Hiking in the French and Spanish Pyrenees
Bergtoppers is a Dutch hiking organization and for 17 years we offer a various prorgram of hiking holidays in the Ariege. Hiking in the Pyrenees.
We offer Mountain hiking for the following people:
- The Self-lead or self-guided hikers;
- The Families who want to walk with their children;
For them we have made several programs but it is also possible to make a tailor made program. We also funcion as a travel agent for the whole Pyrenees. You can develop a program for yourself and we organise the accommodations and the luggge transport.
We have live here from 2000 until 2012 with our 2 children. Now we live in Holland and I go every year around 5 weeks to the Pyrenees.
All the hikes we offer in the Ariege (from refuge Etang dáraing till Bassies) we walked several tines. The GR10 part are walked once or more times, some parts years ago.
From 2000 till 2012 we have lived here, so you can see us as specialist of the French and Spanish Pyrenees. We are familiair with the customs of this area. The Ariege is a very beautiful area where you can walk a lot of different hikes, from very simple till very tough and difficult.
We offer an adventurous holiday for a fair price. If you have special wishes please let us know because we offer also tailor made programs.
Roelof just to say many thanks for your guided walks. They were a great adventure and experience. You were professional at your job and great to get along with. The Auberge, Refuge and Annie were all you could want for but nothing beat the hospitality of your own place. I would recommend Bergtoppers to anyone. All being well I planning to come back next September to do the Aran 5 walk. All the best John Carroll Northern Ireland
Experiences of a hiking holiday
What do you do when you want to go hiking but have no time to buy the maps, plan the routes, decide where to sleep…..Furthermore, your knowledge of the French language is so elementary that making a reservation at the renowned ‘gite’ seems like an insurmountable task.
Actually the answer is easy, just do what we did and send ‘Bergtoppers’ an email. Within 24hours you will have a day by day itinerary of possible hiking routes, including hours (very accurate!!) & elevation, and proposal for places to stay overnight.
Having seen our itinerary we didn’t have much to comment as we didn’t know the area anyway so we just went with it. All our expectations were surpassed.
Two weeks ago, four of us, my husband and I with our two kids aged 14 and 12, had a great 4 day hiking holiday all planned and arranged by the Bergtoppers. The hikes varied in distance from 4 to 7 hours , each very different, but always beautiful scenery. We received a map and detailed instructions, so there was no way we could get lost. The fourth day hiking was the best when Roelof took us up to Lake ‘…..’ The path was still covered in snow in places, making progress a little more difficult but the effort was worth it and we enjoyed our lunch at the lakeside.
The first two nights were spent in an auberge in Seix and the other two nights in gites in the mountains. One of the gites, owned by the Bergtoppers, is situated in an absolutely stunning location and, as my daughter commented, has ‘million dollar view’. Ireen is an exceptionally good cook , and even catered for my daughter’s rather difficult preferences. To make life even easier Bergtoppers supplied us with a packed lunch every day. There was no way we would be hungry during the hikes!! (I think we even put on weight …)
So for those looking for a hiking holiday with no worries about food, accommodation or route planning, I can highly recommend Bergtoppers!
Having previously heard of the debate whether to release brown bears back into the wild in the region and seen the oui/non aux ours painted on the roadside barriers we were well aware of the possibility of meeting them, however scarce. However it was day 3 before the first sighting of an imprint to the disbelief of the non-sighters which developed into a standing joke of the type ‘Was that the mark of a very small Jack Russell bear? or of the Jack Daniels type more commonly found in hotel mini-bears’.
The first short day was steep, sultry and sweaty with a sudden heavy shower. Generally the weather was kind to us, holding off any rain until we were sitting in a refuge or bar. Rounding a slope we were startled by a herd of two hundred cows all moving up across our path and clonking their individual bells in a cacophony – those animals must be deaf and certainly the noise is a feature of most days and some nights. A curious compound of netting with 3 foot high shelters left us wondering for what they were built – poults of some kind, but no croak of pheasant nor oink of guinea fowl helps us discover.
The second day was a lengthy 8 hours with climbs aggregating 6,000 feet and a magnificent range of mountains around. Although tough the remainder of the week was a comfort in knowing that the hardest day was passed. The splash of spring flowers was a delight the entire week – yellow broom, red azalea, purple heather and the occasional clumps of blue gentian justified the walk in themselves even without the spectacle of the best-designed hills and valleys since the Norwegian fjords won an award.
Day three started in mists up to the point we reached a glorious upland pasture spread with white and yellow flowers including, to our surprise wild daffodils. Having debated for some time we concluded they could only have arrived there in the stomachs of lowland cows or had been planted by herds of wandering Dutchmen with excess bulbs from their home nurseries.
A stiff walk along the ridge brought us to the Refuge de Ruhle, a heavy-duty lager and a view from the terrace which ran from a high left top down to a small lac in afold of the hills, a larger lake in centre position behind a natural barriere and a valley falling away to the right. As evening approached the mists rolled back to obscure all these features and part reveal them again before supper.
We were accompanied for three days by French Cecille who put us to shame by carrying twice as much as us and walking just as fast, disdaining also such as bed and breakfast, warm showers and even on one occasion a mouse-proof cabane. She had started out from the Atlantic on 9 May and being now 10 days from the Med became steadily more cheerful by the day. Isolde the German postmistress was also marching the same way.
Day 4 was a longish descent to Merens les Vals and stay at Ax where les Bains turned out to be no more than foot-deep pools of warm water but refreshing nonetheless in a town otherwise distinguished by its pretty place de mairie and an excellent dinner at the Hotel de France. Being on the main road to Andorra the town is a constant flow of shoppers making for the cut-tax shops a few miles up the road.
Day 5 headed us back up from Merens to the refuge at Besines via some fierce hillsides. The route is generally well-marked with a red bar over a white although there have been interesting occasions when the blazon has either been part-painted out or placed on the trunk of a deciduous tree before the leaf has obscured it. On rare occasions the man with the red paint (M le Rouge) did not add his mark to that of M le Blanc but routing was not any problem with the exception of some dodgy map-reading which left us scrambling down a steep slope rather than taking the gentle descent just metres to the left.
The sky that night at the Refuge de Besines was a spectacular red and blue in a black frame and the next day’s easy walk down the valley yielded another bear-print – but do they have four or five toes on each paw or different on front and back?
Day 7 moving out of Bouillouse, all four including Cecille. A bright still cool morning with no cloud but the constant clonking of Jersey type cattle after a Bergtoppers breakfast of bacon, eggs and tea followed by the auberge breakfast of bread, jam and coffee. No one reported a good night sleep due to short, lumpy or creaky beds except for he who had secured a double bed and consequently remained quiet for fear of being allocated the next most obvious discomfort, whenever that was to be.
A broad valley leads from the barriere clothed in yellow heather and low cypress at exactly the right height for scraping the knees. The area is well wooded and the walk takes us on a steady descent to Mont Louis, a fortified town still used by the army. The blazing sunshine is mixed with regret that the week is coming to an end. Long views from a forestry track beckon next year’s stage and later as we approach Bolquere the tinkle of waterfalling and clonking of cows is replaced by the rasp and growl of motors.
The year-section ended with a fascinating rattle down the valley in le Petit Train Jaune to Villefranche de Conflent and an excellent dinner at the Princess, Vernet les Bains including pintade with an orange and lemon sauce – were these the mystery birds reared in the hills?
A longish drive back to Toulouse past Fitou and Courbiere and a generous presentation of Bergtoppers wine left only the planning for the festival of the Med-beach next year – will the band of walkers from years past turn up or will it be the town band that marches Arthur into the sea?