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Thursday, 3 October 2019

Cerro del Lastonar & La Concha


Walk Description

This was our second visit to El Juanar area this trip. The first one being eleven days ago on the Sunday when we made an attempt on La Concha and the less well-known Cerro del Lastonar, but main P600 summit of the small upland area of Sierra Blanca seen from Marbella. All of the tourist information and local guide sheets mention La Concha and suggest it as a suitable day’s activity if you want a change from the beach or sightseeing. What they do not mention in too much detail is Salto del Lobo (Wolve’s Leap). Situated about two hours from Refugio El Juanar on the NW side of the 1219m spot height, which from now on will refer to as Cerro de Salto del Lobo as suggested in the summitpost.org log entry, was as far as we got on the first attempt. The exposure albeit not too bad was too much for Gina.
Today’s attempt was not planned. We had intended to explore the other hiking trails including the Miradors along with the summit of Cruz Juanar. Saving ourselves about 800m hiking each way we drove past last Sunday’s parking spot near Refugio El Juanar and parked near the locked barrier. It was here we met Gary and Clair who Gary insisted were both on the way to La Concha. Setting off together at a fair old pace chatting we followed the same route along the rough stone track past Mirador del Corzo turn off and taking the right fork sign La Concha towards the derelict Cortijo del Juanar. At this point I harboured hopes Gina may be encouraged by Claire to have another go at Salto del Lobo. We turned left at the third sign for La Concha leaving the PR A-167 ascending through pine trees towards Collado de Juanar. As we left the pine trees and the rate of ascent markedly increased I noticed Claire starting to struggle to keep up. Turns out she was suffering from a hangover. When we reached Collado de Juanar we offered our goodbyes pointed out our sign to Cruz Juanar and the sign for them pointing towards La Concha. Unfortunately, for Gary, Claire did not seem too keen. Fortunately for me however she suggestred Gary and I go for La Concha whilst Gina and her wait for us just before Salto del Lobo. Gina was more than happy with this idea and clearly so was I. I did still suggest we stick together and continue to La Concha by avoiding Salto del Lobo by heading left of the 1219m spat height from the col with the 1221m spot height. I had instinctively started on this less worn track but was called back by a group returning from Salto del Lobo pointing out we had gone wrong or at least left the main track. However once at the col the girls declined my suggestion. They both said they would wait an hour then head back and wait for us at the Refugio. Gary and I set off for Salto del Lobo. Nothing too difficult for experienced hikers, but obvious care needed as there is still plenty of scope for slips and falls with severe consequences. We managed to miss the short chained section by inadvertently scrambling above it and in no time we back on a sandy trackheading round the south flank of Cerro del Lastonar looking back at the 1229m spot height. Studying the route around the now left and south side of Cerro de Salto del Lobo clearly looked doable as testified by Rob Woodall’s peakbagger log on 22/??/2010, but probably with similar jeopardy for the inexperienced hiker as Salto del Lobo. Continuing west around Cerro de Lastonar we missed the cairn marking the direct route straight up to the P600 summit, but in all honesty the P600 is the minor event of this hike. Soon after, as you progress around the flank, a spectacular view of La Concha comes opens up along with the ridge and narrow saddle you have to traverse. Again with experience it is a great ridge to walk along but as is often the case there is a less exposed path lower down to the right. Probably because we stuck to the ridge, we missed the main path and ended up on the south flank losing the track altogether. Having realised the mistake it was an easy ascent up rough ground back to the ridge. Soon after regaining the ridge we reached what seemed to be the highest point and what we thought was La Concha but checking GPS to drop a waypoint indicated La Concha and associated trig pillar was further to the west. 70m further on there is another highpoint but it looks lower. No dispute however that this low point is La Concha, there is even a remnant of one of the corners of the destroyed trig pillar plinth. Altitude measured on the phone confirmed it is 0.9m lower but it is not an accurate or indeed definitive measurement. It is the spot height and I guess influenced by local tradition that this point should be named La Concha as it is the point that looks like a shell viewed from Marbella. By now it is 15:30 meaning we have used up the 1.5 hours we told the girls we would be doing the return trip, so fairly certain they will have headed back to the Refugio by now. We set off back this time sticking to the main ridge. I have to admit, by now I was unexpectedlt feeling really tired. It is testament to the tough terrain and ground confirming La Concha ad a challenge. Also it was my first real hike since Aneto two months earlier so guess I had not retained my hill legs as much as I had hoped. Either way it would be remiss to not visit La Concha as part of going up Cerro del Lastonar. Talking of which we still had to climb. After the chains near Cepillo del Enebro we decided to carry on back round the flank of Lastonar rather than continue up the ridge from the col. Can't confirm if this was the best route but it did not take much effort to reach the ridge once we decided to turn left and head towards the ridge. We did find a path along the ridge and after turning right it was a straightforward trek to the summit. Not such good views as from La Concha but it was the P600 and for me whole purpose of the hike, despite La Concha being the highlight. Summit photos complete we continued straight over the summit to the NE and descended the other side along a vague rarely used path that brought us back to the ascent route marked by a small cairn that we had not noticed on the ascent. In hindsight we could have used this route to go straight to Cerro del Lastonar if it was the only summit we planned to visit. But as already mentioned La Concha with its views over Marbella along with Atlas mountains in Morroco, not to mention Gibraltar along with the approach ridge really are the highlights of the day. Leaving the whole purpose of ascending the P600, Cerro del Lastonar a worthy 3rd. Having re-joined the main path the return took another hour and was the same as the ascent, but this time using the chained part of Salto del Lobo and back to the van. A smashing day out made possible by Gina and Clare’s understanding, even though they frightened the life out of us by hiding behind the gate posts where the van was parked. Gary had his car keys parked at the Refugio and Gina had our van keys parked near the gate. We did wonder if they would realise and even fantasised about them bring up cold beers and putting them in the van fridge. Well can’t expect everything. The only downside was the autofocus on my phone camera playing up meaning a significant number of shots were blurred. O well, who knows, maybe on a subsequent trip to Cabopino I can return with a working camera. The views from La Concha are certainly worth the effort.

