Hike to the tower of Escuer Alto

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.

Hanging valley of Sobremonte

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!).

Yosa de Sobremonte

The village of Yosa de Sobremonte

Unfortunately, after half an hour I heard gunshots and soon came across a sign saying they were hunting in the area. It’s a popular area for deer hunters. I had Ruby (our dog) with me, so I decided to turn back and had to come up with a new plan.

I hadn’t been to the abandoned village of Escuer Alto for a long time so decided to head in that direction along paths I hadn’t been on before.

I passed the ruins of an old mill next to a stream which still had a huge granite milling wheel inside.

Old mill in the Pyrenees Pyrenees

Ruby on top of the old mill stone

There were some great views of the Sierra de Partacua, Tendeñera and across to all of the three thousand metres peaks of Ordesa in the distance.

At the start of the 20th century the village of Escuer Alto had 23 houses spread between two ‘barrios’ (suburbs is the closest translation in English), a school with 16 children, a mill, the church of San Bartolomé and the defensive tower.

Madoz, in his famous Geographical Dictionary of Spain (1845-1850) wrote that the village had very poor soil but managed to cultivate wheat, barley, corn and beans as well as raise sheep for wool and goats. Hunting was principly for partridge and hares and they fished for trout in the Rio Gállego in the valley below.

The defensive tower of Escuer Alto

The defensive tower of Escuer Alto

The village began to be abandoned before the Civil War as people relocated to the village now known as Esuer Nuevo which is lower down in the main valley and better connected, alongside the road. In 1936, 8 residents remained and by 1941 just 4. Most of the houses appear to be very ruined as people took the stones and used them to build their new houses.

The highlight of Escuer Alto is it’s fantastic defensive tower. Built in the 15th century it formed part of a defensive system in the valley along with the tower in Larrede (which we regularly hike past with groups on our way to Susín) and the fortified tower/house in Biescas.

The tower still stands tall and you can enter although all of the floors apart from the first have collapsed. There are excellent examples of medieval arches, arrow slits (some in the form of a cross), medieval style windows, and an old washing basin with a drain leading out of the walls. It’s a lovely atmospheric place.

I headed back on a relatively new path that had excellent views of the Serrablo. In the end it turned into quite a long hiking day and I did nearly 22km and 900 metres of ascent! Although it wasn’t the hike I was planning on doing it turned out to be an excellent excurison.

Views of the southern slopes of the Sierra de Partacua

Views of the southern slopes of the Sierra de Partacua

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