Two walks in Valle de Tena

Ordesa valley consists of three valleys: Ordesa, Anisclo and Pineta. But from our base in Torla it is more than an hour by car to get to Valle de Pineta. Valle de Tena on the other hand is only 45 minutes away from Torla. Our guidebook also mentioned that the Pineta valley has been spoiled by a road, a hotel and a camping built in the valley. Enough reasons to drive to Valle de Tena. The valley is formed by the river Río Gállego that flows from the top of the Spanish Pyrenees down to the plains of the Huesca region. In winter the valley transforms into the ski resorts of Formigal and Panticosa, in summer you walk between the many lakes and colourful rocks.

We chose what our guidebook named the most beautiful walk in Valle de Tena. The walk all the way up to the top of Pico the Tebarray at a hight of 2961m, takes about 8 hours. That was a bit much so we decided to try to walk to Ibon d’Azules (lakes) and come back.

The walk starts at Refugio Casa de Piedra in Balneario de Panticosa. This little village must have been a real beautiful spa area at one point with a luxurious hotel (Continental) at the centre. But decay is what caught our eye, and only a handful of cars were parked at the parking lot of the Refugio. We wanted to get some information at the Refugio but at 10 AM it was already closed. (they do serve breakfast in the morning) We walked around a bit before we found the start of the trail. The trail is part of the GR 11.

The trail is really very beautiful, but the red and white markings for the GR 11 are not always very clear. Especially the first part is a bit confusing. If you can’t find the GR 11 markers you can orientate by looking for the many cairns (small piles of rocks) climbers have put up  to mark the path.

After a first climb you come to a small plateau with a viewpoint over the village. From here the signs lead you to a trail to the left, but in fact you have to take the non marked path going up on the right that brings you to the river. You can cross the river here and return to the village but the trail continues on the left side of the river. The trail runs on a small path next to the cliff where you can find some support from the iron lines attached to the cliff. You then zig-zag between the rocks until you reach a grassy plateau which you cross.

The path essentially is a non stop climb up, following the river that comes down from the dammed lakes higher up. You can easily refill your bottle along the way. Higher up the path is exposed to the weather elements so in the afternoon the sun can be quite hard to bare. After a non-stop 2,5 hour climb we reached the first of the two Bachamino lakes (Ibon de Bachimana Alto), and the Refugio de Bachimana at a height of 2207m.

This is a very well equipped Refugio were we enjoyed our pic nic with a fresh beer! For us this was far enough so we walked the same route back down. The path crosses the river, brings you past several waterfalls, and we even spotted a chamois on the other side of the mountain.

When we reached the Refugio Casa de Piedra, it was open again and we enjoyed a cold drink on the terrace. We had left around 11 AM, and were back down around 5 PM. We walked longer than the guide book mentioned, but that is because the walk, or better the climb is very strenuous, and we like to stop to enjoy the scenery and take lots of pictures on the way.

The next day, our last walking day, we returned to Valle de Tena, but this time a bit more North. From Biescas you drive towards France and take the exit for Sallent de Gallego. At the West side of the village you take the road to Formigal. At the first crossroads, you go right, following the signs for Asador La Sarra. You reach the dammed lake, pass the lake on the North side, drive around the electric power plant, where you can park your car north of the  the bar Asador La Sarra. Here the walk to Refugio de Respomusa starts.

This walks also follows the GR 11 route, and is for the most part a walk of average difficulty but with some short but steep climbs in between. The walk follows the river coming down on your right, through beech forests, green pastures where cows graze, over meadows filled with flowers, next to a deep canyon between limestone cliffs with the river flowing deep down, and at the end the path literally goes up through the river bedding.

We passed ice and snow that hadn’t yet melted, and suddenly the dam arises in front of you. The lake behind is a nice reward when you climb up, and at the Refugio you can get a fresh drink (or beer) to celebrate.

This path is very well marked, so no worries here. We made this walk on a Friday, and when we came back down, were met by numerous walkers going up to the Refugio for the weekend. The Refugio also houses a rock climbing school, so many of the people going up carried axes and ropes. Beware that this route gets pretty crowded during the weekends.

We reached our car again after a good 6,5 hours. Also longer than the guide book states, but also here, we like to stop and admire nature and take pictures along the way. I will write another blog on the rich and edible fauna and flora we found on the walks through the Pyrenees. In case you get stuck on the mountain, you should not starve from hunger or thirst! (good to know…)

Make sure you leave prepared, the weather in the mountains is unpredictable:

Packing list for day walks:

To wear: zipp off walking trousers, t-shirt, hat, sunglasses and waterproof mountain walking shoes. To pack: rucksack with a fleece, raincoat, raincover or poncho, scarf and gloves, waterproof trousers, sunscreen, first aid kit, map, your passport and insurance card, your mobile phone, camera, 1 to 2 l water (you can refill at mountain streams, but not if there are cows or sheep grazing nearby), snacks like cookies, muesli bars, dried sausage, dried fruit and nuts, fresh fruit.

Nothing I mention in this list is unnecessary. You will not always need everything, but if you get stuck into a storm like we did, you will feel so grateful you packed all of it!

In the local supermarkets or tourist shops you can easily find the Mapa excursionista on a scale of 1:25.000.

For a blog post on walking Ordesa valley:

https://chefmaison.org/2017/06/28/ordesa-valley-the-grand-canyon-of-europe/

For a blog post on walking Anisclo canyon:

https://chefmaison.org/2017/07/05/anisclo-valley-in-ordesa/

 

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