Here’s a report of our trip to Pyrenees, where we hiked through Valle de Tena mountains for 5 days. During this trip we stayed in three different mountain refuges and even made a detour through France.
Casa Piedra – Ibones de Bachimaña
The trip actually started a day before this hike, when we arrived to Casa Piedra in Balneario de Panticosa. The mountain refuge is located at 1600 meters above sea level and is a great place to start trekking through Pyrenees.
The forecast for our first hiking day was looking a bit grim – rain in the late morning and thunderstorm later on in the afternoon. As such, we decided to have a very early start. We had breakfast at 6:30 in the morning and by 7 were ready to start the hike.
We were getting great views as we were climbing up, while the sun was starting to warm the cool mountain air. The trail went up very steeply, so we were making regular stops to catch our breath and enjoy the scenery. Even 2.5 hours later we were only about 70 percent up the way to the top. By this time the cloud cover was getting thicker and thicker, so we decided to turn back down and avoid the potential thunderstorm.
Since we were going to Ibones de Bachimaña refuge this time, the trail back was different. Now we were mostly walking at the edge separating clouds from regular air. After crossing a rocky part, we reached our first lake of the trip – Ibon deros Arnals. Even on a cool and cloudy day the water looked very inviting. It was very interesting to see dozens of tiny frogs jumping away as we strolled round the lake.
Eventually we made it up the mountain pass, and to our delight we could get glimpses of the next refuge, even though it was still mostly covered by clouds. After several wet and tricky parts we finally got to a point where the skies cleared up enough to see the hut, as well as multiple waterfalls beneath it. We decided that this was a great spot to rest and have lunch, as we were less than 30 minutes away from having a roof over our heads.
The main entertainment of the afternoon was walking around the refuge looking for marmots. These creatures have gone extinct in the Pyrenees millennia ago, but the reintroduction efforts over the course of last century were a big success. Nowadays the area around Ibones de Bachimaña is full of marmots, and if you are careful enough, they might even let you get quite close.
Picos de Infierno
That morning we set out for the main climb of the whole trip – the ascent to Picos de Infierno. The summit consists of three peaks, all of which are over 3000 meters high. We started around sunrise and first took the trail that lead us to the refuge the previous day, although going in the opposite direction this time. Now that there weren’t any clouds, the views changed quite a lot.
After warming up on the first couple of kilometres, we came back to the steep part and the ascent to Pondiellos mountain pass. Once again, the steepness of the trail made the ascent rather lengthy, with several stops along the way. Right before the pass we found some snow, which allowed for a couple of snowballs to be thrown. It is curios how even on sunny sides there are still spots with snow / ice covering the rocks.
Right as we approached the pass, the wind got very strong and cold, so layering up was necessary. As we put some clothes on, we also had a snack and then continued the hike. Here we could already see the Infierno Peaks, with only a lake separating us from the ascent to the summit. The final part of the route up got very steep, requiring lots of scrambling. We had to choose our path carefully, stopping to plan the next steps every other minute…
Eventually we reached the summit and it proved to be worth all the efforts put into getting to the top. The Infirenos consists of three peaks, each one above 3000 meters above sea level: Infierno Oriental, Infierno Central and Infierno Occidental respectively. The most notable characteristic of these peaks is the central white part – la Marmolera, easily distinguishable even from the towns in the valley below, seemingly painted over the rugged rocks with an artists brush. The path across seemed very narrow, but it actually provides enough room to reach the other side.
The trail down was almost as steep and rocky as the one that lead us up. Once again, we had to carefully choose the path, navigating our way down. As we were descending, the views of Ibón de Tebarray started to open up below, as well as the wider trail. As soon as we reached easier terrain, we stopped for lunch, contemplating the views of the lake and quite happy to be on a “regular” path.
The way back down was just as picturesque as the views from the top. From here on we were walking along the GR-11 trail (which runs through the whole Pyrenees). The area surrounding us was full with water. Lakes, streams, some of them icy cold, coming down from the glaciers, makes the scenery spectacular!
Eventually, we reached a larger lake, which meant that Bachimaña refuge was just around the corner. Even though the route is only 14 kilometers long, it took most of the day, as the majority of it is either steep or technical, many times both of those things at the same time. This day rest and subsequent dinner felt well deserved, and we spent the remaining of the day relaxing under still warm evening sun.
Ibones de Bachimaña – Refugio de Respomuso
New day meant that we had to pack all of our stuff again, as we were heading to another refuge – Respomuso. The initial part took us around the Bachimaña lake again, as the sun was slowly winning its battle against the shade brought down by the high surrounding peaks. I do need to note that we were not taking the direct way, but rather taking a detour through France.
