One of the most inspiring places in the Hautes Pyrénées is without doubt Cirque de Gavarnie, despite of the amount of tourists roaming around that region. The impressive north face of the Cirque with its 1300 m to 1500 m high rock walls and the about 500 m high waterfall is just spectacular.
Cirque de Gavarnie and its summits are part of the “Parc National des Pyrénées” and belong to the UNESCO world heritage. To the south the spanish “Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido” is attached to the french national park.
One of the summits standing directly above Gavarnie valley is La Tour / La Torre, also called La Tour du Marboré, a frontier summit. When you walk from the parking area of Col de Tentes to the Port de Boucharo, La Tour appears between the Pic des Sarradets and the northeast ridge of Le Taillon / El Taillon and you know why this mountain is calles “The Tower”: La Tour emerges like a watchtower of a medieval castle in the background.
Most of the aspects of this summit however do not resemble to a tower. In fact La Tour rises only about 150 m of altitude difference from the eastern and western cols. The ascent is not very difficult, a traverse from or to Spain is possible and La Tour can easily be bagged together with the neighbouring Le Casque / El Casco. The near perpendicular views down to Gavarnie and to the whole height of Gavarnie waterfall are breathtaking.
La Tour is situated between Le Casque / El Casco to the west and L´Epaule to the east. To the north deep Gavarnie valley stretches north to the village of Gèdre, to the south the spanish canyon of Ordesa are bordering the high plains south of the summit. To the southeast the broad chain of Marboré, Cilindro and Monte Perdido stands high in the sky.
I summited Le Casque and La Tour on a bright and sunny September day coming from Col de Tentes and Brèche de Roland. This is really a great hike amidst the high limestone mountains of Gavarnie and Ordesa. Absolutely a must during a stay in Bigorre / Ordesa.
La Tour can be summited from France or from Spain.
French trailheads are Gavarnie and Col de Tentes.
Spanish trailheads are Refugio de Goriz or Ordesa canyon.
You reach the french trailheads
You reach the trailheads of Ordesa National Park
Routes OverviewAuthors Note
I´ve summited La Tour coming from the french side. All the descriptions of the spanish routes and the trailheads are excerpts from contributions on SP, especially from the user Rafa Bartolome. If there are any errors in my descriptions please note them in the Correction and Addition section; I will fill them in. Thank you.
La Tour from Col de Tentes
Follow the road from the parking area to Port de Boucharo at the french-spanish border. Turn left and traverse the north slopes of Gabietous and Taillon. Ascend Col des Sarradets and traverse to Refuge des Sarradets (or Refuge de la Brèche de Roland). Climb steeply the famous Brèche de Roland; there still is a little glacier below the Brèche (crampons can be useful in late summer and autumn).
At the Brèche turn left (spanish side) and follow the trail below the southern rockfaces of Le Casque, passing by the “Pas des Isards” a short rock passage secured with iron chains. That part can be tricky in early summer with snow.
Follow the trail above Col des Isards until you reach the cirque between Le Casque and La Tour. Where the route to Le Casque turns north and northwest follow a cairned route in northeastern and then eastern direction to a scree chute which comes down from La Tour summit. Ascend this chute to its end and go on to some easy rocks (UIAA grade I). Follow then the cairns up to the broad summit.
La Tour from Gavarnie
This is a long and demanding climb. From the parking area at Gavarnie follow the road to the Hotellerie du Cirque. Behind that Hotel turn right at a trail junction and climb the Echelle des Sarradets, a rock scrambling section. Go on to Refuge des Sarradets where you meet the route from Col de Tentes.
La Torre from Ordesa
The direct route from Ordesa to La Tour is that across Cotatuero. Rafa Bartolome describes this route on his Casco / Casque SP page. The trailhead is at Pradera de Ordesa parking area:
“We begin in the Pradera de Ordesa in the end of the parking in left side (don’t cross the bridge to right side). Initially it’s the same itinerary of the route to Soaso-Góriz but just the cross of the track with the signal “Cotatuero, Faja de las Flores”. In this point we turn to left side following the signal and we walk in a little path in the forest in zig-zag. In the exit of the forest the slope is hard across some stones to reach following the cairns the bottom of the Clavijas de Cotatuero.
The first wall of 15 meters had 2 chimneys with some stakes of II-in good rock not exposed, after the chimney we reach a terrace of rock and we walk to right side to the exposed second section. This second section it’s a wall with stakes over the fall in the rock for 8-10 meters with stakes for the feet and hands. Exist a metallic rope in the wall if you had and harness and carabineer to tie (but generally in this very long route the people prefer don’t carry weight and don’t climb with it). The exit of this section is a new terrace with metallic rope to reach the great plain over the waterfall.
The green plateau is a little confuse but we walk in north direction to walk in a zig-zag among the stones to left side to reach the big plateau under the peak Descargador (in right side) called Llanos de Millaris. We walk in this little valley searching the exit in left side. After a hard ramp with terraces of rock-climb grade I we reach the Cave of Casteret.”
From the cave climb up to Col des Isards and to the route coming from the Brèche de Roland. Turn right and follow that route up to the summit of La Tour.
