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đŸ„Ÿ French Hiking Terms

Emilie By Emilie - updated on Jun 17, 2020

Follow Emilie, her friends and French immersion student David for a hike in the French Pyrénées mountains. Practice your French hiking vocabulary in the context of this French English bilingual story written in easy French and full of gorgeous pictures!

Bonjour Ă  tous. My name is Emilie and I’m a French immersion teacher and host in the PyrĂ©nĂ©es mountains region.

I’m on the pictures below with my immersion student David who stayed with my family for 2 weeks in January to improve his French and discover this incredible region of France!

Please start by studying the French hiking vocabulary list enclosed. Then read the story, and try to guess when you don’t understand: guessing is an important part of speaking French!

To simplify today’s (long) story, I’ve decided to use the present tense instead of the past. It’s not impossible to do so in French as a stylistic form, to make the story more lively
 But here, it’s more a question of making the story easier than a literary choice! I kept the English translation in the past though.

I hope you’ll enjoy discovering my region!

french hiking vocabulary

1 – French Hiking Vocabulary

  1. La montagne = the mountains
  2. Une crĂȘte = ridge
  3. Une vue dégagée = an unobstructed view
  4. La chaßne des Pyrénées = the Pyrénées mountains range
  5. Un pĂąturage = pasture
  6. Un versant = mountain side
  7. Une montĂ©e =  climb
  8. Raide = steep
  9. Une pente = slope
  10. Une pelouse = lawn
  11. Un sentier = path
  12. Une piste = track
  13. Une route forestiĂšre = road through the woods
  14. Une randonnée (or rando for short) = a hike
  15. Une randonneur, une randonneuse  = hiker
  16. Une balade = leisure walk
  17. Une promenade = leisure  walk
  18. Randonner = to hike
  19. Suivre = to follow
  20. Conduire, Mener = to lead
  21. Un sac Ă  dos = backpack
  22. Le balisage = trail marking
  23. Un itinéraire = route
  24. Un panneau = sign
  25. Une boucle = loop
  26. Un rocher = rock
  27. La mousse = moss
  28. L’ombre = shade
  29. Le parapente = paragliding
  30. Un refuge = shelter 

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  31. Le dénivelé = elevation
  32. Le point de départ = starting point
  33. L’aller = the way in
  34. Aller-retour =  round trip
  35. Suivre = to follow
  36. Atteindre = to reach
  37. Rejoindre = to rejoin
  38. Emprunter un chemin = to follow a path, follow a trail
  39. Prendre un chemin = t0 take a path
  40. Une cabane = wooden-house
  41. Un refuge = shelter
  42. La transhumance = when sheeps are lead to grazing fields
  43. un berger, une bergĂšre  = shepherd
  44. un troupeau = herd
  45. pĂąturer = pasture, graze
  46. une bĂȘte = animal
  47. la neige = snow
  48. un rapace = raptor
  49. un oiseau de proie = bird of prey
  50. un milan royal = a red kite bird
  51. le plumage = feathers
  52. un ours = bear
  53. un parc de contention = containment corridor
  54. un encas = snack
  55. une ascension = ascent,  climb
  56. un anorak = ski jaket
  57. une combinaison de ski = ski suit
  58. des Moon Boots (f) ou des aprĂšs-ski (m) = snow boots, Moon boots
  59. des chaussures de marche (f) = walking shoes
  60. des chaussures de randonnée (f) = hiking shoes
  61. ĂȘtre Ă©quipĂ© de = equipped with, fitted with
french vocabulary hiking france pyrenees mountains

2 – Hiking in the French PyrĂ©nĂ©es in Winter

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Rien de tel pour commencer l’annĂ©e, que de partir une journĂ©e Ă  la montagne, respirer le grand air et Ă©largir son horizon !

Nothing better to start the year than to spend a day in the mountains, breathing the fresh air and widening your horizon!