Walk Statistics

Walk Date - 03 October 2019
Walkers - Steve Smith, Gary
Accommodation - Camping Cabopino 
Start Point - Bus stop at Besurta (42.67876°N, 0.65000°E)
Start Time - 05:14
Finish Point - Bus stop at Besurta (42.67876°N, 0.65000°E)
Finish Time- 20:30
Total Duration - 15hrs 16mins 
Overall Average pace - 0.60mph
Total Distance Walked - 9.17 miles
Total Height Ascended -1613.00metres

Peaks visited

Spain/Portugal 600m Prominence Peaks (168S - 185S&P - 2165E)
Cerro del Lastonar (65S - 67S&P - 96E)
Spain/Portugal 300m - 599m Prominence Peaks (1000+)
NONE
Spain/Portugal 150m - 299m Prominence Peaks (3000+)
NONE
Spain Autonomous Community High Points (19)
Pico de Aneto (5)
Spain Province High Points (52)
Pico de Aneto (16)
S: Spain
P: Portugal
E:Europe

Final walk from previous trip

2019
February

Other walks on this trip

2019
May
15th Peñarroya
June
17th Serra de São Mamede
18th Villuercas
19th Riscos Altos
24th Corocho de Rocigalgo
27th Riscos del Amor
July
11th Morades - Sierra De La Hiruela High Point
13th Pico de Almanzor
15th Pico Jálama
16th Canchal de la Ceja & Torreón del Calvitero
18th La Hastiala
23rd Pico de Aneto
26th Posets (attempt)

Route

Map of route to follow

More Photographs

Full set of captioned photos providing journal and description of key parts of ascent, descent and summit photographs.
Route map, Statistics and other route info to follow. 

View over Marbella from La Concha 
Click on photograph to view slide-show

Friday, 26 July 2019

Posets (nearly)


