Tag Archives: Ordesa Valley

Mountaineering in the Pyrenees: 25 Classic Mountain Routes

Not only do I enjoy long and strenuous treks in the high mountains, I enjoy mountaineering in almost, if not all it’s forms, from bouldering, through to sport climbing, ski touring, alpine climbing, and climbing in the Greater Ranges.  Enjoying all these disciplines generally mean a number of things, including:

a) the next trip is always planned
b) day’s off are spent doing more of what I love
c) new guidebooks to an area I frequent excite me

Here, in the Spanish Pyrenees, one of the trickiest things when it comes to climbing and mountaineering, is finding information for particular routes and areas, as the information (route diagrams, photos and descriptions) might be found hidden on a blog somewhere on-line, in a routes book in a local bar or cafe, in a guidebook, which may be out of print, or through word of mouth.  It’s a very different story to back in the UK, where every mountaineering and climbing route can be found in up to date and by and large, easy to get hold of guidebooks, normally without fail.

I was therefore quite excited to see that Vertebrate Publishing had recently translated into English ‘Pyrénées, les plus belles courses’ by mountain guide François Laurens.

None of the routes mentioned in the guidebook are new, far from it, but up until now, much of the information for these 25 mountaineering routes, only really existed in French or Spanish, and whilst there will be plenty of you who are reasonably handy when it comes to understanding either of these two languages, mountaineering descriptions can often use very specific terms, for which the exact translations may prove crucial when actually trying to follow the exact line when out in the mountains, so an English guidebook is hugely welcome.

The 25 hand-picked routes, many of which are ridge traverses and rock climbs span much of the Pyrenees, although are largely concentrated to the higher, central Pyrenees (Aragon on the Spanish side, and the eastern end of the Pyrenees Atlantiques, Haute Pyrenees and Haute Garonne on the French side).   The format for each route description will feel very familiar if you’ve used the more well known guidebooks, for the Alps, by the same publisher.  For those that haven’t, fear not, this guidebook is very easy to use, unlike many of the older, monochrome (and out-of-date) guidebooks available for the area.

The descriptions start with the essential facts: starting points, difficulty, timings, best time of year, required gear and first ascensionist, followed by a brief history of the route, before giving a detailed description of the route, and just as importantly, the decent.  Coloured photos and topos and maps are used throughout.

There’s no doubt, that this guidebook gives an inspiring selection of some of the classic mountaineering routes in the Pyrenees, however, I do have a couple of thoughts:

Firstly, the guidebook is quite francocentric, with only a fraction of the routes being easily accessible to those on the Spanish side, of which all bar one are in the central and eastern parts of the autonomous community of Aragon.

Secondly, the Pyrenees cover an enormous distance and area, and to have only selected 25 routes for such an extensive range seems like a slightly wasted opportunity to open up what are some of Europe’s most beautiful mountains to the rest of the world.

Gudiebook Mountaineering in the Pyrenees

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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

Looking at the improbable Faja de las Flores

Guiding the Faja de las Flores – Ordesa

The Faja de las Flores is a spectacular high level walk which traverses the northern cliffs of the canyon along a weaker sedimentary layer which is in-cut. ‘Faja’ means girdle in english and the faja paths in Ordesa traverse different parts of the canyon at varying levels. Due to their nature, the faja paths are fairly narrow and a head for heights is often needed, particularly on the Faja de las Flores which is 1km above the valley floor!

This week I had the pleasure of guiding Sean and Sue along this famous route. The weather was perfect; cool in the morning for our monster ascent from the valley floor and beautifully clear skies for fantastic views.

Sean and Sue on their way up to the start of the Faja de las Flores

Sean and Sue on their way up to the start of the Faja de las Flores

On the way up there are 2 sets of ‘clavijas’ to tackle (iron pitons placed in the rock to help on steeper sections), and about 1000m of ascent to do.

Once at the start of the route it looks as if there is no place for a path but as you get closer the eroded band shows itself and you can see it winding it’s way along the cliff face.

Once on the narrow traverse path we took our time, enjoyed the views and cautiously looking down at the valley floor.

At the other end of the traverse we we’re able to get great views of  the ‘Breche de Roland’ and the ‘Tres Serols’

We had a great day up there and after 17 km and 1150m ascent and of course descent we were all pretty tired but very happy, especially once the G&T was served!

 

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.

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Brecha de Roland and Taillon (3147m)

Took a trip to Ordesa with Fabian at the weekend to visit the Brecha de Rolando and climb Taillon – a 3000 metre peak on the border. I’d been wanting to do this hike for ages and the great weather we’ve been having recently gave us the perfect opportunity.

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Fabian with the Brecha de Roland behind

The Brecha is a stunning deep cleft in the cliffs that run along the border and it’s the only easy place to pass between France and Spain in the Ordesa Park. It’s the stuff of legend and the Chanson de Roland tells how Roland one of Charlemagnes generals escaped from the moors by cleaving the breach with his sword and fleeing into Christian France.

Hoarfrost in the Ordesa Valley

Hoarfrost in the Ordesa Valley

We started at the Pradera in the Ordesa valley. During winter sunlight doesn’t reache the floor of the valley and this combined with the temperature inversions you get in such a deep valley has created a wonderful hoarfrost that is covering all of the trees on the valley floor. I’ve never seen it this thick before and it was quite beautiful.

