Last weekend I headed out to Pico Bacias, a wild rocky 2760 metre peak. I hadn’t done this hike for ages and I’d forgotten how great it is. The views over Vignemale and across to the three thousand metre peaks of the Ordesa National Park are just exceptional.
Joining me were Gustavo and Florencia and we had a brilliant day with blue skies and sunshine throughout. There was still a fair amount of snow higher up which was fun to cross and there’s some great easy scrambling to be found on the summit ridges.
Of course Ruby came along and this was her highest peak yet! She scampered over the rocks and snow with no problem, and I’m sure did at least three times the distance we did running around everywhere.
The hike starts from the Balneario (or Baños) de Panticosa, a beautiful spot in its own right. From there you follow the GR11 east, towards Refugio Bujaruelo and the Ordesa NP.
At the Collado de Brazato (2566 m) with Vignemale in the background.
You first head up to set of lakes called the Ibones de Brazato that are surrounded by a cirque of rocky peaks. The top lake was still pretty frozen after the cold weather we’ve had the first couple of weeks of June.
From the lakes, we had to cross some reasonably large snowfields to get up to the Collado de Brazato at 2566 metres. This is a magnificent viewpoint for the western face of Vignemale and you have the huge massif directly in front of you. Vignemale lies on the Spanish/French border and at 3298 metres is the highest peak in the French Pyrenees. Like the Picos Los Infiernos that many of you will have seen in the Valle de Tena, Vignemale has large marble faces whose white colour really stand out. Limestone, when given the right amount of pressure and heat, can be transformed into marble which is what has happened on these two mountains.
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From the col we crossed some more fairly large snowfields to gain the rocky summit ridge. The snow was pretty soft and although we used our axes we didn’t need to put crampons on. When we reached the we decided to head first up to an unnamed peak of 2717 metres before heading back to Bacias. It’s a nice scramble and great views to the north where we could see lots of 3000 metre peaks including Balaituous, Gran Facha, Los Infiernos, Garmo Negro and a whole host more.
Next was Pico Bacias which needed a bit more scrambling and use of the hands but nothing very complicated before we finally reached the summit.
As you gain the summit you get superb views over to the Ordesa National Park. It’s curious as you are actually looking at the northern French side of the peaks rather than the usual view that you get from Spain.
You can see the Cirque de Gavarnie (home to Europe’s highest waterfall) and a whole string of three thousand metre peaks that line the border. Monte Perdido stands out and the steep snowy ramp that you ascend to the summit is clearly visible. The summit views from this peak are simply stunning.
We descended directly from the peak, the stones were pretty steep and loose so we stuck to the snow as much as possible which was much more comfortable to go down. We finished off with a lap of the lake which involved crossing a narrow dam wall where I thought we might take an unintended swim! Finally, we descended back down the GR11 to Baños de Panticosa. We all felt as if we had too much sun so a cold beer at Refugio Casa de Piedra was a must!
Thanks to Gustavo and Florencia for a brilliant day out.
Final stats for the route: 17.6 km, 1300 metres ascent