A Hike up to Étang d’Artax – Frozen Lake in The French Pyrenees
Étang d’Artax was the first real hike I had in France, it had it all. Nature, mountains, all the raw elements you could ask for and a few scary moments to add in also.
It is a mountain lake that sits around 1800m above sea level, and during the February months past 1300m you needed your snow rackets, of which I did not bring. Silly mistake. With 10kms to cover, 60% of it in snow I learned a lesson here for sure.
Late February really was a good time to walk up here, the snows were melting fairly fast so the landscape offered a bit more than pure white out, and although it made traversing a little more difficult, it was more than worth it.
The lake can be accessed from a number of different locations, but I chose the small village of Gourbit as my starting point as I was keen to tick as many small villages off my list and it looked like it had some quality open areas perfect for parking up.
The walk from Gourbit takes about ten minutes before you start to feel the burn, thick forests clinging to steep valleys from the get go. Not a soul in sight, until 2km in and I got lost, I didn’t find the path but i did find two French hikers and two dogs who were also lost, so together we tried to find our way back on the yellow route, of which we finally did!
The whole walk was like a trip inside an Alice in Wonderland book, almost alien and surreal, the landscape changing like the pages turning in a gripping book.
The climb up never seemed to end, this was not easy, as mentioned snow rackets were left behind, we were all losing limbs to the melting snow, as the top layer was still frozen, and the snow closer to the ground melting 3ft below to a warming earth, somewhat dangerous.
Étang d’Artax was finally reached and what a sight! Undecrible! I will have to let the pictures to the talking here. After some careful consideration it was determined that the lake was safe to walk on…
It turned into a game of ‘who can walk the furthest’, a kind of Russian Roulette on ice, and the game was not over till one of us fell in. The bullet was on me, luckily only losing my entire right leg up to my torso, with camera in hand and phone in the pocket. That was a fun game honest.
Étang d’Artax is one of over a thousand lakes in the French Pyrenees, I was only able to visit five or six during my 2 week stay in the French Pyrenees, they were just so demanding to reach, you definitely needed recovery days in between them, they are hard beating treks, and to add into it 7c colds it was hardly Sierra Nevada in high summer (which is equally as hard).
All photography by Kano Kane of The Rebelism.