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Ordesa Valley

Thanks for a great summer

Phil, Anna, Ken & Hannah would like to say a big thank you to all of our guests that made this summer such an excellent and memorable season for Hike Pyrenees. It makes our hiking a pleasure when we’ve such great and friendly guests – we hope you enjoyed the hiking as much as we did! We had some fantastic holidays in the Valle de Tena and Ordesa and I thought I’d put up some of my favourite photos of the season that will hopefully bring back some good memories for our guests.

Jon hiking on the Faja Racon in Ordesa

Jon hiking on the Faja Racon in Ordesa

Some of the highlights were two groups summiting Pico Posets the second highest peak in the Pyrenees and an ascent of Monte Perdido in June when there was still a huge amount of snow around.

On the summit of Monte Perdido (3355m)

On the summit of Monte Perdido (3355m)

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A Successful Refugio Week.

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The Refugio Week team at Refugio de los Ibones de Bachimala

Han & I (Ken) have recently returned from guiding the first Refugio Week of the season, which proved to be very successful, with everyone reaching the summit of Monte Perdido, which at 3335m, is the third highest peak in the Pyrenees.

For the first half of the week, we started at Sallent de Gallego, in the Valle de Tena, and walked on the GR11 alongside the beautiful Rio de Aguas Limpias, up to Refugio de Respomuso.   We made the most of the afternoon by practising basic winter skills (such as using an ice axe and crampons) up towards the Collado de la Facha on the French/Spanish border.

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The team with Pico Teberrai in the background

The following day, the team made the most of their newly acquired skills by continuing along the snow covered GR11 up the Collado de Tebarrai, from where some chose to reach the summit of Pico de Tebarrai at 2916m.  A long descent, made much easier by the softening snow, led us down to our second refugio, the new Refugio de los Ibones de Bachimala, above Baño de Panticosa.

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Les Treseroles - Cilindro, Perdido & Anisclo

For the second half of the Refugio week, by taking 4x4s up to Punta Acuta, and traversing the southern rim of the canyon then up and over Punta Custodia, we approached the popular Refugio de Goriz, at the head of the Ordesa Canyon, from where we all summited Monte Peridio the following day.  There was still a lot of snow from Lago Helado to the summit, again requiring the use of an ice axe and crampons.  The team descended from Goriz via the Anisclo Canyon. It was a great achievement by Keith, Lindsey, Carol, Michelle & Mike and we certainly celebrated accordingly!

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On the summit of Monte Perdido

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Descending the Anisclo Canyon

Snowshoeing in the Ordesa Valley

Snowshoeing in OrdesaOrdesa has had lots of snow this winter and you can snowshoe straight from the Pardera car park where there’s several feet of snow. The valley looks beautiful in the snow and I’ve been over there a couple of times in the past few weeks – one time with Anna and Isabel and the other with a group of student journalists from the States.

Anna and Isabel snowshoeing in Ordesa

Anna and Isabel snowshoeing

Isabel loves playing in the snow although as she was waist deep in places she was soon carried by Dad in the rucksack.

On my second visit with the journalists from Alpine Living magazine we got great views of this Sarrios (or Chamois) in the snow – he wasn’t far off and didn’t seem bothered by us. Had quite a fluffy winter coat with lovely colours.

Chamois (or Sarrios in Aragonese) in Ordesa

Chamois (or Sarrios in Aragonese) in Ordesa

The waterfalls were flowing quite fast however as not much sun gets this deep in the canyon lots ice and icicles flanked them making them look really beautiful.

Cascada del estrecho

Cascada del estrecho

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First walking holidays of the season

Punta del Pacino

The season is well underway here in the Pyrenees and we’ve had a couple of Lakes & Valleys guided walking holidays as well as lots of guests doing self guided walking holidays. We’ve been blessed with some fantastic early season weather with lots of warm sunny days and perfect views.

Punta del Pacino has – as always – been one of our most popular walks with it’s fantastic panoramic views from the summit.

Hiking near Panticosa

Walking in the Valle La Ripera near Panticosa

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Walking in the Ordesa Valley

Views into the Ordesa Valley

Walking on the rim of the Ordesa Valley

The Ordesa National Park is the oldest protected area in Spain and an undisputed highlight of the Pyrenees. The walking in Ordesa is superb with the parks dramatic canyons and three thousand metre peaks giving spectacular views.

Walking on the Faja Racon

Walking on the Faja Racon

The Ordesa Valley is the most famous of the canyons with cliffs rising over eight hundred metres on each side and Monte Perdido perched majestically at the valleys end. This valley offers walkers the most variety with a choice of routes ranging from gentle rambles to very scary cliff edge routes. Read our full article on walking in Ordesa.

Monte Perdido at the head of the Ordesa Valley

Monte Perdido at the head of the Ordesa Valley

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Waterfalls in Ordesa

The Cascada del Estrecho in the Ordesa Valley

The waterfalls in Ordesa are in full flow at the moment with the warm early summer weather melting the snow from the peaks above. You pass a series of fantastic waterfalls as you walk along the valley floor with my favourites being the Casacada del Estrecho and the Grados de Soasa.

The woods are also very pretty at the moment with the bright green new leaves of the birch trees contrasting with the darker green needles of the evergreen pines and silver fir.

Cliffs of Ordesa

The cliffs of Ordesa with beech and pine woods below

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