Time: 5h30 + 4h30
Total Elevation gain: 1800m – 5900ft
This route is the usual route used by French Mountaineers; the access from Lourdes, Pau is really quick and easy.
This long route allows to walk in the nice pine forest near the trailhead, and to discover the north face of the Balaitous.
The main difficulty is located at the Col Noir, where you may require winter equipment ( crampons, ice axe ).
The Refuge de Larribet, belonging to the Club Alpin Francais, is located on the way to the Col Noir.(Tel:05-62972539, 60 persons).
From Argelès-Gazost, or from the Col d’Aubisque, Road D918 to Arrens-Marsous ( 12 km from Argelès ); drive south the road D105 leading to the gate of the Pyrénées National Park " Plan d'Aste – Porte du Parc National des Pyrénées "( avoid the road leading to " Lac d'Estaing " ).
Park beside the small house " Maison du Parc National " - 1470m -
After the Lac de Suyen, leave the main trail and head to the right ( South/South-West ), crossing the stream near the Doumblas Waterfall and the Doumblas Shelter ( 1560m ), then hiking up towards the " Refuge de Larribet / Larribet Hut ". The path is well-marked with yellow post signs and cairns.
Refuge de Larribet: - 2060m -, 2 hours from the trailhead. Hike up to the Breche de Garenere / Garenere Breach, to the SouthWest. From the Breach, go down to the Valley of Batcrabere, above the Lacs de Batcrabere / Batcrabere Lakes.
[From that point, you can either reach the Port du Lavedan ( South-West ), on the route to the Palas, or the Col Noir.]
From the last Lake ( Lac Inferieur du Micoulaou, 2300m ), leave the path, and climb among big granite stones, following the cairns, to the South.
Reaching the foot of the Col Noir , you have to choose: until a few years ago, you could get to the Col with ice axe and crampons, but the ice now disappears, and reaching the Col is more a matter of rock climbing ( I, I+ ) or scree crawling! ( In early August 2005, the crampons and ice axe were not necessary ).
Either get crampons and climb in snow and ice, either climb the screes and rocks on the right ( a bit tricky, not for beginners ). Once at the top of the Col, 2625m, go down 50m to get to the path coming from the Lacs d'Arriel ( Arriel Lakes ) and leading to the Grande Diagonale.
The final steps of this route are the ones described in the “ Arriel Lakes – Gran Diagonal “ Important: the cave of Michaud it's the key to the entry in Gran Diagonal and it's under a great rock. You must follow the cairns that go to the refuge with a little desviation to the right before the turn to the left side.
We leave the hill towards the left side for one channel and in zig-zag for the hillside we will come to a slightly visible gap.
Very important: to find this point is easiest if we go to the left side but can go out towards the right to a ridge of degree III (the ridge Packe-Russell). If you don't see the cairns and you don't descent a bit of meters you're wrong. The diagonal it's visible in this point in the left side for a good orientation.
After a small decrease we appear in the Gran Diagonal (Great Diagonal) that we will continue mending almost until the end in Isards's gap (if we leave the gap behind and we come to the end is sufficient in spite of going a bit back).
Now we have to climb over a concave wall (grade I) to the right and finally for the north buttress it takes us to the summit (3151m).
Final important consideration: many people don't find the channel (concave wall) in the first attempt but you must turn back if you find some difficulty. The final channel it's white rock and it's a easy climb (if you find steps of grade II or vertical walls, you're in the Brecha d'Isards, don't try the climb for this dangerous point!). The begin of the chanel it's in the middle of a little path signaled with two great cairns in one side.
Essential GearIce axe, crampons for the Col Noir.
Helmet for the Grande Diagonale.