at an altitude of 2000 meters, the peak of the Midi d’Ossau watches over the hikers who sleep in Pombie

“Leave the window open or you’ll get hot,” warned Yann, one of the workers in the Pombie refuge. The dormitories are full for the weekend. 45 places in total, divided into four rooms, where you don’t have to be afraid of crowding, smell of socks and snoring.


First experience in a mountain refuge for these children from Libourne, who have just woken up in one of the dormitories.

David Le Deodic/SOUTHWEST

The blended family in Libourne inaugurated the summer holidays with a three-day hike around the Pic du Midi d’Ossau, a backpack each for a suitcase, food for meals by the lakes, good humor and a little courage to walk the steep paths. In the refuge of Pombie, they find hikers who cross the entire chain of the Pyrenees and mountaineers who will try to climb the summit the next morning. With his two widely spaced teeth, he, nicknamed Jean-Pierre, overlooks the lake and the refuge.

Legend has it that two twin shepherds Jean and Pierre had fought to protect the place from invaders before they were turned to stone by the witches in the teeth of the peak. “We tell a little about this nickname,” smiles Jean-Marc Ferri, the refuge’s caretaker. I think especially that we found these two names on the top because all the children were called Jean or Pierre in the valley. »

Refuge guard Jean-Marc Ferri (right) and Christian Ravier, mountain guide, re-imagine the world as the sun sets, sitting on a bench leaning against the refuge.


Refuge guard Jean-Marc Ferri (right) and Christian Ravier, mountain guide, re-imagine the world as the sun sets, sitting on a bench leaning against the refuge.

David Le Deodic/SOUTHWEST

Sitting cross-legged on a bench leaning against the refuge, sun in his eyes, he reinvents the world, in the setting sun, with several regulars on site. At his side is Christian Ravier, high mountain guide, descendant of Jean and Pierre Ravier, who opened routes on the summit in the 20th century. Tomorrow, the professional will take a couple to the top, at 2884 metres.

Pombie Beach

Below is “Pombie Beach”. When it’s time to wash up – there are no showers in the refuge – almost all hikers take off their tops and bottoms to freshen up naked in the lake. Our team in Libourne used the same method. The children jumped into the icy water.

“Life in a crisis center rhymes with sobriety. It may prefigure our daily lives in a few years”

Sleeping in a refuge means leaving some of your comforts at home. No Wifi, an almost non-existent mobile network, cold water to wash and trapped a few meters higher in the mountain. And only four sockets to charge your phone.

It is morning, the door opens.


It is morning, the door opens.

David Le Deodic/SOUTHWEST

“Life in a refuge rhymes with sobriety,” sums up Jean-Louis Gardère. It may prefigure our daily life in a few years. This former firefighter is the manager of the building, which belongs to the French Alpine Club of Pau (CAF). During the season he often goes up from the Anéou car park, a 1.5 hour walk, to check that everything is going well. “The shelter uses electricity, the equivalent of a large apartment,” he explains. There is no power line here, solar panels do the work. And if necessary, a generator takes over.

Jean-Louis Gardère, manager of the Pombie refuge of the French Alpine Club in Pau:


Jean-Louis Gardère, manager of the Pombie refuge of the French Alpine Club in Pau: “I give life to a mineral environment”, he smiles.

David Le Deodic/SOUTHWEST

45 euros all inclusive

Washed or not washed, hikers find themselves seated around large wooden tables for dinner. You don’t necessarily know your neighbor sitting on the same bench. First operation: table setting. We share the tasks.

Morning swim at the bottom of the Pombie Refuge


Morning swim at the bottom of the Pombie Refuge

David Le Deodic / Southwest

The conversations revolve around the kilometers and heights covered during the day. The soup terrine arrives, hot. When all are served, not a word. Stomachs scream with joy at this first and only hot meal of the day. Lights out at No one complains about it. The four loupiots of Libourne have been asleep for a while.

Jean-Marc Ferri prefers not to comment on the coming season, which is announced to be prosperous. “The post-Covid effect, I don’t really believe it. In 2020, I’ve seen people driving in flip flops. They never came back.”

At 45 euros per night, including dinner and breakfast, it wasn’t the price that put them off. But in Pombie, as in all refuges in the Pyrenees, it is not the hotel.

Protected

“I give life to the mineral environment”. Jean-Louis Gardère, from the CAF de Pau, watches over three refuges in the Béarn area: the Arrémoulit refuge, the Pombie refuge and the Gourette hut refuge at the edge of the path GR 10. Three places that welcome hikers in season, but also serve as shelter (but without guard) for those who venture into the mountains in winter. CAF, the owner, has the mission to maintain and renovate these places.

A first refuge, which today functions as a reserve, was built in 1929. It welcomed famous Pyreneanists who opened routes on the Pic du Midi d'Ossau.


A first refuge, which today functions as a reserve, was built in 1929. It welcomed famous Pyreneanists who opened routes on the Pic du Midi d’Ossau.

David Le Deodic/SOUTHWEST

End of day atmosphere at the refuge.


End of day atmosphere at the refuge.

David Le Deodic/SOUTHWEST

End of day atmosphere at the Pombie refuge.  After dinner, no screens.  There is no internet network.  Guests play cards, read or chat.


End of day atmosphere at the Pombie refuge. After dinner, no screens. There is no internet network. Guests play cards, read or chat.

David Le Deodic/SOUTHWEST

8.00, hikers are ready to depart.


8.00, hikers are ready to depart.

David Le Deodic/SOUTHWEST

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