The Bigorre (Gascon: Bigòrra), "Land of the Adour river", is a very ancient region of the former broader Gasconia, which nowadays designate almost exclusively only the part of the corresponding French Pyrenean mountainside.
It is often confused with the equivalent of the administrative departement of the "Hautes-Pyrénées" (65), but it encapsulates more than the only Bigorre, since the region called "Quatre-Vallées" (Aure & Louron) was apeended to it after the French Revolution, to make it not a too small entity.
While the anonym and industrial Tarbes makes the administrative center, the most famous city of the Bigorre is undiscutably Lourdes, known all around the world for reasons that have little to see with mountains. But which certainly drains significant masses of pilgrims, in which many are seeing, in the quietness and the grandeur of mountains, a proper environment for religious and philosophic meditating.
The "Pyrénées Bigordannes" indicutably own most of the world-famous sites of the range on the northern side, and summarizing it would be just too complicated, given the amount and the diversity of the areas found there.
Thanks its assymetry that reaches its maximum in this section, all three main characteristic rims of a typical tectonic mountain range like the Pyrenees are present in the Bigorre.
Limestone kings such as Gavarnie, the Vignemale and the Munia, that share the border with Spain, as well as the fame of the neighbouring Monte Perdido, Europe's tallest limestone summit (Marmolada is 12m smaller !), form the end of a prominent southern limestone rim, runnning uninterruptedly over all the spanish mountainside and its canyons.
Other not less spectacular regions such as the Néouvielle, the Ardiden and Marcadau mountains, forming the granitic horst, spread their lacustrine boulder chaos more north, still rivalizing in height with the first.
And then, still further north, few other schists mastodonts such as the Pic du Midi, the Arbizon and the Monné, oppose a last sedimentary barrier, remain of the northern rim dug by the erosion of valleys. Before fading out into more rounded, woody and pastoral forehills. After we pass the last hilly regions such as the Lavedan and Barronies, with their bucolic hills. The Pyrenees disappear as the wide Lannemezan moraine plateau, dug by a star-shaped range of rivers, spread the Pyrenean waters within an angle of more than 90°.
Historically speaking, it is undoubtedly in the Bigorre that occured the most legendary high feats of the "Pyrénéisme", with Ramon's quest of the "Mont Perdu", believed at this time to be the top of the Pyrenees; with Russell's love story with the Vignemale; with the incredible epics of the geodesic officers Peytier and Hossard in the Balaïtous region, the edification of the Midi observatory by the general Nansouty, as well as many others such as Packe, Schrader, Chaussenque.
Just like the Luchonnais has Bagnères-de-Luchon as headquarters, Cauterets is the second capital of Pyrénéisme. Not to say the first, until the highest top unfortunately migrated to the Aneto in the 19th century...
More recently, the yearly event of the Tour de France regularly show the plendour of the Bigorre to millions of telespectators, along the best cyclers struggling with the passes of Tourmalet, Aspin, Aubisque and the likes...
Coverage and Subregions
The limits of the Bigorre, as we chose to present it on SummitPost, could be defined as follows: it corresponds to the watershed of the Adour river, leaving the Gave de Pau more West into the Béarn.
View Bigorre in a larger map
- In the West, the Bigorre shares its border with the Béarn. The limit is natural in the upper part near the border, as it is made by the ridge of the Balaïtous. For practical reasons, this mountainous unit is described more extensively into the Béarn page, despite it can be climbed from the Arrens valley. Lower, this limit continues to follow the water divide, but the nearest we get to the plain, the most administrative exceptions we find to this rule. This is not only the border between 2 departments but also 2 French administrative regions: Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées.
- On the South West, the Ardiden and Marcadau granitic regions share the border with, the upper upper Tena valley, where the region of Infierno makes the continuity, with the same granitic and lakes character.
- On most of the South till the South East corner, the border of the Bigorre coincidates exactly with the Ordesa-Monte Perdido region.
- Along all the Eastern border, the Bigorre shares the border with the Pays des Nestes and Luchonnais, which belong to the watershed of the Garonne. But for practical reasons, not to cut entities like the Néouvielle and Arbizon in two (most of their waters flows east), the river Neste d'Aure was chosen as a separation line as high as Port de Bielsa, largest depression in the border ridge.
By public transports
French public transports are concerned as the area is on this side.
The Bigorre, due to its high touristic popularity, is quite well served with public transports, in comparison with other French areas of the piedmont of the Pyrenees.
Unfortunately no railway is penetrating the range like it does in other valleys, but all these former train lines have been replaced by autobuses. One can reach Arrens-Marsous, Cauterets, Luz-Saint-Sauveur as well as the whole valley as deep as Gavarnie, Barèges, La Mongie, and Saint-Lary by the SNCF bus lines. Other private transporters may allow to get deeper into the range, but this kind of data is always changing, and the best advice is to contact the tourist information of a specific place to get the information needed.
There might be as well some private shuttles to all the ski resorts, but not on a regular basis. If you come from far and want to explore all transport opportunities, it can be worth phoning to them and ask.
From Far, Gavarnie is the most advantageous trailhead, to be as close as possible to the range. From there, one can explore conveniently the three Cirques of Troumouse, Estaubé, Gavarnie, and possibly the rest of the Monte Perdido range with few days of hike and the help of huts. The Vignemale range is also withing reach of hand via the Oussoue valley that one can af