We are indebted to David Drinkall of Llandovery College Climbing Club for producing this comprehensive overview to the climbing possibilities in the Lescun region.
The pictures on this page are supplied by Elliott Forge and Helen Anderson, and show rock climbing on routes above the Chemin de la Mâture.
On the edge of the Basque country, the Vallee d’Aspe is the most westerly of the High Pyrenees, a green, fertile region of deciduous forest and pasture.
The head of the valley is topped by a superb wall of limestone peaks. But the best of the fine mountain scenery – and the best walks and climbs – are to be found by taking a side road to the west, where the Cirque de Lescun encloses a lush pastoral basin, overlooked by the village from which it takes its name.
Rock climbing in the Lescun Group
While the Aiguilles d’Ansabere are understandably regarded as the best place to climb in the region, there are plenty of other opportunities for the rock climber based in Lescun. Most of the areas are suited to experienced climbers wishing to climb multi-pitched mountain routes. There are also a number of venues suitable to the novice climber or small groups.
Experienced climbers intent on tackling some of the more advanced routes should consult the French-language guide, ‘Passage Pyrenees’ which describes a number of the harder routes. There are several extreme routes: the original (1923) route on the comparatively short east face of the Grande Aiguille is now graded TD- (V); the 300m east face classic put up by de Bellafon, Dufourmantelle, Despiau and Jean Ravier in 1957 is TD (V+, III, 6a+); while the Deidre Butoli on the same east face is an ED- climb (V+, A1, 6a/6b+) dating from 1965.
There are numerous other routes of varying degrees of length and difficulty that will reward the attention of climbers with the required experience. The Petite Aiguille and the Petite Pic d’Ansabere add to the interest, with Spigolo Sudon on the Petite Aiguille being one of the local test pieces (ED, V, 6c/7a/7b). Those with sufficient time, ambition and stamina could spend weeks concentrating their efforts in this corner of the Pyrenees.
‘Les Pyrenees – les 100 plus belles courses’ gives two routes on the Grand Aiguille and one on the Petite Aiguille to illustrate the quality of climbing to be found in the area. Copies of topos for the region can be found at the library in Bedous.
Orgues de Camplong
A long, orderly line of crags spreading NW from Pic Oueillarisse above Refuge de Laberouat. With routes of 250m to 300m there are some excellent test pieces, including the eight-pitch Haine pour Aime (300m, ED,V/A1/6a+), and the 270m Voie de l’Y (TD,V+/6a).
Further up the valley, the SE facing crags to the west of Pas d’Azun are less extensive than the Camplong crags, but have – amongst others – the 250m Jompi Keupon (TD, V+/6a).
Petit Pic Billare
On this 2238m peak, several worthwhile routes have been created. The original 700m route on the east face put up by the Ravier twins with Bouchet and Grenier in 1966 is a case in point. On the neighbouring Grand Pic Billare the 700m Couloir Oriental makes a fine winter route. It is usually in condition between January and March. Meanwhile, the 300m east face of the Table des Trois Rois overlooking the Lac de Lhurs is graded ED- (V+/6a/6c+).
Further east, on the west flank of the Vallon de Belonce above the village of Borce, the 1774m Pene d’Udapet (which enjoys a tremendous view of the Cirque de Lescun) boasts several equipped routes of 300 to 350m in the TD/ED range.
Crete de Pausate
The crag can be found by driving from Lescun into the valley, heading north on the N134 for almost 3km then taking D237 for the village of Lees. Parking for the crag is located on the left some 75m after the junction, next to a glass recycling centre. Follow the footpath for 50m, taking the left fork to the base of the crag. A single pitch crag, offering half a dozen bolted routes on good limestone with the option of using natural protection for those wishing to practice traditional lead climbing. The lower-off points are obvious and in good condition. Grades are in the lower range. This crag proved perfect for group use. The crag is marked on the map (see references) and is approx. 1.5km south-west of Lees.
A small bouldering crag located some 2km south west of Lescun, on the left side of the access road to Lac de Lhurs. Again, this crag is marked on the map.
Chemin de la Mâture
Found some 3km south of Borce, on the north side of Gorges d’Enfer, opposite the dominating Fort du Portalet. It is marked on the map and forms part of the GR10. The Chemin de la Mâture is a spectacular pathway hacked out of a near-vertical cliff wall above an airy ravine. The easiest climbs can be found on the left hand side just before the chemin proper starts, set back a few metres behind some overgrowth. Three single pitch routes are bolted. On the chemin proper, the easier routes are to be found at the far end. Marked ‘Major’ and ‘Jonathon’, they are three-pitch routes requiring lowering-off to reach the starts. Graded at 4 and 5 these routes are achievable for less experienced climbers. A good head for heights is required for all of the climbing on the Chemin de la Mâture.
The trekking page includes a description of the hiking options along the Chemin de la Mâture.
Indoor climbing walls
Located in Oloron-Sainte-Mairie, the Association Le Mur runs a climbing wall that shares its facilities with the local indoor market. It provides a superb facility, with a bouldering area, top rope walls and lead walls. There are also instructors and an equipment hire facility.
Some of this information has been gathered from the publications noted in the references. This overview has been written as a synopsis and is not intended to remove the requirement to use information from guidebooks, topos or by completing a personal reconnaissance. It should, however, assist visitors who wish to narrow their search to climbing areas suited to their personal requirements.
Map: IGN 1547 OT 1:25000 Ossau Vallee D’Aspe
Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees. Kev Reynolds
Pyrenees West, Larrau to Gavarnie Cirque. Arthur Battagel
Passages Pyrenees. Rainer Munsch, Christian Ravier & Remi Thivel
Les Pyrenees, les 100 plus belles courses. Patrice de Bellefon
Several mountain guides work in the area.