Toulouse – Somport

Itinerary, description of stages, practical informations, accomodation, GPS tracks of the way from Toulouse to Somport through Saint-Bertrand de Comminges.


Suivre les étoiles – D’Aix la Chapelle à Compostelle 

The book (in french) – Following the stars from Aachen to Santiago

Amazon Kindle shop – available on Apple IOS and Androïd

Suivre les étoiles

One night, Saint James appeared to the emperor Carlomagno and asked him to deliver his tomb from the Moors. To achieve this, he had to follow the stars,  the milky way until the western end of Spain, to Galicia. Carlomagno left Aachen and went until Santiago.

Yes, its a legend, but what a beautiful one ! Following the stars, going ahead each day further, slowly at the most natural pace. Walking the first way to Santiago. 3000 kilometers through Belgium, France and Spain.

I made my way, each day going further and I discovered the history, the legend of Compostella.

If you want, also to discover my way and this history, if you can read in French…this book is for you.

You will also find plenty of useful informations of some unknown parts of the way as Via Mosana,  GR654 (Namur-Vezelay), Vezelay-Cluny, Cluny-Le Puy, Conques-Toulouse or Toulouse-Le Somport through Saint-Bertrand de Comminges.
The book “Suivre les étoiles” available on Amazon. 2,99€ (with french VAT)/3,73$


Toulouse to Somport via Saint Bertrand de Comminges

From Toulouse to Somport, different paths are possible: the classic way (Via Tolosana) through Gers countryside or to the south to reach Saint Bertrand de Comminges and the Piedmont route.
In 2012, I walked on the GR86. Since 2017 a new path (GR861), Via Garona, has been marked to reach Saint Bertrand de Comminges.
Walking with the Pyrenees just in front of you, passing from hillsides to the wild banks of the Garonne, Rieux-Volvestre, Saint Bertrand de Comminges (Unesco world heritage site under the paths of Saint Jacques de Compostela), the valley passages in the valley closest to the Pyrenees, Lourdes are some of the attractions of this off the beaten track.

Video with pictures of villages and countryside along Via Garona (from Toulouse to Saint-Bertrand de Comminges) :
Via Garona

You will find GPS tracks, historical informations about Via Garona on the “Espace loisirs” of the National Institute of Geography :
fiche-ign

2 – Saint Bertrand de Comminges to Somport
Path through the Piemont way and then passing through the Ossau valley. I entered in Spain by the pass « Col des Moines » (or Puerto de Jaca) and from there I went down to the Somport Pass. This option avoids the Aspe valley where the way is along a very busy road with trucks traffic.

3 – Crossing Pyrenees
Four other ways are described in the page Crossing Pyrenees. All using mostly paths and avoiding roads and all with cheap facilities for accommodation.
These ways are leaking Saint Gaudens (France) to Berbegal (Spain) on the Camino Catalan :
– through Val d’Aran and Vielha pass.
– through Luchon and Venasque pass.
– same option as above but through Glere pass
– through Aure valley and Ourdissetou pass.


Websites from Toulouse to Somport via Saint Bertrand de Comminges :

From Toulouse to Saint Bertrand de Comminges with the GR86 : GR86 track

The Piemont way : Website dedicated to this way

Maps on the web :

France (maps of the Institut Géographique National) : http://www.geoportail.fr/ with Applestore application : Iphigénie http://iphigénie.com/?lang=en

Spain Map of the Instituto Geografico Nacional de España : Spain IGN maps
The application Iphigenie (link just above) has now the maps of the spanish IGN. Useful to have both French and Spanish ones in one application.
Apple and Androïd Application with maps, touristical and practical informations for the Camino Francés including the Aragonese Camino from Somport to Puente la Reina : Camino Francés

GPS Track
GPS Track from Toulouse to Saint-Bertrand on the GR86 and of all the hike (this GPS track has been remade after the hike)

