Tag Archives: Andorra

Barry Arnold in the Pyrenees

Barry Arnold is one of those guys fascinated by borders: border-crossings in all kinds, border-phenomena, and in particular tripoints. His website (https://barrysborderpoints.com/) lists all his trips to various borders and tripoints.

In August 2020 he traveled to the French-Spanish border in the eastern Pyrenees and documented thoroughly the ‘borderpoints’ he visited, including the two tripoints of Andorra. See this subpage of his website. Very interesting, very informative, very worth reading.

Noteworthy: he did the Llivia-circuit as well, covering all the Llivia-bordermarkers (soon to be added in his enclave-section). He is also one of the few among us who dared to climb the Pic de Medecourbe (western tripoint of Andorra). Also interesting: his account of the pene-enclave Os de Civis,  the only Spanish village that can be reached by car only by going through Andorra (link). He might consider – with his stamina – to do the Andorra-circuit.

The new ADFR-bordermarkers visited

Today I visited the recently installed bordermarkers between Andorra and France, see also the previous post. I checked the gps-readings as provided by the Andorra Cartography Department and they can be downloaded as a gpx or kml.

I was in a splendid company: with Corinne Gourgeonnet, Michel Molia and Jean-Paul Laborie. The last one is a member of the Pyrenean border commission and was highly involved in in the negotiations which led to the new borderline and new bordermarkers. The latest news is that the official inauguration is planned on september 6th.

Jean-Paul guided us along the new bordermarkers, telling about the choices made, his work in general and his relationship with his predecessor Jean Sermet which he admires for his writings and the esteem he had in Spain. Michel had a discussion with him on the decision on the new borderline between bm408 and 409 which he (Jean-Paul) labeled as a political compromise with little chances of reversal (see this post for my opinion on this subject). By and large, we had a very pleasant outing, crowned by a picnic provided by Corinne.


The new bordermarkers between Andorra and France

I have already posted a few articles on the new borderline between France and Andorra near the border town of Pas de la Casa. Reason of all this seems a practical one: the since long desire of Pas de la Casa to gain more control over their water resources. Pas de la Casa depends heavily on the upper Ariège-stream and owning the half of the lake of Estany de les Abelletes would guarantee their access to it.

There has never been an official delimitation of the ADFR-border until 2016 following a digitalization of the borderline. For most of the ADFR-border, there were no disputes: the borderline follows the watershed of a high mountain ridge. However: near Pas de la Casa there was a problem. This article explains that the Andorran maps showed the borderline through the middle of the lake of Estany de les Abelletes (splitting it in half between Andorra and France) while the French maps ceded the lake entirely to France including the half of the upper slope towards Pic Nègre d’Enbalire.  Let’s show that on an older French IGN-map:

The negotiations resulted in a new borderline between Col de Isards and the northern point of the lake which has been materialized in recent months by six bordermarkers: three markers and three crosses. Three questions remain to be answered: where are these new markers and crosses placed,  how do they look and what is the logic of the new borderline. Let’s try to answer them. But first another map showing the old and new borderlines and the location of the new bordermarkers.

Locations of the new bordermarkers

I was happy to receive a list with coordinates of the new bordermarkers from Sara Pijuan, head of the Andorra Cartography Department. This is the list:

The description of landmark 3 proved to be wrong: it is located 125m south of landmark 2

It took some effort to convert them to wgs84-coordinates and on august 25th during our visit I checked the readings myself (download them as a gpx or kml). They are concentrated around the lake of Estany de les Abelletes. I am looking forward to visit them in two weeks on 25 August. Let’s show their locations in detail on a map with the new borderline. I attributed my own numbers to the six markers to keep all six of them in a numerical order.

Question 1: why are they only placed in the lower part of this new borderline? I think I know why: see the last paragraph. Another question: he alternation of markers and crosses seems arbitrary, why not six stone markers? But the best judgment of that aspect will be in the terrain itself. Let’s show more in detail the cluster of cross 1a and markers 2 & 3:

The location of marker 3 proved to be wrong in the list, it is in fact 125m to the south of marker2

Why are stone marker 2 and 3 placed so close to another? And in the sequence of the borderline, they should have been exchanged from a numerical point of view: first 2 and then 3. But perhaps it’s an error in the list of Sara. Update: it was indeed an error, in fact marker 3 is located 125m to the south of marker 2.

How do they look?
We have several news-articles (this one, this one and this one) to get information and see pictures. And don’t forget the tweets of the Àrea de Cartografia-institute of Andorra. But I rely on the pictures of the proud stonecutter Damien Breseghello of www.pierrescreations.fr who produced the stone markers and engraved the crosses in the field. He shows them on his Facebook-page.

We spot Jean-Paul Laborie (to the right, on his knees), the ‘délégué permanent de la Commission Mixte d’Abornement’. And I think that the lady in this masculine company must be Sara Pijuan.

The ‘crosses’ are engraved like plaques, no real crosses engraved or numbers attributed.

