Pyrenees 2004: Breche de Roland
One of the places in the Pyrenees I was most keen to see was the Breche de Roland. A gap in the wall between France and Spain. Legend has it that when Roland was fleeing the Moors he smashed his sword against the rock in an attempt to smash it. Instead, the rock broke and he and his soldiers escaped into France.
Geology tells a less exciting tale. The rock broke because it was weak.
I’d seen many pictures of the Breche in guidebooks and on websites and I was excited to see it. We left the Goriz refuge at the head of the Ordesa canyon and set off for the border. As we climbed the snow cover got deeper. It was firm and not icy so it was good to walk on without crampons. The sun shone down on us keeping us pleasantly warm in our shorts and T shirts as we walked over miles of snow.
The final approaches to the Breche were steep and a fall and a slip would have been a very long slide. We kept to the foot-worn path and made it safely to the border. There is a chain bolted to the rock wall to help the ascent but this was buried deep under the snow.
The French side of the Breche is the Glacier du Taillon which slopes down towards the Cirque du Gavarnie. We slid down the glacier on our backsides, the cold ice strangely refreshing against our shorts-clad selves. We stopped at the Soldats hut for a drink and a sandwich before carrying on down to Gavarnie where we stayed for 2 nights at the same campsite as before.