If you manage to find yourself for a day or overnight on a shoulder of the Canigou, you will find the rest of the world falling away and gratitude seeping in, for this is a special place. The Canigou, a mountain sacred to the Catalan people, is visible from Thuir, always a way to orient yourself, always a presence (for me), a challenge, an invitation. Standing alone with sharp flanks, the Canigou is a dramatic end to the Pyranees.
We first climbed it as a family, taking a picnic and walking 10 km up from a lower parking area above Filliols. Around the many turns we were surprised by the beauty and the views. History makes itself felt along this hike. Information posts dot the path with interesting facts about the route and the resources, esp iron. The rough road clings to steep edges or was blasted through rock as it leads you up to the refuge Cortelets. Before then you pass many varied spots of interest:
And then the Refuges, rough but solid chalets offering shelter, bunks, and a fireplace. It was a gorgeous and adventurous walk.
We did return with the kids for other hikes, and Tris and I were both so taken with the beauty and freedom of the mountain that we each returned solo that fall to climb to the top, 2785 m, packing light. I stayed at the always open annex to the main top refuge, Chalets des Cortelets, which was shut when we went up in November. We both then returned in the spring with a friend. Tris with his friend to bike from our house as far as the Cortelets and hike the last 2 hours to the top, after having spent a long winter and spring of training and exploring to prepare. My friend and I hiked from the same parking lot near Filliols, this time with a stay in the Chalet des Cortelets, complete with a delicious 3 course meal from the chalet with other hikers and a shower. Very civilized!
Tough guys, these cyclists.
From the chalet it is less than 2 hours to the top, winding first past a little lake like a giant’s thumbprint before the path heads steeply up a scree field. In November on my own I went up on a brilliant sunny day, across ice and snow, to stand at the top very satisfied to be having a proper solo adventure after a long hiatus from such with the arrival of husband and kids. I could see as far as Spain, also Andorra I thought, and Montpellier, and took a picture for the kids of the stuffed walrus they sent with me for my protection sitting on the map table.
My friend Teresa and I didn’t have such a sunny day. Lower down in the morning we sat in the sunshine quietly watching marmots, and shafts of sunlight filtered through the old man’s beard moss in the forest, but the hike above Cortelet was foggy and the view mostly just the steep scree descent immediately beside us, with no bottom to the drop in view, always a disconcerting sensation.
Canigou is magnificent, a mixture of history, adventure, and beauty, and one of the top reasons I can’t wait to go back.
Are we watching you, marmotte, or are you watching us??