Tag Archives: Guided walking holidays

Hiking in the Pyrenees

Already enjoying another great summer in the Pyrenees

Summer is back in the Pyrenes and there isn´t a better way to welcome it than going hiking.

These first weeks of the season we are walking surrounded by white snowed peaks and colorful flowers on green meadows, by semi-frozen lakes and strong flowing streams and waterfalls, and seeing butterflies and lizards that enjoy the heat of the summer sun up in the mountains.

The mountains lways look fantastic at the start of the season, and we’ve great expectations of another great summer season on the Pyrenees.

If you’ve already booked your walking holiday in the Pyrenees you’re in for a treat. If not we’re here hiking all summer – come and join us and discover these stunning mountains!

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!

Kicking off the 2016 season with a delicious meal in Ricon el Montañes.

Hike Pyrenees, season so far…

We kicked off our 2016 hiking season 6 weeks ago with a superb meal in Ricon el Montañes in Biescas.  Since then we have welcomed, explored and shared the Pyrenees with many new as-well as familiar faces returning for their second, third or even fifth holiday with us!

Lakes and Valleys, 29th May – 5 June.

A superb first week with the early spring flowers still making an appearance. We also encountered some patches of snow which added an extra enjoyable element to our hikes!

Valle de Tena Explorer, 5 – 12 June

This week we welcomed Terry, Cathy and Clare back on their second holiday with us. They along with others explored the Valle de Tena, we even sneaked over the border for a day hiking in France.

Continue reading

Hannah and Ken at the top of an ice climb called 'Steall Falls' - Scotland

Hannah & Ken’s Scottish winter

Whilst guiding for Hike Pyrenees through the summer we are often asked ”what do you do through winter?”

Many of you know we live in Scotland and as the days draw in and the temperature starts to drop, many people begin to feel a little sad, but not us; winter is our favorite season when in Scotland! Not only do we both enjoy ice climbing, winter walking and skiing personally during the winter months but we also run West Coast Mountain Guides.

Through West Coast Mountain Guides we offer coaching and guiding in the Scottish mountains in summer and winter but our busiest period is definitely winter.

Throughout winter we run a range of courses from ‘Introduction to Winter‘ through to ‘Advanced Winter Climbing‘. We also take Private Guiding bookings if for example you’d like to reach the summit of Ben Nevis, our highest mountain or if there’s a group (2 or more) of you who would like us to design a bespoke itinerary for you, we can certainly do that.

Mike and Andrew standing proudly on the summit of Ben Nevis

Mike and Andrew standing proudly on the summit of Ben Nevis

On top of private guiding, the two courses we run that I thought might interest you are;

Winter Skills and Summits‘ – during this course you learn how to use an ice axe and crampons whilst going on a journey through our beautiful Scottish winter wonderland. The following day we would be putting our skills into more practice by reaching the top of one of Scotland’s many fine summits. This course is likely to be run by myself, Hannah.

Winter Mountaineering‘ – if you have experience in walking in winter using an axe and crampons and would like to challenge yourself, this course introduces you to the more technical aspects of Winter Mountaineering. During this course you will tackle some of Scotland’s easier gullies and ridges which often give some extremely memorable winter days out. This course is likely to be run by Ken.

I appreciate winter and being out in the cold stuff isn’t for everyone but if you ever hear of someone interested in Scottish winter we’d both be really grateful if you’d be happy to recommend us.

If you’d like to know more about us and what we provide, please have a look at our web site , facebook page or email me at -

hannah@westcoast-mountainguides.co.uk

If you’ve ever considered coming up to Scotland to explore it’s beautiful mountains, we’d love to hear from you!

IMG_8217

Discovering Ordesa

Things are now quietening down now for our season here in the Pyrenees, and last week, we ran our final Discover Ordesa week.  For those seeking a bit more peace and quiet in the hugely popular (and rightly so) Ordesa & Monte Perdido National Park, mid-September can prove to be a fantastic time to visit, particularly as we can drive into the main car park in the National Park, known as the ‘Pradera’ (during the peak season, there is a compulsory shuttle bus service from Torla to the Pradera). Continue reading

A view of the Sierra de la Partacua on day 2

Some more photo’s from our recent hikes in the Pyrenees

As mentioned previously, it’s been a busy start for Hike Pyrenees and there’s more than one camera here at  HQ. So here’s my favorite photo’s from the season so far from the dual level hikes in the Valle de Tena and Ordesa. With wild flowers in abundance, vultures dominating the sky and beautiful scenery, it’s hard to know which way to point the camera!

