Le Pic des Trois Rois (2444m) and La Table (2421m) via the Col D’Esqueste – overview
Summit adornments on the peak of the three kings.
The three kings – those of the Béarn, Navarre and Aragon - are said to have met on the La Table Des Trois Rois. If this is true, I hope they experienced as much wonder as I have always found in this exceptional corner of the Cirque. While Spain lays claim to the peak and the Table resides in France, both provide the feeling of being “out there” along with panoramas limited only by atmospheric conditions and the curve of the Earth. The ascent from Pont Lamary via the Col D’Esqueste is the easiest of the three possible routes but, do not expect to arrive without some pain. However, as the saying goes, it’s certainly worth the gain. Navigationally, there are some challenges between the Col and Waypoint 6. But the route description details the most foolproof way to tackle this section. Fitness, commonsense and some experience in mountain walking, however, are essential.
Le Pic des Trois Rois (2444m) and La Table (2421m) via the Col D’Esqueste – the route Start
Summit: 3h 30m Descent: 3h
Mountain path and easy scrambling
From the Pont Lamary (for further alternatives see “Getting to the start of the routes” in the introduction) follow the signposted route to Cabanes D’Ansabere as far as the first plateau. (This is described in detail in the route called “Pic D’Ansabere). Here, cross three small stream and look for a large boulder
bearing a yellow waymark. This is …
Waypoint 1: (N42 54.261 W0 42.476 ; alt.1362m ) Looking W, an old cabane, shown on the IGN map as Cabane de Lamary, provides a clear landmark. Walk towards it and 100m further on to the point where the path moves right into the forest. Follow the path for about 5 minutes to the place where it leaves the trees and winds up a steep grassy slope. Back in the trees again, stick to the well marked path for a further 10 – 15 minutes until it leaves the forest for the last time. Waypoint 2: (N42 54.389 W0 42.878 ; alt. 1422m) From this point, where woods give way to meadows, the Table can be seen to the NW and WNW the minor peak known as Mouscate, to the right of which it is possible discern the Col D’Equeste. Follow a vague path in the grass, marked by red dots on rocks. It goes along the right hand side of a ravine to the point where it crosses over to the opposite side. From First glimpse of the Table from “Waypoint 2”
here, a cairned trail in the grass leads to the track that provides vehicular access to the Cabanes De Pedain. Turn right here. Waypoint 3: (N42 54.500 W0 43.156; alt. 1533m.) Go round the cabane on its right hand side and continue westwards towards a rocky valley. Cairns mark the way up towards the col, following the stream, by turns, on both the left and right banks until, higher up, they lead away from the river bed to the right.
Cabanes De Pedain looking up the valley D’Esqueste, in cloud.
Stay with the path as it passes to the right of some huge boulders and then crosses a slope of rock and grass - the way always marked by cairns and red dots. Before long, a large area of barren scree is reached.
Two young residents of the Valley D’Esqueste
Waypoint 4 (N42 54.795 W0 43.742; alt. 1873.) This is where the route truly enters the mineral world, striking
out across the expansive zone of scree which defends the col.* Follow the obvious route across, which steepens at the point where it crosses the rock step. After this section, the path circumnavigates a scree filled basin and then, quickly reaches … Waypoint 5 (N42 54.867 W0 44.037; alt.2114) The Col D’Esqueste. From here on there are numerous ways to reach Scree leading to the Col D’Esqueste the Pic and the Table. Cairns abound, almost to the point where they cease to be useful and, for this reason, I have chosen to describe, not the shortest but the most foolproof line. To begin with notice, a short distance away to the West, a prominent limestone bulge on the skyline, shaped a bit like buttocks. This will be a useful landmark on the descent. It will lead you back to the Col D’Esqueste. From the Waypoint 5 follow the line of cairns leading north on the right hand
* See the Movies page of the website.
side of the rocky valley. Traverse a scree covered slope aiming for the brown coloured cliffs straight ahead. When cairns lead up an obvious couloir on the right go with them. At the top of the couloir go left and continue round the hillside until you meet the wide ascent path which is the normal route for those starting from Spain. Turn right on this very clearly defined route and follow it as it veers NE towards the Pic des Trois Rois. For those targeting the Table, however, look for a large cairn about 200m after joining the Spanish path. At this point an easy traverse across two grassy hollows leads to the shoulder between the two features from which a leisurely stroll leads to the Table. (See movies). For the peak, on the other hand, continue on the main path as it joins the ridge leading towards the summit The buttock shaped landmark until, after about 100m, it reaches â€Ś Waypoint 6: (N42 55.149 W0 43.728; alt. 2352m). From here three routes present themselves as candidates for the final climb up. All will lead to the top with a bit of rough scrambling. The easiest way, though, is to take the right hand path and follow its well trodden trail to the summit.
Waypoint 6 â€“ a choice of ways to the top
Waypoint 7: (N42 55.162 W0 43.650; alt 2444m). Anyone arriving here during the month of August will almost certainly be sharing the space with members of the host nation. And a very sociable occasion it will be!
The author lending his camera to the one other summiteer on the 1st July On a fine day, this will feel like the top of the world. It is unlikely that any walker will be in a hurry to leave this spot. Views in every direction are mind blowing. To continue from here to the Table, go back along the summit ridge but, instead of retracing the ascent route, continue to a couloir that leads down to the shoulder mentioned earlier. Otherwise, descend by the same route. The Table Des Trois Rois seen from the peak