Gave de Gavarnie (Classic)
|Stretch:||Gavarnie to Chaos of Coumley|
|Difficulty:||Class IV (IV+)|
|Flows:||No gauge, ~200-500 cfs?|
|Gradient:||161 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Footbridge downstream of Gavarnie|
|Take-out:||Anywhere upstream of the Chaos of Coumley|
|Shuttle:||2.7 km, 5 minutes one way|
|Season:||Spring from snowmelt|
|Featured in A Wet State #139|
Pyrenees 2018 - Day 12:
The final new run of our trip was the upper section of the Gavarnie, which starts with spectacular views of the Cirque du Gavarnie. The biggest issue with this run though is that this is a small tourist location and every parking spot is pay only or marked as no parking. After going up to the town to see the views in their full glory we went down to set shuttle. We found the put in and saw some of the homeowners so we asked if we could park on their small road if we were out of the way. They were gracious enough to let us! Problem one solved!
From put-in, you can run the falls directly below the old arch bridge, or put in below. At our higher water, we didn’t like the hole at the base and the issues with getting to said hole in control. Below, the river starts in a nice canyon. There is only one rapid of note in that section which is a nice double drop down the left. The river opens up for a period before you then enter the long rapid you can see from the road. This rapid is IV in its parts with one exception, the exit is IV+. Top to bottom though, the rapid is for sure at least IV+. Downstream, the river mellows again but keeps entertaining for a good ways.
Due to a group dynamic issue that morning, we were only three on the water, and also made the decision to just do a short run rather than running the last little gorge that looks to be fun and a handful of more boulder gardens before the mandatory take out. Watching videos online, 90% of the videos are what we ran with only the last 10% of each being the stuff we skipped, so I don’t think there is a whole lot that we skipped.
Anyways, this run was nice. The scenery of the Cirque du Gavarnie was spectacular. But for me, the whitewater of the Gorge de Luz was so much nicer. Up on the Classic section, the views of the mountains were few and far between, and the road was always present. On the Gorge de Luz, the road was high above and the walls too tight and tall to notice anything other than the river scenery. So if you can only do one, I would do Gorge de Luz.
That evening, we drove over the Cauteret which was the next drainage over. Only maybe one hour away. Eric DeGuille had mentioned that they were running a section for the race a few days away, and that it was very high, but doable. So we thought we would check it out. Driving up, I was hopefully that the lower sections might be doable, if not the class IV/V gorge then the IV gorge. They need more water… but arriving there we found a torrent of water pinched between right walls. Way too high. Which means that the upper sections would be very very high. So back to Eric’s statement that the upstream classic section was high but doable. It was very high. It was doable. For A+ gamers. Harry, Diane and I took one look and wanted nothing to do with it. Reiner and Eric went for a lap of a short section of the classic section. As they arrived at the bridge, Reiner opted not to continue on down to town as he said exactly what we all assumed. Pushy, big, and consequential. Watching Eric run through the hardest section was something else. So that night we camped in town along the Cauteret, made one last group dinner together, and drank some. That night we met some folks from Portugal who were looking for folks to boat with the following day. We made plans for them to meet us in the morning for a Gorge de Luz run.
That morning, our last, as the Portuguese folks arrived and we were running 30 minutes late, we figured out that Harry’s paddle was left at put in of the classic section of the Gavarnie the night before. That sucks since it is ~30 minutes upstream of the Gorge de Luz. So we sprinted up there with Harry to see if it was still there. Sadly, arriving there was a tire track in the grass where his paddle was left and the paddle was nowhere to be seen. So, he used his spare and we went down to meet Reiner and the Portuguese guys at the Gorge de Luz. The group multiplied as we now also had a group from Frenchies with us so we headed through a fun but lower lap on the Gorge de Luz. After that, we all began to drive out of the mountains. Stopping for lunch together before going our different ways, Diane and I to the airport, and Reiner, Harry and their families back towards Austria via Italy.
The trip, though not as envisioned, ended up still being quite fun. I am a little disappointed that we missed the Ara and Cauteret, but we did get plenty of other good runs. When flows are as out of normal as they were for us, all you can hope for us minimal lost days due to skunkings. We only had 1 lost day (Andorra) and 1 sorta meh day (lower Ara). The rest each had at least one good run in them. So I am happy. So, anyways, great trip. I highly recommend the Pyrenees. Boating, scenery, good food, and good friends… what more can you want?
Previous: Pyrenees 2018 - Day 10: Gave de Gavarnie (Gorge de Luz)
- Put-in Falls (V). This falls is a tricky one. There is a ledge that you drop sideways maybe 4 feet into the wall, and then slide off a 10 foot falls with big hole. It is tricky. For us the higher water made the hole look bad, so we all walked. You can put in below it. The river then enters a nice tight gorge that is mellow to the first rapid.
- Double Drop (IV). This was the one scout for us in the gorge. It was a fun double drop best run left and left. We tried right and right but that did not work so it ended up being right and left.
- The river opens up and you have some mellow boogie.
- First (IV). The start of the hardest section begins with a boof right of center. Scout this from the left shore or from the road on the drive up. You will also run a small ledge immediately below before the next eddy.
Second (IV). The second part is a busy section. The top was best run left of center into a curling hole. There was one or two more holes to boof before a small one boat eddy on the left. I hadn’t seen where Harry went so I got out on the left to scout for Diane.
Third (III). We went down the far left, it was a slide over a small hole. It then mellows out for 50 feet into the a big eddy on the left.
Fourth (III+). The next part is blind, but clean. Just go down the middle to the right around the house sized rock. Another mellow 50 feet leads to an eddy on the left which is above the biggest part.
Exit (V). The exit is a big rapid with a rock in the landing. Scout or portage left. The entrance has a few small holes, it is best to stage in the eddy on the left above the final tier. The final tier should be run right of center. There is a rock in the landing but at higher flows it is ok to just deflect off of. I have seen video of folks nailing it at lower flows though.
- Boogie #1 (III). Immediately above the rapid above, you enter a boogie section. This one goes just fine down the right.
Boogie #2 (III+). This rapid starts off a little braided. Go left. It ends up being some nice little holes to boof over down the main flow.
Boogie #3 (III+ to IV-). The last boogie below the main rapid, this one ends in a ledge in front of a huge boulder. We went to the left of the huge boulder but right is also clean. You then have a small boogie rapid and then cross under the road bridge. The river then opens up.
- Boogie #4 (III). One small rapid has character in this section. It is a constriction and small hole/curler thing. We went left of center with right momentum. Below, the river braids out terribly for 100 yards. Just find water. It then mellows out a lot.
- Optional Take-out at the next road bridge.
- Gorge. We didn’t run this, but it is a class III to IV gorge with just one or two standout rapids in it.
- Final Rapids (IV). Depending on where you take-out, there are a few last rapids before the Chaos of Coumley. Though I have also seen video of some of it being run, with a tight slot through a big sieve etc.
Take-out: From the town of Gčdre, take D921 steeply up the hill for 4.8 km. You see signs for the Chaos of Coumley and can choose where you want to take-out. We used a bridge that was at the 4.8 km mark. Though a few nice rapids were downstream.
Put-in: This one is harder, a shuttle driver is very helpful as parking is VERY limited due to the tourist trap that the Cirque is which is just 1 km past put-in. The access is at an old water treatment plant. This is located 2.7 km upstream of the bridge that we used to take-out near Campground Le Pain de Sucre. So, after the 2.7 km, take the right into the residential area and drop down. We asked if we could park near some houses and were given the thumbs up. There is a path down behind the water treatment building, which then crosses a foot bridge. We then walked down between the two creeks.
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