Last weekend was again sunny here in the Pyrenees so I set out on another hike. My intention was to head to Aso de Sobremente which lies in a wonderful hanging valley, hidden above Biescas. You can do a big horseshoe route along the ridge and you have great views of the cliffs of La Partacua.
The hanging valley of Sobremonte and the ridge I was hoping to walk along
We hike here with groups from time to time and they’ve been doing some path re-routing/maintenance on the GR15 which passes through Yosa, so I wanted to check out if the route had changed much.
They’ve actually done a fantastic job at path clearance on the GR15 and re-signed and marked the route making it much clearer. Before the path was inpassable and we had to divert across fields for a few kilometres in a rather random manner before rejoining the path further up. Now you can hike on the GR15 directly from the village which is much better (and my groups won’t think I’m lost!).
The village of Yosa de Sobremonte
The church of Santa Elena, near Biescas, has since last Monday a new attraction, a newly discovered Neolithic dolmen, located just 50 meters from the existing one. Both date from about 5,000 years ago. Until Monday only one was known, and the other, although there was evidence that it had existed, had been given up for lost.
The newly discovered dolmen
The discovery of the dolmen has a long history, and although on Monday morning, when the digger began to remove the pile of rubble that existed on the megalithic monument, there was some scepticism that they would find it, that turned to joy as they uncovered the dolmen. The last reference to the dolmen was 85 years ago so you can imagine the delight when it was rediscovered.
The dolmen in the snow
In 1933, in the Santa Elena area, two dolmens were found, excavated by Joaquín Almagro and Dr. Herráinz, a doctor from Biescas. But, after the Spanish civil war (1936-39) they were lost. In 1975 the City Council of Biescas reconstructed one (the top stone had been removed), the one that was known until now – you’ll visit it in your first day on our Village to Village holiday.
Last night Los Reyes Magos – the three kings – visited every house in Spain bringing gifts and I was lucky enough to be left the Catherine of Aragon biography by Giles Tremlett.
Catherine of Aragon by Giles Tremlett
Although Catherine was the Queen of England for over twenty years, I feel she is a bit overlooked in Tudor history which tends to focus on the romance and court intrigue of Henry’s later wives.
In Britain the kingdom of Aragon is mainly known via Catherine’s name and she is always one of the people that guests ask me about while here. Interestingly though, here in Spain she is not well known at all despite being the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabel – two of their most famous and revered monarchs.
My friends Javi and Arkaitz – our Hike Pyrenees guide for Refugio week – have been working for 2 years on a climbing documentary. They have filmed 6 ascents of some of the most impressive walls of the Pyrenees. Each ascent was made with 6 of the best current traditional climbers of the Cordillera. One of those climbers is Christian Ravier, who has established hundreds of routes in the Pyrenees during the last 3 decades.
Christian Ravier, as well as many other current traditional climbers that are exploring the Pyrenees walls, has been strongly influenced by the achievements and the mountaineering attitude of two other great climbers: his father and his uncle, Jean and Pierre Ravier – known as the Ravier twins.
Chrsitian Ravier set numerous news roots in the Pyrenees over the last decades, especially on the Spanish side of the cordillera.
In order to pay tribute to these two climbers and also to understand how they influenced the history of the climbing in the Pyrenees, Arkaitz and Javi asked them to be part of their documentary. That’s why some weeks ago we went the three of us – Arkaitz, Javi and I (as the French speaker of the party) – to visit and interview the Ravier twins.
In bars and restaurants in Biescas and Sallent de Gállego you will see pictures of one of the valleys most famous residents – Fermín Arrudi Urieta, more commonly known as ‘the giant of Sallent’. Born in Sallent de Gállego in 1870 Fermín reached 2.29 metres (7 feet 6 inches), weighed 170 kg (nearly 28 stone) and had size 58 feet.
There are many tales of Fermín’s deeds – he was said to be as strong as ten men and more use than any farm machinery. He loved village life, hunting and the mountains. One famous tale is of him killing a bear with just his bare hands and a small hunting knife.
French postcard of Fermín visiting Eaux Chaudes
Fermín toured the world showing off his remarkable height and had shows in Paris, Berlin, Holland, Belgium, New York and did year long tours of both North and South America. The shows bought him fame and fortune and while in Paris he met his future wife Louis Dupuis. However he was never happy with the touring life and once married returned to Sallent where he built a house, bought some land and lived once again as a farmer.
The remanants of the Zaragoza-Pau railway line can be seen around the Somport pass north of Jaca. The rail line between Zaragoza and Pau was opened in 1928 by King Alfonso 13th and French President Gaston Doumergue after 20 years of construction. The line was fantastic feat of engineering with 80 bridges, 4 viaducts and 24 tunnels – one 7.8 km long that descends in a spiral to reduce the gradient.
Recently I read ¡Guerra! by Jason Webster – an excellent, very readable account of the Spanish Civil War and highly recommended to anyone wanting to know more about this devastating period of Spanish history.
The book alternates between historical accounts of the war and present day Spain looking the legacy and current attitudes towards the war. Written in a journalistic style this is not a dry history book listing every detail but brings the war to life by focussing on key individuals and events. Continue reading
The fort at Coll de Ladrones
Yesterday evening I went climbing at a venue called Coll de Ladrones north of Jaca near the French border. There has been a fort there since 1751 and before climbing I went for a bit of an explore. Continue reading