Monday, 1 September 2008

2 weeks in the Pyrenees

8th to 23rd August

Ellie and I went to the central and eastern Pyrenees for 2 weeks of hiking and dossing around. We started off by flying from Prestwick to Girona on Friday 8th August, then picking up a hire and trying to drive as far as possible towards the hills on Friday night. We made it far as Graus before it was too late and dark to carry on, checked into a basic hostal above a bar and found somewhere to eat.

9th August - Graus to Torla
We followed narrow tortuous roads for a few hours before finally arriving in Torla at the entrance to Ordesa National Park. We pitched the tent and wandered up the River Ara for a swim. Later we hatched a plan for the next few days that would involve the GR11 and GR10, Cirque de Garvanie and the might Ordesa Canyon.

10th August - Torla to Baños de Panticosa
We got up early and packed our rucksacks with sleeping bags, tent, gas, stove, food, etc. for a 4 or 5 trip. We headed north up the road out of Torla until we could strike left into the forest on the GR11 trail running up the Ara valley to Bujaruelo. It was pretty hot and crowded when we reached Bujaruelo. After a brief rest and drink we carried on, quickly leaving the crowds behind, as we headed into the remote and stunning upper Valle del Ara. The head of the valley appears hemmed in on all sides, but the GR11 climbs into a rocky lochan-filled basin before crossing the Collado del Brazato, 2550m. Beyond this col was rough descent to the gleaming Embalse del Brazato reservoir, and then an even rougher descent down endless rocky zig-zags until we popped out at the bizarre Baños de Panticosa spa village. Bizarre because it looks like some sort of futuristic architecture competition, mixed in with a handful of scruffy old original buildings. We downed a couple of well-earned beers before heading to the Casa de Piedra bunkhouse.

11th August - Baños de Panticosa to Pont d'Espagne
Lying fast asleep at 5am, a massive thunderclap jolted me to life and I lay there listening to the rain hammering down, wondering what on earth we would do today. Luckily by 8am the storm had abated, so we departed with some trepidation climbing slowly up the wet greasy path into dank cold misty hills. Bit by bit we gained height on the GR11 to the Embalse de Bachimaña reservoirs, and then climbed higher to cross the Puerto de Panticosa col at 2541m, and then dropped north into France descending to the Wallon Refuge for some lunch, and continued to the Chalet du Clot where we stayed the night. We arrived early so went for a swim and visited the tourist trap of Pont d'Espagne for a couple of beers.

12th August - Pont d'Espagne to Gavarnie
We made an early start on the GR10 from Pont d'Espagne up to Lac de Gaube, then followed an easy trail with the mighty Vignemale looming in front, as far as the Refuge des Oulettes. The weather was rather cool, windy and grey for the 600m climb to the Hourquette d'Ossoue 2734m. We didn't bother making the short steep detour to the Petit Vignemale but carried straight on, dropping to the Refuge Bayssellance for a quick lunch, then carrying on down the valley towards Gavarnie. We stopped at the Refuge les Granges de Holle just overlooking Gavarnie, then dropped into town for a mooch around and to buy some provisions.

13th August - Gavarnie to Torla via Cirque de Gavarnie and Ordesa Canyon
This was without doubt the biggest longest and most exciting day of the holiday that included donkey rides, glacier crossings, walls of death with metal spikes for footholds, massive 5 hour detours to the Goriz Hut and down the entire length of the Ordesa Canyon, and finally catching the last bus from Pradera to Torla with 5 minutes to spare after a 13 hour day on the hill. The beer at the campsite tasted good on this evening.

The rest of the story plus photo galleries will get added when I get round to it. At present I'm finding it difficult to summon the necessary time and enthusiasm to update this blog...

3 comments:

sciencechick said...

Please update your blog! My brother and I are planning a similar trip to the Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa. Your blog would help us/ has already helped us a bunch :)

Chris said...

Ah yes! I never did finish posting that 2 week trip! After Torla we went to Benasque, but it rained for 2 days. Then we had 2 or 3 days at Espot in much better weather, before heading to the easternmost bit of the Pyrenees. I've been back twice since. Once in 2010 to hike the GR11, and then in 2011 to hike the HRP. Both coast to coast:
http://gr11blog.blogspot.com/
http://hrp2011.blogspot.com/

HitchHikers Handbook said...

Hey Chris, We have been checking out your blog and we must say that we are very impressed. It's really great.

We have particularly been following your posts about Torla as we visited there too. We have even written a guide, which you can check out here: http://hitchhikershandbook.com/country-guides/spain-2/torla/ . We would love your feedback and any tips, information, advice that you might have would be warmly appreciated.

Keep up the good work!

Ania & Jon