5 Adventures in the paradise of the Aragonese Pyrenees

Julia Campos
Julia Campos

Like the mouth, which speaks and kisses, the mountain also has a double function depending on the time in which you go. Summer is ideal for hiking and winter is ideal for everything else. Those who believe that when the snow arrives, the reason to visit the mountain is reduced to Alpine skiing, are wrong. Nothing is further away from reality. The mountain is the perfect setting to enjoy various winter activities.

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park © Georgina Vich

A magnificent place to practice them is the Pyrenees. This mountain range, a natural dike between Spain and France, hides some of the most impressive landscapes in the country. But, in addition to its pretty face, it offers excitement, especially in the Aragonese area.

So bundle up before doing the 5 proposals of Nattule:

1. Cross Country Skiing

Skiing, in any of its forms, is the king of winter sports. Hundreds of thousands of skiers fill the stations of the Pyrenees each year, which are among the best in Spain.

If you do not have the expertise needed to tackle the giant slalom, Nordic or cross-country skiing is an alternative that requires less technique and is perfect for getting to know the wonderful landscapes of these mountains.

Nordic Skiing

In the heart of Posets-Maladeta Natural Park, you will find the ski resort of Los Llanos del Hospital de Benasque, a center that prides itself on not closing a single day during the season.

In this wonderful place, with more than the 70% of its surface above the 1,800 meters of altitude, you can glide between pines and firs under the watchful glance of the Aneto glacier, one of the few that are still in the Pyrenees. The space that is not occupied by skiers is inhabited by marmots, wild boars and chamois.

Herd of chamois © Dani Martín

The area has a total of 30 kilometers of ski runs that are divided into 3 circuits. The easiest is the Llano del Hospital, which runs through the Valley of the River Ésera. You can go with your skis about 7 kilometers without almost any unevenness. There are two other circuits, the Llano de l’Estany and the Besurta, those are more demanding.

If you prefer back-country skiing, from Llano de la Besurta you can follow the signs that lead to Forau de Aigualluts, one of the most emblematic places in the Pyrenees. It is a waterfall from the waters of the Aneto that disappear inside the earth to reappear miles later in the Aran Valley. You will be surrounded by high peaks of more than 3,000 meters of altitude the whole trip and end with an impressive view of the glacier. This is one of the most popular routes in Benasque, but for those who are not familiar with the terrain, it is recommended to go with a mountain guide.

Back-country skiing

On the other hand, if you prefer to escape from the crowds and look for more hidden spots, the Natural Park of the Western Valleys, which includes the Valleys of Hecho, Ansó and Aragüés del Puerto, have smaller but worthwhile Nordic ski slopes. One of them is Linza, in the Valley of Ansó. It only has a 10 kilometer route, but the walk through its meadows and beech forests will amaze you.

2. Snowshoeing

For years snowshoeing has become a fun way to draw all kinds of people, children included, to the mountain when snow is imposed. The rackets allow any hiker enthusiast to enjoy a walk in the snow in almost all the mountain ranges of the Iberian Peninsula.

Snowshoeing

The valley of Tena offers you one of the most beautiful corners of all the Aragonese Pyrenees: the tarn of Piedrafita, easy to transit and has spectacular views. Between the villages of Sallent de Gállego and Biescas, we find the Fauna Park of Lacuniacha and right from its parking area begins the journey of ascent to this tarn.

Tarn of Piedrafita © Ester Salazar

In this route located in the heart of the Sierra Tendeñera, you will reach a torrent known as the Boj Ravine, at about 1,500 meters above sea level. This torrent is located halfway through the route and from there continues the path that ascends to the tarn. A few minutes away you will find the refuge of the Planas, also known as Telera, which will give way to the area where the tarn is located. The imposing belt of rock moles covered by snow that surrounds Piedrafita is another attraction of the ascent.

Another route that you should not miss in this part of the Pyrenees is the route to the Cola de Caballo Waterfall, one of the mythical attractions of the National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido, which is accessed from the village of Torla.

Cola de Caballo Waterfall

For this route, which is more physically demanding, it is recommendable to get up early, to equip well and to take food, water and a flashlight, since it consists of more than 15 kilometers until you get to the area of the waterfall. During the journey, which lasts around 9 hours, it is possible that you will not encounter anyone during the whole day in winter time.

From the prairie of Ordesa begins a climb that will take you through the Arripas Waterfall to reach the beech forest. Right after that you will get to the Steps of Soaso: a succession of 5 small waterfalls that form a spectacular crystalline water staircase from the waters of the Arazas River.

Steps of Soaso © Paula Ortega

After leaving behind the wooded areas, you will begin to enter the moors of the Cirque of Soaso, from which you will see the steep walls of Monte Perdido, the Cilindro and Marboré. In the background, about 2 kilometers away, you will find the long and majestic waterfall, crowned by one of the most emblematic refuges of Ordesa: Góriz. There, you can recover your energy with a warm dinner and spend the night.

