Mountaineering Among Hospitals - The Historical Crossing Between Aran, Benasque and Luchon

Guide for completing the historical circular route in six stages: between the valleys of Aran, Benasque and Luchon through the high mountain passes used in prehistoric times, the mountain shelters and medieval hospitals.

In the Puerto Viello de Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
At the Puerto Viello de Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
The main reason for this report is to express an idea that we had with the mountain guide Chemary Carrera.

It is a journey that shows that the Pyrenees, despite being a great geographical barrier, also make up a no less great universe in its heights. A universe that, despite the existence of this barrier, unites rather than separates.

And, above all, it is a journey steeped in history, slow mountain in its purest form, which transcends much of the sporting activity and even mountaineering.

It is therefore not surprising that the article includes a first chapter dedicated to the long history of these mountaina passes, shelters and hospitals. Yes, it may not be very common to go back to the Neolithic in the guidebook of a mountain trek, but don't be scared or run away despite the warning, and give it a try; we believe you will thoroughly enjoy it, and it will make you see the places you go through in a much more fascinating way.

It has been exciting to do it, as much as it was last summer to walk the route. And that passion has been the main reason for the publication of the article.

It also serves as a collaboration with the Pyrenean cross-border project Entrepyr, https://entrepyr.eu.

Entrepyr

The Entrepyr project, under the framework of the European Union, has united more than 70 Pyrenean mountain refuges, creating the great website for routes, hikes and reservations in the Pyrenees. Information, reservations, interactive digital mapping with routes between refuges that allow each person to manage their own journeys...

It is made up of many partners, including all the Federations involved (Aragonese, Andorran, Catalan, French, Navarre), local governments (Andorra, Aquitaine, Aragon, Aran, Catalonia, Navarre), as well as Universities (Toulouse and Zaragoza) and Clubs (Club Alpin Français Pau, Centre Excursionista de Catalunya, Unió Excursionista Agricola de Catalunya, Unió Excursionista Agricola de Catalunya).n, Aran, Catalonia, Navarra), as well as Universities (Toulouse and Zaragoza) and Clubs (Club Alpin Français de Pau, Centre Excursionista de Catalunya, Unió Excursionista de Catalunya Agrupació Esportiva).

This article, along with others, is part of Barrabes' support for the project.

Hospitals, Shelters and Mountain Passes GREAT CIRCULAR CROSSING BETWEEN THE VALLEYS OF BENASQUE, LUCHON AND VAL D'ARAN

A small index:

  • We'll begin the report talking about the history of the mountain passes.
  • We'll continue with that of the Hospitals.
  • Then, we'll presentthe shelters along the route.
  • And finally, we explain in detail the sixstages of the route.

A word of warning: the route discussed here is for summer only. In winter, the passes become impassible, buried under sevelal meters of snow, and any activity on them becomes a major alpine challenge. Some refuges are even forced to close from November to spring.

Mountain Passes

The passes are the easiest ways (the only ones, in fact) that the inhabitants of the Pyrenees have had for millennia to communicate, visit friends, families and lovers, or trade with nearby valleys, thus finding a way through the apparent impenetrability of this mountain range.

They are emblems of the mountains that, like the peaks, do not understand borders, only necessity and life. Because the Pyrenees form a barrier whose peaks are not a place of separation, but a place of contact, knowledge and union.

There, in that common territory, in summer, shepherds, villagers, pilgrims, smugglers and travelers met and shared. From time to time, they saw history pass by: Napoleon's troops and other armies crossed through the pass in Benasque; the Republican exile was consummated through the mountain passes and, in the opposite direction, the desperate flight of the Nazi extermination.

Today, shepherds and mountain lovers from all over the world live together.

At the Puerto de la Picada. Photo: Fundación Hospital de Benasque
At the Puerto de la Picada. Photo: Fundación Hospital de Benasque
Mountain passes, on most occasions, involve routes through saddles well above two thousand meters, through decomposed and snowy terrain, ravaged by the frequent Pyrenean storms.

It is not surprising that, in the past, their crossing was seen as a necessary evil, restricted to the summer, when, despite having to cross snowfields and bad terrain, they were practicable; today, however, they serve as extraordinary and longed-for crossings for mountaineering enthusiasts.