Stages in 2012 walking on GR86

1 Toulouse – Fontenilles
29km Stage profile : flat all the day
7h30 Commentaires : once you will reach the Touch River, the way is almost always on paths in the countryside (except crossing the small city of Plaisance du Touch). In the end, it is quite a nice day, easy with shadowed, nature, trail.
Logistic : it is not easy to find cheap accommodation in the suburb of big cities. In Fontenilles, perhaps try at the “ferme de l’Houme” (in fact, it is in Léguevin township but at the northern end of Fontenilles) : Route de Saint Lys – 31490 Léguevin – Tel. : +33 (0)5 61 91 16 84
2 Fontenilles – Rieumes
25km Stage profile : slowly, the landscape begins to be hilly but nothing terrible for today
6h45 Note :On this stage, I didn’t strictly followed the GR86. It is making some big detours. mais en évitant. From Fontenilles, I went to Saint Foy de Peyrolières using the chemin du Litou until Fontenilles college, then to Saint Lys by the chemin de Fustié and finally Sainte Foy by a way along Mongarros ruins (marked on IGN maps – see geoportail.fr). Not a lot asphalted roads on this part. From Sainte Foy, I took again the GR86 but avoiding the detour of Beaufort and the long detour through Lahage forest. I went via Bourrassol instead of Beaufort then on the road D7B to join Rieumes. Finally, with theses shortcuts, it is only 25km until the camping of Poul’Art just outside Rieumes. Nice day with small hills and views to the Pyrenees mountains.
Logistic : In Rieumes, the Poul’Art. 20€ for the night for rooms with attached bathroom . Possibility of cooking. Tel : +33 (0)5 34 47 27 12 / +33 (0)5 61 91 54 33 / +33 (0)6 09 95 74 31
3 Rieumes – Aurignac
36km Stage profile : It is the end of the flat, easy days…the way goes from hills to hills with some fairly steep ways up. At the end, it is almost 800m of ascent
9h Note : I stayed on the GR86 for about 18km until a bit after Casties-Labrande. There, I take the road D96A to go to Lussan-Adeilhac then Benque going through the forest of Embargade. I walked again on the GR86 through the hamlets of Bernède, Gelat and Friquet. It shortens the day but still is 36km …All the day, good viewpoints to Pyrenees mountains with nice hills.
Logistic : Any shop all the day. In Aurignac, the hotel “le Cerf Blanc” has rooms for 25€ (Tel : +33 (0)5 61 98 95 76).
4 Aurignac – Saint Gaudens
26km Stage profile : At the beginning some good ways up but after it is OK and the day ascent isn’t so important.
6h30 Note :I definitively left the GR86. A way is marked from Aurignac to Bonnefont Abbey (leaving Aurignac to Saint Gaudens, the way goes straight leaving the road on your right). From Bonnefont abbey, the way goes to Saint Gaudens using small roads and paths. GPS track from Bonnefont to Saint Gaudens.
You can walk directly to Sepx without passing by Bonnefont. Then the road on the Serres.
Logistic : No shop during all the day. Youth hostel in Saint Gaudens
5 Saint Gaudens – Saint Bertrand de Comminges
21km Stage profile : a bit steep after Labarthe de Rivière to Lauach pass but no difficulties. At the end, way up to the hill of Saint Bertrand.
6h Note : this stage is on the Via Garona which joins Toulouse to Saint Bertrand de Comminges.
From St Gaudens, go down to Valentine using the way from Montjoie de la Caoue which is under the main road. After the bridge of Valentine, go on the right to the hydro-electricity plant and follow the sign “Parcours cyclable de la Garonne” until the bridge in front of the ruins of a gallo-roman villa. The path goes along the ruins (wisigothic church, pilgrims tombs with Saint James shells were found around). On 20 meters follow D8 road to take a way just after the houses on the right of D8. Cross this road to take a small road until Labarthe Rivière. Cross the village until the school, then av Victor Hugo, then the trail des 4 Chênes which goes toward Lauach pass. At the pass, the trail des 4 Chênes goes on the left, let it to follow straight and through the trail of the collines de las Couerles, join the GR86. Follow Barbazan marks and then the GR78 to reach the thermal park and follow the GR until Saint Bertrand de Comminges. Beautiful stage with gallo-roman ruins, wild part in forest and the magical arrival to Saint Just de Valcabrère and Saint Bertrand. GPS track Saint Gaudens – Saint Bertrand de Comminges..
Logistic : In Labarthe Rivière : bakery and grossery. In Loures Barousse : all shops. In Saint Bertrand : shop with bread, Pyrenees cheese, delicatessen…. Very nice pilgrim refuge in the presbytery of Saint Bertrand de Comminges. Some food for the pilgrims in the fridge. Donativo. Kitchen. Tel : +33 (0)5.61.88.31.54 or +33 (0)6.30.21.63.35. Refuge downtown : Marie Uchan – tel +33 (0)6.79.79.70.65 or +33 (0)5.61.88.31.82
6 Saint Bertrand de Comminges – Lortet
29km Stage profile : it is beginning to be serious. Almost 800m of ascent for the day. Not long ascents but plenty of small ones.
7h30 Note : The stage is very nice with shadowed paths. The part along the Larise river before Lombrès can be muddy and sliding when it is raining. It is possible to join Bagnères de Bigorre in 3 days stopping in Montsérié and then in the Moulin des Baronnies in Sarlabous.
Logistic : no shop all the day. If you stop for the night in Montsérié, there is a gite (tel to the township at + 33 (0)5.62.98.98.41). In Lortet, Mont d’Aure Hotel is definitively closed. Accommodation in Plein Air Pyrénées. It is run by a english family : 34€ half board with pilgrim rate. It is along the road D929 (in Lortet, cross the bridge, walk in front of the church, around 500m further, take the road on your left in the direction of Avezac-Prat. At he crossway with the D929, you will find it. Tel : +33 (0)5.62.98.14.76 or +33 (0)6.79.13.07.95
7 Lortet – Gerde (or Bagneres de Bigorre)
29km Stage profile : more than 1000m of ascent with 600m straight from the bottom of Bulan to Tournarisse (see itinerary below)
8h30 Note :The Piedmont way pass through the Escaladieu Abbey and is 41km. For those who wont do Bagnères Saint-Bertrand in 3 days, I recommend avoiding 41km. In this case, after Esparros, in the hamlet of Lataillade, turn left towards Laborde, then Arrodets, Bulan and Couret Asque. From there, a trail left hand to Tournarisse and then descent to the Palomières Pass. Most of the path is on shady trails. The ascent is quite important but the stage is beautiful (Baronnies …)
Logistic : The advantage of using this route is to cross Laborde. You will find the typical grocery-bar-tabac-bread “Chez Claudette”. This is the first shop since Saint Bertrand (closed on Tuesdays). In Bagnères de Bigorre, it’s possible to sleep at the Accueil Notre Dame : 24 rue Gambetta – Reservations and information at tel : 07.82.01.86.37 or mail notre-dame.accueil@orange.fr.
It seems no longer possible to sleep in the gite of Gerde.
8 Gerde – Ourdis Cotdoussan
24km Stage profile : through the Piedmont way, it is just over 1000m of ascent. After Bagnères, 600m up. It’s morning, the trail climbs regularly there is shade. After crossing the Oussouet nearly 400m rise in the early afternoon and with less shadow …
7h30 Note : most of the walkers opts for a more direct connection to Lourdes via Neuilh (just over 20km – it is marked. I prefered to strictly follow the GR for several reasons: the acent to Monné gives beautiful views of Bagnères then to the pic du Midi. Given the heat, I preferred the highest option (it might be the opposite in case of bad weather). I already know Lourdes and can avoid it. The church of Saint Jacques Cotdoussan is listed World Heritage Site by Unesco and worth visiting (the altarpiece dedicated to Saint Jacques is a marvel) – to open the church, see the second house on the left in the street which is located just below the church.
Logistic : Given the dog days, I stopped in Cotdoussan – gite in Mme Tarac house – Tel : +33 (0)5.62.94.38.81 (20€)

