Refuge Lizara- Ibon de Estanes- Mount Bisaurin loop. Spanish Pyrenees.
This hike in the Spanish Pyrenees of Aragon was planned to last a few nights, but things didn't work out gear wise and so it turned into an overnight instead.
I left the full and buzzing (the Spanish all talk at the same time) car park at the Refugio Lizara at about 5 in the afternoon and headed up into Paúl de Vernena, where I had camped a couple of years ago after a different approach from Coll de Secus further towards France, and via another refuge, Gabardito. I hadn't made it up Bisaurin then due to an uncomfortable pack (since sold) so I was determined to rise to the challenge this trip and make it to the top.
The ascent from the refuge took me through some spectacular scenes, and I had the place to myself, which, for August, is rare enough in the Pyrenees. August can get pretty crowded on the GR routes and with day hikers and peak baggers from both sides of the border.
On the way, I surprised several marmots bounding for cover as soon as they saw me- and all the while above, the cry of eagles and crows having mid air battles in the sky. I came across a herd of Isard grazing in the quiet after the tourists had left.
Refugio de Ordelca.
There was plenty of light, so I decided to press on up through the valley into new territory towards Puerto de Vernera where I made camp as the sun was setting.
Puerto de Vernera.
I camped next to several high mountain lakes, at about 2200 meters. There was still snow around, and the water in the lake was freezing. I had the place to myself and made my noodles and set up camp watching the vultures and eagles circle overhead.
Camp with Bisaurin behind, sunset.
Just as my noodles were ready, a French couple appeared in the twilight, and after a bit of a trilingual chat in French, Spanish and English, they made camp nearby, but I didn't hear anything from them after that, and was up and away before them the next morning.
The night was incredible windy, but my cuben MLD Solo Mid was up for the test, with minimal flapping and noise. The gusts got stronger through the night, and by the next morning, although it was sunny, it was blowing a gale. What kept me up the entire night was the full moon- I honestly had the worst night sleep of my life- it was like a stupid friend was pointing their torch into my tent the entire night. A shame really.
I also slept badly as I had brought my new Warmlite DAM for the trip, but found it was too hot, even with my Rab Top Bag and little else. I kept rolling around and never got comfortable. I usually use a Ridge Rest and a Thinlite combination, at half the weight, and I'll be going back to that again pronto. I found the whole sleeping set up procedure in the Solo Mid very tight, and couldn't imagine doing it in adverse conditions without brushing the sides of the tent frequently. With the foam pads, I feel I have much more room, and room to move around and it's just much easier all around (and about 400g lighter too!).
The next morning I woke up with a terrible headache, which I'm sure was caused by my pack (ULA Relay- confirmed the next day during the day's hiking) and such little sleep due to fighting the mat all night. My mood was black, to say the least.
Nonetheless it was a beautiful day, so I decided to press on to the Ibon de Estanés to have a look around. I thought i would sleep near the lake in the forest to get out of the moonlight. Packing up was another ordeal with the mat (curses in three languages) but I set off optimistic about the day's hiking.
Valle de los Sarrios.
I crossed the Puerto de Vernera and descended into Valle de los Sarrios, a wonderful open flat valley surrounded by breathtaking peaks. I surprised another herd of Isard and some cows, stopping to track them through the binoculars and look at the emerging sunrise and first flight of the eagles. Apart from the wind, the place was very quiet. As I approached the end of the valley, at about 8 o'clock, I came across my first group of day hikers coming up from the French side. It's customary to say hello to everyone, so we did, which put me in a better mood.
As I came to the end of the valley, amazing scenes were revealed- views to France and the Sierra de Aísa, where I was heading next. I stopped to take it all in for a while, being in no hurry, and another fast day hiker, a super fit French fella came up the mountain and we had a chat about our routes. He suggested where I was going was maybe not a good idea on my own as the prevision for the weather wasn't good and it was much more challenging territory than where I had come from.
View from the end of Valle de los Sorrios to Ibon de Estanes.
I'm generally a nervous hiker, as I go out on my own, and take things very cautiously, so I stopped to take in the map and reconsider my hike based on his local knowledge. I decided to call it a day, and head back to the refuge Lizara and come back again with my comfortable pack and my less fussy sleep set up. My headache was getting worse, and my shoulder was beginning to ache from the strange position it was taking wearing the pack. I can get pretty cranky if I don't have a good night's sleep, and I was tired from the night before. This was the first hike since I had turned my knee, so I was only ever going to be taking it easy. C'est la vie! as they say.
I turned back up the valley towards where I had camped, but stopped to have a huge breakfast to power up for the morning. I could see another couple of day hikers entering the valley, and they eventually caught up with me, as I was just pottering back now- an easy day hike to the trail head.
When they caught up, we had a chat, and they confirmed my suspicions about my over ambitious original route, and invited me to climb Bisaurin with them. Even though I had a very sore head, and was in a vile mood, I thanked them, and joined the party, and off we went. It was one of those 'to hell with it' moments. They were French, Monsieur Vitesse, who walked incredibly fast, and his friend Pierre from Paris. Off we went back towards Bisaurin.
Mister Vitesse and Pierre heading up Bisaurin.
There are two routes up Bisaurin, one from the refuge and one from Paúl de Vernena, which is much more challenging, and the one we went on. They explained that there was still too much snow to attempt this route even the week before, as they had tried and failed to summit, so they had heard the snow was much less now, and they were making their second attempt in a month. 2010 has been a very cold and wet year in the Pyrenees, with the snow remaining much later into the season then usual.
I was happy as they knew the way, and even though I was carrying much more than they were, I kept up and took my usual place as tail end charlie when I hike in a group.
Half way up.
The ascent was spectacular, and we had views all along the valley to where I had camped. We passed snow fields and waterfalls and climbed a lot. I had to stow my sticks on more than one occasion. In all, we took about two hours to the summit, but I'm glad I did it, and didn't let my head or my shoulder get in the way of a great hike and a challenge accepted and surmounted.
View from halfway up Bisaurin to Puerto de Vernera.
Snow Field crossing about 2300m.
Looking back, two thirds up.
French mates for the day- thanks guys.
I stayed with them on the summit a while, and hiked down to the refuge with a nice Basque couple as the French were heading back the way we had come. The descent was brutal, and I really enjoyed my cold Coke at the refuge when I made it back.
Me on Bisaurin.
Thanks for reading. I'm working my way along the Pyrenees in Aragon from west to east slowly, so the Sierra de Aísa is next.
I have no idea when the next adventure will be.