Spring on Aneto seen from the Benasque Pass. Photo: Jorge Mayoral/Llanos del Hospital
Spring on Aneto seen from the Benasque Pass. Photo: Jorge Mayoral/Llanos del Hospital
A journey that goes far beyond the sporting aspect. They are pure history, marked, in the case of the valleys of Benasque, Noguera Ribagorzana, Aran and Luchon, by their Hospitals.
Llanos del Hospital, Hospital de Benasque. Photo:
Llanos del Hospital, Hospital de Benasque. Photo: Llanos del Hospital

The Hospitals

We will start by clarifying this potentially confusing term. In the Middle Ages, these so-called "hospitals" were not places to heal the sick, but to aid, shelter and protect travellers and pilgrims, something so necessary in these mountains. There they could sleep, recuperate and, in the case of illness or injury, be cured and cared for until their strength allowed them to resume their journey.

Over time, the word changed its meaning but, from when they were places of shelter and lodging on the road, words such as "hospitality" are derived.

They were founded in the 12th century by the Brothers of the Order of St. John, known as Order of St. John of the Hospital of Jerusalem or as Order of the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of Jerusalem. These knights hospitaller were responsible for the upkeep of the Hospital and the care of those who stayed there. Subsequently, they evolved together with the Templars into the Military Order of the Knights of St. John.

The importance and necessity of these Hospitals is such that, 10 centuries later, adapted to the 21st century, 3 of the 4 of these valleys are still standing.

Vielha Hospital

The Hospital de Sant Nicolau dels Pontells, also known as Hospital de Vielha, was founded in 1190. It is located in the valley of the Noguera Ribagorzana, near the southern entrance of the Vielha tunnel. The buildings that served as housing for the workers during the construction of the tunnel are still there. Today they are employed by some herders.
Hospital de Sant Nicolau dels Pontells in 1907. Photo Juli Soler i Santaló, Viquipèdia Commons
Sant Nicolau dels Pontells Hospital in 1907. Photo Juli Soler i Santaló, Viquipèdia Commons
At the moment, we could consider the Refugio de Conangles, eraportadaran.com/refugi-de-conangles/, located in the forest valley below, in the middle of the GR11, as its successor in terms of welcoming hikers.
Conangles Shelter. photo: Era Porta de d
Refuge of Conangles. photo: Era Porta de d'Aran

Benasque Hospital

The Benasque Hospital was founded in 1172. It is the current hotel in Llanos del Hospital, www.llanosdelhospital.com.
Llanos del Hospital, Hospital de Benasque. Photo:
Llanos del Hospital, Hospital de Benasque. Photo: Llanos del Hospital
A few ruins of the original 12th century Hospital and the Romanesque chapel of San Salvador remain 600m to the west. Probably for lack of space to expand on the hillside, in the 16th century a new location was sought on flatter terrain, 500m east of the present one, which was destroyed by an avalanche at the beginning of the 19th century.

Then it was moved again, and the one we know today, restored and adapted, was built in the place where it now stands.

Remains of the hermitage of San Salvador, Llanos del Hospital
Restos de la ermita de San Salvador, Llanos del Hospital

Hospital of Era Artiga de Lin

The old Hospital of Era Artiga de Lin was located in the area where the hermitage of the Mair de Diu dera Artiga de Lin is, in this paradisiacal subvalley of the Val d'Aran.

Today, its successor is the cozy Refugio de Era Artiga de Lin, inaugurated just four years ago. artigadelin.com

Era Artiga de Lin. In the background, the pass to Benasque. Photo: Refuge Artiga de Lin
Era Artiga de Lin. In the background, the pass to Benasque. Photo: Artiga de Lin Refuge

Hospice de France

The exact date of foundation of the Hospice de France, in Luchon, is not known. Its first documentary record is dated May 25, 1200, by a donation made for its maintenance by Sanche Garsie d'Aure, so it is likely that its dating is somewhat earlier, similar to the others.

The present building dates back to the 17th century and is maintained as a well-known hostel and restaurant, 10 km from the town, at the foot of the port. www.hospicedefrance.fr

Hospice de France. Photo credit: Hospice de France
Hospice de France. Photo: Hospice de France

Shepherds' huts and shelters; protection at altitude

Hospitals were located far from towns, near mountain passes. They were always within a day's walk of each other, allowing those crossing the Pyrenees to go from one to the other after a long and hard journey. An eternal journey that, in most cases, could only be covered with the help of local guides.

But they did not meet the needs of those who had to stay at high altitudes during the summer months, nor did they serve as shelter in case of emergency en route. Not to mention that not all the people who crossed the mountains, despite the help, were able to finish the entire route within the day.

The simple and very basic shepherd's huts, small stone shelters, provided a solution to these needs.