Walk Summary

The plan was to get to get to ‘Al Parking de la Espigantosa’ about midday, ideally using our own transport then set off on the two hour hike and 2000' ascent to Refugio Angel de Orús.
Once at Orús we would set up our tents then spend the rest of the day in the common area of the Refugio, buy a meal and a drink followed by an early night under canvas ready for an early start next day setting off for Posets summit by 6am.
That was the plan. Unfortunately the clear blue skies and sunshine forecast earlier in the week for Friday and Saturday, changed to rain and thunderstorms from 3pm on Friday continuing throughout Saturday.
Cascada d’Espigantosa
So in an effort to beat the weather we decided to set off early morning and catch the first bus from Eriste at 6am, still overnight near the Refugio but with this plan - after we had summitted Posets. We did arrive a little earlier to check if we could drive to the car park. The sign at the barrier said you could up to 28 July (tomorrow) but the locked barrier at 42.59012°N, 0.49491°E clearly said we could not.
To be fair the online bus timetable for 2019 was from 28 June. So reversing the short distance back to the A-139 we found the car park and bus stop more or less opposite on the way in to Erista.
We joined the 13 others and paid our €10.50 return fair (single €7.00) because we obviously planned to return.
First of two signs for PR36. Just follow direction to Refugio Angel de Orús
It was breaking dawn when we set off but by the time the bus dropped us off at ‘Al Parking de la Espigantosa’ at 6:25am daylight was making it’s appearance so unlike Aneto, headtorches were not required for the early part of the walk. We had 2-3kg extra weight on our backs with our tent and sleeping bag but mitigated this by taking up two empty 1 litre bottles we expected to fill after the overnight gear had been set up near the Refugio.
Navigation is easy, straight forward and reasonably signed following the PR36, a couple of cairns, yellow/white paint markings and with one exception, an obvious path. The second and last sign was at 42.62418°N, 0.46676°E, but the path was still easy to follow.
Mick checking on the obvious path to the left if it is the way to go.
Right turn at the cairn is correct.
The one exception is at 42.62568°N, 0.46550°E near a cairn and a couple of metal stakes hammered in to the ground. The path clearly continued to the left of the cairn as verified by Mapas de España IGN but very soon fades in to undergrowth. Other people had made the same mistake evidenced by some signs of bushwhacking as we looped back to the right to find the path higher up, but we ended up back at the original cairn. In hindsight, in fact writing this, has made me realise it would have been better to have just turned round and followed our route back to the cairn. Taking the correct option to turn right at the cairn we found a slightly less well defined path than the one we took earlier but it continued in the right direction veering to the left around Fuen Royas and eventually towards the Refugio, following brown painted patches fixed to trees at regular locations.
Welcome site of Refugio Angel de Orús. Forcau Bajo beyond
With the slight diversion it took us 2 hours 10 minutes to cover the 3.2km distance with 600m of ascent of fairly straight forward hiking albeit with a few steep sections, particularly at the beginning and towards the end. Once at the Refugio we intended to set up camp then go in to the Refugio for a coffee before setting off for Posets. Wrong. There is a clear sign as you approach the Refugio that camping is not allowed. So we think we will camp a little higher up after coffee and maybe a croissant for breakfast. Wrong again. We find the Refugio is in the process of clossing until 11:30am and in any event unless you are a resident and pre-ordered meals you cannot just rock up and order food or drink on spec. Not sure if this is policy in all Refugios, but certainly something to check up on in future.
By now it was 9am and the first band of rain arrived, so we used one of the lockers to stash our camping gear. We later found out that lockers were only for use by residents but the manager kindly turned a blind eye.
By the time we had charged our empty bottles from the faucets at the back of the refugio and donned our waterproofs it was 9:30am as we set off in steady rain up the GR11.2 from the refugio towards Posets. We had also decided we would not bother camping tonight but make it another big hike and return to the bus stop in one day. After all there really was plenty of time before the last bus at 8:30pm, but would mean another 15 hour hike similar to what we did up Pico de Aneto 3 days earlier.
Once again the route is well signed by very regular red/white paint flashes to keep you on track, especially when the path disappears, giving way to scrambling over large rocks and boulders. Eventually you reach the first marker post for the GR11.2 at 42.63080°N, 0.45452°E.
Turn left at three way finger post.
If in doubt look on rock. It is correct information
