In the Pyrenees, fascinating secret passages between canyons and waterfalls

By Bénédicte Boucays

Posted yesterday at 6:00 p.m., updated at 1:56 p.m.

If beauty is in question, it is in the folds and folds drawn by the water and the wind. An insolent, mysterious beauty, called turns or faja (“Belt” in Spanish) on the southern slope of the Pyrenees. Secret horizontal passages nestled in the hollow of the cliffs, often undetectable at first sight. Natural paths that must first be identified. More or less dizzying, more or less frequented, more or less difficult. Steep paths that Erri De Luca talks about in his latest novel, Impossible (Gallimard, 2020). The story of an improbable encounter on a ledge or “The hands are not useful, we go up and down along small strips of a path barely marked by the passage of chamois, near deep ravines”.

The giganticfaja ”de Pelay is 7 kilometers long. It is accessed by the hunters’ path, a steep climb in a beech grove that leads to the viewpoint of Calcilarruego.

Our first faja, Escuzana, is rather frequented by chamois. On the back of Gavarnie and the Roland Breccia (2,807 meters), you can access it through the port of Boucharo (2,270 meters). There, we leave the French side for the Spanish side, moving away from the crowd that climbs to the breach of Roland. Two small steps aside and no one left. We rock again in the silent mountain.

What follows is just as striking, particularly in the mist at the start of the day, and whose elegance will fade when we reach the Gabieto pass (2,516 meters). Escuzana is in front of us. We can still guess no way. The cliffs draw waves in the landscape, mineral undulations of walls dotted with conifers and broom in bloom, between the blue of the sky and the carpet of lawns below. A dizzying in-between, in a monumental ensemble. It makes you wonder how a path can pass through there.

The Cotatuero ladders (the “clavijas”) in Ordesa National Park (Spain).

Behind us, in the immense scree that we have just climbed, a hiker seeks his breath. He found the topo of this ” stroll “, as he says, on the Web and intends to bivouac on the foothills of the faja de las Flores, the pearl of the national park of Ordesa and Mont-Perdu. 3.5 kilometers long, it dominates with allure the canyon of Ordesa 1000 meters above the void. An improbable path, above the Rio Arazas and against the Tozal de Mallo (2,254 meters), which ends with the famous clavijas of Cotatuero, pins and metal cables fixed in the wall to make accessible and secure a vertical passage.

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