Another hike to explore the magnificent Aston valley. Starting from Pla des Peyres, the Coume de Varilhes passes under the Pic de la Coume d'Enfer, and a path leads up to the Mirabail pond. Continuing on, you climb to the Pic de Cabaillère for an impressive panorama of the Andorran border peaks and much of the Ariege Pyrenees. The rest of the route is superb too, with several hanging ponds and superb views of the nearby Rulhe massif. If the loop can be extended by aiming for the Pic du Mirabail and the ridges up to the Pic de Cabaillère, this accessible itinerary is well worth the detour, with no great difficulty and a beautiful high-mountain backdrop.
■ Type of route: high-mountain loop hike
■ Distance: 9.5 km
■ Cumulative elevation gain: +840 m
■ Cumulative negative altitude gain: -840 m
■ Estimated total time: 6h to 7h30
■ Min and max altitude: 1700m / 2555 m
■ S igns: yellow PR and visible, cairned trails
■ Equipment in place: none
■ Equipment required: none
Difficulty: a few steep sections up and down, including the final descent to the parking lot.
Access to the place
Map & topo
Part 1: Coume de Varilhes to Mirabail pond (2270m, 1h30 to 2h)
From the parking lot, take the footbridge and follow the path along the torrent to the south. After crossing an area of large boulders, the path gradually enters the Coume de Varilhes and rises, bending to the west. You soon leave the signposted path, which leads off to the left towards the Fontargente ponds, and continue into the Coume. You soon discover the cirque that marks the valley floor, below the Pic de Ransol and the Pic de Mil Menut. Without descending completely into the basin, follow the path as it makes a sharp turn up the slopes to the north-east. It climbs quite steeply, leading to a small upper valley overlooking the Coume de Varilhes. Keep going for a while to discover the Mirabail pond and, further up, the back of the Pic de Cabaillère.
Part 2: Pic de Cabaillère, étang noir de Cabaillère and return to Pla des Peyres (2555m, 2h15 to 3h)
Follow the summit ridge and plunge northwards to reach a wide pass, then continue eastwards down a valley to reach the level of the Etang Noir de Cabaillère. Follow the path along the east bank before turning almost 180° to the left. Here, the path descends steeply, crossing a scree to come to an enormous, characteristic sloping rock with a small Orri at its foot, very close to the Etang de Cabaillère (which can be seen by climbing slightly above the rock).
At this point, the path turns south into a grassy valley. Further down, on a small flat spot, you'll find the left-hand fork to the east, which leads straight down to the parking lot. There's a small cairn and the trail is clearly visible. A steep, winding descent then begins, landing opposite the parking lot, which you reach via the footbridge.
If you prefer, you can avoid this option by following the path which continues to the south to return to the Coume de Varilhes before going the other way to the parking lot (longer but quieter).