The red/white paint marks continue to guide the way until you reach the Val de Llardaneta. Here there is a three way finger post all pointing to the GR11.2. I presume the bit we came up is a spur from the main route to the refugio. Turn left at this post, if you have any doubt it is the right direction you can see some kind person has painted a red arrow on the rock within Posets written nearby. More scrambling over rock and a bit of easy climbing brings you into the Val de Llardaneta proper. The rate of ascent slackens off to almost zero and you come to a collapsed metal bridge over Torrente Llardana at 42.63514°N, 0.44722°E. Also an opportunity to top up water bottles, but after the severe stomach upset we both had within two days and still are 5 days later I am questioning if the water was to blame or it really was down to combination of physical exhaustion and heat exhaustion by not allowing enough time to recover from Aneto three days earlier.
Collapsed metal bridge over Torrente Llardana
Mick seemed to be flagging, but admitting nothing, and this was before we took on any stream water. I asked him several times, without mythering I hope, if he was OK and he kept assuring me he was fine. So I just kept an eye on him stopping regularly to let him catch up and did not ask anymore. This was probably his first signs of going down with the severe stomach upset we both went down with.
Anyway after crossing the Torrente Llardana the landscape opens up to a very pleasant level walk, but don’t get carried away, this is the GR11.2 heading to wherever it goes. It certainly is not Pico de Posets. 
Turn right of GR11.2, indicated by splashes of red on cairn and rocks.
Follow path to gap between Tuca Alta (centre) and Diente de Llardana (left)
Make sure you turn right off the GR11.2 at 42.63757°N, 0.44280°E, some rocks and even a cairn have been daubed with red paint to help.
From here there is 300m of ground to cover to gain 100m before veering left when you reach the bottom of Canal Fonda.
Looking to your right and the direction of the path you can see the full extent of Canal Fonda and the route we need to take all the way up the gully to Collado del Diente between Tuca Alta and Diente de Llardana. An ascent of nearly 400m in 900m of ground covered.
Start of lower ice flow at bottom of Canal Fonda
Again the path is obvious to the bottom of the first ice flow which gave way to scree after about 150m, because of the scree and having to take off crampons I decided to give it a go without crampons and just toe kicking in to the soft ice which worked out fine. The Scree looked and was a little steeper, but apart from my aversion to ascending, and descending for that matter, scree was easily navigated by following the worn path zigzagging through the stones.
By now it was midday and the weather behind us looked to be closing in and heading our way. On reaching the second ice flow I was well ahead of Mick, so waited there for him.
Coming off first ice flow up Canal Fonda with steep scree and
second ice flow ahead, 700m beyond and in to weather is Posets summit
During this time a group from the same bus we used were on their way down from the summit. I asked them in Pidgeon Spanish if they were the last persons coming down, to which the answer was ’No’.
One of them also saw my footwear and asked if I had ‘crampeones’. I said ‘Yes, but might not bother’, they all insisted they were necessary and warm clothing as well. So I stuck my waterproof coat on and bottoms before putting on crampons and swapping trek poles for ice axe.
Mick had also arrived and was putting on his waterproofs deciding to give it a try without his spikes, just his axe. Within 50m he was heading for a rock to the side and putting on his spikes. The locals advice was good.
Whilst putting on his spikes the weather moved in with heavy rain to our backs and the odd rumble of thunder. We looked at each other apprehensively and jointly decided to carry on for now, pleased we already had waterproofs on because we would have been soaked before getting them out. Almost sleet, the heavy rain seemed to turn to ice as soon as it hit the ice on the ground. We were fine in waterproofs, but it did occur to me that when I bought crampons and axe for a Scottish Winter Mountaineering course back in Jan 2015 I never expected to be using them in July with hat and gloves least of all in Spain - A bonus extra use eh?
One of the high points for me of winter mountaineer is progressing upwards, kick-stepping in crampons, using axe shaft as third point of contact, even though it was slinging it down with rain. However the elation changed when the thunder intensified and the rain continued when we reached the 3017m spot height at Collado del Diente.
Posets summit ahead, right of centre from Collado del Diente.
Of course the photo does not capture the jeopardy
700m in direct line of sight was Posets. So close yet so far away. We could not see it however and gaining odd glimpses only made it look more out of reach. Looked like the best line for access was via Espalda de Posets, a rocky ridge gained by a 250m scramble slightly off to the right which looked precarious, in the wet and adverse weather conditions followed by a further 200m ascent to the Poset summit. Gven the conditions and the fact the rock was slippery with exposure on one side I had my doubt about the wisdom of continuing. Mick was also not to happy about giving it a go and given his natural enthusiasm to try anything a go, confirmed my feelings. Mick felt the same, so with great disappointment and only about 750m/800m of ground to cover to reach the summit, we jointly decided to make the sensible decision and turn back.
