Snow reports for walkers in the Pyrenees

Cet article est également disponible en: French

From mid-July to September, apart from occasional showers, the only snow in the Pyrenees is the icing on the glaciers. But for the other nine months of the year walkers need to take into account the possibility of drifts and avalanches.

So when and where can you hike in the Pyrenees this winter without crampons or snowshoes? Please help me to reply by filing snow reports below.

 

* indicates the first high ground encountered on the GR10, HRP and GR11 trails where snow may be a problem, between 15 October and 14 June

* indicates the first high ground encountered on the GR10, HRP and GR11 trails where snow may be a problem early and late in the trekking season

Climate

If you stick to the very ends of the mountains – from Hendaye as far inland as Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port at the west end or from Banyuls as far inland as Batère in the east – you can walk all year round without special equipment. Elsewhere, as long as you stay below 1700m you don’t need to worry either.

If, however, you are fixated by the heights or wanting to thru-hike one of the three classic routes – the French GR10, the Spanish GR11 or the Pyrenean Haute Route (HRP) – things get more complicated.

In general expect snow until mid-June above 2400m on sheltered north-facing slopes; at 2800m it will persist another week or so. At the other end of the hillwalking season the cut-off date is mid-October.

One strategy for thru-hikers is to start at one end and walk as far as you can inland until blocked by snow and then go to the other end and do the same. By the time you get back to where you left off the snow should have melted.

First obstacle Height (m) Walking day Usually snow-free
GR10 W–E
Hourquette d’Arre* 2465 15 14/6–15/10
GR10 E–W
Coll de Coma d’Anyell 2476 9 14/6–15/10
GR11 W–E
Collado de Tebarray 2750 13 21/6–15/10
GR11 E–W
Pic Superior de la Vaca** 2800 9 21/6–15/10
HRP W–E
Around Arrémoulit 2460+ 13 21/6–15/10
HRP E–W
Pic Superior de la Vaca** 2800 9 21/6–15/10

 

*Avoiding the Hourquette d’Arre will give you four more snow-free walking days

** Avoiding the Pic Superior de la Vaca will also give you four more snow-free walking days

 

Weather

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley.

Robert Burns – To a Mouse

Read: no matter how carefully you plan things can go wrong.

The hard winter of 2012/13 not only left snow on the hills much later than expected but also resulted in flooding. I was hiking the GR11 at the time. I arrived at the end of the Canal Roya (Day 10) on 23 June. Although the pass was only 2250m there was so much snow that all the walkers without crampons turned back.

Two days later the Collado de Tebarray (2766m) was very white. We walked the whole day with crampons on our feet.

 

Near the Collado de Tebarray 25 June 201325 juin 2013

Near the Collado de Tebarray 25 June 2013

 

The next day there was more snow to cross.

 

Ibón derro Brazato between Baños de Panticosa and Bujaruelo, 26 June 2013

Ibón derro Brazato between Baños de Panticosa and Bujaruelo, 26 June 2013

 

But snow was the least of my problems.

“I hurl the biggest rocks I can carry into the water in the hope of creating stepping stones. But although this creates some footholds the stones have the effect of damming the river, channelling it deeper and faster. I destroy my engineering and, leaving my rucksack on the bank, test out the waters. It’s too cold and uneven to take my boots off. The water comes above my knees and I have to lean into the current to maintain balance, grabbing hold of submerged rocks to avoid being swept away. But the test is conclusive. I rescue my rucksack and plough across. My feet are freezing and even wringing out my socks makes little difference. They immediately soak up the water from the boots.”

Crossing the river Batanes, Extract from Footprints on the Pyrenees [26 June 2013]

And so it continued. Two weeks later on 11 July, walking between the Respomuso and Ernest Mallafré refuges, I still had crampons on my feet.

Weather forecasts for trekking in the Pyrenees

For France I use Méteo Ciel extrapolating from the nearest village, in combination with Méteo France.

For Spain I use AEMet http://www.aemet.es/es/eltiempo/prediccion/montana

Webcams in the Pyrenees for walkers, skiers, and climbers

Note: some of these webcams only work in the holiday season

France

Pyrénées-Orientales

Banyuls
Perpignan
Vue sur Canigou
Les Cortalets (when the hostel is open)
Saint-Pierre-dels-Forcats
Font-Romeu Pied des pistes 1777m
Font-Romeu La Calme 2050m
Lac des Bouillouses 2010m
Col de Quillane 1717m
Col de la Llose
Porté-Puymorens 1900m

Ariège

Ax-Trois-Domaines
Guzet
Mont d’Olmes

Haute-Garonne

Luchon-Superbagnères

Hautes-Pyrénées

Pic du Midi de Bigorre
Tourmalet
Luz-Ardidan
Luz-St-Sauveur
Hautacam
St-Lary-Soulan Ski resort
Gavarnie (view of Cirque de Gavarnie)
Cauterets

