A brief overview of some of the walks in the Pyrenees Orientales
The Pyrenees  Catalan covers a large area of what we now call the Pyrenees Orientales, Ariège & Andorra but for the purpose of this article we will just look at the Cerdagne and Capcir in the Pyrenees Orientales and part of the Ariège. This region has a superb choice of walks and rambles that will take you to almost every summit by a choice of routes. Most villages, produce a small guide to local walks and our village of Les Angles is no different. Here we have 10 listed walks ranging from 1h 30m up to 6 hours. You will note that all walks are given a time and height gained, as the distance alone does not always give an accurate level of difficulty. Here I will give you a brief example of walks available but for the keen walkers you should try and buy the excellent guides by George Veron. You will also need maps and I use the Cerdagne-Capcir 1:50000 scale for general use and individual 1:25000 Carte de Randonnée editions for more detailed navigation. Also, an invaluable skill to have before you start out is learning how to use a compass!
In the forests above the villages of Mijanes and Querigut you will find the start to two superb walks. The first goes up to the Roc de Bragues (2170m) walk, with 600m of height gained. It takes approximately 4 hours and can be combined with a tour of the Etang (Lagoon) de Rabassoles, Etang Bleu and Etang Noir. The second starts at the refuge de Laurenti and heads up to Roc Blanc (2542m), with 800m height gained, and is a more challenging walk of 6-7 hours. Alternatively there is a pleasant walk of approximately 1 hour which takes you to the very pretty Lac de Laurenti. This can be done as a walk on it’s own.
The walk up the Val de Gaube is also very enjoyable and you can then continue further towards Pic de Mortiers (2605m) passing Les Pierras Escritas, ancient stones inscribed by local shepherds over the centuries. The whole walk takes 7 hours and gains 1000m.
Puig Peric (2810m), with 1100m height gained, is a popular walk from the ski station of Formigueres. Using the ski lift in summer enables you to reach the lakes and refuge at Camporells and a further 2 hours on to the summit. Fishermen may just like to stop at the lakes and catch the mountain trout, but make sure to buy your licence first in Formigueres village!
Walking to the summit of Le Madre (2469m) makes a very enjoyable walk from above Matermale village. You can drive to Col de la Sansa where a marked trail takes you to Roc Negre, then there’s a short scramble to The Madre where you may be able to see the Med on a clear day. This walk takes 5 hours up and down with 700m of height gained.
The highest peak in the area is Pic Carlit (2921m) and this is normally attempted from Bouillouses, accessed by car or in high season a navette bus service. The route is clearly marked and unless you go mid week you will nearly always have some company. This takes 5-6 hours and has 1000m of ascent and there is a short section of scrambling near the top which is well worth it as the view is magnificent.
The peaks to the south of the region, on the France/Spain border also offer great days out for the keener hikers. It is along this ridge that the famous Pyrenean Haute Route passes and if you want to try the whole route it will take you 1 month at least!! However for a less time-consuming walk why not try the Gorge de Caranca from Thues-entres-valls? Whilst this walk does not take you to a summit, the path takes you half way up a steep limestone cliff on a narrow ledge (with cable handrail) and metal swing bridges and up to the refuge du Ras de la Caranca at 1830m. The normal route will take you 7 hours with 1000m of ascent.
Finally the majestic Pic Canigou (2784m) – the symbol of Catalania – which looks so impressive when viewed from Prades. Nowadays this peak is rarely climbed from the valley as a 4×4 will take you to the chalet des Cortalets at 2150m and a popular track then to the summit. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, this is a place to avoid on 21 June, as this is the date Catalans have their annual festival on the summit.
This is just a brief overview of the walks available, so just get out there and have fun!
Mike Rhodes is a qualified Moutain Leader & Rock Climbing Instructor and runs Pyrenean Trails mountain holidays, for more information visit his website here