Hiking in the Valle de Tena -

Views of the French Spanish Border from Collado Pacino

Views of the French Spanish Border from Collado Pacino

 

Hiking in and around Ordesa -

Views from the summit of Pelopin 2007m

Views from the summit of Pelopin 2007m

Summit of Pic Peyreget

A great season so far…

Well, the 2014 hiking season here in the Spanish Pyrenees is well and truly under way, and despite the occasional late afternoon thunderstorm, things have been ticking along nicely.  Our self-guided holidays are proving to be as popular as ever, with about half of the guests hiking the 6 day Village to Village Walk in the Valle de Tena.  Other guests have explored the Ordesa Valley, Camino de Santiago and other spectacular areas of the Valle de Tena.

It’s also been busy on the guided holidays.  We’ve run a few more dual level holidays this season, allowing walkers to choose between gentle and more strenuous walks, both in the Valle de Tena and Ordesa, on each of their 5 days, giving them the opportunity to enjoy a diverse range of environments, from flower filled meadows through to rugged high mountain terrain.  Highlights have included hiking the Faja de Pelay in the Ordesa Canyon, visiting the Ibones de Arriel above the GR11 and popping over the border to walk in the French Pyrenees.

Phil has also run a new walking holiday this season, in the Western PyreneesThis holiday is split between  the two beautiful villages of Ezcaroz in the Valle de Salazar and Erratzu in Baztan, and is aimed at those looking for relaxed days in the mountains.   Many of the guests on this holiday had hiked with us before (mostly on our Lakes & Valleys holiday), and were looking to explore the Pyrenees further.  Phil will be running this trip again in September.

We’re also all looking forward to running our Refugio Week later this month, which tackles the highest peak in the area, Monte Perdido, which at 3355m, looms over the head of the Ordesa Canyon.

Valle de Tena Explorer

This week we ran our second Valle de Tena Explorer of the season which is a new dual level week for this year. Every day there were two different levels of walks to choose from. The easier walks explored the beautiful meadows and lakes of the valley whilst the higher level walks reached some fantastic summits in the area.

There was an abundance of wild life and flora to be seen, superb views and even a spot of swimming!

Below are a selection of photos taken during the week -

On the summit of Punta de la Cochata 1901m

On the summit of Punta de la Cochata 1901m

Cobweb house leek

Cobweb house leek (Sempervivum Arachnoideum)

Enjoying the views from the slopes of Collado del Pacino

Enjoying the views from the slopes of Collado del Pacino.

A Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) circling high above us.

A Griffon Vulture (Gyps Fulvus) one of about 30 circling high above us.

John negotiating the chains on the way to the summit of Pico de Anayet 2545m

John negotiating the chains on the way to the summit of Pico de Anayet 2545m

Superb scenery whilst walking in the Valle d'Ossau in France.

Superb scenery whilst walking in the nearby Valle d’Ossau in France.

Martagon Lily (Lilium Martagon)

Martagon Lily (Lilium Martagon)

One of the still icy Lagos d'Ayous.

One of the icy Lagos d’Ayous.

Richard enjoying a swim in  in the  Rio Caldares near Panticosa.

Richard enjoying a (brave) swim in the Rio Caldares near Panticosa.

Thanks for a great week guys, we hope to see you again soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second highest peak in the Pyrenees: Pico de Posets 3375m

Hike Pyrenees Pico Posets -002

Me on the summit of Pico de Posets

On the 28th July, Phil & I will be running a Tour of Posets Refugio trip (our first of two this season), which will cover approximately 94km and up to 6770m of ascent over 6 days and include a complete circuit of the second highest peak in the Pyrenees including an ascent of Posets (3375m) itself and four other three thousand metre summits.

In preparation for this, I headed over to the Posets-Maladeta Park to recce the ascent of Pico de Posets from Refugio Angel Orús, and to check the snow conditions following the late arrival of summer.   The starting point for my ‘quick hit’ saw me starting at Eriste, for the short yet scenic walk, through the impressive granitic Vall De Grist up to Refugio Angel Orús at 2100m.  The following morning, an early start allowed me to gain the snow filled Canal Fonda before the snow turned too soft, it also meant making the most of the morning shade.  Above this, the terrain was made up of broken rock and largely clear of snow, and I was on the summit by 9am, from where I was greeted with wonderful vistas of the surrounding mountains.