Diente de Llardana from Collado del Diente.
Thought might pick this off on way back from Posets.
Not from this direction
Descent was exactly the same route as ascent. Heal stepping in crampons with axe poised for arrest was mode of descent down first lot of ice to the scree. Mick covered the ground much better than me over the scree, so it was him waiting for me on the second ice low. Having taken crampons off to go over scree I did not bother putting them back on, relying on winter boots to heal step and axe ready to arrest a slip. Mick had already got his spikes on and we both got down without incident. We continued on path to base of Canal Fonda, turned left to descend to the GR11.2, then continued to the broken bridge over the Torrente Lardana. At this point I felt really tired and unusually for me hungry so we both took the opportunity to take on more water refuel with energy bars and nuts. We spent about 30 minutes sat on a rock recovering, musing if we had made the right decision to turn back (we think we did) and discussing if we could manage a return visit this trip. I came to the conclusion I could not muster the will to slog up this same track within a few days feeling the way I did. In any event we would need at least 3 days to recover and we had Refugio Goriz booked in 3 days’ time to go up Monte Perdido the next day. We were counting the the 4 hour hike and 900m of ascent to the refugio as part of our recovery process!!!!!!! From here it was back to the red/white paint marks to guide us down over rock and back to the path. Each step down was an effort, picking a spot to avoid aching bones and muscles, taking any more strain than they needed. Yet we knew we had a 2 hour hike out after we reached the refugio, itself at least an hour away.
Refugio Angel de Orús finally makes an appearance,
at least there is not far to go, but still at least 2 hours to bus stop
We eventually reached Orúz at 3:50pm where we met the two younger lads, everyone seemed younger today, who we met on the Collado del Diente coming of the summit soaked. One of them only had a Kagool over a thin shirt – and he was wearing shorts – and he only had trainers on without of course crampons, his mate had the proper gear, but this lad was totally unphased and just got on with it. Sometimes the enthusiasm and fitness of youth gets you a long way, but I dread to think how they would have managed and even kept warm if something went wrong. Even there backpacks looked too small to carry anything useful. Anyway they advised us the next bus from ‘Al Parking de la Espigantosa’ was at 5pm and the next and last was not until 8:30pm and invited us to run down with them. That’s a laugh we could only just walk and we politely declined and said we would only slow them down. As they set off we checked the timetable I had downloaded. They were right. What a daft timetable, but I suppose it is designed based on past usage.
View from Refugio Angel de Orús.
Two hour hike to bus stop at Al Parking de la Espigantosa.
Descent route follows valley round to right.
So after a 20 minute break and remembering our tent and sleeping bag in the locker, that’s a another 2-3kg strapped to our packs we could do without having to carry, we set off for the car park expecting a long wait on arrival for the last bus. The descent was uneventful though arduous given our tired near exhausted bodies. Mick had slowed down again, but so had I. As we reached near the bottom just as we were passing Cascada d’Espigantosa on our right and the rate of descent becomes quite steep, I heard Mick say “It’s about time I realised I am 65 and choose a more suitable hobby” or words to that effect. I sort of ignored him but came out with something like “…you only feel like that now. You’ll feel different when you have recovered”. But it did confirm to me that something really had not been right with Mick all day. Think I was suffering from the same but to a lesser extent. Although we were both running on empty coming off Aneto, I don’t think we felt as rough as we do now. We finally reached ‘Al Parking de la Espigantosa’ at 5:58pm, nearly an hour after the previous bus and 2½ hours before the next and last. We both slumped to the ground and finished the water we had left between us set for a long wait for the bus. The short rest seemed to lift our spirits and Mick suggested we walk the bus route back to Eriste. It is 3km in a direct line but with the 7 or 8 switchbacks at the bottom, more than 4km of walking. We reached our vehicles at 7:30pm dead on our feet totally drained. Plus we had to decide to return to Camping Ixeia, 20 minutes away, or head for Odessa Valley where we need to be next and have all of Saturday and Sunday to recover without having to drive 2 hours tomorrow. We chose the latter and made it as far as Camping Fiscal. So we all but managed Posets in one day, without use of the refugio. I know we did not make the summit, however and had the weather been kinder the final 800m up and same down would have taken a lot less than 2 hours still leaving plenty of time to get the last bus back to the car park. The final 4km down instead of using the bus tells me we had the legs. Having said that there are some important lessons we both learned:-

