We’ve done some great hikes around Luchon, but our best of the trip was a loop that we completed from the Hospice de France. The Hospice de France, dating from the 14th century, was once a staging post for mule-trains trading across the border of Spain. It belonged to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (Knights of Malta). Fees and taxes were levied on travelers crossing the border with their mules laden with goods. Today, the Hospice de France is a gite, restaurant, small museum, and the starting point for some spectacular hikes, including crossing over the Spanish border, with superb views of the Maladeta massif (from the Spanish montes malditos, which means “Damned Mountains”) and of the Pic d’Aneto, the highest summit of the Pyrenees (3,404m).
Our loop hike from Hospice de France into Spain.

Our loop hike from Hospice de France into Spain.

A view of Port Vénasque, our first point on the triangle.  We are starting from L'hospice de France, a French refuge and a classic starting point for many excursions into the Spanish Pyrenees.

A view of Port Vénasque on the Spanish border. We are starting from L’hospice de France, a French refuge and a classic starting point for many excursions into the Spanish Pyrenees.

A view of our route up Port Vénasque.

A view of our route up to Port Vénasque.

Looking back down the valley behind us.

Looking back down the valley behind us toward the Hospice of France.

The clouds are moving up the mountain behind us.

Clouds moving up the valley behind us.

A glacial lake near Port Vénasque.

A glacial lake near Port Vénasque.

The trail up to Port Vénasque disappears into the rocks.

The trail up to Port Vénasque disappears into the rocks.

Crossing into Spain. Hmmm...the GR 11... next year?

Crossing into Spain. Hmmm…the GR 11… next year?

The view behind us into France.

The view behind us into France.

The view in front of us.

Now we hang a left and start the horizontal part of the hike, skirting the France/Spain border.

After we scale this saddle, our second high point, will come into view.

After we scale this saddle, our second high point, Pas de l’Escalette, will come into view.

Our second point.

Pas de l’Escalette.

Shauna scaling the rocks toward our second point.

Shauna scaling the dragon-like back of Pas de l’Escalette.

Incredible 360 degree views from the second point.

Incredible 360 degree views from Pas de l’Escalette.

View to the north from the second point.

View to the north from Pas de l’Escalette.

A view from the second point toward Mt. d'Aneto, the highest peak in the Pyrenees.

A view from Pas de l’Escalette toward Pic d’Aneto, the highest peak in the Pyrenees at 3,404m.

We met a group of hikers from Toulouse - the Tuesday Hikers.  They go on a long hike every Tuesday.

We met a group of hikers from Toulouse – the Tuesday Hikers. They go on a long hike every Tuesday.

Shauna carried on in French so well that they thought, at first, that she was a native.

Shauna practices her French with the Toulouse hikers.

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Our new friends took a picture of us with the Spanish mountains and clouds in the background.

Our route back down to L'hospice de France.

Our route back down to L’hospice de France.

The clouds covered the mountain peaks like icing on a cake.

The clouds covered the mountain peaks like icing on a cake.

The trail down was good and well marked, but the edges were quite steep.  Mark accidentally kicked a small rock off the trail that did not stop rolling for 1,500 feet.

The trail down was good and well marked, but the edges were quite steep. Mark accidentally kicked a small rock off the trail and it did not stop rolling for 1,500 feet.

We met a quite friendly herd of beautiful (and well fed) horses all of a palomino color.

We met a quite friendly herd of beautiful (and well fed) horses all of a palomino color. They actively sought out the apples they are obviously used to being fed.

L'hospice de France comes into view.

L’hospice de France comes into view down in the valley.

The final part of the trail back to L'hospice de France was leaf covered under a canopy of branches.  We felt like Ralph Waldo Emerson might have felt.

The final part of the trail back to L’hospice de France was leaf covered under a canopy of branches. We felt like Ralph Waldo Emerson might have felt.

As usual, Mark is trying to catch Shauna.

As usual, Mark is trying to catch Shauna.