Hike Pyrenees Pico Posets -001

Heading up Canal Fonda

Hike Pyrenees Pico Posets -003

Looking north from the summit ridge

A super quick descent (of 1650m) down the westerly facing slopes ofPosets, made easier by the snow cover, saw me down at Refugio de Biados by 11:30am, where I had planned on spending the night, however, with so much of the day left, I opted to push-on and started making my way along the GR11.2, up to the Collado de Grist (2865m), from where I made the short scramble up La Forqueta and its SE summit, before making my final long descent, past Refugio Angel Orús and down to the van at Plleta de l’Estallo for 5pm, just as the heaven’s opened up!

Hike Pyrenees Pico Posets -004

Looking back up the westerly slopes of Pico de Posets

Hike Pyrenees Pico Posets -005

Mamot near Refugio Angel Orus

So, overall, a great outing, and it was good to explore the area in preparation for the forthcoming trip. I would still highly recommended that hikers wear stiff boots and carry an axe and a set of crampons, as particularly early on in the day, the snow will still be firm underfoot.

Private group walking holiday in the Pyrenees

Enjoying the views from Punta Del Pacino

This weekend saw the end of a fantastic bespoke trip for Elaine and friends from California and Hawaii. We often get groups who are keen for  longer trips with us and for Elaine we put together a 10 day itinerary which took in 3 contrasting places in the Pyrenees; the Valle de Tena, Bestue to the west of Ordesa and Torla situated at the mouth of the Ordesa Canyon we also included a night in a refugio high in the mountains.

Starting in the Valle de Tena we first hiked up Punta Del Pacino 1965m which had great views in all directions whilst the ground was carpeted with wild flowers. Next we walked into the valley of La Ripera and under the impressive cliffs of the Sierra de Tendenera.

Cloudless skies whilst hiking along the La Ripera valley

Refugio Respomuso situated in the scenic Circo de Piedrafita

Next came our refugio trip. We set off from La Sarra and followed the GR11 arriving at Refugio Respomuso, our home for the night. with snowy views, great company and some good beer and wine available to all, the evening flew by in a cloud of laughter! The following day saw the team split, with one group heading off towards Collado de la Fecha on the French /Spanish border equipped with axe and crampons and the other half heading back down to the valley to rest their tired legs. Continue reading

First Lakes & Valleys guided holiday this season

Lakes & Valleys Walking Holiday

Walking beneath the Sierra de la Partacua

It’s all go, go, go here in the Spanish Pyrenees!  We’ve had plenty of self-guided guests exploring the Valle de Tena, and last week saw the first of the guided guests arrive, on a Lakes & Valleys holiday.  The Pyrenees, along with much of Europe, has experienced a remarkably late finish to winter, which has allowed the guests to enjoy some wonderful vistas of snow capped mountains, and down in the valleys, see many flowers, such as the  Elder Flowered Orchid, that may have otherwise finished flowering by now.

Lakes & Valleys Walking Holidays

Griffon Vulture up-close

We’ve been very fortunate with wildlife sightings this week, with the above griffon vulture standing proud, just before taking off, spotted on our descent from Ibon de Piedrafita.

Lakes & Valleys Walking Holidays

Clear views across the Ibon de Piedrafita, over to Garma Negro

Lakes & Valleys Trekking Holidays

Asp viper at Llano Cheto

At Llano Cheto, alongside the Rio de Aguas Limpias, we came across an asp viper, basking in the sunshine.  The asp viper, which is venomous, grows to an average length of 60-65cm, with males reaching a maximum of 85cm, and females 75cm and can be found up to altitudes of 2600m.

Lakes & Valleys Walking Holidays

Pena Foratata in the background

One of the most popular walks during the Lakes and Valleys Holidays is the circuit of Punta Del Pacino, as it offers fantastic panoramic views.  Many guests also choose the optional ascent of the ‘punta’ itself, at 1965m, and makes for a 40 minutes or so round trip from the Collado del Pacino.

An optional ascent of Punta Del Pacino 1965m