Quand notre Ă©tudiant de français en immersion  David, me dit qu’il a envie d’aller Ă  la montagne, je lui propose d’organiser ensemble une rando, – abrĂ©viation de randonnĂ©e- , avec des amis dans les PyrĂ©nĂ©es, au Pays de l’Ours, au-dessus du petit village d’Arbas.

When our French immersion student David told me that he wanted to go to the mountains, I proposed to organize a hike (abbreviated hiking) together with some friends in the Pyrenees, the Bear Country, above the small village of Arbas.

Pour cela, nous regardons la mĂ©tĂ©o pour voir quelle est la plus belle journĂ©e de la semaine. Nous choisissons le vendredi 5 janvier avec 14°C et un grand soleil. PlutĂŽt bien en plein de l’hiver !

For this, we looked at the weather forecast to see what was going to be the best day of the week. We chose Friday 5th January  as the forecast was predicting 14 °C and sun. Pretty good in the middle of winter!

Une fois le jour choisi, nous proposons à des amis de venir avec nous, nous préparons notre équipement et nous réfléchissons à un pique-nique.

Having chosen the day, we invited friends to come with us.  We prepared our equipment and we thought about taking a picnic.

Comme Arbas  est Ă  45 minutes en voiture de la maison et que la mĂ©tĂ©o annonce un grand ciel bleu  vers 14h – pile ce que l’on cherche- nous fixons l’heure du dĂ©part Ă  9h45, ce qui  reste trĂšs raisonnable, non ?

Arbas is a 45 minutes’ drive from the house and the weather forecast showed blue skies around 2:00pm, just what we were looking for!  We agreed a time of departure of 9:45, which is very reasonable, right?

David, qui venu en immersion mais aussi en vacances, a l’habitude de faire la grasse matinĂ©e, ça veut dire dormir tard.  Ce matin-lĂ , il se lĂšve plus tĂŽt, prend un bon cafĂ© et rĂ©ussit Ă  se rĂ©veiller de bonne humeur, car depuis la maison on voit dĂ©jĂ  la chaĂźne des PyrĂ©nĂ©es enneigĂ©e et baignĂ©e de lumiĂšre.

David, who was combining this immersion course with a vacation, had the habit of sleeping in, that means sleeping late. That morning, he woke up early and was in a good mood.  As he drunk his coffee he could already see the chain of snow-covered Pyrenees bathed in light.

3 – Departing for the Hike in the PyrĂ©nĂ©es in January

Une fois le petit dĂ©jeuner pris, les sac Ă  dos remplis du pique-nique, des lunettes de soleil, des gants, bonnets, Ă©charpes et autres pulls supplĂ©mentaires au cas oĂč, nous partons, David mon Ă©tudiant, mes enfants et moi pour retrouver nos amis Florence, Fanny, Philippe, Jane et Gary Ă  Aurignac Ă  dix minutes de la maison. Nous nous sommes donnĂ©s rendez-vous Ă  10h pour faire la route ensemble. Certains sont Ă©quipĂ©s de combinaisons de ski ou de pantalons de ski, d’anorak et d’aprĂšs-skis encore appelĂ©s Moon boots, d’autres seulement des chaussures de randonnĂ©es qu’on appelle aussi chaussures de marches.

After breakfast we packed the backpacks with our picnic, sunglasses, gloves, hats, scarves and extra sweaters just in case.  David, my student, my children and I leave to meet our friends Florence, Fanny, Philippe, Jane and Gary at 10am in Aurignac which is  ten minutes from home so we could travel together. Some are equipped with ski suits or ski pants and after-skis also called Moon boots, others only hiking shoes that are also called walking shoes

Nous partons Ă  3 voitures, tout excitĂ©s de la belle journĂ©e qui s’annonce.

We left in 3 cars, all excited about the beautiful day ahead.

french hiking vocabulary

4 – The Fountain of the Bear in Arbas

ArrivĂ©s Ă  Arbas, nous suivons le panneau ‘Fontaine de l’Ours’.  Nous nous garons sur le parking de la fontaine de l’Ours et trĂšs vite la question se pose : « De l’Ours ? Y a-t-il vraiment des ours ? ».

