One of the main reasons we chose the Pyrenees as our little side trip while in the south of France was because I’d seen the Pic du Midi online. Once I saw it, I knew that’s where I wanted to go, and thankfully Xander wasn’t at all bothered and was happy to let me choose the location. We specifically chose our campground because it was within a reasonable distance.
We actually visited the area twice, but the first day it was too cloudy and they said we wouldn’t be able to see anything, so we moved on and visited some caves in the area. The next day it was still partially cloudy but it was our last chance so we went up anyway.
You can see the clouds in the above photo that I took on the day that we ended up leaving. We sort of suspected that it might be too cloudy as the entire campground was in the middle of a cloud when we woke up, but we hoped it would clear up by the time we got there. No such luck.
The next day things were a lot more clear and I was so excited when we were driving up the mountain and could see our first glimpse of the peak!
We had to ride to the peak in one of these, it was pretty full and got really warm but what a great view along the way!
Oh, I also have to mention the guys who work these things. Don’t even try to ask them questions, don’t try to socialize and well, basically don’t try to make any use of them at all. From what we could tell they were a very small step up from trained monkeys who are there to bring you to the top and back without dying… beyond that, they are absolutely useless. On the first day we visited we tried to talk to them to ask about the conditions at the top and if it was worth going up, and even though my husband made the effort to speak to them in French, all we got was a few grunts in return. Our experience of trying to be friendly with them the following day was met with the same kind of reception.
So if you are looking for information, a smile or a friendly face, don’t look there. Visit the ticket office which is not in the same building, but down and off to the side of the lift area. They will tell you whatever you need to know and sell you your tickets.
Sure enough, it was, and they were looking pretty darn tired. The man was trekking along with his nordic walking sticks and the woman was being dragged along behind him by holding onto his backpack. The boy looked like he was completely out of juice and was being pulled along by his mother.
I had to give them credit, I’d never have attempted that walk! I wish I could have gotten better photos to show just how long and steep that path is.
This lake was visible just before we reached the peak. To give you an idea of the scale of everything, there were people walking along those paths as well, they are just so small you can hardly see them! Tiny little specs along the path!!
Then we finally reached the top, which was amazing. The sky was so blue and the weather was beautiful, although quite windy! There was a fair few people there but it wasn’t packed to the point of being uncomfortable. There were people eating at the restaurants, sitting out having picnics and lots and lots of photographers. More than once I found myself suffering from varying degrees of lens envy while standing shoulder to shoulder with other photographers up there.
One piece of advice I would give anyone that was visiting the area, is to pack a lunch. The restaurants were busy and somewhat expensive, but there was plenty of areas to sit and eat a packed lunch. We found ourselves wishing we had done so as it was coming along lunchtime when we were there and we were both starving. We had food in our cooler in the car but we didn’t think to bring it up with us, so we took the edge off with a chocolate bar from a vending machine and then went in search of a place to stop and eat once were back on the ground again.
The view from the top was even better than on the ride up there. It was a bit of a hazy day so we couldn’t see as far as you can on some of the more crisp and clear winter days but I’m still so glad that we made the effort to go back. Like with most things, the photos really don’t do it justice, it’s something you have to see for yourself.
Seriously, I can’t even imagine what kind of view you get when it’s totally clear, it must be amazing. I’d love to visit sometime in the winter but just the thought of driving up into those mountains at that time of year frightens the crap out of me.
Oh, and a funny thing about visiting that area, there are always animals just roaming free. You’ll see a lot more of them in photos from other areas we visited but for some reason at the Pic du Midi it seemed to be donkeys!
They just hung around the parking lot and socialized with the visitors, from what I could tell they often got quite lucky as well, most of the tourists found them VERY cute and shared their lunches. I get the feeling that these are some seriously well fed donkeys.
Another interesting thing we noticed is how early people start arriving to watch the Tour de France. If you look in this photo, you can see all the white motor homes lined up along the road on the bottom right of the photo. We spent the rest of the day driving through the mountains along the same path that the Tour de France was going go through three days later. Anywhere that had enough space was covered in trailers and people waiting to get their view of the bikers, it was crazy!
One last piece of advice… if you want information on what you are seeing or what is inside the Pic Du Midi, I’d suggest picking up a little booklet somewhere or printing off info online. I was somewhat disappointed to go through the place and find that there were no translations available. All of the boards, videos and information are in French and apparently everyone else is out of luck.
Some things don’t really require you having to read anything though, like this miniature version of the Pic du Midi, which I found pretty cool!
If you are every lucky enough to be able to visit the Pyrenees, I’d definitely make the Pic du Midi one of your main destinations, especially if you have a really nice clear day. I know if I ever return I’ll be going up again, without a doubt!
For more info you can visit their website, again… only available in French, but Google translate is your friend!