The Vignemale - the summit of the French Pyrenees

The culminating point of the French Pyrenees, the Vignemale (3,298m), on the border between France and Spain, is also the Pyrenees second glacial massif, and a favourite climb for experienced mountaineers. But most of all, it is the love story between Count Henry Russell and the Vignemale which leads us to believe it is a unique mountain!

Indeed, the Pique Longue of Vignemale in the Hautes-Pyrenees is not only the highest summit in the Pyrenees, but for the Pyrenees population, the Vignemale massif is legendary. A Mecca for mountaineers, with the Ossue glacier and the famous Gabue corridor on the north side. The names are familiar.


Baysselance, opposite the teetering glacier, was built in 1899, and guarded the following year. At 2,650m altitude, it is the Pyrenees’ highest guarded mountain hut.
But the Vignemale owes a great part of its fame to its hermit, the Count Henry Russell whose statue presides at the entrance to Gavarnie village.
As he wrote about Vignemale: “Yes, it is indeed my homeland!” He had 7 grottoes dug out with miner’s picks, where he lived and even organised sumptuous receptions.
In 1889 he was awarded the right, by the Barèges valley authority, to “reign” over the summit and the surrounding two-hundred hectares, at over 2,300 metres altitude.
The concession was granted to him for 99 years.