Old shepherd
An ancient shepherd's hut in the valley of the Ésera. Photo: JChueca/Barrabes
With time and the arrival of the first Pyrenees climbers to the mountain range a couple of centuries ago, some of these huts evolved into shelters. To these were added new, larger ones, which are now history, created to serve those who began to visit the Pyrenees, eager to climb to its highest peaks.
Shepherds, guides and pyrenees climbers in Benasque. Photo: Fundación Hospital Benasque
Pastors, guides and pyrenees climbers in Benasque. Photo: Fundación Hospital Benasque
The crossing that we are going to show links hospitals, but also uses shelters. Places full of Pyrenean atmosphere and that allow us to know the two faces of the millenary history of these mountains:

  • The Hospitals, at the foot of the pass, which mainly served those who were passing through.
  • The shelters, evolutions of the huts used since Neolithic times by those who, during the months when the absence of snow allowed it, lived in precarious conditions at these heights with their livestock.

Shepherd
Shepherd's hut in Lliterola, Benasque. Refurbished and in use. Photo: JChueca/Barrabes
Does it seem exaggerated to talk about prehistory? You may be interested to know that, a few years ago, the oldest evidence of transhumance in Europe was discovered in the Trocs Cave, between San Feliu de Veri and Bisaurri, in the southern part of the Benasque Valley. It dates from 7,300 years ago and has served to demonstrate that this lifestyle was already practiced in the Neolithic period.

To find it, the current transhumant route was followed from the distant lowlands of the Ebro valleys to the high pastures of the Benasque valley (Estós/Cerler/Besurta/Aigüeta de la Ball). And it is possible that, in all these millennia, it has not changed.

Think about it when you walk through these mountains and when you see the small huts in the high pastures. It is a luxury.

Renclusa Refuge

Little to say about the Refuge of Renclusa that is not already known. It is more than 100 years old and its primitive construction welcomed within its walls the first mountaineers on Aneto. It is managed by the City Council of Benasque, the Aragonese Mountaineering Federation and the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya, who erected the current building in 1912.
La Renclusa 100 years ago. Photo: Fundación Hospital de Benasque
La Renclusa 100 years ago. Photo: Fundación Hospital de Benasque
Any lover of the Pyrenees should spend at least one night among these historic stones, almost like a pilgrimage. www.alberguesyrefugios.com/larenclusa
Refugio de la Renclusa
Refugio de la Renclusa

Refuge of Artiga de Lin

The new Refuge of Era Artiga de Lin opened its doors shortly before the Covid lockdown. Kept by Silvia and Joan, located in a paradisiacal place, it is a continuation of the work of the original medieval Hospital, which no longer exists.

The possibility of being supplied by simple logistics, through the track that goes into the forest, allows you to have a zero kilometer gastronomy, with products from the local valley. artigadelin.com

Refugio Era Artiga de Lin
Refugio Era Artiga de Lin

Refuge de Vénasque

The Refuge de Vénasque is making its debut this year. It had to be renovated and its situation called for relocation. So, a short distance from the old one, on an isthmus between the Vénasque (or Port) boums, at just over 2,200m, the new building was completed at the end of last summer. Leading the way is Clara, its caretaker. refugedevenasque.ffcam.fr
Refuge de Vénasque, amoung Boums. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
Refuge de Vénasque, among Boums. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
A place, by the way, that many of those who make the climb to the Benasque Pass and Salvaguardia should know; located just half an hour from the pass, entering France, it allows a rest and a snack in an extraordinary place.

(To clarify: boum is the Occitan equivalent of ibon in Aragonese. Sister words, evidently evolved from a common pre-Latin ancestor, meaning "lake").

Maupas Refuge

The Maupas Refuge, located at an altitude of 2,400m, is one of the highest in the Pyrenees. It provides us with the necessary comforts to rest after the day, without great luxury but with an excellent mountain atmosphere: a single room for 30 people and a hot dinner and a good breakfast provided by its caretaker, Nathalie. refugedumaupas.ffcam.fr/
Maupas Refuge Photo: Chemary Carrera/Barrabes
Refuge of Maupas. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Barrabes
It gives access to the tough geology of ridges and three-thousanders that separate the valley of Lys, in the Luchonnais, from the valley of Estós, in Benasque. It is difficult to describe the beauty and enormity of this area to those who do not know it; Count Russell called it "the polar heart of the Pyrenees". And he was right.
Left, Luchonnais; right, Estós, from the summit of Gourgs Blancs. Photo: JChueca/Barrabes
Left, Luchonnais; right, Estós, from the summit of Gourgs Blancs. Photo: JChueca/Barrabes

The Crossing of the Hospitals: Six Days Linking Mountains and Valleys

This traverse has been designed by Chemary Carrera, mountain guide of maspirineo.com. He is the author of the directions, the photos, the idea and its realization.