  • We need more than 2 days to recover from a 15hour hike climbing a 3000m summit even if we start half way up we still did 1600m of ascent on Aneto and 1750m on Posets, even without reaching summit.
  • For me the return to Posets will involve at least one night in Refugio Orúz, might even stay the second night to enjoy the feeling of summitting the second highest mountain in the Pyrenees. Given we were 350m short of summit by height and still did 1750m on the failed attempt as well as walking 5km more makes this a bigger mountain, on these terms, to climb than Aneto.
  • Look to use Refugios whenever there is a big walk in. Aneto did not really apply as it was only a 40minute hike from the trailhead, but Posets & Perdido have a 2 hour and 600m ascent & 4 hour 900m ascent walk in respectively
  • Don’t try and rush things to beat the weather especially on long hikes, the bad weather arrived 2 hours early for us anyway and not only cost us summitting Posets, lost us the chance to attempt Monte Perdido at all.

We only had two days to recover for Monte Perdido and although our optimism said we would be OK and it did not matter if we over did it a bit on the last walk of the trip. Turns out we had already overdone it – Big time. Saturday was a right off as expected what I jokingly call a recovery day, Sunday turned out to be the same still totally exhausted but this time we had gone down with diarrhoea and not able to eat. For me this has continued till Wednesday and only started to improve after getting medication from the farmacia in Torla on Tuesday night.
Monte Perdido from Camping Rio Arla.
Due to illness - a summit for another year
Final update:- The medication was Diafrin, the Spanish equivalent of Imodium, which actually enabled me to drive to ferry port at Bilbao and get home.
At visit to my own GP in UK, was told to stop Imodium as locks infection inside with potential to cause life threatening conditions. Sample revealed I had contracted C-diff (Clostridium difficile) a serious Gastrointestinal Infection‎, probably from a meal served by someone with dirty hands in a restaurant last Saturday before arriving at Camping Rio Arla. A course of Metronidazole, a target antibiotic, is now, 12 days after contracting bug, finally relieving symptoms and putting me back on the road to recovery.
Mick still being in Spain was able to buy his own from the local 'farmacia' and is also making a full recovery.

Walk Statistics

Walk Date - 26 July 2019
Walkers - Steve Smith, Mick Graylen
Accommodation - Camping Ixeia, Benasque 
Start Point - Bus stop at Al Parking de la Espigantosa (42.61374°N, 0.47825°E)
Start Time - 06:34
Finish Point - Bus stop at Erista (42.58915°N, 0.49353°E)
Finish Time- 19:22
Total Duration - 12hrs 48mins 
Overall Average pace - 0.89mph
Total Distance Walked - 11.36 miles
Total Height Ascended -1741.00metres

Final walk from previous trip

2019
February

Other walks on this trip

2019
May
15th Peñarroya
June
17th Serra de São Mamede
18th Villuercas
19th Riscos Altos
24th Corocho de Rocigalgo
27th Riscos del Amor
July
11th Morades - Sierra De La Hiruela High Point
13th Pico de Almanzor
15th Pico Jálama
16th Canchal de la Ceja & Torreón del Calvitero
18th La Hastiala
23rd Pico de Aneto
26th Posets (attempt)

Route

Map of route to follow

More Photographs

Full set of captioned photos providing journal and description of key parts of ascent, descent and summit photographs.
Diente de Llardana from Collado del Diente. Thought might pick this off on way back from Posets. Not from this direction.
Click on photograph to view slide-show

