas

Daylight broke with an amazing sunrise over Pic du Midi – see the photos below.   

Sunrise over Pic du Midi

As is typical of this type of accommodation, most folks were up early. Ppetit dejuener was served in 15 minute intervals, until 8:15.  We got our tray of breads, jams, yogurt, and of course, coffee.   As our travel today was mostly downhill and only about 6 miles, we lingered over our coffee longer than most other guests, ending up as one of the last to pack and head out.

The trail itself skirted the lake which is so prominent in the Pic du Midi photos, giving us a bit of time to re-acclimate and warm up after yesterday’s nearly mile-high ascent.   And not before taking one last look back at the Refuge, marveling at its location nestled in the mountains.

refuge d'ayous
Refuge D’Ayous beneath the towering Col D’Ayous

Very soon, the trail diverged from the lake and started its descent into the upper reaches of Vallee D’Ossau toward Gabas, transitioning from the alpine zone to a more forested area.   And it was here where we began to see other people on their ascent toward the Refuge, or perhaps the Col D’Ayous.    After yesterday’s hike, where we saw only a handful of people the entire day, it was a surprise to see so many people on the trail.

First encounter with tree line leaving Refuge D’Ayous

Continuing our descent, we soon discovered that we were really much closer to ‘civilization’ than we’d imagined.   The trail entered into a recreational area surrounding Bious-Artigues lake, which offered kayak/canoe rentals, picnic areas, and local walking trails.   

On this Sunday morning under a cloudless sky, it wasn’t really a surprise that the parking areas were overflowing with cars (and people) – very reminiscent of the crowds and overflow parking we often see lining route 93 in the Franconia Notch area of New Hampshire in the early fall.

Parking area at Bious-Artigues lake recreation area

Descending further below the recreational area, the GR10 followed one of the mountain roads, and it was here we came across a GR10 “through hiker” from Canada, on his 28th day, who was headed west toward the Hendaye and the Atlantic coast.   After our 3 days in France, this was really the first time we spoke english!  Good to spend a bit of time to exchange stories, share a bit of trail friendship.    With a “bonne randonee”, we departed, and shortly arrived in the village of Gabas.

The village of Gabas, in the Vallee D’Ossau

and our stop for the night – Hotel Le Biscaü. This turned out to be an interesting and memorable place to stop for the night.

hotel biscau
Jeanne doing research in front of Hotel Le Biscau in Gabas

Gabas by itself is not much more than a hamlet – maybe a half-dozen or more buildings made up of this hotel, another, and a few other non-descript buildings. That was the whole of the town, with the single roadway passing through. For low-landers, maybe this was the last place for folks to stop before getting into the higher elevations, such as we just left. For us, it represented a shower and some good food! And a specialty of the house, their Ossalois – the fromage d’ossau!

Another memorable aspect for this overnight stay – the sheep! Not long after sundown, we heard the unmistakeable sound of a herd of sheep. As it happens, the herd was traveling through town. Who knows whether it was a regular occurrence, but the whole roadway was blocked with the herd of sheep! It was as if we had stepped back in time.

Read on with our next GR10 section: GR10 Gabas to Gourette


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