Arbizon seen from the ValleyArbizon seen from the Valley
©Arbizon seen from the Valley

The arbizon emblem of the Aure valley


A Saint-Hilarien once told me, “you’re not quite from here if you haven’t climbed to the top of Arbizon!” So I decided to climb up there as soon as possible…

On the way to the Arbizon

The Arbizon is a characteristic summit of the Aure Valley: from the top of its 2831 meters, its isolated location on the edge of the massif makes it a privileged viewpoint on the Pyrenean chain. Its long ridge perpendicular to the Aure Valley is very recognizable in winter, when you ski on the slopes of Saint-Lary. And you can also observe it from the valley, especially if you go to the small village of Grailhen, located on the opposite side.

After 45 minutes and the hut, which I leave on my left, I have to slow down my steps: the serious stuff begins! The trail runs along a stream that is fairly quiet at this time of year, in an open, grassy valley. I hardly disturb the numerous sheep. Faded further down the valley, the straggling Pyrenean irises finally offer me magnificent colors under the first rays of low-angled sunlight, which finally reach me for this magnificent day.


The difficulties come

I finally reach the Coulariot Fountain, which literally springs from the rock. It’s located about halfway up the trail and is the perfect place for a welcome first break.

After catching my breath, I set off again, climbing two successive chimneys (chimneys are steep paths between rocks, where you sometimes have to put your hands) before a flat spot that offers a nice view of the valley, but also towards the Pla d’Adet and the barns of Gascouéou.

The final ascent begins in many switchbacks to climb this impressive slope. I immediately stop my advance when I hear a noise: this type of terrain is perfect for observation since the slightest movement causes rocks to move. On the ridge on the right, above me, an isard has also seen me and is heading towards a shelter under a rocky bar. We observe each other for a few moments before the arrival of a couple behind me distracts his gaze. He lies down to let only his head appear, and observes them. I wait for them to point out the den of our discreet neighbor and allow them to enjoy this encounter.


I finally reach the ridge halfway between the Pic de Montfaucon and the Arbizon, whose summit I finally see, hidden until then. The moon sets discreetly in the west behind the Pic d’Aulon. Just above me, two vultures hover from one valley to the other. At my feet, the vertiginous valley plunges towards the small lake of Arou: magnificent point of view!

For experienced hikers
Exceptional panorama from the summit

I pick up the trail that runs along the ridge a few meters below, on the rocks, and after branching off to my left, I finally reach the summit. An unsightly relay antenna and its solar panels mark the western end, while 5 cairns stand on the large dome (cairns are piles of stones used to mark hiking trails or summits. Many hikers bring their stone to these buildings when they have the joy of reaching them…) The biggest cairn is impressive with its 2,5 meters approximately. My ascent will have lasted about 3h30.

After covering myself a little warmer (it is not cold, but the perspiration under the backpack imposes this precaution), I begin the observation. Towards the north, we can see the plain, with a more cloudy sky in the distance. Bagnères de Bigorre is well visible and I distinguish Tarbes without any problem.



In the foreground, the Arou lake is surrounded by herds, and the Payolle lake marks the beginning of the Campan valley.

More to the west, the Pic du Midi de Bigorre and its observatory stand out from the massif.

Continuing my tour, I contemplate the Grand Vignemale and its glacier in the distance. Then, the majestic Pic de Néouvielle, Pic Long, Pic de Campbieilh hide the famous Brèche de Roland, but the Monte Perdido massif, further away, imposes its limestone mass, set on its white glaciers. My gaze then stops on the walls of Barroude, from which emerge the Pic de Troumousse and the Pic de la Munia. The refuge is hidden but I can see the end of the lake.

And then, on the east side, the clouds that have preceded me do not allow me to observe the massif clearly, revealing only a few undulating shadows. The Aure Valley is also hidden, and only Arreau is visible below. Despite this small drawback, the show is grandiose and I settle down for lunch, eyes wide open!

After long minutes of observation, which I took advantage of to take many pictures and film the incessant ballet of the clouds, I take back the backpack and begin the descent with these wonderful images preciously kept in mind. Further down the isard is still well installed on its lookout and follows me with its eyes in the descent. If the ascent is physically difficult, the descent is impressive, and the scree requires special attention.

Once I’ve passed this sector, I take another look towards the Pla d’Adet, again visible under the clouds, and continue this journey to the Coulariot fountain, where I decide to quench my thirst: the water is very fresh but excellent! I leave.

The sheep watch me join the valley, the bees gather the numerous thistles near the hut of Espigous: the atmosphere at the end of the season is magic under a radiant sun and the last meters that bring me closer to the Granges de Lurgues already make me nostalgic of these magnificent landscapes. I leave the parking lot of the Granges de Lurgues as several shepherds gather there with their dogs: the flocks are going to join the sheepfolds…

And I join Saint-Lary, with my chest puffed out: I did the Arbizon