Pyrénées-Atlantiques

Gourette
La-Pierre-St-Martin
Artouste
Larrau
Hendaye

Spain

Catalonia

Enclave de Llivia (Carlit)
Masella
Vallter 2000 (Ulldeter) 2300m
Nùria
Espot
Boi-Taül
Port del Comte 1620m
Tavascan
Baquiera (near the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park)

Aragon

Benasque (village)

Federación Aragonesa de montañismo (hostels in Aragon, conveniently on one page) : Benasque 1100m – Casa Fumenal – 1170m – Pineta 1240m – Linza 1330m – Bujaruelo 1338m – Gabardito 1400m – Lizara 1540m) – Casa de Piedra (Panticosa) 1636m – Biadós 1760m – Pourtalet 1794m – Estós – 1890m – Vértice de Sierra Casa (Ordesa) 1944m – Renclusa 2140m – Ángel Orús – 2150m – Respomuso 2200m – Bachimaña 2200m – Góriz – 2200m – Llauset 2425m

Navarre

Isaba

Andorra

Arinsal
Grandvalira Els Cortals

Map of webcams in Andorra

***

 

Please file your snow reports below. The information will help hikers assess whether crampons and an ice axe are necessary (or whether it is snow-shoeing is back in season). Thanks.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger... This entry was posted on Monday, January 29th, 2018 at 2:20 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment below, or trackback from your own site.

20 Responses to “Snow reports for walkers in the Pyrenees”

  1. steve says:

    30 March 2018: The automatic meteorological stations at Luz-Ardidan and Port d’Aula report 3.62m and 3.18m of snow respectively. This is the second greatest depth of snow recorded for 30 March in the last 23 years. The record was in 2013 when the figures were 3.91m and 3,38m at the same date. Source : @GaetanHeymes. The GR10 passes through the Luz-Ardidan ski-resort and not far from the Port d’Aula if you take the alternative route from Esbintz to Rouze (Ariège).

  2. steve says:

    Follow me on Twitter @enmarchant for more snow news…

  3. BOUSQUET TOM says:

    Hello steve, thank you for the website you made with precious information. In 2013 do you know when was the good time for the pyrennees treks ? It will be similar this year i guess.. I m planning to do the a mix with HRP, GR10, GR11, the whole walk. Starting beginning of july is reasonable ?
    Thx a lot for your help

  4. steve says:

    Hi Tom
    Yes starting at the beginning of July should be fine. By the time you get high the snow should have gone. But you may still need to change plans slightly according to the amount of snow. In 2016, not an exceptional year, I used my crampons on 15 July on HRP (though if I’d waited later in the day the snow would have been soft enough to take them off)!

  5. Simon says:

    Hi Steve, I’m going from JSPP to Etsaut first week in June. What’s your best guestimate for the snow levels around La Pierre-St-Martin towards the end of the first week? Crampons, spikes or normal?

    thanks

  6. steve says:

    Hi Simon

    You may only have snow for a few hundred metres and you may be able to go around it. But I’m pretty certain you will have snow on the north side of the pas de l’Osque. Although it is only 1900m the cliffs will likely shade any drifts and the approach to the pass would be tricky if frozen. (And rerouting around the Pas de l’Osque is tricky). I’m a cautious type. I would take crampons.

    Beware, by the way, there are lots of sinkholes in the karst around La-Pierre-St-Martin which may be covered by snow.

    I hope this helps. Please post your experiences here for the benefit of others.

  7. steve says:

    Snow report 17 April 2018

    Luz-Ardidan 3.6m at the top; 1.5m at the bottom of the slopes. Cauterets 2.5m/1.5m (ski resort open until 22 April); Gavarnie 2.1m/1.3m. Grand Tourmalet 1.5m/1.0m ; 3.5m at 2400m on north side.

    source: https://www.ladepeche.fr/article/2018/04/16/2781289-hautes-pyrenees-un-enneigement-exceptionnel-pour-un-mois-d-avril.html

  8. Paul says:

    Hi there.

    I have plans to do some hiking in Pyrenees from May 10 to 20.

    Do you think the easternmost sections of GR10 and GR11 will be manageable without crampons until Coll de Coma d’Anyell or Pic Superior de la Vaca? Or do you refer to early June there?

    What the day and night temperatures should I expect around that time?

    Thanks,
    Paul

  9. steve says:

    I’d be surprised if the approach on the east the Pic Superior de la Vaca was practicable for your dates, though you could go down to the Coma de Vaca refuge and then across to Núria. As for the Coma d’Anyell, the problem there is likely to be the descent after it to the west. But it could be OK if you are prepared for a scramble over rocks.

    Please let us know the conditions when you are actually there. Thanks.

  10. Damian Tow says:

    Hi Steve,

    I am leading a group from Germ to Fos from 22-26th June. From what I can see of present snow conditions it looks like we can expect snow on the passes. The riskiest section looks to me to be from Lac d’Oo to Superbagneres over the Hourquette des Hounts-Secs and col de la Coume de Bourg where there are north facing slopes which could well hold snow. Do you the section/have any thoughts on snow conditions there? I am happy to provide updates here or on twitter when actually hiking.