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Pico de Aneto


Walk Description

This was the final 10 days of my 6 week bagging trip in Spain, though a fair proportion of those 4½ weeks was spent lazing in the sun.
The ambitious plan was to meet up with Mick, who I first met on Puig Campana back in May 2018, and climb the 3 highest P600 mountains in the Pyrenees in reverse order:- No3 Monte Perdido, No2 Posets but first today No1 Pico de Aneto.
Dawn light on Pico de Paderna. Looking right beyond Barranco de la Maladeta
early on in ascent from Refugio de la Renclusa to Portillón Superior.
The day started at 04:15am when we left Camping Ixeia to catch the first bus at 05:00am from car park near Llanos del Hospital Ski Resort to the trailhead at la Besurta. There were 6 other people on the bus besides Mick and myself proving we were not the only people crazy enough to be setting off this early.
If you are going to give yourself any chance of summiting Pico de Aneto without an overnight stop, unless you are young and fit, you need to be on this first bus of the day to give yourself enough margin of error to be back in time for the last bus at 9:00pm. It only takes 10 minutes and within less than 5 minutes of arrival we had donned head torches and was all heading up the path towards Refugio de la Renclusa, which we reached within 40 minutes. Had I known I would have taken empty water bottles up to fill at the taps outside the refugio. Instead I carried an extra 2.75litres of water and more importantly 2.75Kg unnecessarily. Worth remembering really because although you need more water there are plenty of places to top up along the entire route during July with glacial melt water.
Somehow we feel we want to be lower on boulder field around bottom of cliff
towards Portillón Superior. But the cairned path continues up and to the left
From the refugio the cairned path continues south and up, zig-zagging towards Crencha de los Portillones and the access to Glaciar de Aneto at Portillón Superior. About half way up the path and cairns seem to be forcing you to go east towards Portillón Inferior, while we really wanted to stay low and head up the boulder field direct to Portillón Superior. As it turned out we ended up doing something in between and hit the ridge and first sight of Pico de Aneto nearly four hours after setting off from Besurta. This halfway option seemed to work, giving us the benefit of a splendid ridge walk SW along the Crencha de los Portillones remembering to descend right at the final opportunity to avoid a sheer drop and impossible descent to Portillón Superior.
Portillón Superior straight ahead, look to descend right off
Crencha de los Portillones. Pico de Aneto still far left
Three weeks earlier Mick had already summited Pico Aneto and descended straight on to the glacier from Portillón Superior. For us there was some soft snow, no ice, but a great deal of boulder hopping for the next 2½ hours. One bonus apart from the worry of experiencing the reality of global warming first hand was the opportunity to refill water bottles before hitting the glacier for real. Ahead was an ice sheet which I elected to descend around to avoid donning crampons, in the hope that I may not need them at all. The trade off was no crampons for a short kick stepped glacial ascent whereas Mick headed for the ice sheet before first slipping on his micro-spikes and we met the other side of the ice sheet on the path that traverses the glacier at about the same time. So about the same, both of us said we did not push the pace to arrive first. - Honest.
We continued to traverse the glacier, me without spikes and just one trek pole on the lower side and my axe on the higher side in case I slipped. Fortunately I did not but by the time I reached Collado de Coronas I put on my crampons. One of the skills of using crampons is realising when you are going to need them before you find yourself on an ice sheet and really need them.
Cannot quite see summit beyond summit crown,
but time to stash back packs and trek poles at top of ice tail on right
They were not required all the way to the top as all the ice and snow had receded from the summit crown so at the same time as removing crampons and spikes we also stashed our packs and trek poles for the final 50 m of ascent.
There is a faint track worn into the boulders and very soon you see the top of the cross marking Aneto's summit. If you have not done any research you would think that was job done but for those of us who have will know that before reaching the cross there is a small twist - 'Paso de Mahoma'.
Often referred to as 'Bridge of Mohamed' but translates as 'Passage (or step) of Mohamed' alluding to its knife edge boulder set at 90° to the ridge reminiscent of the scimitar Muslims refer to having to cross in order to reach the gates of heaven.
Paso de Mohama. Does not look it but a serious grade III scramble
to be negotiated before reaching Pico de Aneto
Bridge is also an apt name given the 2000' drop one side and the 3000' drop the other.
Regardless of the name it is a serious obstacle that could bar your way to reaching the ultimate goal of the summit. Having said that there are plenty of hand/foot holds but with plenty of exposure especially when straddling the above mentioned rock.
All this could maybe avoided by simply walking along the top of the ridge, but no way would my head for heights cope with that.
I was first to arrive but knowing what to expect, turned round and waited for Mick without looking at what I was about to take on. As Mick arrived another guy arrived and I could see the hesitation in his face, I asked him if he wanted to go first and he did. Not sure he went the best way but it gave me a clue where to start. Carefully round to the right, straddle the scimitar rock as I eased round/over then a final scramble up rock and on to the summit crown. Probably took less than 3 minutes to complete the traverse but was certainly the most daunting experience I have had in my entire hill walking adventures. 
Only we know our hard it was to get here after a 4:15am start
and 9 hours solid hiking
Big smiles, handshakes and man-hugs on summit. And why not? It had after all taken 9 hours to get here even though it was only 7km. But what should you expect, it is the highest point in the Pyrenees, one of the major European mountain ranges.
We spent quite a bit of time there taking photos of all 3 features; The cross, a religious statue of 'The Virgin' which I am told you can hear crying when it rains and the ubiquitous cylindrical trig pillar. The weather was perfect and the views are fantastic with nothing but mountains all round as far as you can see.
Mick thinking about final move to descend Paso de Mohama.
There is a 9000' drop to the right!
All too soon it was time to start thinking about heading back and first item on the agenda was of course El Paso de Mahoma just as daunting in this direction, probably more as you are forced to look down on occasions, however same approach as the ascent - slow and careful. Not sure I came back the same way but did seem quicker.
More than ever, with El Paso de Mahoma in font of you does the maxim apply that the job is only half done at the summit
Considering alternate descent to Plan d'Aigualluts via Ibón del Salterillo
to avoid boulder fields either side of Portillón Superior
After picking up our kit and putting crampons back on we deliberated returning the same way to Portillion Superior then descending direct to Refugio de la Renclusa rather than via Crencha de los Portillones ridge. With the ice melt that would involve traversing two major boulder fields and with tired legs we really wanted to avoid that. The alternative was to descend to Ibón de Salterillo, bypassing Crencha de los Portillones to the SE. Slightly further but easier on the legs as we stayed on the glacier for longer. From the Ibón we crossed the Barranco del Solterillo and found an easy to follow path though not easy to walk as by now we had very tired legs. We could have followed the path all the way back to Refugio de la Renclusa but passed on that option when we saw we had some reascent. Instead we took the alternative path at 42.66603°N, 0.65895°E and continued the descent to Plan d'Aigualutt.
After Ibón del Salterillo there is a good path to follow all the way down to
Plan d'Aigualluts. Just a long way with tired legs
At 42.66590°N, 0.66513°E we incorrectly took a left turn which brought us to a sheer drop overlooking Salto d'Aigualutt. The clue is in the name, salto translates to jump! We did try to find a way down but soon realised there was not one. By this stage we we really tired so our mood was not the most positive. Returning to the fork we turned left where was quickly confronted with a river crossing of the infant Rio Ésera, only just above knee deep where we crossed but wide enough for water to fill our boots. There may have been a dryer crossing but at this stage we were too tired to mess about walking along the bank. At least on the other side there was a distinct path albeit uneven in places past Cabana d'Aigualutt and the final 2km back to the bus stop at Besurta, missing the 8:30pm bus by only a couple of minutes. It either left early or there was not one. Fortunately there was one more bus, the last bus of the day, at 9:00pm confirming why we needed the early 5:00am start. 
Half hour before walks end at Besurta bus stop, can look back fondly at Pico de Aneto.
A good descent route this time of year but classic ascent via Portillion Superior is best IMHO.
An absolute beast of a day but of course a fantastic day. Like I said earlier what do you expect when you take on the highest mountain in the Pyrenees.
It also turned out to be the final summit of the trip, due to failed attempt on Posets in 3 days time. Thunder and lightening as we neared the summit was one factor, but I think maybe we were too tired to take on this summit with only two rest days after Aneto. Certainly we would have been quicker and maybe have been on our way down from Posets summit before the weather closed in. The final summit of Monte Perdido had to be cancelled due to severe sickness and diarrhea which we both went down with and thought it may be something to do with exhaustion. Turns out however we ate a dodgy pizza after Posets which gave us food poisoning, contracting Clostridium Difficile or C-Diff. Without going into too much detail it took 3 weeks to recover. 

