Lariste (2168m) - 3 peaks, a frontier walk with a descent via a forgotten valley - overview
Lariste seen from the approach along the Spanish side of the frontier
though , after the Col de Pau, it covers ground where paths can be vague and sometimes, briefly, disappear all together. From the beginning of the itinerary surroundings change and at every turn different and unexpected views present themselves. Striding along the frontier with panoramic landscapes on both sides is an experience not to be missed. And the descent to the Cabane de Bonaris down an un-mapped valley proves to be the icing on the cake!
Appearances, to wheel out an well-worn cliché, can be deceptive. This certainly applies to Lariste. Relatively modest in altitude and appearing more like a hill than a mountain when seen from the Spanish side, it conceals an exposed ridge and a precipitous face on its NW flank. The vertiginous views down wild terrain into Lazerque on the French side are exceptional and, being rarely frequented, evokes feelings of remoteness and isolation. And this, less than an hour’s walk from a busy Col! Lariste , in fact, is the third named peak on this section of the frontier which is first breeched at the Col de Pau after a steep but pleasant and trouble-free ascent from the car park next to the stream known as Labrénére. On the whole the route presents no technical difficulties and route-finding is relatively straight forward even
The charming Cabane de Bonaris on the route up to the Col de Pau
Lariste (2168m)– the route Start
Parking at Labrénére
Mountain path and rough high pasture.
The route begins at the car park known locally as Labrénére. In fact, Labrénére is the name of the stream running down the valley. The initial part of the excursion is not shown above as it is very easy to follow with or without a map. From the car park take the wide track which follows the river S towards the mountains. After ten minutes the track crosses the river and continues up into the forest. Eventually, the trees are left behind and a more open landscape provides views of the “Crete Des L'Aitres et Mouscates” high above on the left. Even when the track turns into a path it remains easy to follow and, approximately 50 minutes after leaving the car, the Labrénére is crossed once again at a new bridge just below the old one, the Pont D’Itchaxe which is marked on the “IGN” map.
Beyond the bridge, after passing through some trees the Cabane D’Itchaxe is reached. Waypoint 1: (N42°53'12.44 W0°39'21.63; alt. 1380m) You could easily miss the cabane as it is out of sight above the path and, frankly, it would not matter if you did. In the past it was possible to collect water here but the hut is long abandoned and the pipe from the spring has been disconnected. However, it remains a useful landmark and a place of shelter if caught out in a storm. From here the well-walked path winds its way up the hillside, travelling generally W until it passes between two ruined shepherds cabins before veering WSW up the narrow valley that leads to the higher pastures around the Cabanes de Bonaris.
(It is worth mentioning that this area represents a paradise for those who are
interested in the local fauna. Marmots, isards, vultures and a host of other birds are commonly seen, particularly by those walkers who pass through either early or late.)
Marmot near the two ruined cabins
without difficulty, to the Col De Pau.
Waypoint 2: (N42 52.957 W0 39.989; alt. 1713m) – The Cabane de Bonaris. This is, probably, the most delightful cabane in the cirque. Still occupied during the summer months, a warm welcome is guaranteed. Water bottles can be replenished before the climb up to the Col de Pau and the homemade furniture in the courtyard has to be marvelled at. From Bonaris head S crossing first a boggy area and then an open pasture before picking up the eroded path that leads,
Waypoint 3: (N42 52.888 W0 40.570; alt. 2022m) – The Col de Pau. The way SE from here is well frequented as it leads, eventually, to the Refuge and Lake D’Arlet. The section to the Col de Saoubathou is described (in reverse) in the walk called “La Chemin de la Liberté” but the route to Lariste goes in the opposite direction, turning right NNW form the col on small tracks in the pasture. Two small peaks – Cotdoguy (2019m) and Marmida (2076m) – lie between Lariste and the Col de Pau and both can be ascended easily without any significant detour. After crossing the col contour the slopes of Cotdoguy until a low point in the frontier ridge is reached. To go to this first minor peak turn back and follow the ridge ESE to the top. Otherwise continue W then NW staying as close to the frontier as is practical.
Marmida is reached about 30 minutes after leaving the Col de Pau and, here, it is worth walking to the northern end of the peak in order to reconnoitre the valley that provides the return to Bonaris. The next part of the frontier is made up of jagged rocks that can be easily contoured on a lower path that leads to the next dip in the ridge, the unnamed col.
• Waypoint 4: (N42 52.888 W0 40.570; alt.2019m) – The Unnamed Col. It is here, after visiting Lariste, that access is gained to the descent valley. But first there is a peak to climb.
Looking NE from the summit slope of Lariste.
From the col either continue along the frontier ridge or take the lower path on the left. Both will lead to the initially grassy summit slope of Lariste. As the terrain steepens and becomes rockier it is easier to bear right heading to the that side of the peak. When the summit ridge is reached, turn back left to reach the top. • Waypoint 5: (N42 53.073 W0 40.72; alt. 2168m) – Pic Lariste. After admiring the views and, no doubt, taking a few photographs, return to the Unnamed Col. Descend a vague depression for about 100m looking out for a vague cairned path.
Lazerque seen from Pic Lariste
Should the path peter out from time to time, keep going down in the same line looking out for the odd cairn. The path, which reappears as mysteriously as it vanishes, arrives close to a large area of scree and fallen blocks. It veers left here and soon comes to a flat grassy area which is crossed and exited between two large limestone blocks acting, effectively , as gate posts. Just after, a spring and a small stream are found. Follow the water course down keeping it on the left to begin with but, just before the valley narrows, cross over to the other side and follow the obvious track down to the Cabanes de Bonaris. From here retrace the route to the car park.