The Walk and Talk weeks

The village of Etsaut, where we are based, is situated on a crossing points of two famous long-distance walking routes (The GR10 and the Camino de Santiago de Compostela) and it also constitutes an ideal base from which to access numerous walks in the mountains and valleys of the Pyrenees National Park and surrounding areas.

Just to give an idea of the range of walks available, we’ve outlined below some of our favourites. These are all along well signposted paths that are easy to follow. They are not technically difficult. However, some do involve an ascent and descent of several hundred metres. So, although we normally go at a leisurely pace, you do need to be relatively fit. You will also need suitable footwear, clothing and sunscreen and headgear to protect you from the sun.

Do bear in mind that we are not qualified guides, so although we’ll be walking with you, each of you will be responsible for your own safety/well-being (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for details).

Facebook photos from our June and September 2016 walks are available here

 

Le Lac d’Estaens

This popular walk begins in the mountains South of Etsaut, a couple of kilometres from the Spanish border. The path rises steeply through woodland, up to a high grass-covered plateau where it then crosses over into Spain and joins the GR11 long-distance footpath. From the Spanish border onwards, its then an easy stroll to the lake’s shore.

It is possible to swim in the lake, although sometimes the water can be rather cold! Whatever the case, it’s a super spot for a picnic.

walk along, as long as you don’t go too close to the edge!

The walk follows the Chemin de la Mature for about 1 km. After that, we take a path that heads northwards, up to the Col d’Arras, above the Chemin. Shortly after the Col,  high in the mountains, there is a small café. It’s supplies are delivered by donkeys! If it’s open, we stop there for refreshments, before returning to Etsaut.

Le Chemin de la Mâture

This portion of the GR10 long-distance footpath is within walking distance of Etsaut. It constitutes one of the most spectacular walks that the Pyrenees has to offer. The path was originally carved out of the sheer rock-face in order to enable logs to be brought down from the ancient forest of Pacq, and then subsequently floated down the river Aspe to the French naval ship-builders on the Atlantic coast. Despite appearances, it’s quite safe to

The Camino de Santiago de Compostela

This branch of the ancient pilgrimage route to Compostela follows the river Aspe right up to the Spanish border and then down to the city of Jaca, the ancient capital of Aragon. We usually join the Camino near the village of Urdos (5km South of Etsaut) walking along what was once a Roman road, through ancient woodland and heaths up to the border, where there is now a café. From the café, there are two options: either catch the bus back to Etsaut; or continue on down into Spain, finishing at the small town of Canfranc Estacion: home to what was once the second longest train station in the world!

 

The Col de Moines

This walk begins at the Ski Resort of Astún just over on the Spanish side of the border. After an hour’s walk we arrive at the Ibón de Truchas (trout lake) - which really is full of trout. We then continue up into the high mountains, to the Col de Moines from which there are spectacular views of all the highest mountains in the area, including Pic du Midi d’Ossau. In all, the walk involves an ascent of about 600 metres, and takes about 4 hours there and back.

Of course, quite irrespective of the weather, you are always free to go and do your own thing if you so wish. Most likely, not everybody will want to take part in all of the walks, so most days there will probably be a few people who stay behind. There are two café/bars within walking distance (one in Etsaut and one in Borce), and there are markets and a variety of shops in Bedous and Oloron, both of which are directly accessible by bus. Local tourist attractions include the Fort de Portalet (3 km from us); Las Güixas caves (about 25km); and the village of Canfranc Estacion (20km, 30 minutes by bus). From Canfranc you can also get a connection to Jaca (the ancient regional capital).  To get to Jaca with public transport, you need to change buses at Canfranc Estación (or hop on the train there).

For those who would like to take part, Stéphanie Hersant will be offering the opportunity for you to spend some time each day practicing mindful walking, sitting and exploration of the natural environments, with a particular focus on the plants and trees. Stéphanie, who has lived in the Valley for many years, has a detailed knowledge of the local flora, including their culinary and medicinal uses. She regularly conducts mindfulness-based workshops in the nearby mountains and forests.

 

 

 

 

 

Technical details and Eligibility requirements

We employ a qualified guide to accompany us on the walks and do all we can to minimize the possibility of accidents. We stick to well defined paths and there is no climbing involved. Nevertheless, these mountain environments can be dangerous and accidents can and sometimes do occur. So participants must be relatively fit, accustomed to walking on rough (and sometimes slippery) paths and, in particular, must be able to walk up and down hills. Depending on the weather, we aim to spend between 4 and 6 hours walking each day (excluding breaks for lunch etc.). Walks may involve ascents and/or descents of up to 800 metres, up to an altitude of 2500 metres.  Contact us if you need more details.

Important…Please ensure that you have adequately considered your medical and travel insurance needs before beginning a Walk and Talk. Before starting the week please get a trekking/hiking insurance policy that covers you for mountain rescue and/or emergency medical attention.  The cost is currently around £42 for the week (depending on your age and state of health). There are many companies that supply such insurance. Previous participants have used The British Mountaineering Council

Eating and Drinking

We’ll use Paul’s house for most meals and social activities. There are adequate facilities to cook; a dining room that can comfortably seat up to 12 people; a back garden; and there are also a couple of other rooms that we can use socially. Wifi facilities are available in the house and garden.

We’ll provide a (continental) breakfast in the mornings and will also prepare the evening meals. We are always grateful for volunteers who would like to help with some of this. For practical reasons, all the dishes we will provide will be vegetarian. However, you are welcome to buy and cook meat or fish dishes in addition to these if you so wish. Also, please let us know in advance if you have any special dietary requirements. We will do our best to accommodate them.

We’ll also provide ingredients for picnic lunches to take with us on the walks (including bread, cheese, tomatoes and fruit etc.). Of course, you are welcome to supplement these with stuff you can buy in the shops.

At home, we will supply coffee, a variety of teas, milk (cows’ milk and a vegan alternative). In this part of France and Spain you can drink the water out of the taps (and from any village fountains labelled “eau potable”). In Etsaut the tap water is direct from the mountains. We recommend that you buy a bottle of water to take with you on walks, and then refill it from the taps through the week. You will need to buy your own soft-drinks/wine/beer etc.

Le Fort du Portalet

The Fort at Jaca

Le Communal Bar (Borce)

Thursday Market at Bedous

Retreats in the French Pyrenees

For people who stutter