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FUN IN THE FRENCH PYRENEES - Vanessa Fisher, French Pyrenees
Friday September 1, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Canyoning: It is about the most family fun you can have in the mountains. Well, in the summer anyway - before the snow falls.



Canyoning is another of the summer mountain activities which has been on my bucket list for some time.

Last summer I ticked off parapenting and rafting and this year on a suggestion by a friend in the Pyrenees we booked up a local guide to experience canyoning.

But what is canyoning?

Simples - you dress up in a wet suit and then simply follow a river and all its obstacles.


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There are places along the French side of the Pyrenees where you can canyon but we had been recommended a route on the Spanish side.

Less severe than the Sierra de Guara where canyoning originates, and closer for a day's road trip from the Hautes-Pyrenees.

Driving up from our base in Loudenvielle via St Lary and in to Spain via the tunnel just after Aragnouet, we stopped to drop our car approx 20 minutes in to Spain at l'Hospital de Tella.

Hopping in to the guides van, we backtracked to the top of the Miraval gorge.

Rain the day before made for a slippery short hike down to the river.

Fully kitted out in wetsuits, jackets and nappy-style bottom protectors we plunged in to icy cold water.

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Our guide Frederico (Freddo) quickly worked out our needs...8 m jumps for the eldest, 5ms for the middle one and guide-held back-rides down the longer river swims for the youngest!

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Following the river down through the gorge in the Monte Perdu area we had sections where we walked and scrambled along.

Little chutes to climb through, and dive in to, waterfalls to sit behind, toboggan shoots for the brave.

All navigating the crystal clear, turquoise waters which have cut dramatically through the limestone rock.

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In 32 degree heat the cool water was perfect.

We spent around 3hrs making our way slowly down.

There were options at every section to entertain our different adrenalin needs (mine included!)

I chatted to the guide about his origins (Arreau, France) and his opinion re France vs Spain and the language and the food differences and just loved his answer, "I don't think of the Pyrenees being two sides, two countries - I'm just from the Pyrenees and it is all Pyrenees."

The new 'drive' itineraries crossing the border, working on this premise that we can all enjoy the routes which link the two sides and many of key sites along the way.

We did a quick visit to the 11th Century village of Ainsa, with its huge Plaza square (perfect for grabbing an ice -cream in the heat), then climbed the 12th C bell tower with its stunning views of the village, the river running through the Cinca valley and to the mountains beyond.

A fabulous day out.


We stayed at the Residence Jardins de Balnea in Loudenvielle.

Our local guide Frederic Ratio: .

Road trip info:

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