Our first evening all together

Hike Pyrenees 10 year anniversary week

They say that time flies when you’re having fun. Well, Hike Pyrenees is now in it’s 10th season of running hiking holidays in the Spanish Pyrenees, and those 10 years have flown by very quickly! To celebrate this, we put on a special hiking holiday, based in the lovely medieval town of Ainsa, for those that had been with us before. The result was the Hike Pyrenees team being joined by 24 familiar faces for the week. Many of whom have been on multiple holidays over the years and all of whom we would definitely consider to be good friends.

Whilst we have often visited Ainsa with guests, normally for a meal out during our Discover Ordesa weeks, we hadn’t used it as a base for a whole week before, so Hannah and I (Ken) spent much of the week before researching suitable hikes with the aim of being able to offer either two or three different hikes each day. It’s a tough job researching hikes, but someone has to do it!

Our first evening all together

Our first evening all together

With hikes, restaurants and logistics all in place, there was nothing to do but to let the week unfold. It was great to see so many familiar faces around the dining table on the Sunday evening.

On Monday, we kicked off the hiking, with Phil and Javier taking one half of the group a little way south, to the Castillos de Samitier. This walk gave everyone fantastic views of the high mountains to the north, as well as passing two beautiful chapels and the ruins of ancient Moorish castle towers. Meanwhile, Hannah and I took the rest up to Plan, from where we hiked up to the stunning Ibon de Plan, nestled in amongst the high Pyrenean mountains. That evening, we were treated to a buffet dinner, with local wines, at the local delicatessen. Part the way though the evening, Joe, Madaline, Paul, Barbara, Cathy and Bob burst into song with their own version of ‘There’s no business like show business’, which they had been working on for some time. Their rendition was entitled ‘There’s no business like Phil’s business’!

The following day, Phil visited the Anisclo Canyon. The Anisclo Canyon is an impressive water-worn canyon that runs 22km south from the Collado de Anisclo. Hannah and her team visited a waterfall and swimming hole in the Valle de Sieste, south of Boltana, and I took our team to the eastern flanks of Cotiella, where we hiked up to Refugio Armena and back. We dined in Hotel Sanchez, in the new town that evening.

Wednesday saw us all hiking in the Valle de Pineta. Phil and his team headed up to the Cascadas de Lalarri, whilst Hannah and I took our team from Espierba, up onto the broad ridge above, where we eventually joined the GR11 and made our way to the Circo de Pineta. I took a small team up Comodoto 2361m en route. The vistas from the ridge were nothing short of spectacular, with the steep cliffs of the north face of Las Tres Marias and Tres Seroles dominating our views.

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Hiking stretches

5 Exercises you can do in your hotel room after a hike to avoid aches and pains

After a long day on the winding, demanding and beautiful hiking trail, returning to your hotel room can feel like stepping into paradise. However, before you soak your aching limbs in a hot bath or flop on the comfort of your hotel bed, stop and stretch those burning muscles. If you don’t, you’ll pay for it by either the inability to get out of bed the next day or, worse, sudden injury.

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Snowshoeing in Candanchu

Snowshoeing in Candanchu

What are you thinking about doing this weekend?

I wondered the same question last week and I decided to go snowshoeing. On the border with France, at the head of the Valle de Canfranc there are some fantastic snowshoeing routes.

Fresh tracks in the snow

Making fresh tracks in the snow – fantastic!

I decided to go to “El Bosque de las Hayas” or Beech Forest; between Candanchu and France. You can park at the ski resort and head out from there.
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A day hiking on the Tour de Mont Blanc

I’m in Chamonix at the moment for the BAIML (British Association of International Mountain Leaders) annual meeting. We have the AGM, a few days training and put the world to rights over a few beers!

The Drus glowing red in the late afternoon sun

The Drus glowing red in the late afternoon sun

I’ve never actually been to Chamonix before so I came a few days early to explore the area a bit. Today I went hiking on a section of the Tour de Mont Blanc. The full trail that is a complete loop of the Mint Blanc – today I just did a short section called the Gand Balcon Sud which is south of Chamonix and gives superb views over the Mont Blanc massif.

