From the stars to the sun

Bivouac in Néouvielle

Testimony to a marvelous and so simple experience: the pure joy and happiness of a bivouac in Néouvielle! An experience not to be missed.


It’s been my leitmotiv for years: the mountains belong to those who get up early!

The shores of Lac d'Aubert

The Pyrenees are truly magnificent and I never tire of them. But to be able to watch them as the sun rises, to see them change colors, from crimson to red, then orange to gold, as the shadows retreat to the hollows of the valleys, is priceless!

And to be able to enjoy these magical moments, there are only two solutions: the mountain refuge or the bivouac.

It’s not a year that I don’t spend a night in a bivouac in the Pyrenees. It’s great this feeling of blending into the surrounding nature and experiencing a convivial, frugal, rejuvenating moment…

During my last short stay in Saint-Lary, I chose an option allowed to everyone to try the adventure of bivouacking in the mountains. The dedicated bivouac area near the lac d’Aubert r gathers every summer evening those who hike the GR10, as well as those who will tackle the slopes of the Pic de Néouvielle in the early morning… or the simple mountain enthusiast.




The Route des Lacs route

The famous route des lacs leads to the Lac d’Orédon, starting point to the réserve naturelle du Néouvielle. From the lake, the road is regulated and it’s possible to reach the bivouac via the Laquettes trail, or thanks to the navette (in season, from 9:30am to 6:00pm), or by car outside these times.

So we opted to drive to the bivouac area in the early evening, and began the famous quest: that of a small grassy space between the rocks, without much roughness, not too steep and not too close to the trees (so dangerous neighbors in case a storm breaks out!) to set up the tents.

Several tents are already set up in the vicinity and some are already having dinner (the corkscrew has begun to rage, its sweet song amplified by the echo… our neighbors are French!), and after pitching the tent and preparing mattresses and comforters, we decide to imitate them (alcohol abuse being inadvisable for the early-morning hiker, we willingly abstain, contenting ourselves with a nice knob of ham bought that very morning at the Saint-Lary market).


A starry night

The location is conducive to observation since no light sources pollute the view. My neighbors have a telescope and an amateur astronomer ready to show them Cassiopeia or the Andromeda galaxy. I think they’ve chosen to spend the night here for this simple and convivial moment. Modestly I remain planted a few meters from them, beneath the Milky Way, scanning the trajectory of planes crossing the great bear, and delighted by the sight of half a dozen shooting stars too eager to disappear. A few ill-fated attempts at nocturnal photography later, I too decide to join the arms of Morpheus.

5:00: the alarm goes off! It’s been a cool night and I quickly get dressed and extricate myself from my warm comforter. The quality of the material is important. Choosing a comforter suited to the temperatures encountered at altitude and a mattress that insulates as well as possible from the coolness of the ground allows you to sleep serenely…

Christophe also gets up and we tidy up, pack up, clear away under the moon, now at its zenith. After breakfast and stowing the gear in the car, we set off to reach our goal: we’ve decided to watch thesunrise from the Pic de Madamète (2,657m), a formidableviewpoint over the Pic de Néouvielle and the lakes of the nature reserve.


By Moonlight

The moonlight is sufficient, and our eyes quickly get used to it: we don’t need to use our headlamps to make headway on the trail (we’re following a portion of the famous GR10, very well marked and perfectly legible). We make our way along in a silence barely disturbed by the muffled sound of our footsteps.

As we reach the rives of the Gourg de Rabas, a discreet little lake, dawn begins to break and the pale, snow-strewn rocks of the Pic de Néouvielle stand out clearly in front of a thin vein of cloud that seems to underline the summit under the last stars. Enchanting!

We reach the col de Madamète (2509m), whose opposite slope conceals the luminous little lakes of Madamète, in the darkness of the Aygues-Cluses valley. The Pic du Midi de Bigorre stands out from the other shadows thanks to its emblematic antenna. The same painter has drawn a thin cloud to highlight it.

Christophe wants to take a break, but worried about reaching the summit after the first rays of sunlight, I convince him to resume our route for the final ascent. From cairn to cairn, right in the middle of the rocks, we soon arrive at Pic de Madamète.

Pic du Midi in the early morning

Our impatience gives way to wonder as the Pic de Néouvielle, under the sun’s first horizontal rays, finally takes on color above the lacs d’Aumar et Aubert, dark mirrors. The magic happens. And there, at our feet, all around us, the show has begun, and we hasten not to lose a crumb of this brief moment!

The Pic du Midi brandishes its coppery antenna before an ochre sky as, one by one, the stones around us take on the same hue. I take photo after photo, ever more impressed by this light. The numerous clouds contribute to this fabulous atmosphere.

We finally decide to leave our belvedere to reach, on the other side of the Col de Madamète, the pic d’Estibère (2,663m), whose summit cairn has been towering over us ever since it emerged from the night… Our progress on the scree allows us to cross cairns in places, but without ever following a real path.

We still reach the summit without difficulty after following the rugged ridge.

And the magic happens

The panorama before us is incredible: to the east the black silhouettes of the ridges enhance the horizon’s gradation of colors, while to the west the many timidly lit peaks awaken beneath a cloud cover that has already donned its rosy hues.

The show has changed: the warm morning colors have become brighter and the threatening sky offers incredible contrasts, illuminating the lakes of Aumar and Aubert at the foot of a Pic de Néouvielle that seems intent on holding back the dark black clouds, harbingers of chaotic weather.

In the backlight, towards the east, we dominate the cirque d’Estibère and its magnificent lakes, while in the background the sun floods the Soum de Terre Nère and the highest slopes of the station de Saint-Lary.

We descend slightly into the cirque to cross the pass allowing us to return to our night trail and rejoin our car.


And finally...

The sky keeps its promise: a few rare drops arrive as we pass these unfortunate families, whose weekly outing to the heights of Néouvielle will undoubtedly turn into a fiasco.

As we climb into the car, at around 10:30 am, the rain becomes continuous and the storm rumbles. We make our way back down to Saint-Lary along the small road with its luminous switchbacks overlooked by a black-and-white mountain… with the satisfaction of having studied the weather forecast well!

The mountains belong to those who get up early!



of moments to experience