Article - Sam Montgomery

Travelog -
Cirque de Gavarnie

Every once in a long while, the Signs editorial staff gets out of the house.

We have the luxury to be able to see the Pyrenees from our office window on clear days. Sometimes the call of the mountains must be listened to, as needed relief from the barrage of propaganda that crosses our desks.

We had the privilege to have the renowned nature photographer Pierre-Paul Feyte as our tour guide.

One would be hard pressed to find a better companion on such a journey. He shares his extensive knowledge on the geology, history, flora and fauna of the area with an infectious enthusiasm.

Pierre-Paul picked us up early in the morning so that we could beat the heat, and make it out of the mountains before the thunderstorm that was long overdue to arrive. The Pyrenees are dangerous during storms, as the lightning bounces, and can even potentially trigger an avalanche.

The above photo gives an idea of how the morning started. We made a quick stop at one of the castles along the way to get a feel for the lay of the land, and to choose our final destination: the French Pyrenees or the Spanish Pyrenees. It is guaranteed sun on the Spanish side since the climate changes dramatically, and resembles the desert like conditions of the Grand Canyon.

Pierre-Paul chose Cirque de Gavarnie promising that we would be amazed at its beauty, and we were off once again. We drove through many charming villages along the way, with a noticeable increase of touristic shops as we approached our destination. The sky had cleared up by the time we arrived.

We paid a modest fee to park, and we began our journey. Some of the trails are steep, but anyone even moderately in shape can endure them.



You can dimly see Europe's tallest waterfall in the distance from the above photo. To give us an idea of its height, Pierre-Paul informed us the falls are as tall as the former World Trade Towers.

Horses and mules are another mode of travel. No camping is allowed within the park itself, since France wants to preserve the pristine beauty of the area. One can camp just outside the park, or book one of the nearby hotels for those who prefer more civilized accommodations.


There are many wildflowers indigenous to this region of the Pyrenees. Our photography skills cannot do justice to the beauty of the many smaller flowers covering much of the ground beside the trail. Also, we do not have a good picture of the rushing river that accompanied us on much of the hike, with its blue tint from the melting snow.

But, Pierre Paul, using our camera snapped three photos so that they could be assembled into a panoramic view that more than makes up for those omissions.

Be sure to check out Pierre-Paul's web site for more awe-inspiring photography. Prints should start becomming available, and he speaks excellent English if you want to contact him.

The above was our partial view as we dined on grilled steak and pommes-frites at a little outdoor cafe near the end of the trail. All around us we could see the evidence of Spain's slow but powerful march toward Europe, by examining the stratification of the rock layers.

We felt very small surrounded in the embrace of the Circle, and loitered over our coffees while listening to the muted roar of the falls. Having fortified ourselves with good food, pollution-free air, and sunlight, we headed back to the warm glow of our computers and headlines.






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