Ascents can be made from bases on both sides of the border, these being Cauterets and Garvarnie in France and Bujaruelo in Spain.
The area in which Vignemale is situated is very accessible but largely unspoilt. In addition to the many mountains that form the frontier and the spur branching from there that is the retaining wall for the glacier, are a series of verdant valleys that totally surround the heights. It is a paradise for all outdoor sports.
View from Vignemale summit
The Vignemale 'voie normal' follows the route of the first ascensionists over the Glacier d'Ossoue and up gently angled slabs of rather loose rock to the frontier ridge and then up a few metres onto the summit.
The time required to do the normal route is around three to three and a half hours from the Bayssellance
refuge and about 2 hours on the way back to the refuge (depending on snow conditions and method of descent).
The dotted line on the map from the Refuge Bayssellance to the summit of Pique Longue clearly illustrates the normal route.
The summit of Vignemale
Access from the French side of the border by road is from the East-West autoroute E80 (Bayonne to Toulouse) and the National road N21 via Lourdes and the D821 / D920 to Cauterets or the D921 to Gavarnie. There are airports at Pau and Toulouse.
On the Spanish side, travel by road from Pamplona to the west of the region via the N240 / N330 and the N260 to Torla then via a short local road to Bujaruelo or from Zaragoza south of the region via the N330 to Huesca and then the N260 to Torla. Airports at Pamplona and Zaragoza serve the area.
For those who aspire to travel with a very low carbon footprint, there are two long distance paths that pass close to Vignemale, GR10 in France and GR 11 in Spain.
There is no specific red tape, no permits are required for the ascent from either France or Spain. There are of course certain rules of conduct in the National Park.
Camping and other accomodation
Refuge de Grande Holle
Campsites are plentiful in the area particularly in Gavarnie and Cauterets in France and in Bujaruelo in Spain.
Wild camping is possible as water is readily available in the area, however in the National Parks camping is normally not allowed, although bivvying at night is generally permitted at high levels providing tents are taken down early in the morning. (Check locally with rangers to determine current rules)
Hotels, Hostals and Refuges abound on both sides of the frontier. Accomodation does become scarce though during the peak seasons so pre-booking is advised.
Of particular note is the Refuge Bayssellance, at 2651 metres the highest hut with guardians in the Pyrenees, this is owned by the French Alpine Club (CAF) and is ideally situated for an ascent of Vignemale via the Glacier d'Ossoue.
There is also another refuge owned by the CAF, this is the Refuge La Grange de Holle that is located close to the town of Gavarnie. From personal experience, I can commend the hospitality to be found there.
Parque Nacional de Ordesa
Refuge La Grange de Holle
Maps and Guidebooks
Roadmaps - Michelin Local series number 342 - 1:150,00-Htes-Pyrenees, Pyrenees Atlantiques.
- Michelin Regional Espana number 574 - 1:400,000 Catalunya, Aragon, Andorra
Walking Map - Vignemale Bujaruelo - 1:30,000, Editorial Alpina.
Guidebook - Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees by Kev Reynolds - published by Cicerone Press
NB: location amended on April 4th 2009 (correction received from Rafa Bartolome - thanks)