Chemary was born in Chía, in the valle of Benasque, where he lives, in a family of shepherds and cattle breeders who are still dedicated to the ancestral trade. He knows these mountains like very few people, their secrets and, above all, the cultural and vital depth that they hold, either by their history, their people, their languages.

There are few better people than him to take a sporting activity to a higher level, which today, unfortunately, is often forgotten.

The Route and its Variations

The crossing goes from the valley of Benasque to the Luchonnais and the Val d'Aran./strong>, in a cross-border transit through mountains that link these closely related territories. It is a route that, as a base, seems beautiful, but that can offer many variants, as it can also be started at any of its points.
Lac Celinda. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
Lac Celinda. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
In fact, you will see that on this occasion the crossing to the Noguera Ribagorzana and the Conangles Refuge and, therefore, the former Hospital of Vielha has not been included. It is easy to include this loop in the route, since it is the end of the GR11 stage, either from Renclusa or from the Refuge of Llauset, and there is plenty of information.

Without forgetting more expansion possibilities: To the west, the Estós refuge and that of Biadós or, to the east, Parc Nacional d'Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici and its refuges. In the pages Buff Entre Refugios and Tour of Aneto you can find some variants and more ideas, and in entrepyr.eu, in addition to all the digital mapping and reservations, you can assemble your own route.

Estós Valley, Benasque. Photo: J.Chueca/Barrabes
Estós Valley, Benasque. Photo: J.Chueca/Barrabes
You will see that the description of the stages is somewhat brief. It is a question of indicating the route; those who have sufficient experience will be able to easily, with this general guide, maps and, ultimately, information on the Internet, elaborate their plan.

If not, you should hire the services of a guide, or limit yourself to the simpler and lower areas. We will never tire of repeating it: a guide is a person who, in addition to taking responsibility for our safety, can introduce us to a wonderful world that he/she knows in depth and that we might otherwise ignore. He is someone who has dedicated his life to the mountain in order to show it to us and take us through it.

And we have already started our journey. We do it in Llanos del Hospital, Valle de Benasque.

Stage One From Llanos del Hospital to Refugio de Maupas via Puerto Viello

  • Distance: 10.7km
  • Positive Elevation Gain: 1240m
  • Negative Elevation Gain: 555m
  • Approximate Time: 7hr 30 min (with stops)
  • Max Elevation: 2632m (Puerto Viello)
  • Min Elevation: 1760m (Hospital de Benasque)
  • The Puerto Viello is unknown and hardly traveled, with both uphill and downhill areas that, at this time, are not marked, so they require good mountain experience. A tough start to the journey, but one that introduces us in a way that is difficult to compare with what the Pyrenees are all about. Straight to its heart.

    Puerto Viello Gap, south face, upper right corner. Photo: JChueca
    Port Viello grille, south face, upper right corner. Photo: JChueca
    And this is the Port from the north as seen from Lac Celinda, located at a high altitude, close to it.
    Lac Celinda. In the background, Puerto Viello from the north. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Lac Celinda. In the background, Puerto Viello from the north. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    In early summer we will find snow conditions, so we must seriously assess whether it is safe to pass both the mountain pass and the section between the lakes of Celinda and Bleu (narrow path and with significant exposure).
    Path between Celinda and Bleu Lakes. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Path between Celinda and Bleu Lakes. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Both areas, in this case, require crampons, ice axes, and know how to use them well.
    At Puerto Viello, looking towards Llanos. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    At Puerto Viello, looking towards Llanos. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Description

    From Llanos del Hospital we take the Ibón de Gorgutes trail to the Puerto Viello turnoff.

    Talus field near Puerto Viello from the south. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Talus field near Puerto Viello from the south. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Once you cross the Viello Pass, you descend to the Boum de Celinda. It is really easy to get lost in poor visibility conditions, because shortly after starting to descend you have to cross to the left following a rocky area to the left edge of the lake.
    Port Viello towards Lac de Port Vielle. Photo: Chemari Carrera/Maspirineo
    Port Viello towards Lac de Port Vielle. Photo: Chemari Carrera/Maspirineo
    From there we follow the path that leads to Lac Charles.
    Lac Charles. Photo Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Lac Charles. Photo Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    We continue along the same path to Lac Bleu, going around the Pic de Graües. Here we find a gift: the spectacular panoramic view of Lac Vert at our feet.
    Lac Bleu, top and Lac Vert, bottom. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Lac Bleu, above and Lac Vert, below. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Lac Vert. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Lac Vert. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Between exposed sections we reach, after the Lac Bleu, the junction with the ascent to the refuge of Maupas from the Vallée de Lys. From there we go back to the well-deserved hot dinner and rest.
    Chemary and Nathalie, guard, at the Maupas Refuge. Foto: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Chemary y Nathalie, guarda, en el Refugio de Maupas. Foto: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Maupas refuge. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Maupas Refuge. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo

