Last week, we had a brilliant time hiking on our Peaks & Passes guided walking holiday. It was a great set of hikes – over a thousand metres every day and we even managed the 3000-metre peak of Garmo Negro. The holiday was based in Sallent de Gallego, a lovely village with stone houses nestled under high peaks.
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On the first day we tackled the twin peaks of Punta Cochata (1911m) and Punta del Pacino (1965m). This is a lovely hike and definitely one of my favourites. You make a complete loop of the mountain and the views change all the time. Cochata is a very rocky peak, with a pretty steep climb and little scramble to the summit – great fun. Pacino is easier and has simply wonderful panaromic views. The nice thing about this route is you can hike right back to the hotel which is always nice. With over one thoiusand metres of ascent on the first day and the group hardly out of breath I knew that my legs were in for a bit of a workout this week!
Next up was a trip to the Ordesa Canyon. It’s been very busy in the Ordesa National Park this summer, but midweek, near the end of August I thought it would be quieter. I was wrong as when we pulled up to the car park the queue for the shuttle bus was enormous. A quick re-think and change of plan took place! Instead of waiting for the bus, we joined together two hikes, the Camino de Turieto, which is a lovely path from Torla to the Pradera, and then the Faja Racon. Not many hikers do the Faja Racon, with everyone doing the more famous hike along the valley floor, however, it’s a wonderful path and for me the hike that really shows the scale of the valley. You hike along the bottom of the cliffs, and you get a real sense of their size as they tower above you. Despite my initial fears when I saw the bus queue, it ended up being a great day, and keeping to the less walked paths meant we didn’t see that many other hikers on our chosen route.
Wednesday saw us tackle the very pointy summit of Pico Anayet (2574m). The forecast was for sunshine, but soon after we started hiking the mist came in quite a bit. Undettered, we continued up to the lovely Ibon de Anayet and started on the steep ascent of the peak itself. The mountain has beautiful red rock, almost like a red slate, that you cross before arriving at the crux of the ascent – the chains! The group crossed these without a problem and from there it’s a short scramble up a steep gully to the summit. Sadly, we didn’t have any summit views as the mist had closed right in. We headed back down and had lunch watching a family of marmots grazing in the meadow. While we were having lunch, the sun came out and the skies cleared so we headed up the neighbouring peak of Vertice de Anayet (2555m) where we got great views from the top. We were taking in the wonderful views when we heard the rumble of thunder and lightning in the distance so we quickly scuttled back down. We were lucky and despite seeing rain showers on the mountrains all around us, we stayed dry right back to the van.
This was a really fit group and they were up for the challenge of the three thousand metre peak of Garmo Negro. It’s a big steep day with 1500 metres of ascent in not many kilometres. You start at the Balneario de Panticosa and to start with the route heads up through the woods. The trees quickly give way to rocky terrain and you can see the summit looming high above you. From here it’s all rocks, boulders and steep scree – joy!
However, as you reach the summit the views just open up and are absolutely incredible. You have the wonderful marble face of the Picos Los Infiernos right in front of you, Vignemale, the highest peak in the French Pyrenees is right there and you can see the Cirque de Gavarnie and all of the three thousand metre peaks of the Ordesa National Park. Simply stunning. Ruby came along and it was her first three thousander. The long descent now awaited us and we all got back to the van tired but happy.
After yesterday’s exertions on Garmo Negro, the rest day was very welcome. We headed to Jaca and had a walking tour around this historic town. Jaca was the original capital of Aragon when it was created in 1035 and is home to the first Romanesque cathedral in Spain, constructed in 1077 and the pentagonal Citadela – the first castle in Spain to be built to protect against canons. It’s a fascinating town and a great place to learn about the history of Aragon (and also have some great tapas!).
The final hike of the week took us to the Ibones de Arriel, a lovely set of lakes set in a high rocky cirque. These are justifiably known as some of the prettiest lakes in the Pyrenees. I love the changes in terrain and scenery on this hike. You start among meadows and woods following the Rio Aguas Limpias (the river of clean water). You soon leave the river and valley behind you as you climb up through steep scree to reach the first lake. The scenery here is strictly alpine with the three high peaks of Arriel, Palas and Balaitus forming the rugged cirque that surrounds the lakes. There are five little lakes in total and we explored each before heading around to the embalse de Respomuso for views of many more peaks. The way back down follows the GR11 (the famous long distance path that crosses from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean).
And with that final lovely hike, the week was over! As always, the holiday passes too quickly. A great big thanks to Liz, Jacqui and Stuart for coming – it was a pleasure meeting and hiking with you and we hope to meet you in the Pyrenees again in the future.
More photos from the Peaks & Passes holiday: