Tag Archives: The Pyrenees

Hiking Portalet Pyrenees

First hike of the New Year

At the weekend Ruby and I headed out for my first hike of the New Year from the border at Portalet. The weather was beautiful – cold but with clear blue skies and sunshine.

El-Forato-Peak

The peak of El Forato with the Sierra de Partacua in the background

As long as you don’t want to ski we’ve had brilliant weather over Christmas with three weeks of sunshine and warm temperatures – we even had a barbeque on the 28 December!

Continue reading

Family skiing in the Pyrenees

A day skiing with the family

It’s great living near a ski resort and skiing is part of the lifestlye here. On Wednesday afternoons the kids have ski lessons with the school and last Sunday we ventured out to Panticosa for our first day’s skiing with the whole family – and to make things more challenging for us we took two of Isabel’s and Christophers friends with us too!

The kids on the gondola

The kids on the gondola

It was a fantastic sunny day – perfect for the kids. The school lessons are at Formigal but we headed to Panticosa as it’s a great resort for kids with quite a few beginner runs on travelators for the little ones and some easy blues and reds for Isabel and Iñigo.

Pyrenees-family-skiing-62

Continue reading

Snowshoeing in the Pyrenees

Snowshoeing from Cotefablo to Toronzué (2263m)

The great snow conditions continue in the Pyrenees and yesterday we got the snowshoes out. The weather didn’t look that great up the valley so we headed across to Cotefablo – the pass halfway between Biescas and Ordesa/Torla. It’s south of the high cliffs of the Sierra de Tendeñera so gets much better weather than just 10km north on the other side of the cliffs!

Many of our guests will know the spot as we sometimes head here in the summer to hike up to the summits of Pelopin or Erata. It’s nice and high at around 1500metres so there’s usually snow right from the off. Yesterday we headed in the other direction to the north to the peak of Toronzué (2263m).

The Hike Pyrenees team

The ‘A-Team’ – Gustavo, Brecas and David

Four of us headed out – David our guide who I’m sure spme of you will have hiked with, Gustavo and Brecas two friends from Biescas and Ruby our dog who had her first winter mountain day and had the most fun of us all!

Heading out from Cotefablo

Heading out from Cotefablo

Continue reading

Formigal Pyrenees Snow Conditions

Snow conditions in Formigal and the Pyrenees

With the holidays over, the tourists gone and the pistes empty once again I headed up to Formigal yesterday for my first days skiing of the season.

We’ve had a lot of snow over the Christmas period – a couple of really big dumps but mixed in with a few days of rain and some high winds so I’ve heard varying reports of the snow conditions so was keen to check it out for myself.

Anayet ski area

Anayet ski area with Pico Anayet in the background

I’m happy to say there’s loads of snow and conditions are fantastic for the time of year. In both Formigal and Panticosa virtually every piste and lift is open. This is a vast improvement on the last cuple of seasons when during January the snow was very thin on the ground. I’m not saying it’s the best snow I’ve ever skied on but for this time of year it’s great and there’s lots more snow on teh forecast and I think we’re in for a great ski season.

Continue reading

Pyrenees flora and fauna book

New Pyrenees wildflower and fauna guidebook in English

This superb Pyrenees nature and wildlife guide is now available to order from the Hike Pyrenees website – click here for details.

A superb new book on Pyrenees wildlife in English has been published and is a must for any nature lover visiting the Pyrenees. This is very welcome as Pyrenees specific books on flora or fauna in English were nearly impossible to come by before.

Wildlife of the Pyrenees guidebook

What’s even better is that this a fantastic guide with 910 species illustrated. What I really like is that the guide covers a bit of everything with sections on flora, birds, snakes, lizards, insects, mammals, fish, trees, mushrooms and butterflies. There are even a couple of pages on the main livestock species found here so you can now identify the cows, sheep and horses that you see while out hiking too! It really is a great all round guide.

Continue reading

Ravier-twins-interview

Meeting the Raviers twins – living legends of Pyrenees climbing

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.

Christian Ravier, one of the most talentous current french trad climber.

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.

Continue reading

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

Pyrenees snowshoe holiday

Snowshoeing Pic Peyreget

The really warm weather we’ve been having in October and November finally broke and snow’s arrived to the Pyrenees. Gustavo and I chose a great day to head out for the first snowshowing trip of the season.

We headed to Pic Peyreget (2487m) just on the French side of the border. It’s a great peak and the route passes right under the iconic Pic de Midi d’Osau. Hike Pyrenees guests will know this peak as it’s one we often do on our Peaks & Passes and Valle de Tena Explorer holidays.

Gustavo making tracks through the fresh powder

It wsa a beautifully sunny day and the weather was perfect. We were surprised at just how much snow there was. 30 to 40 cm of powder everywhere and around Refugio Pombie in sheltered spots the drifts where up to about 80cm which made for hard going.

