Pont d'Espagne to Grande Fache

Pont d'Estalounque, Vallee du Marcadau © Walk and Cycle
Vallee du Marcadau © Walk and Cycle
Refuge Wallon-Marcadau © Walk and Cycle
Church beside Refuge Wallon-Marcadau © Walk and Cycle
View of the Grande Fache from Refuge Wallon-Marcadau © Walk and Cycle
View from the Col de la Fache towards France © Walk and Cycle

This trail is a fabulous two day trek from Pont d'Espagne to the summit of Grande Fache via the Col de la Fache, with an overnight stop at the Refuge de Wallon. However, the area has numerous walks so it is possible to spend a week or more exploring the region by crossing mountain passes between valleys.

Pont d'Espagne: there is a huge car park, an information office, public toilets and a cable car station at Pont d'Espagne. Most groups won't loiter here but head out towards the mountains via either the Vallee du Marcadau (the valley this trail follows) or Vallee de Gaube. As you enter the Vallee du Marcadau you pass the Chalet du Clot, which offers accommodation and a cafe.

Vallee du Marcadau: after passing the Chalet du Clot most walkers cross the river by the small bridge and continue up the valley on the left bank following either the tarmac road or the lower path that hugs the river. There is also a path that keeps to the right of the river until Pont du Cayan, although this is a slightly longer route. After Pont du Cayan the path splits, the left branch is used by vehicles, walkers will want to take right branch that is a short cut over the forested hill. After crossing back to the right bank of the river at Pont d'Estalounque the trail passes through meadows and pine trees as you climb steadily to the Refuge de Wallon.

Refuge Wallon-Marcadau: at 1865 metres (a climb of approx 450 metres from Pont d'Espagne), the Refuge Wallon-Marcadau sits at a fabulous intersection of valleys, with fine views of the Grande Fache and neighbouring summits. It is open 10 months of the year. From late June to September (after the snow has melted from the high passes) the refuge is very busy and reservations are a necessity. In front of the building is a large area for single night camping.

Grande Fache: the Grande Fache is a classic shaped pyramid mountain. On a sunny day much of the trail to the Col de la Fache is clearly visible from the Refuge de Wallon. From the col it is an easy scramble to the summit. Crampons are recommended to cross the snow fields until the ice and snow melts in late June. In summer conditions it takes 2.5-3 hours to reach the Col de la Fache and then another 1-1.5 hours to summit. From the summit and the col you have fine panoramic views of both the French and Spanish mountains.

Cauterets: The spa town of Cauterets is busy in the winter with skiers but quieter in the summer months, when the choice of hotels and restaurants is much more limited. It has all the shops and conveniences of a modern town and bus connections to Lourdes, where you can continue your journey by train.

Guidebook: Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees published by Cicerone is an excellent guidebook for this and other trails in the region.

Map: This trail is covered by the French mountain map Vignemale (Ossau - Arrens - Cauterets - PN des Pyrenees IGN 1647OT)

Transport: Pont d'Espagne car park can be reached by a steep windy road that climbs the 650 metres of ascent from Cauterets. For the energetic there is a 3 hour walk from the town that broadly follows the river and its many spectacular waterfalls. Cauterets does not have a train station but there are bus services to the town from Lourdes.

Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees

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Pyrenees IGN 1647OT - Vignemale

Vignemale - Ossau - Arrens - Cauterets. Topographic survey of France at 1:25,000 in IGN's excellent TOP25 / Serie Bleue series