Ourdis Cotdoussan – Val d’Azun

The trail via Ousté Lias and Saint Pastous can reach Argeles Gazost. It is nice and smooth.
From Argeles, the trail is marked : Sentier du Procureur with sometimes Saint James shells. This way follows to Arrens Marsous and goes to Spain through the pass of Peyre Saint Martin (2295m). Then, it joins in Sallent de Gállego, the way coming down from Pourtalet pass to go down to Sabiñanigo and then Jaca.
I joined the pass of Couret via Gerbes, Col d’Arras, Arcizans Top, Gaillagos.
In Val d’Azun, you will find accommodation options in almost every village.
It takes 38km to Ourdis Cotdoussan Soulor pass through the Couret pass.

Val d’Azun – Gourette

From the ridge of the Couret pass and Couraduque to Gourette is a true mountain course. Never flat and when you will reach Gourette, you will have 1000m of ascent (200m more if you leave the road to go down as the GR10 does in the valley of Litor). The ascent to Tortes pass is stiff. The descent to Gourette even more. You have to do it with good mountain shoes and good weather. In Gourette, refuge of the French Alpine Club (CAF).

Gourette – Gabas

2 options:
The GR10. It is a mountain course therefore do it with good shoes and good weather. Long stage with 1300m ascent and 22km. Beautiful views around Anglas lake at the ascent and to the Pic du Midi d’Ossau at the descent.
The path through Eaux Bonnes and Eaux Chaudes. Longer, you may need to sleep in Eaux Chaudes.
In Gabas, the refuge of the French Alpine Club (CAF) closed definitely at the end of 2012. One option is Hotel Vignau with rooms starting at 26€.

Gabas – Somport via the Col des Moines

This stage will certainly be one of the best part of the path. The ascent to the foot of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau is just amazing. I went through the shelter Ayous. This option is passing along several lakes. 18km to Somport pass. 25km to Canfranc Estación and 1200m of ascent. From Somport pass, you wont need map, or to manage the logistics, you’re back on a great track !

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