Cirque of Soaso © Lavinia

If you decide not to spend the night in Góriz, the way back is  the same route but in reverse. In the last kilometers, you will most likely have to walk in the dark night, with the help of a flashlight, which is certainly an exciting way to conclude your journey in the Aragonese Pyrenees.

3. Ice Climbing

Climbers know there is nothing like climbing a wall using only the strength of your arms to discharge adrenaline. If you add ice to the scene, the danger grows, but the emotion also.

It may seem like a reckless action, but climbing ice, if you have the right knowledge and the right material (ice axe and metallic stud for shoes), is a source of sensations. However, due to its difficulty, this activity is only recommended for experienced climbers who are in good physical condition.

Ice climbing © Martín Elorza Alday

If you are one of them, Nattule proposes to you to take a tour around the village of Bielsa, where you will find a good amount of icy waterfalls that are very attractive for your ascent.

In the vicinity of the well-known Bielsa tunnel, which links with the French commune of Aragnouet, are some of the best known waterfalls but also, the more crowded ones.

If the proximity to the road does not please you, you can visit the Valley of Barrosa, where you will find a group of small waterfalls of great beauty. On the northern slope of the Barrosa Cirque, surrounded by summits of more than 3,000 meters, the narrow waterfalls of Espluca and La Bacheta follow one another, as well as the spectacular Pacific Ocean Waterfall.

This natural treasure is a wide waterfall of 150 meters of height that is becoming more frequented. The best time to climb it is between December and February. Of course, you should be aware of the risk of avalanches from the top of the mountain.

Defying gravity © Martín Elorza Alday

To get to the Valley of Barrosa you should head towards the Bielsa tunnel and, just before facing the last curves before arriving at the the tunnel, leave the car in a small parking lot on the left of the road.

4. Mushing, Pulka y Skijoring

One of the most original activities that you will be able to do in the Pyrenees is undoubtedly the guided dog sled routes. Whether in the individual mode or skijor, or in sleds of various seats, these types of activities will get you to sit for hours as a member of the historical expeditions that adventure themselves to the conquest of the Arctic.

Another incentive is that many of these crossings offer the possibility of learning to build an igloo and spend the night in the heart of nature. An adventure with which every mountain fan dreams and here, in the Pyrenees is the ideal place to find it. In these mountains, it is possible to discover unique spots where you can escape from the crowds of the main ski resorts and discover the authentic Pyrenees.

Mushing

The area of ​​the Pyrenean Huesca, with more tradition in the practice of dog sledding, is the Valley of Tena, between Panticosa and Formigal, located in the region of Alto Gállego. In particular the Sierra de Partacua, which was the home of the most famous competition of sleds by Nordic races of the Iberian Peninsula. In the vicinity of the Reservoir of Búbal we find the village of Tramacastilla de Tena, which is accessed by the A-136 road that connects Biescas with the border pass of Portalet.

Here you can start your practice of skijoring, a variant in which the skier uses his legs and his arms to help the dogs. In this mode of transportation you will learn for yourself the function of the runner and the driver; or the Pulka, for which a pair of dogs and a small individual sled that is placed between them and the skier is necessary. This modality was originally used for the transportation of utensils.

Skijoring © Marty Samis | www.mwsphotography.ca

Finally you can try the sled itself, in which up to 6 pairs of dogs transport 3 adults, including the driver, through this magnificent valley during the nighttime. It is the best known modality. An unforgettable adventure that takes place with the crucial help of the instinct of these animals and the clarity offered by the full moon.

Mushing

5. Snowboarding

Snowboarding has more fans everyday and a wide variety of modalities that combine spectacular jumps, acrobatics and landings.

Snowboard © Godin

Even if you are not an expert in this discipline, in the Pyrenees you have many options to learn and practice. It is a sport that does not require excessive preparation, although it is always important to know the basic techniques to enjoy it to the maximum and avoid injuries.

The Astún ski resort, although small, is one of the most important for the practice of this sport. It is located in the area of Jaca, 33 kilometers away from the city of the same name. Its 31 kilometers of tracks always has good quality snow. In addition, the obstacles that it forms are perfect for freestyle lovers.

Ski runs in Astún © Godin

Near here, about 6 kilometers away, we find the Candanchú ski resort, the oldest in Spain. It is also bigger than the previous one and has more difficult tracks.

If you want to rest from the workout, in Candanchú you can take the Tobazo chairlift, which takes you to the top of the same mountain, at 2,020 altitude, where you will enjoy some breathtaking views of the mountains that surround you.

Snowboarding out of run © Godin

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The walrus is a saber-toothed tiger who fell in love with the sea. The adventurer is a sedentary man who fell in love with risk. It’s true that a ski jumpsuit is not as soft as pajamas, but when you are immersed in an adventure you will not miss your beauty sleep.

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