Walk Statistics

Walk Date - 23 July 2019
Walkers - Steve Smith, Mick Graylen
Accommodation - Camping Ixeia, Benasque 
Start Point - Bus stop at Besurta (42.67876°N, 0.65000°E)
Start Time - 05:14
Finish Point - Bus stop at Besurta (42.67876°N, 0.65000°E)
Finish Time- 20:30
Total Duration - 15hrs 16mins 
Overall Average pace - 0.60mph
Total Distance Walked - 9.17 miles
Total Height Ascended -1613.00metres

Peaks visited

Spain/Portugal 600m Prominence Peaks (168S - 185S&P - 2165E)
Pico de Aneto (65S - 67S&P - 96E)
Spain/Portugal 300m - 599m Prominence Peaks (1000+)
NONE
Spain/Portugal 150m - 299m Prominence Peaks (3000+)
NONE
Spain Autonomous Community High Points (19)
Pico de Aneto (5)
Spain Province High Points (52)
Pico de Aneto (16)
S: Spain
P: Portugal
E:Europe

Final walk from previous trip

2019
February

Other walks on this trip

2019
May
15th Peñarroya
June
17th Serra de São Mamede
18th Villuercas
19th Riscos Altos
24th Corocho de Rocigalgo
27th Riscos del Amor
July
11th Morades - Sierra De La Hiruela High Point
13th Pico de Almanzor
15th Pico Jálama
16th Canchal de la Ceja & Torreón del Calvitero
18th La Hastiala
23rd Pico de Aneto
26th Posets (attempt)

Route

Map of route to follow

More Photographs

Full set of captioned photos providing journal and description of key parts of ascent, descent and summit photographs.
Route map, Statistics and other route info to follow. 
Three hours after Portillón Superior hit glacier proper. Nearly two hours to Pico de Aneto summit.
Click on photograph to view slide-show