Who We Are


MountainBug was established as a French outdoor activity company, in the high Pyrenees, more than 10 years ago by International Mountain Leaders, Robert and Emma Mason. Offering excellent accommodation in the chalet they’d renovated themselves, Robert and Emma have built up a successful business offering intimate, guided walking, multi-activity and other activity holidays to guests from all over the world.

Following the success of MountainBug, we’re now expanding so we can help more people enjoy the relatively unknown delights of the Pyrenees.

The expansion includes welcoming MountainBug’s new business partners, Martin and Kara Stanford, who moved permanently to Barèges in November 2011.

Robert and Emma have also restored a derelict hotel in the village, renovating it to a high end 3-star hotel. Hotel du Tourmalet opened winter 2011, to accommodate more MountainBug guests on a wide range of holidays.

Like Robert and Emma, Martin and Kara have a passion for the outdoors, being active and the mountains. They all believe in helping guests have a memorable and enjoyable holiday in this beautiful, yet untouched, part of the world.

Our ethos

Martin on walk

Here at MountainBug we want to give our guests a chance to get out and enjoy the mountains, whatever their ability, interests and likes.

We deliver a personal, high quality service with carefully chosen guides, accommodation, and staff, so that our guests are looked after and have an enjoyable stay.

We’re also straight-talking – we tell you what you are getting for your money and don’t pad holidays out with words that sound exciting but aren’t. There are no surprise extra costs on our holidays.

Where a holiday says “guided” you will have a fully qualified guide for the activity you are doing.

Many of us are qualified Mountain Guides. You can find out more about the International Mountain Leader guiding qualification in the box below – or ask our guides when you are here. They’ll be happy to tell you all about the 5 day assessments for each part of their qualification and the on-going first aid courses and training to ensure their qualifications are kept up to date!

As we’re a small business, we like to tailor our holidays to our guests, so if you have any special requests or requirements, please do email or call us and we’ll be happy to sort something out.


Union of International Mountain Leader Associations

Many countries have Mountain Leader qualifications. In an unusual act of European cooperation a few years ago, virtually all of the EU countries became affiliated and members of UIMLA (Union of International Mountain Leader Associations), with each country modifying its Mountain Leader programme to achieve equivalence. More countries are joining the association each year, and the International Mountain Leader qualification is recognised all over the world (except in the US!).

As with all things bureaucratic in France, the idea of “equivalence” had never really got past the theoretical stages. When Rob and Emma applied for their Accompagnateur carnets, it took some persuasion and perseverance. As far as we know, Rob was the first pioneering British IML (International Mountain Leader) to join the French association.

It’s a constant irritation to us, and our fellow IMLs, to find so many companies using un-qualified guides and instructors for their walking and activity holidays. UIMLA and UIAGM (International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations) leaders are the only people who are insured and qualified to take you out walking in the middle and high mountains. IMLs like ourselves are qualified to lead guided walking holidays on mountainous terrain, where the use of a rope is not foreseen.

An IML has been trained in navigation, security on steep ground, use of ropes, snow hazards, wild camping/snow hole construction and rescue techniques. They also hold a valid first-aid certificate. For Alpine-style mountaineering (crampons, axes, ropes), via ferrata, climbing and off-piste ski guiding you need to look for the UIAGM “Guide de Haute Montagne” qualification.

If you are shopping elsewhere for a holiday in the mountains, PLEASE check the qualifications of the leaders – for your own safety – and indeed whether you are actually even getting a guide.