We arrived in Arbas and followed the sign ‘Fountain of the Bear’. We parked in the car park of the Fountain of the Bear and very quickly the question arose –  Of the Bear? Are there really bears?

Absolument, car il a y une soixantaine d’annĂ©es, l’ours Ă©tait prĂ©sent. En 1996, Melba ourse slovĂšne est rĂ©introduite dans les PyrĂ©nĂ©es centrales.

Absolutely, because the bears have been present about sixty years ago. In 1996, Melba, a Slovenian bear was reintroduced in the central Pyrenees.

Philippe qui est amoureux de la montagne et la pratique en parapente, nous dit qu’il y en a environs 40 dans toutes les PyrĂ©nĂ©es et qu’il vaut mieux ĂȘtre un peu bruyant pour Ă©viter de surprendre un ours, surtout s’il s’agit d’une femelle et de ses oursons.

Philippe who is in love with the mountains and knows it through paragliding, told us that there are around 40 bears in all the Pyrenees and that it is better to be a little noisy to avoid surprising a bear, especially if it is a female and her cubs.

Nous regardons autour de nous les diffĂ©rents versants de la montagne, ses pentes raides, ses crĂȘtes, les pins, la mousse sur les rochers, le vol majestueux des rapaces et prenons conscience que nous ne sommes pas seuls.

We looked around the different slopes of the mountain, its steep slopes, ridges, pines, moss on the rocks, the majestic flight of raptors and realize that we were not alone.

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5 – Hiking Routes in France

Au point de dĂ©part de notre balade, nous trouvons un panneau qui nous montre 2 options d’itinĂ©raire : un itinĂ©raire « familial », avec un dĂ©part tranquille par une route forestiĂšre et un itinĂ©raire « plus sportif » avec une montĂ©e trĂšs raide pour commencer. Dans les 2 cas le dĂ©nivelĂ© est de 400m pour arriver au Col de PaloumĂšre.

At the starting point of our walk, we found a sign that showed us 2 route options, a “family” route, with a quiet start by a forest road and a “more sporty” route that started with  a very steep climb. In both cases the altitude difference is 400m to reach the Col de PaloumĂšre.

Mon ami Philippe propose l’option « familiale » qui convient Ă  l’ensemble des randonneurs du groupe. Il faut compter 4 heures aller-retour pour faire la boucle qui s’appelle l’Estive de PaloumĂšre.

My friend Philippe proposed the “family” option which suited all hikers in the group. It took a round trip of 4 hours to make the loop called the Estive de Paloumùre.

Qu’est-ce qu’une estive ? Une estive, c’est un haut pĂąturage dans les PyrĂ©nĂ©es oĂč les bĂȘtes viennent pĂąturer. Dans les Alpes, on parle d’alpages. A partir du mois de juin, les bergers emmĂšnent  brebis,  vaches, chevaux passer l’étĂ© en montagne pendant 4 Ă  5 mois. L’herbe est rase mais toujours verte et de qualitĂ©. Pendant l’étĂ©, les bĂȘtes pĂąturent et entretiennent ainsi l’estive.

What is an estive? An estive is a mountain pasture in the Pyrenees where animals go to graze. In the Alps, we speak of alpine pastures. From the month of June, the shepherds take sheep, cows, horses to spend the summer in the mountains for 4 to 5 months. The grass is short but green and of quality. During the summer, the animals graze and maintain the summer pastures.

En janvier, nous n’avons pas croisĂ© de troupeaux. Toutefois, nous avons croisĂ©  un « patou » un chien de berger typique des PyrĂ©nĂ©es, gros chien blanc qui monte la garde des troupeaux de brebis.

In January, we did not come across any herds. However, we came across a “patou” a shepherd dog typical of the Pyrenees.  It is a large white dog who stands guard over the flock.

hiking in france pyrénées

6 – Hiking to the Mountain Top

– « Bon alors qu’est-ce qu’on attend ? On les rejoint, ces crĂȘtes ? ».

