Type ✦ Hiking (Alpine if Pic)
Location ✦ Étangs de Fontargentes, Aston
Region ✦ Ariège
Country ✦ France / Andorra
Max altitude ✦ 2627m
Distance ✦ 9km / 8.5km (without Pic)
Vertical drop ✦ 600m / 450m (without Peak)
Difficulty ✦ D / AD (without peak)
Duration ✦ 5h to 6h / 4h to 5h (without Pic)
Interest ✦ ★★★
Access to the place
Leave the parking lot to the south and follow path N°26 towards the Rhule refuge and N°27 towards the Fontargentes ponds. After a short climb, leave the refuge path and continue along the Aston. Further on, cross over a metal footbridge and turn right onto the yellow-marked path. It climbs steeply to reach a shoulder at Malpas level, then rises a little more to finally reach a large altitude basin, invisible until now, where you'll find the Fontargentes ponds (2150m). A magnificent spot! You can easily bivouac here. It can get crowded, as it's also a trout fishing spot. Allow 1h15 to 1h30 to climb from the parking lot.
Map & topo
Hiking to the start Port d'Inclès, 2262m, 30'
From the Fontargentes ponds, take the GRT66 signposted path heading due south to reach the Port d'Inclès or Port de Fontargentes, the natural border with Andorra, quickly and easily.
Course 4h à 4h30
The whole of the Andorran section along the Fontargente ridge is off-piste, although there are a few cairns here and there. Before reaching the Collada de Juclar, there are 1 or 2 exposed passages to negotiate. From the Collada, to reach the ridge leading to Pic Negre de Joclar, the route is again off-piste, with further exposed passages. The ridge, though not overly difficult, is aerial, exposed in places and with a few handholds (II/III max).
Part 1: Collada de Juclar (2450m, 1h30 to 1h45)
From the Col d'Inclès, head south-east and climb to the right of the ridge without losing too much altitude. We'll pass an initial shoulder to reach a more incised combe. Cross as high as you can to the left under the Pic Negre de Juclar (not Joclar!) and end up in a steep couloir that leads to a tiny, obvious pass visible from afar. For the 1st time, you can see the Juclar pond.
At this point, don't descend the steep couloir to the east, but climb a little to the north, towards the ridge in fact, to find an accessible gap. Cross over to the other side and traverse down towards the Collada de Juclar, which can be seen in the distance. There are 1 or 2 small exposed passages to negotiate, more impressive than hard. The panorama is exceptional!
Keep on crossing, staying below the Juclar pond, improvising without difficulty until you reach a well-marked path coming from the south, which quickly leads to the Collada de Juclar.
At this point, you have the choice of looping straight back to Etang de Joclar on the GR T66, or taking the more challenging and longer option of Pic Negre de Joclar.
Part 2: Pic Negre de Joclar (2627m, 1h15 to 1h30)
Climb back up to the northeast, on sight and off-piste. Pass a first ridge, then a second, before looking for an inconspicuous path up to the main ridge and over steep couloirs. There are 1 or 2 small exposed passages at this point.
Once on the ridge, follow it to the right to easily reach the small pass between the ridge and the crest leading to Pic Negre de Joclar (clearly visible from below).
All that's left to do is climb the ridge leading to the ramp to the peak. The path is more westerly and weaves its way along the edge of the ridge, then slightly below it between rock and grassy corridors. We pass several spurs that form gaps between the east and west sides. There are a few steps of traverse or de-escalation in II/III. The last spur requires de-escalation in a small chimney, which can be avoided by passing underneath on the grassy slope.
You then reach the saddle or col at the foot of the final ramp. This is also the descent couloir. Climb the steep grassy south-west flank to reach the near summit. A gap opens up a small window onto the Joclar pond below. Then the last 50m of aerial climbing in II/III to reach the summit.
Part 3: Joclar and Estagnol lakes (2100m, 1h to 1h15)
From the summit, descend the final ramp and, at the level of the 1st gap, descend the steep but passable grassy couloir on the left to the east, aiming for the pond below. You end up on a scree slope or a firn, depending on conditions. Finish by cutting along the side to join the GR T66 on the north side of Joclar pond. From here, follow the GR northwards, down the valley to the Estagnol pond, with its huge waterfall on the east side, an introductory ice fall in winter.
After skirting the Etang de l'Estagnol, the GR 66 soon forks, with the path to the Refuge au Rhule on the right and the return path to the Etangs de Fontargentes on the left. Turn left. The path crosses over and rises slightly to the west to return to the starting basin.