Pic Bricoutou ( 1815m) - overview
Pic Bricoutou (slightly left of centre) seen from Lescun
This ascent of Bricoutou is described as a circular walk and, for my money, represents one of the best days out in the Cirque. Approaching the mountain by the little visited valley of L’Annès provides a good opportunity to warm up gently whilst enjoying mountain scenery and the wide range of flora and fauna that thrive there. July orchid in the valley The narrow, craggy summit, whilst weighing in at De L’Annès less than 2000m, provides a magnificent platform from which to contemplate the surrounding peaks with an especially interesting view of the Plateau and the village of Lescun. It is a mountain that can be ascended by most walkers during the summer months but is also accessible during winter when a covering of snow will provide an experience of a different order. Route-finding is exceptionally easy apart from the section from the Col D’Escourtes to the Cabanes Du Penot. However, the following detailed directions, combined with common sense, should be sufficient to overcome this brief problem providing it is tackled in conditions of good visibility.
Pic Bricoutou (1815m) – the route Start
Parking at Labrénère
Summit: 2h 30m Descent: 2h
Well-worn tracks and mountain paths with a little off-path route -finding
April to November
Waypoint 1 (N42 54.441 W0 38.739; alt. 1112m) The Parking at Labrénère. From the car park walk back along the track (N) for about 200m until the tarmac is regained. Here, a track forks up to the left. Follow this ignoring all turnings to the right while, at the same time, enjoying fine views to the Billare.
The piste enters trees, and then a clearing used as a turning circle for forestry vehicles, before continuing uphill to a place (usually marked by a cairn) where the it turns back on itself at … Waypoint 2: (N42 54.392 W0 39.447; alt. 1241) This marks the spot, about 30-40 minutes after leaving the car park, where the track is abandoned in order to commence the ascent of the valley of L’Annès,. Go straight on (SSW) into the meadow heading for a stand of trees. There is no path to begin with until, after about only 50m, a small but clear trail is discovered eroded in the grass. Pass through the trees and, beyond them, continue to follow the route where a view of the valley opens up. About 100m after leaving the trees the river makes its presence felt below and continues to do so as a second stand of trees is passed and height is slowly gained by sticking to the obvious path up the valley. After crossing a small brook running down from the left the way becomes, briefly, less distinct. Here, life is made simpler by keeping the highest possible line.
Above: Between the first and second group of trees in the valley De L’Annès
Right: the boundary of the National Park
The stream comes very close to the path which remains always on the left of the watercourse and, before long, the notice board marking the beginning of the National Park is reached. Waypoint 3: (N42 53.773 W0 39.772; alt. 1459m) The National Park boundary. Continue on the obvious path as, 100m beyond the sign it bears left (generally S)
and begins to climb more steeply towards the obvious ridge on the skyline. This part of the route is the most physically demanding, but it is not too long; so persevere because, as is usually the case in the mountains, the rewards more than justify the effort. The trail gains height rapidly, moving ever closer to a craggy outcrop above on the left before, when level with a boulder-strewn gully, it veers right (SW) to follow a less steep line. From the top of an obvious shoulder take a moment to notice the large opening of the “Grotte De L’Annès” on the opposite side of the valley before continuing to tread the eroded path as far as…
The Grotte (cave) De L’Annès
Traversing the hillside to the Col D’ Escourets
Waypoint 4: (N42 53.441 W0 39.895; alt. 1728m) From this grassy shoulder it is possible to observe the Cabanes De L’Annès below, but to reach Pic Bricoutou it is necessary to follow the path as it loops back on itself (NE), traversing the flank of the ridge that separates the Annès valley from the southern slopes of Bricoutou. The path rises gently and arrives, within a few minutes, at the fist of two depressions in the ridge. Continue, however, to the second such dip which is… Waypoint 5: (N42 53.456 W0 39.609; alt.1745) The Col D’Escourets. From the col, a very obvious trail can be seen cutting across the steep SE face of the peak. Take this, negotiating the makeshift barrier which has been placed there, not to deter walkers, but to make sure sheep and cattle do not stray onto dangerous terrain. Arriving within a few minutes at an obvious shoulder, turn back left and follow the wide, grassy summit ridge to the top (1815m)
As mentioned in the introduction, the modest summit provides 360 degree views of most major peaks in the cirque as well as a good vantage point to survey Lescun and its plateau. Whilst enjoying views from the top, be aware that the West face is very steep and a slip would most likely prove fatal. Looking North from the summit of Bricoutou
To continue the itinerary, return to the Col D’Escourets. Do not cross back into the valley of L’Annès but take the path which descends leisurely on the SE flank of the ridge. The path quickly splits into several small but distinct sheep-made trails. Drop down a few metres to a lower one and follow it for a few minutes until a small but prominent pine tree is seen growing by its side. Follow the path for a few metres beyond the pine tree, then turn back SE and go down the shallow grassy valley heading for a group of trees, the tops of which are just visible above a small mound. When the mound is reached, bear left down a prominent gully and then further down towards some stunted beech trees. Carry on in the same line until a cairn marks the way off Bricoutou’s slopes and down to the valley of Labrénère. Approaching the small pine tree (just visible in the centre of the photograph) on the descent from Escourets
Waypoint 6: (N42 53.259 W0 39.561; alt. 1615m)
From “Waypoint 6” look for cairns leading down a steep stony path to the point where two ruined “cabanes” come into view to the south. These are the Cabanes Du Penot and they represent an important landmark as it is here that the main trail between the Col De Pau to the car park in Labrénère is joined. Take the easiest line down the hillside to the cabanes and then turn left onto the trail that runs between them. When the path becomes narrow and less distinct carry straight on, passing above some large boulders, until the Cabanes D’Itchaxe is spotted.
The Cabane D’Itchaxe
Go down to the cabane and then descend a further 20 metres in order to rediscover the track to leading to the car park which is now wide and impossible to miss. A relaxed walk down the valley of Labrénère is all that remains to complete the circuit, with opportunities to cool off in the stream that gives its name to the valley – either by the new bridge or further down near the end of the route.