    Many thanks,

    Damian Tow

  11. Sara says:

    Hi there Steve, any update on the snow situation. We’ll be heading out from Hendaye june 22nd………Thanks

  12. steve says:

    Hi Damian
    Yes, that’s the riskiest section. My hunch is that you will get through. There could be snow on the slopes above but they are steep (50°) so will have self-purged – see my page on safe snowshoeing. Unfortunately this snow may have come to rest on the path. However this part of the GR10 is well used and there should be footprints to walk in. I suggest you ring the Bureau des Guides de Luchon or the Espingo hostel when you arrive in Germ.

    Keep safe

  13. steve says:

    Hi Sarah

    So you will arrive at the Hourquette d’Arre (2465m) about 7 July. Although it is due to snow this weekend (30cm at 1500m) in certain parts of the Pyrenees – very late – 7 July is three weeks after the normal ‘safe’ date so you should be OK. If not, avoid the Hourquette by heading north from the Cabanes de Cézy, amost as far as Eaux-Bonnes and then turn east.

    have fun

  14. Tim Gillespie says:

    Hi Steve,

    A friend and I will be arriving in Toulouse on June 7th and will be on the trail through June 23rd. We would like to pass through some parts of the second stage but are worried about the current amount of snow. What would you recommend? We could start in Hendaye but were hoping to get to higher altitudes to see some better sites and we’re planning on camping as we traverse the trail. Thanks for any advice you can give us!

    Tim

  15. steve says:

    Hello Tim

    At that date, and particularly since you are camping I recommend starting in Hendaye. It will be cold up high. Check out the webcams listed above (be careful to check that they are being updated) before you set out. Some of the passes may well be difficult. Whatever choice you make, please post a snow report here when you are on the route. Follow me on Twitter for updates.

    Have fun

  16. steve says:

    19 May 2018. Still 60cm snow on the side of the tracks of the Artouste Narrow Gauge Railway at 1900m above sea level. This is on the opposite side of the valley from the Clots de Cézy between Gabas and Gourette on the GR10.

  17. Marcus says:

    Hi Steve,

    I am planning to start on the GR 10 from W to E in Hendaye in 1st of june 2018 and wanted to hike the whole trail with rather light equipment. I am a trail-/ ultra-runner, and I`d try to travel rather lightweigt. On the other hand I do not want to miss any necessary equipment.

    Do you have any current information on snow situation at Hourquette in that period?
    Should I carry an ice axe and gaiters or not?
    Do you know where I can get more precise information on the current wheater conditions, especially the snow up there?
    Any sites/ webcams you can recommened?

    Thank you for your help.

    Best,
    Marcus

  18. steve says:

    Hi Marcus

    The video linked just above shows the conditions a couple of days ago at 1900m on the Artouste train line. This is only 5km from the Hourquette d’Arre, which is at 2458m. So if you were there today you would be happy to have crampons. However, you won’t get there until 9 June at the earliest, unless you are really running. You can look at the webcams (also listed above) for an idea of snow – but some are no longer up to date. I would have said that your best bet was to ring the CAF refuge in Gourette just before setting out but I have just discouvered that it is closed until December 2018. Instead, try ringing up the Bureau des Guides in Cauterets; they will also be able to tell you about the Hourquette d’Ossoue.

    Hoping this helps. Please let us know how it turns out. Even if you can’t do so until much later the info will still be useful for next winter. Thanks.

  19. Jeffrey Haltiner says:

    hi folks; my wife and I are planning to do day hikes in the high pyrannees from June 16-28, 2018. It seems like there has been abundant snow this year, and i’m wondering if we will be able to get into the higher mountains with summer hiking gear, and or if we will need crampons/yaktrax etc. We will be hiking in Luchon (Col d’espingo), Gavernie (Gavernie to the refuge de la Breche), Ordesa Park (from Torla):Pradera de Ordesa to Circo de Soaso) and Cauterets (Marcadau Lakes Circuit. any input on likely conditions is appreciated.

  20. steve says:

    Hi Jeffrey

    I’ve never got on with yaktrax. The pair I had fell apart on the first day of walking on a mix of snow and rock. So I would take crampons. At that kind of date I think you would be better to do the Col de Espingo from the Granges d’Astau rather than on the GR10. Gavarnie to the Saradets (refuge de la Brèche), there will probably be snow on the N side of the col de Sarradets, maybe the échelle would be easier as far as snow is concerned. Ordesa will be fine. I don’t know the Marcadau Lakes Circuit so perhaps someone else can give an appreciation.

    Please let us know how it turns out. Thanks

More on walking in the Pyrenees

Leave a Reply

map of GR10

 
site designed by Archétype Informatique: création de site internet, Narbonne