– “Well, what are we waiting for?  Are we ever going to reach the ridges?”

Les enfants s’impatientent, car tout en haut il y a de la neige ! Il faut suivre le balisage jaune, ce sont des rectangles jaunes, peints sur les arbres ou les rochers et monter. Allez, on y va, c’est parti !

The children were getting impatient, because at the top there was snow! It is necessary to follow the yellow markings, these are yellow rectangles, painted on trees or rocks, and climb. Come on, let’s go, let’s go!

AprĂšs une montĂ©e relativement douce  sur un sentier dans la forĂȘt, nous rejoignons les pelouses de PaloumĂšre puis la cabane-refuge de Roquepi oĂč dorment les bergers pendant l’étĂ©.  Le confort est trĂšs rudimentaire.

After a relatively gentle climb on a path in the forest, we reached the lawns of PaloumĂšre and the refuge cabin of Roquepi where the shepherds sleep during the summer. The comfort is very rudimentary.

French hiking bilingual story
Fanny sort un tout petit instrument Ă©tonnant qui s’appelle une guimbarde et accompagne ses chants. Philippe lui, sort ses jumelles


On en profite pour admirer la vue, prendre un petit encas de fruits secs et de la tisane au thym et au gingembre. Fanny sort un tout petit instrument Ă©tonnant qui s’appelle une guimbarde et accompagne ses chants. Philippe lui, sort ses jumelles et reconnaĂźt un milan royal Ă  son plumage chĂątain-roux, sa tĂȘte un peu plus blanche et surtout la forme particuliĂšrement Ă©chancrĂ©e de sa queue.

We took the opportunity to admire the view and ate a small snack of dried fruits and drank herbal tea with thyme and ginger. Fanny took out a very small amazing instrument called a jew’s harp and started singing. Philippe looked out through his binoculars and recognized a royal kite with its chestnut-red plumage, his head a little whiter and particularly the indented form of his tail.

Je discute avec un habitant du coin qui porte le bĂ©rĂȘt noir typique français ! A cĂŽtĂ© de la cabane, on trouve un parc de contention, qui sert Ă  isoler un animal malade ou blessĂ© pour le soigner.

I had a discussion with a local resident who wore the typical black French beret! Next to the hut, there was a containment park, which is used to isolate sick animals or to treat injured ones.

AprĂšs cette pause, nous reprenons notre ascension Ă  travers de vertes pelouses qui deviennent petit Ă  petit blanches.

After a break, we resumed our climb through the green lawns that gradually became white.

french vocabulary hiking france pyrenees mountains

7 – A French Picnic in the PyrĂ©nĂ©es Mountains in January

Nous marchons maintenant dans la neige et atteignons le Pic de PaloumÚre qui nous offre un magnifique panorama sur la chaßne des Pyrénées.

We were now walking in the snow and reached the Pic de PaloumĂšre which offered us a magnificent panorama of the Pyrenees.

C’est dĂ©cidĂ© nous pique-niquons ici ! Dans nos sacs nous avons des salades prĂ©parĂ©es et des bĂątons de lĂ©gumes et du pesto pour la couleur et les vitamines, du fromage de brebis, du pain et du saucisson et du jambon de pays et nous avons mĂȘme du foie gras et du vin blanc !

It was decided to have a picnic there! In our bags we had prepared salads, sticks of vegetables, pesto for color and vitamins, sheep cheese, bread, sausage and cured ham and we even had foie gras and white wine!

french vocabulary hiking france pyrenees mountains

Cette journée au grand air nous a merveilleusement ressourcés. Si ça vous a donné envie, je vous emmÚnerai quand vous viendrez apprendre le français en immersion chez moi !

The day in the fresh air was wonderfully reviving. If this has given you the desire to go, I’ll take you when you come and study French in immersion in my home!

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