The highest and most demanding refuge in Ariège is the one of the Fourcat ! Culminating at 2m, it takes about 445 hours of walking with a good mountain foot? and a positive altitude difference of 6 m. At the end of June, here I am engaged in my first solo climb to the Fourcat refuge ! A unforgettable adventure etched in my memory for a very long time… Let me tell you?… REAL moments in a refuge far from everything… but as close as possible to the essentials!
How to get there ?
From Toulouse, take the A66 towards Pamiers, then the N20 to Tarascon-sur-Ariège. In Tarascon, take the direction of Auzat, and continue to the "Pradières-d'en-haut" car park. The trail starts at the parking lot.
Allow 1h40 from Toulouse.
The ascent to the fourcat refuge
With confinement, this need to take time for oneself has become essential. I had a great desire to take a break and well I found “THE” ideal place for it. The day promises to be hot, I leave at 7:30 am from the Pradière car park (1m) which is also the starting point of the Izourt pond. I am alone in the parking lot and start my ascent in the forest by following the red and white markings of the GR10 which climbs quietly on the right bank (therefore on the left side when going up) of the Arties stream. I take care to get around a herd of Gascon cows and their calves so that everything goes as well as possible. Indeed, the Gascon are very protective of their calves it is thus preferable to move away from them.
I join without difficulty theIzourt pond and meets an inhabitant of the valley who has come to do his short run (round trip) from Vicdessos. We take the time to discuss the Izourt dam and the old EDF buildings which recall the history of a major climatic disaster that took place in 1939. The construction of the dam caused the death of 31 people, including workers. Italians. Besides, The heritage house in Auzat traces this story in all detail.
I take the path along the pond on the left. The colors are mixed with the red of the stones, the blue green of the lake and the blue sky, it is beautiful. I then climb a steep bend to arrive at the Orri de la Caudière flat (pronounced “caoudière”). I take a short break for seeds and dried fruits before hitting the road again.
I continue a demanding and well stoned climb (with a few passages where you have to put your hands), my body begins to feel the effort, I wanted to breathe and there I am! I blow ! When will I see this refuge? One step, two steps, I motivate myself: we advance, go, go !! And here I am at the small pass leading to the small Fourcat pond where on one side you can see the Izourt pond below and on the other you can see the refuge in the distance.
The path goes along the small Fourcat pond on the right to then reach the weir of the Fourcat pond, I continue on the left and join the refuge, it is 12h00. I am greeted by Django the guardian's border collie.
This refuge and these ponds deserve, physically and mentally! ... But what a reward!
An environment of breathtaking beauty
Coming over three days with two nights at the refuge, I take advantage of the place and its formidable belvedere which is just amazing!
The refuge overlooks the Petit Fourcat lake on one side and the Fourcat lake on the other. In the evening we observe and hear the whistling of marmots in the scree in the distance. And during a morning get-up, I was able to admire a beautiful female chamois with her eterlou! On the same day, the birds of prey were not to be outdone with a group of griffon vultures, followed by the majestic bearded vultures.
This place is a mixture of softness by its colors and its wild animals and requirement with this steep mountain. And to end the day in style, the evening lights are just indescribable!
I take advantage of two very sunny days to climb to the peak of Tristagne with its 2 meters which offers a breathtaking view of a large number of Ariège and Andorran peaks. Indeed, this summit marks the border with Andorra.
Besides, I had already come to this refuge a few years ago leaving from Andorra more precisely of the Arcalis station, where the walking time is only 2h30. I had made the return by Ponds of Goueille. This other route is really sumptuous.
However, do you know that the sector requires caution? Yes, we are in the high mountains! Snow can appear in the middle of summer for example, there can be storms… in short, you have to watch the weather forecast before leaving so as not to find yourself in delicate positions.
