In the southern Corbieres, just before the foothills of the Pyrenees start to rise up, Bugarach is by far the highest point of the Aude at 1230 metres. This volcanic plug is upside-down - at some point an eruption so powerful occurred that the entire rock was flung out and landed the other side up.
Looking across La Vialasse to Bugarach
The striking peak of Bugarach seen above the hamlet of La Vialasse a few km to the west.
A cosmic substation
Reflecting a possibly somewhat dippy hippy lifestyle around the valley, this electricity substation was repainted in a suitably psychadelic fashion.
Bugarach's peak seen from the east
The spine of this mighty rocky lump leads to an exposed and almost vertical face at the eastern end.
Park your camper van at Bugarach
At the start of the randonée across Bugarach (on the northern side above the village itself) is a reasonably sizeable parking area. It's not an official 'aire de camping cars' but as far as I can tell, having stayed there a couple of nights, using it as one is fine. As such locations go it is fantastic - peaceful and with great views. BTW, if you're looking for an 'official' aire de camping cars near here there is an excellent one at Duilhac Sous Peyrepeteuse, about 15km away, with a village shop plus a couple of snack bars which open in summer.
The mighty mountain shares its name with the small village of Bugarach at it's western foot.
Beware that it's not all plain sailing
Sign warning that the weather can be changeable and conditions on Bugarach can become very different in a short time. So do go carefully up there, and check the weather forecast beforehand.
The way to the peak of Bugarach
At first the footpath may seem to have a rather aimless route, heading sometimes downhill towards the centre of the peak's northern flank. However, you'll soon start climbing.
What does this mean?
A star carved on a large rock which stands by the path up the northern side of Bugarach.
A star carved on a rock
What does it mean? This star has been carved in a rock which stands by the footpath on the lower part of the ascent of Bugarach.
Can be sweaty work in summer! The path is well worn and a bit tricky in places. You need good footwear here.
North from here is La Montagne Noire
To the north, on the far side of the Aude Plain from the Corbieres, is the the ridge of La Montagne Noire whose topmost point, 1211m, is marked by a large communications mast. It's rare to see La Montagne Noire so clearly from such a distance.
The western peak of Bugarach
The lower end of the ridge is to the west, where limestone pinnacles jut out like teeth.
To the south is Canigou
The peak of Canigou (2784 metres) looms prominently to the south of Bugarach.
Not far from the top...
The final part of the ascent of Bugarach is easy compared to what went before.
Magical morning mist
From Bugarach, the highest point for miles around, the mist eventually filled all the surrounding valleys leaving just the highest peaks visible above the ethereal sea.
Early morning mist formed as I started out
I started out early - about 5.30am - and mist was already rising from the many streams in the valleys surrounding Bugarach.
Summer view of Bugarach over La Vialasse
Looking towards the peak from the west from the road which comes in past Rennes les Bains.
Summer sunset at Bugarach
The reddening sun at the end of the day illuminates the peak of Bugarach and the village below.
The scramble part of the path up Bugarach
After traversing the spine the ascent moves to the southern side of Bugarach. It's a bit of a scramble up a slope strewn with small chunks of limestone.
Bugarach village is far down there
The village of Bugarach looks tiny from the peak of the mountain.
Chateaux de Queribus and Peyrepeteuse
Floating above the morning mists, the chateaux of Queribus and Peyrepeteuse stand in commanding points on the ridge of which Bugarach is part.
The summit of Bugarach
The eastern end of Bugarach is the highest, where the rock terminates and forms sheer limestone cliffs of several hundred metres.
Another level at the summit of Bugarach
Bugarach, at 1230m, dwarfs all nearby hills so the view from its summit is fabulously wide.
A bank of cloud slowly rolled in
From the direction of the Mediterranean - only 15km or so to the east - a big bank of cloud rolled slowly in.
The western end of Bugarach
The lower end of Bugarach's summit, to the west, formed from exposed rocky needles, is more spectacular then the peak itself.
Valley mists emerge as the new day starts
As the light of day started to touch the horizon and then assert its presence, mists started forming in the valleys of the Corbieres surrounding Bugarach's peak.
The summer's thistle flowers
Washed out bloom of a thistle flower in mid winter on the windblown peak of Bugarach.
Approaching the peak of Bugarach
By this point the bank of cloud had well and truly settled over this corner of the Corbieres, and a cold wind was blowing as I reached the peak. Only a couple of hours later the cloud bank was gone and it became rather sweltering for a couple of hours round the middle of the day.
A potentially vertiginous place
From near the peak of Bugarach a house can be seen far below on an almost vertical trajectory.