Ascents to Refugio de Goriz
From Pradera de Ordesa
This again is a description of Rafa Bartolome, taken from his Casco / Casque SP page:
“The walking starts at Ordesa Canyon, in the old parking lot of the National Park. Take the trail east and follow the path on the right after some ten minutes (forking marked by a small statue of the Madonna). For the moment, the whole way up to Góriz is also marked by the red-and-white parallel bands of a long distance trail (GR-11). As you gain altitude along the canyon many waterfalls can be seen and make for great photographs (watch out specially for the "Cascada del Estrecho").
During the high season, Ordesa Canyon can be quite busy with tourists. Do not worry about them. At the end of the canyon they usually turn back after reaching the "Cola de caballo" waterfall. That will be also the first decision point for you. To get on to Góriz there are two possibilities:
1. Follow the GR-11 paint marks. They will take you up by a winding path to the south-east without any technical difficulties.
2. After crossing the last bridge over the river take a small path on your left. It goes up the scree slopes to a rock wall, which can be climbed easily (grade I+) and is equipped with a chain serving as a handrail. Nevertheless, this crossing ("Clavijas de Soaso") is not advisable if you have never done any rock scrambling.
Any one of these options will get you out of the Canyon. Only twenty more minutes or so will suffice to reach Góriz Hut, always following the paint marks of the GR-11.”
From the trailhead take a forest trail up to Cuello Arenas. Cross a barrier to the right and follow the trail northwards passing Casa del Puerto to the right, until you reach some meadows and Fuente de las Trubiasas. Push forward in northwestern direction to Cuello Gordo, where you have a good look on Cañón de Ordesa. Then the trail turns right traversing the NW slope of Sierra Custodia. Cross Barranco Arracones and ascent slightly (NW) to Refugio de Góriz.
La Torre from Refugio de Goriz
Go west from the Refugio de Goriz following a valley which leads up to Cuello de Millaris. Go straight on until you reach the Cuello del Descargador, north of El Descargador. From there turn north, pass by Grotte Casteret with a short rock climb, climb Col des Isards and reach above that col the route coming from the Brèche de Roland. Turn right and follow this route up to the summit.
There seems to be an alternative ascent / descent route:
On the route to Marboré go in northern direction and climb El Fraile until you can traverse the gentle south slopes of L´Epaule to the west. Pass by below Col de la Cascade and follow some cairns to the west until you reach the summit of La Tour.
I don´t know whether this whole route is cairned or marked but the upper part between Col de la Cascade and the summit has some cairns. Even without cairns this off-trail route is doable with good weather conditions (no fog!).
Ski tour routes
I think La Tour is summited with skies, too. If you have any information about the routes, please add them in the “Additions & Corrections” section.
Red Tape & Accommodation
La Tour is part of two national parks:
On the french side: Parc National des Pyrénées
On the spanish side: Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido
The UNESCO world heritage zone covers the whole spanish national park and the region of Gavarnie.
There is no entrance fee but there are many regulations within the national parks:
- No collection or disturbance of animals, plants, minerals, fossils.
- No firearms.
- No fires.
- No camping or overnight stay of motorhomes. Campsites near mountain huts are available.
-Bivouac is allowed between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. Stay away at least one hour of walking from roads or the National Park boundaries
- No noise or loud disturbance
- All sort of gliding and paragliding is forbidden
- No off-road 4-wheel-drive.
- Stay on autorized routes with your mountain bike.
- Take away your waste.
- No dogs or pets within the park.
Luz Saint Sauveur
Refuge des Sarradets ou de la Brèche de Roland
Refugio de Goriz: there is the possibility to book your overnight stay online
Gear & Mountain Condition
La Tour is mainly a late spring, summer and autumn hike and should be a ski tour summit, too.
As you have to deal with some rock parts (the “Pas des Isards”, secured with steel chains; the french side of Brèche de Roland: easy rock scramble, a bit more complicated with snow and ice; the last part of La Tour summit block: easy rock scramble), with steep scree parts and, in late spring and early summer, with sometimes steep snow fields, La Tour is not an easy hiking summit.
Crampons, an ice axe and even a rope can be useful in late spring / early summer and in autumn. Even in mid-september the french side of Brèche de Roland can be iced after early snowfall. Normal hiking gear and good boots are sufficient when the conditions are o.k. (good weather, nearly no snow).
The routes of the spanish side are technically easier, with the exception of the Clavijas de Cotatuero – route, where some rock scramble is involved.
The direct route from Refugio de Goriz seems to be cairned but is in parts an off-trail route. With dense fog, orientation on the spanish side can be very difficult!
Ski tours need full equipment and your avalanche gear.
avalanche bulletin of Hautes Pyrénées
Maps & Guide BookMaps
IGN maps, scale 1 : 50.000
Carte de Randonnées 1 : 50.000, number 4, Bigorre, IGN Rando Editions
Carte de Randonnées 1 : 50.000, number 24, Gavarnie, Ordesa, IGN Rando Editions
IGN map, scale 1 : 25.000
Number 1748 OT, Gavarnie, Luz-St-Sauveur, Parc National des Pyrénées.
"Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees" by Kev Reynolds (A Cicerone Guide). 5th edition 2008 ISBN9781852844707
(Thanks to user ojo)
Additions and Corrections[ Post an Addition or Correction ]