A man paddleboarding across a half frozen lake

Stand Up Paddleboarding In The Frozen Pyrenees

Jamie Ramsay, award-winning endurance adventure athlete and fellow adventurer, Dave Haze (The Nomadic Paddler), a multiple world record-holding SUP adventurer, embark on an exhilarating adventure through the frozen Pyrenees. Read on to discover how they manage harsh conditions, capture the beauty of nature and face challenges and lessons together as a team.   


Plus, he reveals expert advice – from packing the right gear to staying safe when braving incredible trips off-grid.   

The Genesis of a Unique Adventure

I met David Haze, the world record-holding SUP adventurer known as The Nomadic Paddler (@nomadicpaddler), at last year's Armchair Adventure Festival in Plymouth. We connected instantly, sharing a love for adventure and a deep appreciation for the outdoors. Adventure has become an integral part of our identities, offering us a means to discover ourselves and maintain balanced mental health.  


After staying in touch, we brainstormed over a pint in Westbourne and came up with an exciting idea: combining stand-up paddleboarding and hiking to explore high-altitude lakes. After some research, we identified a few lakes in the Pyrenees, my local mountain range. With David securing a lightweight paddleboard, we quickly booked our flights.  


Preparing For The Unexpected

I oversaw the non-water gear. We wanted to hike up into the mountains, find and paddle the lakes, and camp somewhere isolated. To do this, I would have to carry most of the camping gear for two people while David carried the paddling equipment. I referred to old gear lists and pulled together everything we would need to have a comfortable night in the mountains for two people.    


The adventure was to kick off in May, so usually, that would mean winter was over, and lighter gear would be required. Alas, this year, the Pyrenees experienced a dump of snow in the last few days of April, and the weather remained cold, preserving the snow. David and I agreed that despite the change in conditions, we would continue pursuing high-altitude lakes and settle for the highest ones that weren't frozen.   


I rejigged our gear and ensured we were ready for a colder night in the tent and snowy underfoot conditions. Our original plan of two one-person tents changed to a more robust two-person tent – the Vango MTN 2 and the RAB Ascent 900 sleeping bags with lower comfort ratings.   


I picked David up at the airport on the 17th of May, and we headed into the mountains. The snow was even deeper than we had assumed, and I was already regretting a few kit omissions, such as ice axes, snowshoes and gaiters, but I felt confident we had what we needed.   


Conquering The Half-Frozen Lake

An areil shot of a person paddleboarding across a half frozen lake

Once we had packed our backpacks, one with SUP gear and the other with camping equipment, we set off up the mountain, intrigued about what might lie ahead. Soon, muddy trails were replaced with a light dusting of snow, gradually deepening as we ascended. We met hikers caught out by the unseasonal weather but all determined to continue.   


I had identified a few potential lakes and knew those at 2700m would be a no-go, so we set our sights on Lac Estagnol at 2260m. The tracks disappeared, and we soon forged fresh tracks through deep snow. Luckily, I know these mountains well, and it was only a short time before we found ourselves near the lake. From our drone footage, we could see the ice cutting across the centre, creating a dramatic contrast between water and ice.     


Giddy that our crazy pub adventure idea was about to become a reality, we set about pumping the board. David, a professional stand-up paddleboarder, seemed confident, but I was more nervous about falling into freezing water in such an isolated place. But, taking it slowly and being very cautious (by that, I mean kneeling at the beginning), we soon both came off the lake with broad smiles.    


Overcoming Snowy Terrains

Pictures show 2 men climbing a snowy mountain and camping on the edge of a lake

If our goal was to paddle a lake, we could have set off back down the mountain victorious, but we wanted more from our time in the snow. We wanted to camp.   


I identified a camp spot in the next valley, but we'd have to tackle a deep snow-covered Hourquette de Mounicot at 2547m to get there. The route was perilous. But David and I felt confident we could take it on if we were slow and steady and knew when to call it quits. We picked our way across a rock field and then up to the base of a steep climb over the mountain pass. Taking it slow, we punched our way up the steep slope, continuously checking the snow conditions and ensuring we were in the safest places possible.    


We finally reached the pass, looked down the next valley, and realised the difficulty had just begun. No one had tackled our route, so we had to pick our way down, triple-checking each step until we found the tracks of another intrepid adventurer, carefully retracing their footprints down to Lac de Mounicot at 2240m. These lakes were entirely frozen, making paddling impossible. However, it provided an excellent spot to camp with access to a small river of fresh water.     


Campsite in a Winter Wonderland

A tent pitched on the border of an alpine lake with snow coverage

As the sun set, the temperature dropped, and we set about preparing our Firepot dehydrated meals and settled in our tent with a bottle of red wine, excited for tomorrow's adventure.   


The next morning, we woke up with low clouds and the threat of snow and rain. We packed up our camp and began the gnarly descent back to our campervan.    

More High-Altitude Lakes + New Adventures

While we may have achieved what we set out to do, the real joy of this adventure was taking on the unknown, working together and having an epic time in the great outdoors. We were a good team!   


We spent three more days in the mountains and managed to paddle two more high-altitude lakes (Lac d'Estom – 1980m and Lac du Plaa de Prat - 1760m), sleep in rustic refuges and scheme new, bigger and more daring adventures for the future. Watch this space...  

Lessons + Reflections

Person climbing up  steep snowy ridge.

1. When in the snow, pack for the unexpected. Our kit worked perfectly for the conditions we were in, but it might have been sensible to have had ice axes, crampons and gaiters.   


2. Make sure you share your intended route with someone before you set off. You never know what could happen in the mountains, especially in winter. Having a satellite device to check in each evening is also very sensible.   


3. Ensure you understand snow before going into the mountains, especially late in the season. We witnessed a few people who clearly needed to gain the knowledge, skillsets and appropriate gear.    


4. There is no place for bravado in the mountains. So, know your limits and when it's wise to call it. It's better to have an enjoyable adventure and come home safe than to push on into scenarios you aren't prepared for.    

Inspired by Jamie and Dave's frozen Pyrenees adventure? Visit your nearest Snow+Rock store and find everything you need to confidently take on your thrilling adventure. Our experts are here to help you create a gear list from scratch or help you find your perfect hiking boot or backpack fit. Explore our wide selection of top-quality equipment, clothing, and accessories, ensuring you're prepared for any challenge nature throws your way.  

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