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Pic de Balbonne and Sarrat de Coste Brasseil

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A huge winter hike in a very special atmosphere: the ascent of the Pic de Balbonne followed by the ridges of the Sarrat de Coste Brasseil, with the spectacular Dent d'Orlu in sight. Snow, in places still colored by desert sand, in others looking like white dunes sculpted by the wind, a low sky with bluish-gray hues and shafts of light in the distance adding silver or golden glints: the spectacle and the scenery were more than up to the task. The route is not lacking in interest either, with a long section of airy rocky ridges to negotiate as you approach the Dent. Not to mention the colonies of isards frolicking on the steep slopes of the Seys pastures. The only drawback is that you'll need 2 vehicles, as you'll be changing valleys, and it'll take a long time to reach the junction on foot. One of the most beautiful outings of the year!

Sur la crête de Coste Brasseil vers la Dent.

Technical summary

Type ✦ Alpine hiking
Location ✦ Orlu
Region ✦ Haute-Ariège
Country ✦ France
Direction ✦ South
Max altitude ✦ 2305m
Distance ✦ 11,8 km
Dénivelé ✦ 1280 m
Difficulty ✦ E3 / T4 / R4
Duration ✦ 6h30 to 8h
Interest ✦ ★★★

Access to the place

Ideally with 2 vehicles, leave the first at the poêle à frire parking lot at the foot of the Dent d'Orlu on the north side. To get there from Ax-les-Thermes, drive up towards Ascou-Pailhères and just after Lac de Goulours, take the forest track that climbs up to it. Take the second vehicle to the start, passing through the neighbouring valley. From Ax-les-Thermes, head towards Andorra and just outside Ax, turn left towards Orgeix and Orlu. After Orlu, follow the road to Pont de Bisp, just before the end of the road. Park just after the bridge in a large parking lot.

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 1h30

From the parking lot, walk a short distance east along the road and then quickly climb north on a path marked with red dots that is not very visible. Cross a wild field, then find a more marked path which climbs steeply into the forest. After a long series of hairpin bends, the trail begins to cross to the east and climbs more gradually in stages. Finally, you emerge from the forest to see the floor of the Orlu valley. Continue across the valley to reach the Cabane de Seys. This is the starting point for the ascent of Pic de Balbonne.

Course 4h à 5h

Much of this route is off-piste. In winter, crampons and ice axe are mandatory for the final section of the Pic de Balbonne and possibly the crests. On the final section of the Coste Brasseil ridge, there are a few handholds and exposed sections, especially on the south side.

Part 1: Pic de Balbonne (1h30 to 1h45)

Pass the Seys hut and just after the torrent, climb straight up the slope, improvising a route between the shrubs. Stay on the left bank of the torrent and at the very top, you'll discover a large basin with the Etang de Llause (frozen today) at the foot of the Pic des Llauses and the Pic de Balbonne: the Jasse de Seys. Cross the area, aiming for a pass to the right of Pic de Balbonne, the most accessible. As you get closer, the slope increases and you end up in a fairly steep couloir (crampons required) to emerge on the southern ridge of the Pic de Balbonne, right next to a ridge cut by characteristic protruding rocks. All that remains is to climb the final ridge in the form of a gentle, undulating ramp.
Section 2: below Pic des Llauses to Col de l'Egue (45' to 1h)

Descend from the summit along the same path until you reach the jasse de Seys on the right-hand side. As soon as possible and depending on snow conditions, start crossing the large cirque, trying to stay level and aiming for the start of the ridges seen below the Pic de Llauses, towards the clearly visible dent. Once above the Etang de Llause, follow the GR 7b du Tour du Massif du Donezan towards the Col de l'Egue. Shortly before, leave the GR and cut across to the start of the Sarrat de Casalins ridge.
Part 3: Sarrat de Casalins and Coste Brasseil (2h to 2h15)

Once on the ridge, a little after the Col de l'Egue, the route is fairly straightforward: follow the ridge line to the end. It's very long and actually quite winding, with bumps and dips. Only the last section includes more technical and exposed passages, but these are compulsory. Most of these can be negotiated from the north, as they are less exposed. The last promontory at the end of the ridge can be climbed without too much difficulty from the south, even if the void is impressive. Finally, we find ourselves at the foot of the Dent's eastern walls. We still have to cross under the walls to reach the north ridge at around 1970m. There's a small signpost indicating Ascou, where we're going, and Col de l'Egue, where we've just come from.


From the foot of the Dent d'Orlu (1970m), descend following the signposted path to the north, still traversing the ridges. You can clearly see the path over the ridges, with Tarbesou just in front of you. The trail then turns west, this time descending into the forest to reach the poêle à frre parking lot at 1517m. End of the race.

Map & topo

Off-trail routes are for guidance only.

Voir en plein écran



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