Balaitous with its 3144m (or 3151m) is the westernmost 3000er in the Pyrenees from the sea. The mountain lies in the border between Spain and France and is, for sure, a peak worth to climb. The Balaitous range can be easily accessed from the south, via Sabiñánigo and Sallent de Gállego, and from the north, via Lourdes and Arrens. The easiest route (gran diagonal
in summer) has no remarkable difficulties but unexperiencied hikers don't should try (grade I+) and the route of Brecha Latour
has grade II. It is difficult to find the itinerary and this mountain always will have some step a little exposed by any route.
Some summits of Massif of Balaitous
: Tour de Costerillou or Tour George Cadier (3049m), Aguja d'Ussell (3022m), Aguja Cadier (3022m), Frondiella
(3071m), Soulano (2911m), Cristales (2890m), Batcrabere (2707m).
Some important summits near of Balaitous
: Palas (2974m), Cambales (2968m), Arriel (2824m), Gran Facha (3005m), Piedrafita (2957m), Tebarray (2912m) or Musales (2654m)
Not far from this range are other great places such as Midi d’Ossau and Vignemale
: Though the denomination more universally accepted is Balaitús
, in some maps you can see the spanish denomination Pico Moros
. The original name from the 19th century is Bat-Laetouse
(milk valley or white valley) or Marmuret
, though is possible to see denominations like Balaïtous, Balaitouse, Batlaïtouse, Baletous
The first climb of this mountain was accomplished by the military french cartographers and engineers Peytier and Hossard
(8-8-1825), supposedly by the ridge of Petit Balaitous and vira Beraldi. The real route they used has never been confirmed. It was their second attempt on Balaitous. for in the first one they climbed nearby Palas by mistake. These men were amongst the ones detached to draw the first modern maps of this region of the Pyrenees. In spite of their climb of Balaitous (and their returning on the following year -1826- staying on the mountain for several days on in winter conditions as hard as 8 degrees centigrades under zero) they were forgotten for quite a long time. The Pyrenees historians had therefore many problems, for this happened many years before somebody else turned to this mountain and the people of the zone did not remember the route to the top.
It was in 1862 when Charles Packe
decided to try the conquest but he would not succeed until the 15 of september of 1864. A few days later his great friend Henry Russell
would also come to the summit, climbing via the west ridge (afterwards known as the famous Packe-Russell ridge).
Up to 1870 Balaitous was forgotten again, but in this year Russell climbed it again via the glacier of Neous (following Orteig's indications), slightly easier than the complicated west ridge.
The south-east route was opened by Latour and Wallon
in 1874 (afterwards known as Brecha Latour).
Finally in the first years of the 20th century the five brothers Cadier studied all the peaks, ridges and routes of the massif. Nowadays the climb is not so difficult but the mountain will always preserve the dangerous aspect that earned it the nickname of the Cervino (Matterhorn) of the Pyrenees, given by Russell. It is funny to consider that the easiest route in summer, the Great Diagonal, was not discovered up to much later.
The names of all these early heroes of the Balaitous are represented in the maps since their names were given name to peaks, ridges or routes.
The correct height of this mountain is an enterteining polemic that is kept for several years. The official list of the peaks of 3000 meters of the Pyrenees and many maps and books think that it has a height of 3144m. The maps of the army and Geographical National Institute of Spain think that it is of 3151m (7 meters of difference it is great with the current technologies). Many mountainners have in the last years of commercial GPS that though they do not have an exact accuraty are very suggestive of the real height. According to my GPS and that of other mountaineers that have promoted this mountain the height is approximately of 3151meters (my GPS Magellan Sport Trak Pro was indicating 3152m in the summit in september 2004; In my experience after 1 year of climbing mountains with my GPS, the mistake has never overcome them +/-3 meters in the tops cleared without obstacles).
If coming from the South (Spain), go to Sallent de Gállego (north from Sabiñánigo town) and take the paved road that ends at the Sarra reservoir. Leave the car and follow the trail to Respumoso Hut (also called Piedrafita) from where the Balaitous is visible. If you choose to go there from France you should go the Arrens, a small village close to Lourdes town, and follow its valley that leads directly to the Balaitous.
No permits required. No fees at all on the Spanish side, at least by now.
It's possible generally to sleep in refugio de Respumoso and climb the next day or to make the total climb from Dam of La Sarra (more slope to gain, aprox.700 meters more, and very hard)
Another posibility is the vivac or the tent. Some good places are the lakes of Arriel, the abr.Michaud,...
In the routes of rock-climb with rope is very difficult to calculate the time (the time to put the rope, to tie it, to assure, to hook the harness... it is very changeable in every person and moment). The vivac is generally very advisable.
|Normal Routes ||Slope (meters) ||Time to summit ||Grade |
|La Sarra-Brecha Latour ||1717 ||5h45min ||PD (II, II+) |
|Respomuso-Brecha Latour ||1014 ||3h ||PD (II, II+) |
|La Sarra-Lagos Arriel-Gran Diagonal ||1717 ||5h30min ||F+ (I, I+) |
|Respomuso-Lagos Arriel-Gran Diagonal ||1014 ||3h ||F+ (I, I+) |
|Pla d'Aste-Col Noir-Gran Diagonal (French route) ||1681 ||5h30min ||F+ (I, I+) |
|Other Routes ||Slope (meters) ||Time to summit ||Grade |
|Gran Diagonal-Ridge Packe-Russell ||1717 or 1014 ||? ||AD- (III) |
|Ref.Ledormeur-Glacier and Chimney of Neous ||1230 ||? ||AD- (III) |
|Ref.Ledormeur-Cap Peytier-Hossard -Vira Beraldi ||1230 ||? ||PD (II+) |
|Peak Cristales-Ridge Diablo-Costerillou ||790+500 ||? ||D+ (IV, V,...rappels) |
When To Climb
Rock climbing should be possible from May to almost October but will vary depending on the side of the mountain and the year. The area, as the whole of the Pyrenees, offers great opportunities for hiking because travelling from valley to valley is easy. The Respumoso area (before reaching the hut) offers possibilities for ice climbing (January-february).
The route of gran diagonal
is not advisable in winter because is very dangerous (snow, 30º, very exposed).
The route of Brecha Latour
has a coulouir a little exposed and a step-crossing of II+ of 30 meters that generally needs the use of the helmet and the rope.
Info add by waspee. Date: Dec 07, 2003
'Las Neous' the glacier underneath the Balaitous, is best climbed before the end of the first week of july. After that some big crevasses appear in the middle and worst of all you may not be able to summit because the gap between the glacier and the rock face is too wide. You may be lucky enough to find a snow bridge (unsafe) but then that does not necessarily leave you were you want to climb and again you may not be able to finish.
In winter the normal routes are the glacier of Las Neous or the B.Latour.
-Camping and bivouacking it is not a problem but if you do so, you must keep a reasonable distance from guarded refuges.
In the route of gran diagonal there are several vivacs, most known it is the Vivac of Michaud, with door and free for 6 persons (you can see it in the map of routes).
-The mountain hut guarded in the spanish side:
Refugio de respumoso
-In the french side is the refuge of Larribet (Tel:05-62972539, 60 persons). The route from there is to reach the Col Noir and to get the gran diagonal.
National Institute of Metereology of Spain