Refuge ID card
Built entirely in stone during the 1st world war by the company of Alais et de la Camargue becoming Pechiney in 1950, the intention is to accommodate the workers working on a retaining dyke and a water gallery used for the aluminum factory. This first construction was used by hikers and shepherds until the 1980s. The Club alpin des montagnards ariégeois, affiliated with the French Federation of Alpine and Mountain Clubs, is renovating the building so that it becomes a guarded refuge. It was in 1994 that a major extension was carried out while retaining the original stone vault which gives all its charm to this mountain refuge.
Today the refuge has:
- 8 dormitories ranging from 5 to 6 beds each with a blanket, ideal in this COVID period to go up with friends!
- a common room and an independent bag room
- a winter refuge with 11 places integrated in the guarded part during the opening period
- a babysitting period from the end of June to mid-September and by reservation in June and from mid-September to October
- a caretaker: Guillaume Jolibert, offering services: catering; drinks ; packed lunch.
To prepare for your visit to the refuge, do not hesitate to read this page !
The quality of the refuge is assessed by the quality of its guardian ... *
I wanted to use this sentence taken from a Google review by * Laurie, Christel and Axel (Belgium) in August 2019. After a demanding climb, we are satisfied with having taken up a real challenge.
The welcome that the guard will give us on our arrival will be the icing on the cake.
The caretaker is the "conductor" of the on-site atmosphere and the life of the refuge. Its way of life is particular, it lives in altitude during the summer months. We often liken his way of life to that found on a boat. Besides, the expression "sea of clouds" that can often be admired from the Fourcat refuge takes on its full meaning?
Up there, it is Guillaume the owner of the place, accompanied by his faithful partner Django, a beautiful border collie, shepherd dog, here it is the guardian's dog. And Guillaume is a great goalie! He is very careful with hikers. It influences a family and relaxed atmosphere which necessarily invites sharing. When the weather permits, we have a drink on the terrace where we can chat with other hikers and see the marmots playing and whistling in front of them.
Guillaume is a keeper of the “cru” native of Ariège, he is attached to the local culture and wants to share the finer things in life by preparing local and mostly organic cuisine:
- beer: Valax d'Ax les thermes,
- the country bread from Ax les thermes,
- the organic farm cow tomme cheese from Carregaut de Castelnau Durban,
- the cookies from the mill,
- charcuterie and meat also local,
- the mostly organic grocery store (flour, lentils, chocolates, etc.)
In addition to the good products from here, Guillaume is a good cook, his red lentil soup is to die for! In fact, this guardian is kindness incarnate and at mealtime, of course, we come and give him a hand, placing the dishes on the tables, clearing the plates and the cutlery, because often alone and so friendly hikers take part in the life of the refuge through this exchange. A REAL friendly and participative atmosphere. And the day before don't forget to ask him for the superb picnic basket for the next day because while you sleep he is busy washing dishes, cleaning the common room and picnic baskets, it makes him less to do in the morning. ?
Guillaume is also a mountain guide, an ideal professional to advise you on the technical details of your itinerary, in addition he knows the area well, he came there as a child.
back to the starting point
The day I left, I was lucky enough to be able to come down with a family I had met at the refuge. We took the time to make the return trip together, by the same route as on the outward journey. Carole and Cédric, their two daughters Marion and Romane aged 10 and 7, are fans of hiking in the Pyrenees. We hung on. Especially since the expression "The world is really small" took on its full meaning that weekend.
Located on the borders of Haute-Ariège and Andorra, in the middle of the PNR of the Ariège Pyrenees in the highest refuge in Ariège, I came across this couple from my native land, Cantal. And while chatting, we have mutual friends and went to the same schools… Crazy!
Going solo invites us more easily to turn to others, to pay more attention to the environment and to the people around us.. ?
A refuge for hikers, fishermen, contemplatives and followers of the effort ...
IGN Map: TOP 25 IGN 2148 OT
GPS (UTM WGS84): 31T 376235 4724726
Decimal GPS coordinates: 42.665052 N / 1.489765 E
4h walk from the car park
Access: Parking at Pradière central after Auzat or Andorrane d'Arcalis station