Pyrenees snowshoeing holiday

A fantastic week of snowshoeing

Last week we ran our first snowshoeing holiday and it was a brilliant week with excellent routes, fantastic views and sunshine every day! We did five routes during the week – three in the Valle de Tena, one from Somport and one in the Ordesa Valley.

On the summit of Pico Canal Roya

On the summit of Pico Canal Roya

There were five intrepid guests with varying level of snowshoe experience, but all did brilliantly so we got to do some great days and reached a couple of high summits.

Snowshoeing out from Portalet

Snowshoeing out from Portalet

The weather couldn’t have been better – clear blue skies all week, not a breath of wind and perfect temperatures. The snow line is quite high this year so all of our routes started from quite high altitude. The Portalet pass on the French/Spanish border in the Valle de Tena is perfect for this as it has an altitude of nearly 1800 metres and always good snow conditions.

Our first days route started from Portalet and we snowshoed on the Spanish side of the border heading round under the Foratata peak. We had great views to the south over the whole of the Valle de Tena and also across to the three thousand metre peaks of Balaitous and Los Infiernos. We saw a few chamois perched on the ridge above us, watching our every move.

Getting to know Ruby the snowshoeing dog

Getting to know Ruby the snowshoeing dog

The next day we drove around to the Valle de Aragon north of Jaca and crosse through the Somport tunnel into France. The views onto the north faces of the Aspe peaks covered in ice and snow were absolutely fantastic. They just got better as we climbed up through beech woods before breaking out into the open valley that leads up to the Ibon de Estanes (which is actually back on the Spanish side of the border!). The large lake was completely frozen  over and the big kids amongst us just had to take a walk across it!

Heading up to the Ibon de Estanes

Heading up to the Ibon de Estanes

The Ordesa Valley was our next destination. Although the valley is almost 500 metres lower than the previous days routes, there was still plenty of snow there as the kilometre high cliffs mean the valley floor hardly gets any sun during winter. The waterfalls were all semi-frozen and the beech woods looked fantastic in the snow. If you’ve visited Ordesa in the summer and enjoyed it you’ll love it even more in the winter!

The Grados de Soasa waterfalls in Ordesa

The Grados de Soasa waterfalls in Ordesa

Our final two days were spent doing two peaks on the French side of the border from Portalet. Thursday took us to Pico Canal Roya (2345m). It’s a great hike in, but the real treat is saved until last after the final hundred metres of steep ascent.  As you reach the summit a huge panorama open up in front of you with hundreds of snow capped peaks visible. It’s a fantastic spot and it was warm enough to have lunch sat on the top taking in the views.

Enjoying the descent

Enjoying the descent

The final day was again from Portalet but this time up the challenging peak of Cuyaralet (2285m). We did a great route going up on the French side to the peak, passing through the border and then descending on the Spanish side. It wasn’t such a long day and we took the opportunity to demostrate avalanche transceivers, probes and shovels and did some training on avalanche rescue. We rescued several buried rucksacks succesfully! Hopefully nobody will ever have to use these techniques but they’re good to know.

On the summit

On the summit!

I hope everybody enjoyed the week as much as I did. Thank you all for coming along. The week seemed to be a great success so we’ll be running another snowshoeing holiday next February or March so if you like the sound of it just let us know.

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