TOPO Hiking

Pic du Balaïtous, Arrens-Marsous

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The first 3000m peak in the Pyrenees to be climbed from the West, the Pic du Balaïtous is a long, steep route with an Alpine finish on the Grande Diagonal, the normal route to the summit. From the refuge de Larribet, the border ridge is reached via the Brèche des Ciseaux and, after a short passage on the Spanish side, the rocky path takes an airy ledge above the abri Michaud. From the peak at 3145m, superb 360° views of the Hautes-Pyrénées on both the French and Spanish sides. A demanding out-and-back route where you'll be eating rock almost all the time: rock, scree, slabs and chaos!

Technical summary

Type ✦ Alpine hiking
Location ✦ Arrens-Marsous
Region ✦ Hautes-Pyrénées
Country ✦ France
Length ✦ 18,5km
Vertical drop ✦ 1675m
Difficulty ✦ D / III+
Max altitude ✦ 3145m
Duration ✦ 10h to 11h
Interest ✦ ★★

Access to the place

From Tarbes, head for Lourdes, then on to Argelès-Gazost. From there, take the Route d'Azun to Arrens-Marsous. Continue on to Lac du Tech and beyond to the final parking lot.

Map & topo

Voir en plein écran

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 1h45 à 2h

To reach the Larribet refuge. Climb up into the forest and leave it quickly to follow the Gave d'Azun on the right bank, the Lac de Suyen until you cross the torrent and branch off to the west to climb up into the forest and access a small upper valley that follows the ruisseau de Larribet. The valley floor and the rocky peaks above are gradually revealed. After the plateau, the path climbs steeper in stages, passing cascades and small granite bars. Above, over a basin opening onto the Balaïtous cirque, the trail reaches the pretty guarded Larribet refuge at 2072m. Coffee break before tackling the day's main course.

Course 6h à 6h30

The route, although not signposted, is well marked and fairly logical, except for passing through the Brèche des Ciseaux in a scree slope and avoiding the traditional route via the Col Noir, further east, which is now not recommended as it is dangerous. In summer, when there's no snow, you don't need any equipment to climb to the summit via the long diagonal. There are a few exposed passages, and you'll have to put your hands down in places to climb or cross, but they're not very difficult (III/III+). The route is very rocky: scree, chaos, slabs, rocky path. Allow 3h30 to 4h for the ascent and 2h30 to 3h for the descent.

Part 1: up to Brèche des Ciseaux (1h30 to 2h)

Climb to the top of the hut and soon plunge into the lower then upper Lac de Batcrabère. Continue down to the last small Micoulaou lakes. Opposite the Penya de Barana, climb steeply up the large scree, following one of the cairned paths to reach the narrow Brèche des Ciseaux as far west as possible (the shape of the scissors will only be visible on the way back to the south). On the Brèche, the slope changes to the Spanish side.
Part 2: up to the Grande Diagonale (45′ to 1h)

Descend the steep path on the Spanish side, then cross to the east without losing too much altitude, and climb a new steep scree to reach the Michaud shelter, under a huge boulder. From here, climb up a couloir flanked by a wall to emerge higher up on a slope that is half grass and half rock. At the top, you're at the start of the long diagonal that crosses the north face below the summit.
Part 3: to the summit (45′ to 1h)

The Grande Diagonal is an exposed route, in places very exposed, where you can put your hands down and climb without difficulty. Almost at the end of this ascending tendril, at the level of a characteristic streak of black rock and before crossing the ridge that would take you around the peak at the level of the Brèche des Isards, climb due south (III max) and find above the path by climbing just below the summit a last small inclined chimney. Superb panorama of the French and Spanish Pyrenees.


The approach path in the opposite direction is quite long after the day's efforts and the distance and altitude difference covered!

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