The original plan for the day was to get up to the summit yet another tresmil – Gran Facha. However, since that day we did have to carry all of our belongings, plus the legs still felt yesterday’s ascent, we decided not to go up to the peak, but just walk up it’s pass. The approach to the French border was accompanied by Louis de Funès movie themes, which we had to turn off later, to not disturb the French wildlife, sensitive to the uplifting tones.
Curiously, the French side turned out to be (dare I say) slightly more attractive. The green valleys below seemed quite attractive, with Wallon refuge (closed this year, unfortunately) barely visible in the valley.
Soon we reached another ibon, that was supposed to look like a person. At first that idea seemed strange, but as we were getting higher, the lake did start to resemble a person in a sleeping bag. As we reached the pass, a border was to be crossed again. One more time (just like at the French border) we sat down to contemplate the views of the valley we were about to descend to and have a little snack.
The trail down to Respomuso refuge was just as scenic as the stretch of GR-11 that we’ve done the day before. The thing that surprised me the most about this part of Pyrenees is the abundance of water. It seemed like new streams and lakes were greeting us with their magnificence after each corner we turned. I think marmots would agree with me here, as once again we encountered several of them on our way down the valley.
It’s surprising how even though we could see pretty much the whole trail down, the path continued surprising us with new scenery with every dozen of meters descended. At some point we crossed a very beautiful creek and later on stumbled upon some cows grazing on grass – the first, and the only cows encountered on this trip.
At last, we were getting close to the refuge. We were notified about that a bit before arriving, with the signs assuring us that only 20 minutes of walking separated us from our home for the night. The surroundings of the refuge are just scenic as those at Bachimaña, if not not greater, but sadly I cannot say the same about dinner serving efficiency. It was also interesting to see food delivered by helicopter. The whole event took a minimal amount of time, as the helicopter hovered above the hut, dropped the bag and was out of sight within seconds.
Refugio Respomuso – Formigal
It was time to leave the wilderness of Valle de Tena mountains and head towards civilization. That evening a hotel in Formigal was awaiting us, but we still had to cover 15 kilometres to get there. To the relief of the group, most of it was downhill, give at least some muscles the chance to rest as we were descending.
We still got to cross a couple of creeks and observe several waterfalls along the way. Soon the trail started getting flatter and flatter and we decided to stop and have second breakfast at one of the grassy openings.
Formigal was our destination, but it was not the only town we would visit during that day. First, we had to walk through Sallent de Gállego – the capital of the Tena Valley. The town looked pretty enough for us to take a couple of photos and make a stop in a bar. It might seemed like we ate a lot during this trip, but that was not actually the case. In any case, it was nice change from the refuge food to something with a bit more flavor.
From here only 3 kilometers of hiking separated us from our destination. At this point the trail took us uphill, which was quite a
relief… not sure if the rest of the group would agree with me here. Whichever were the feelings, it was nice to look back, as from here we could easily distinguish the white ridge of Infiernos, which we traversed just a couple of days ago.
Pico de Anayet
We were back to civilization, but we still had one more hike to finish the trip. The goal of the day was the peak of Anayet, almost at the border with France. The route required a little bit of driving, since it starts from the Formigal ski resort. Unfortunately, the road access to the resot was closed, so we had to park on the side of the road. That meant that we would have to walk a bit more, but additional 1.5 kilometers of hiking certainly were not going to deter us.
The approach to the peak goes through the valley and after a couple of hours of hiking we reached the plateau. This is the place where Anayet lakes are located and many people stop here, some even stay in tents overnight. Understandably, as it is a really nice and calm place, where you certainly want to spend some time contemplating the views of the lake and Pic du Midi d’Ossau on the French side of Pyrenees.
However, we did not stay here for too long, as the Anayet peak was waiting for us. We followed the trail forward, gazing at spectacular scenes. There is a big contrast here between green grass and red volcanic terrain. A herd of horses grazing nearby was a great addition to already pleasant sights. Eventually, the trail gets more technical and at one point we had to make our way around the mountain with the help of chains. A short scramble awaited us after that, and that was also the way up to the top.
The feeling of reaching the Anayet peak is certainly well worth the effort required to get there. At 2545 meters above sea level we could observe most of the area where we hiked over the last couple of days as well as the French side, with Pic du Midi d’Ossau (mentioned before) standing out among others.
After a contemplation stop at the peak, we descended back to the lakes for a well deserved rest. The area is perfect for that, and most of us took the opportunity to have a short nap after lunch, as the weather conditions and the presence of soft grass called for that.
We went back along the same trail that we used to get up. Needless to say, it was easier to go down, so some of us got quite enthusiastic and switched to a higher gear, marching towards the finish line. By this time everyone was somewhat tired, but definitely happy!
Valle de Tena is an awesome place to go hiking! It offers all the best things you would expect to find in Pyrenees – great trails, high peaks, scenic mountain lakes and pretty refuges to spend a night in. It certainly deserves to be revisited, I would even say more than once, as there is always something extra to hike after each visit.