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Gavarnie: land of the cirques


Victor Hugo called it ‘an impossible and extraordinary object, a colossus of nature'. On foot, or on horseback, crossing the Gavarnie is impressive.

Take a map. Locate the border that straddles Mont Perdu. To the south, on the Spanish side, you have the Ordesa, Anisclo, and Pineta canyons. In the north, on the French side, you enter the land of cirques (steep, amphitheatre-shaped hollows). There are three: Troumouse, Estaube, and Gavarnie, the most wild.

Quaternary glaciers, whose size you cannot even imagine, carved its walls. This cirque, which never ceases to amaze with its strength and rugged beauty, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, based on natural and cultural criteria. Few places in the world have this privilege; Machu Picchu in Peru and Mount Taishan in China are two. Since time immemorial, the Spanish and French communities have shared the same pastoral lifestyle. You can see this in the paths, the chapels, the shelters, and the huts. Solidarity is stronger than borders. The Gavarnie is the birthplace of ‘Pyreneism'.

Unlike mountaineering, which merely seeks to exceed limits, ‘Pyreneism' combines sensitivity, the human, and physical effort. More than a sport, it's a philosophy that lovers of the Pyrenees indulge in every summer.

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