Pyrenees High Route 6 - Biology

This is stage six of the Pyrenees High Route that includes a visit to the village of Lescun, with its hotels, restaurants and shops, before you enter the Parc National des Pyrenees. A beautiful valley leads you down from the limestone wilderness into Lescun, which is a great place to replenish your food and fuel supplies, take a shower and enjoy a fine meal. From Lescun village the trail heads south to the French/Spanish border before you climb through another limestone landscape and pass Lac d'Arlet.

Biology of the Pyrenees

Climatic factors of course determine the vegetation of each area of the Pyrenees.

In the west of the Pyrenees and on north facing slopes, the environments are influenced by Atlantic ocean and wet weather with annual rainfall of 1200-2500 mm and average temperatures of 14 degrees Centigrade (57 degrees Fahrenheit). Here the mountainsides are covered in Beech and Oak forests.

On south facing mountain slopes, the environment is drier with rainfall half that of the north, averaging 500-1100 mm per year. Influenced by the Mediterranean weather patterns, summers are dry and temperatures vary more between the seasons. Here you find pine forests and varied scrub formations.

In the high mountains of the interior the environment is controlled by the colder winter temperatures and lower rainfall than that experienced closer to the coast. At lower elevations you find Holm-oak and pine forests. Higher up spiny plant communities thrive. The high mountain vegetation is determined by the cold temperatures, ice and snow can persist in the highest mountains for 8-9 months per year.

The melting snow and ice feed the aquatic environments below. Glacier lakes and mountain streams descend through the rocks, eventually becoming fast flowing rivers in the valleys. This water not only sustains the rich wildlife found at lower levels but has also been harnessed by humans to generate electricity for their towns and villages.

Bare rock can be found throughout the mountain range but is most stark at alpine levels (2000 metres) where limestone and granite outcrops tower over the valleys and forests below. Only the toughest animals and plants that adapt well to the arrival and melting of the snow survive in this harsh environment. Winter brings a long period of silence to the area. This is then followed by an explosion of spring and summer activity when the mountains are covered with colourful plants and flowers.

In the valleys human activity has sculptured the landscape and created hay meadows, pastures for grazing livestock and pretty mountain villages. Many plants and insects thrive in these more open areas.


Elevation of Trail

Guidebook & Maps

Pyrenean Haute Route

Tom Joosten's guide to the classic high-level trek, if there is only one guidebook you buy for the Pyrennes High Route then this should be the one

Bearn - Aspe - Ossau - Pyrenees NP Rando Editions 3

From Tardets-Sorholus to the Pyrenees National Park west including the Ossau and Balaitous massifs


Wildlife of the Pyrenees

A fascinating book that describes the most common wildlife, flora and fauna of the Pyrenees