Approaching Refugio Pombie

Approaching Refugio Pombie

Continue reading

Abrigo de Chimiachas

Cave paintings at Alquezar

Cave paintings dating back to 3000-8000 BC and fossilised animal footprints from 33 million years ago made a this hike at Alquezar feel like a trip through time. The Sierra de Guara in the Pre-Pyrenees has loads of history as well as some great hiking, climbing and canyoning.

Vero Canyon

Views into the Vero Canyon

The day started with a stop at Abiego to see the fossilised footprints. There’s a stretch of rock about 40 metres wide and a couple of metres high criss-crossed by footprints. It’s amazing to contemplate their age and how we can still see them today.

Fossilised footprints at Abiego

Fossilised footprints at Abiego

Next we headed into Alquezar for a quick look around. It’s a beautiful village. It’s winding streets and arches are overlooked by the church of Santa Maria which used was originally a moorish castle dating back to the 9th century. Most of the existing church and the village is 16th century.

Continue reading

Refugio Respomuso in the beautiful Circo de Piedrafita

Hiking the GR11: A Practical Guide

I’ve just finished putting together a guide to the GR11. The GR paths are a network of extensive paths that criss-cross Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.  Here in the Spain, GR stands for ‘Gran Recorrido‘ and here in the Spanish Pyrenees, we have a number of these GR paths linking key settlements, passes and valleys, but perhaps the most challenging and impressive of these GR routes and the one that many of our hikes are based around is the GR11.  The GR11 stretches the entire length of the Spanish Pyrenees, from Hondarribia, on the Atlantic coast to Cap de Creus, on the Mediterranean coast, and covers a total of 840km, which is divided into 46 day long sections.

The guide can be found here: Hiking the GR11: A Practical Guide

 

 

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.

Punta Cochata

Punta Cochata (1901m)

Snows melting in the Pyrenees and I was out hiking today in the Valle de Tena with a friend Gustavo. We chose the peak of Cochata which sits in the middle of the valley with great views in all directions.

Although not high it’s quite a rocky peak and looks as if it’s hard to climb but there’s a fairly easy route to the summit – you just need to use your hands in a couple of places.

Punta Cochata

The peak of Punta Cochata in the Valle de Tena

First marmots of the season where spotted and there were plenty of burrows. Winter wasn’t cold and I think the marmots will do well this summer with plenty to see.

Continue reading

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.

A Successful Refugio Week.

Hike Pyrenees Refugio Week -003

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.

Hike Pyrenees Refugio Week -002

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.

Hike Pyrenees Refugio Week -001

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!

Hike Pyrenees Refugio Week -006

On the summit of Monte Perdido

Hike Pyrenees Refugio Week -007

Descending the Anisclo Canyon

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

Punta Del Pacino

Elder flowered orchids in the PyreneesI was hiking up Punta del Pacino at the weekend which is one of my favourite peaks in the valley – not high at 1965 metres but with a fantastic position right in the centre of the valley and you get superb views in all directions from the summit. The lower sunny slopes are covered in elder flowered orchids and spring gentians.

Summit views from Punta del Pacino

Summit views from Punta del Pacino

This is the view looking south west over Embalse de Escarra to the Sierra de Partacua. Still a lot of snow higher up but most peaks around 2000 metres have only patchy snow. Higher than this there is still a lot of snow – particularly along the route of the GR11.

Continue reading

Snowshoeing and ski touring at Portalet

Hannah (who many of our guests will have met guiding here over the past two summers) and her partner Ken have been over for New Years doing some snow shoeing and trying their hand at ski touring. Snow conditions aren’t great at the moment and we’ve not had a huge quantity of snow but they still have had some great days out.

Snowshoeing towards the Col des Arazures

The area around Portalet is always a good bet when the snow’s not so good and there are a whole load of peaks that you can do from there – it’s like a winter playground!

It was Ken’s first taste of ski touring and he’s caught the bug already! You can read more about Hannah and Ken’s adventures on their excellent Apple Mountaineering blog.

Snowshoeing at Portalet

Peak of Cuyaralet

At the peak of Cuyaralet with Pico Anayet in the background

The area around Col de Portalet is a winter playground with lots of excellent routes for snowshoeing, ski touring and for the younger ones some fantastic sledging! It’s quite high and well protected from the wind so it’s snow sure even in times when there’s not too much of the white stuff around.

Took Dave up to the peak of Cuyaralet (2286m) which is just into France – the route actually starts from the border post. The weather forescast wasn’t great making Cuyaralet a good choice of peak as it’s not a long day and nav back to the road is nice and easy in case of a white out!

Dave enjoying some powder on the way down

Continue reading

Walking the Chemin de la Mature

Chemin de la Mature

The Chemin de la Mature carved into the cliff face

Walked the famous Chemin de la Mature on the French side of the Pyrenees last weekend. This spectacular path is carved into a sheer cliff face. Originally constructed in 1772 to provide access to the forests above which was logged to build ships. These inaccessible forests had ancient huge trees that were perfect for the masts of naval vessels, in fact Chemin de la Mature translates to ‘road of the masts’.

This short documentary gives the history of the Chemin de la Mature.

Continue reading