About the course of the new borderline

Apparently, there have been negotiations for years to resolve this problem which only could end in France giving up half of the lake. Let’s have a new look on the map with the three borderlines and look for the logic of the new borderline.

The answer is simple when we study the map: one has tried to attain an equal exchange of terrain. And that makes sense since there is no treaty from the past to rely on, there has never been one. In another bilateral agreement  (France-Spain, near Bagnères-the-Luchon), the existing treaty has been violated by an easy solution by cutting up the disputed terrain in half. But that’s another story.

Thus: from the Col des Isards the borderline follows roughly the trail downhill. Close to the lake, it leaves the trail to bend sharply to curve to the south bank of the lake. The trail is very distinct and probably they found it as such a sufficient demarcation. And they decided to restrict the new markers to the last part when the borderline leaves the trail.

Andorra-bordercircuit: for the tough ones

Jerry Whitmarsh – a Pyrenees-mountainwalker by heart- recently asked me if one could walk around Andorra along its borderline. He did the HRP in 2015 and found that Andorra had “the potential for some interesting walks”. If I could help him? Well let’s try.

To start: there is already a circular walk in Andorra – the GRP – but it remains inside its borderlines:


So I designed a circular borderwalk around Andorra, using existing trails and trying to stick to the borderline. It visits everything you need to visit: both tripoints, bordermarkers 426 and 427, Pas de la Casa with its changing borderline and the pene-enclave Os de Civis.


But it’s a tough trip in a rough landscape: an estimated 10 days of hiking, distance 147km, total elevation of 22910m. Maximum altitude = 2899m, minimum altitude = 829m, average altitude = 2102m (statistics by Google Earth elevation profile).

Have a closer look on a fullscreen interactive map with this link
and/or download the .kml-file or the gpx.file.

Andorra-bordermarkers: much less than thought

The previous post suggested that the official delimitation of the French-Andorran border would lead to the installment and engraving of bordermarkers from the eastern to the western tripoint. I already dreamed of new mountain trips along the ADFR-borderline.

But Jean-Paul Laborie – border commissioner for France – wrote me that those new bordermarkers will only be placed in the Pas de la Case area, in particular between the Col des Isards and the lake of Estany de Font Negra. Let’s show the old borderline (from the tripoint of La Porteille Blanch to Pas de la Casa) on a map from the fifties.
adfr-border-borderline-change-2018-near-Pas-de-la-casa-fifities-mapWhy (new) bordermarkers here? For a good reason because the borderline shifts to the east making Andorra larger. Let’s show it on a recent map:
adfr-border-borderline-change-2018-near-Pas-de-la-casaWhy this change? Because Andorra wanted more access to watersources for the town of Pas-de-la-Casa, e.g. the lake of Estany de Font Negra which is from now on split in half. That implies a loss of terrain and water-access for the French community of Porta which heavily protested. Jean-Paul states that three borderstones will be placed and several crosses engraved between Col des Isards and the lake, their numbering still unknown. He adds that already two unofficial white delimitation-lines have been painted: one on the border bridge giving access to the town-center and one at the roundabout leading to the tunnel d’Envalira.

In 2001, there has been another border change in this area, in that case comprising of an equal exchange of terrain on either side of the borderstream. Andorra was building a tunnel just north of Pas de la Casa (tunnel d’Envalira) and wanted its own terrain on the French side of the border-stream for the building of road and viaduct leading to the tunnel. Blue = Andorran parcels ceded to France. Yellow = French terrrain ceded to Andorra.

Bordermarkers between Andorra and France to be placed!

I was very surprised by this very interesting article which tells us that in spring 2018 bordermarkers will be placed between Andorra and France. And that means the first bordermarkers ever between both countries. Their border was never officially delimitated.


On my own webpage on the tripoints of Andorra you can read: “The Andorran constitution (1993) states that the borderline is the ‘traditional one’. However, in two areas Andorra and France/Spain came to a delimitation act. The first is about the border of the Andorran parish of St. Julia de Loria with Spain (1856). The second (2000) delimited the border near the French village of Porta.“. That last one was in order to build a tunnel.

In 2012 an agreement was signed for the delimitation of the whole Franco-Andoran border, the borderline was digitally measured and now the installment of the bordermarkers is scheduled for spring 2018. You can imagine that I’m very curious about: how many, which numbering, which places, their shape. It will involve new bordertrips and I can’t wait.

The article contains links to a few audio-recordings. One of them is an interview with the well-known Jean-Paul Laborie, member of the commission d’abornement franco-andorane. A previous article tells more about the conflict on the control of the water supply from the sources of the river Ariège.

Touching The Stone

I just finished a 6-days backpacking expedition from Guzet-Neige to Latour-Carol. Main goal: a reconnaissance of my intended GRPdesBf-route through Andorra. It was quite tough with very strong gales up on the mountains in the last few days.
This picture: at bordermarker 427 (eastern tripoint of Andorra) with me touching the stone.