Pyrenees SOTAs 2022: Day 1 – EA2/NV-003 Pico de Ori (Pic d’Orhy) and F/PO-173 Arthanolatze

At the end of August, I was able to return to the Pyrenees to do a few new (to me) SOTA summits over a couple of days. On 30th August 2022, this trip started with a couple of mountains, the Pico de Ori and Arthanolatze.

Pico de Ori EA2/NV-003

The ten point Pico de Ori (the Spanish name) is easily reached by the Puerto de Larrun, where there is ample parking space, and is located right on the border between France and Spain. From a SOTA perspective it counts as being in Spain, hence the EA2/NV-003 reference number representing Navarra. In French, the same mountain is called the Pic d’Orhy, and when I was researching the climb, most of the websites I found used that name, so it’s worth being aware of both.

The Puerto de Larrun, forming the border between France and Spain. Pico de Ori is the tall, pointed, summit in the background

The ascent starts as a fairly easy walk on a path that runs behind the first two summits in the image above. This was a fairly easy walk and not excessively steep.

The start of the path is relatively easy

There is, however, one very short section that was slightly more of a challenge for me, where the path crosses a piece of fairly smooth rock. Some thunderstorms the previous day had made this rather slippery. A steel rope has been anchored into the rock to provide a bit of a handhold, but it is fairly slack. Fortunately, some fellow walkers were able to help tension it for me, so I could hoist myself up.

The one tricky section crosses some slippery rock

Once past that section, the path again flattens out and comes to a col at the back of the Pico de Ori. From there, it is a fairly steep climb straight up the summit, but no scrambling required.

The path from the col to the summit

The summit is in the form of a cliff face. Although it is quite long, there is a steep drop on the French side and the Spanish side, where the path is, also drops away quickly, meaning that there isn’t much space for HF antennas. This is also a very popular summit as it’s the western-most mountain over 2000m in the Pyrenean chain and a fairly easy hike. Consequently, I just made 5 QSOs as quickly as possible (two on 2m FM, and three on 20m CW, with a low antenna to keep it out of the way as much as possible) and left the summit as fairly quickly.

The summit of Pico de Ori

The ascent, which is about 400m of climb over 2.8kms, took me about 75 minutes. The descent took about 65 minutes.

Total distance: 5596 m
Total climbing: 640 m
Total time: 03:20:39

Arthanolatze F/PO-173

About fifty minutes’ drive north of Pico de Orhy is Arthanolatze, in the hamlet of Iraty in the Ossau valley. (Lovers of French cheese will probably recognise Ossau-Iraty from the sheep’s cheese that is produced here.)

This is a four-point summit and a very pleasant walk. One post I read recommended parking at 43.041°, -1.024° but there is now signage here saying that this is an emergency access route for ambulances. I therefore parked at the Col de Bagargi, where there is a café/restaurant and other facilities. However, this does mean that the walk is about 500m longer than the one starting from the recommended parking and, furthermore, it starts with a steep downhill on road, and therefore a steep uphill section on the return.

Once you make it down that road you reach the recommended parking point where a gravel track leaves the road and heads into some trees. Once through the trees, continue on the flat gravel track heading west.

The gravel track

This track brings you slightly downhill to a stream running in a valley. Continue along the track and you then have a choice. If you are very observant, on the right, there is a small path heading away from the track at 43.0435°, -1.0324°. You can take this path to head directly up the hill (which is the route I took on the descent). I, however, missed this turn on the ascent and so the other option is to follow the main gravel track which zig-zags up the hill.

It is easy to miss the small path heading directly up the hill

Either way, you come out to a small refuge just below the summit. At this point turn off the main path and follow the path on your left marked with yellow posts. Again, many of these are barely visible and some are more trip-hazards than obvious markers!

The posts marking the way are barely visible above the ground

Again, I got this wrong on the ascent and incorrectly continued on the main path past the hut, meaning that I then had to scramble up the side of the hill on tracks made by animals rather than the much easier ‘official’ route.

Once on top of Arthanolatze, there is a lot more space for antennas, and it’s much less busy or well known than Ori, meaning I had the place pretty much to myself.

My aerial on the summit of Arthanolatze

I was able to make 12 QSOs from here (11 on 20m CW and one on 2m FM) before I had to back up for the drive back to my hotel.

The ‘ascent’ took me 80 minutes over the sub-optimal route, including about 100m of descent and 200m of ascent over about 4.3km. The ‘descent’ was only about 3.6km and took me about an hour.

Total distance: 7982 m
Total climbing: 723 m
Total time: 03:25:48