The amazing Auguile de Midi cable car station

The amazing Auguile de Midi cable car station

A beautiful days hiking. Started with a somewhat strenuous 1000 metre ascent out of Chamonix to reach the trail, but then a lovely traverse at around 2000 metres with just great views the whole way.

There’s not too much snow but at 2000 metres I was hiking in the snow most of the day.

The Balcon Sud

The Balcon Sud

For me the mountain of the day wasn’t in fact Mont Blanc but the Drus – an amazing pillar of rock. It reminded me of the Patagonian spires of Torres and Fitzroy and the late evening light caught it perfectly.

A great days hiking and made me want to come back and have a look at more of the Tour de Mont Blanc. Tomorrow a days ski mountaineering….

Fancy winter walking or mountaineering in the Scottish Highlands?

Hannah and I (Ken) guide for Hike Pyrenees during the summer, and when working, we’re often asked “what do you do for the rest of the year?”, to which I normally reply “this job pays so well, that we spend the rest of the year on our yacht in the Caribbean.” Well, unfortunately, as much as I’m sure Phil would love to pay us enough to do so, we actually have to work and spend most of our year at home, in the Scottish Highlands, where we run West Coast Mountain Guides, a company that specialises in delivering mountaineering guiding and instruction, mainly in the Fort William (Ben Nevis) and Glencoe area, but also on the Black Cuillins on the Isle of Skye. 

Working in the mountains is very season dependent, with the late autumn and early winter (I.e. now), being one of the quieter periods of the year.  The days are short and conditions may be neither here nor there, however, right this minute, we’re perhaps in one of the most settled and wintry conditions I’ve experienced at this time of year.  It’s been cold and crisp for over a week, and this pattern looks to continue for the immediate future, which bodes very well in the lead up to our busiest time of year, winter.

West Coast Mountain Guides Winter ourses

Stunning winters day in the Scottish Highlands

The hills of the Scottish Highlands are transformed once they’re cloaked in snow and ice, and the challenges they pose far outweigh their modest stature.  Conditions can change rapidly, with clear skies and good visibility one minute to strong winds and white out conditions the next, but to the well equipped mountaineer or hillwalker, the rewards and satisfaction of summiting Munros (hills over 3000ft), successfully climbing a snow filled gully or balancing along a snow covered ridge make it all worthwhile.

West Coast Mountain guides Winter Mounaineering Courses

Winter Mountaineering on Aonach Mor

We offer a number of winter courses for all abilities, from those looking to take their first steps in crampons and learn how to use an ice axe through to introducing hillwalkers to the more technical skills required to tackle steeper gullies and ridges.  We also offer private guiding; these are bespoke days for individuals or groups who may have specific objectives and goals.  This could be anything from hillwalkers looking to walk up Ben Nevis either via the pony track from Glen Nevis or by balancing their way along the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, through to guiding some of the finest ice climbs that Scotland has to offer.

West Coast Mountain guides Private Guiding

Hillwalkers enjoy the CMD Arete, Ben Nevis

Once the snow have finally receded, we spend our springtime on the Isle of Skye, guiding on the dramatic Cuillin Ridge, which is unquestionably the most dramatic ridge in the UK.  The entire ridge is 11km along, and sports 11 Munros, most of which require scrambling (using hands and possibly a rope) to reach the summits of.  We actually run courses and private guiding there right through the summer and autumn too, and will employ other Mountaineering Instructors, many of whom are close friends to run the courses on our behalf.

We also arrange private guiding on the hills closer to Fort William and Glencoe through these months too, such as along the Aonach Eagach or up Curved Ridge, both of which are excellent summer scrambles, achievable by many hillwalkers.

West Coast Mountain Guides Skye Courses

Scramblers on the Black Cuillins, Skye

So that’s really it in a nutshell.   Hannah and I would be delighted to see some familiar faces (and new faces too!) in the Scottish Highlands, and I truly believe that when the Scottish Highlands are good, they are amongst the finest mountainous areas in the world.  Of course, the Pyrenees are too!