    Stage 2. From the Maupas Refuge to the Hospice de France via the Col de Sacroux and the Chemin de l'Impératrice

    • Distance: 17.4km
    • Positive Elevation Gain: 550m
    • Negative Elevation Gain: 1500m
    • Approx Time: 8 h 15 min (with stops)
    • Max Altitude: 2432m Ref. Maupas
    • Min Altitude: 1376m Hospice de France

    Another stage to remember that, also, due to the high altitude at which we have slept, it has more descent than ascent. We will end it with the tour of the famous Chemin de l'Impératrice.

    Description

    From the Maupas Refuge we will start along the path that leaves the refuge towards the Lys Valley, until the junction with Lac Vert, through an ascent that maintains the altitude until we reach the lake. The contrast that this place offers is spectacular, with the slopes, the lake and its green pines against the granite and the snow up high.

    Panorama over Lac Vert. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Lac Vert. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    After Lac Vert, descending, we will leave behind the Goües Hut, for the exclusive use of shepherds, with the same name as the peak that watches over it and the lake that accompanies it. We will pass next to the boum, descending a little from the main path up to the lake.
    Goües Hut. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Goües Hut. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Shortly after we will take a small path to the right, on the grassy slope, going up a comfortable ascent to Col de Pinata. Spectacular panorama that we have from there before our eyes, seeing the entire route we’ve done and all that remains until the Col de Sacroux.
    In Coll de Pinata. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    In Coll de Pinata. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Between the two gaps, under the watchful eye of the Maupas, Bom and Mall Barrat peaks, we will take a somewhat exposed path because the path, made of grass with a considerable slope, is very broken by the drag of the snow in spring.
    In the Coll de Sacroux. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    In the Coll de Sacroux. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    We arrive at Coll de Sacroux and find, once again, another spectacular viewpoint on both sides, especially the Circo de la Glera, from which we descend.
    On the Chemin de l
    On the Chemin de l'Imperatrice. Photo: Chemary Carrera
    On the Chemin de l
    On the Chemin de l'Imperatrice. Photo: Chemary Carrera
    After passing the climb to Glera Pass we will find the beginning of the famous Chemin de l'Imperatrice. Very comfortable path that, through the pine, beech and oak forest, will take us to the Hospice de France.
    Hospice de France. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Hospice de France. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo

    Stage 3. From the Hospice de France to the Vénasque Refuge. Peak Safeguard

    • Distance:11km
    • Positive Elevation Gain:1385m
    • Negative Elevation Gain:500m
    • Time Approx: 6 h 30 min (with stops)
    • Max Altitude: 2738m, Pico Salvaguardia
    • Min Altitude: 1376m, Hospice de France
    From Hospice France to Refuge de Vénasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    From Hospice France to Refuge de Vénasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Today we have a stage in which the final refuge of the stage is before its conclusion. We will arrive at the Vénasque Refuge and take advantage of the afternoon to ascend Pico Salvaguardia, a privileged place with incredible views of both the Benasque and Luchon valleys, with the great Aneto and Maladetas massifs presiding.
    Going up to the Vénasque Refuge. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Going up to the Vénasque Refuge. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Description

    We leave the Hospice de France along the path that directly ascends to the Port de Venasque. A zigzag climb that crosses the two cliffs until reaching the lakes where the new de Vénasque refuge is located.

    Refuge de Vénasque, from the Port of Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Refuge de Vénasque, from the Port of Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    We will sleep here, so we leave all the gear that is not essential in it and continue towards the top of Pico Salvaguardia with less weight.
    The Port of Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    The Port of Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    First we arrive at the Port of Benasque, and we recover the sensation that those who crossed it have had for thousands of years: a first view of the, hitherto hidden, massifs of Aneto and Las Maladetas. It is something unique, it seems that we could touch these giants.
    El Aneto and Las Maladetas from the Port of Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    El Aneto and Las Maladetas from the Port of Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Just after 10 or 15 meters of descent, we turn to the right and continue 300 meters up to the summit of Salvaguardia. A comfortable path, although exposed at times, there is a fixed cable to help progress and with sections of rock where the path has been plowed. Watch out for slipping if it's wet!
    Salvaguardia between clouds. To the right, the Port of Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera
    Salvaguardia between clouds. Below, to the right, the Port of Benasque. Photo: Chemary Carrera
    El Salvaguardia perhaps has one of the most beautiful views of the Pyrenees. In front, Aneto-Maladetas, further back, Posets-Perdiguero. Turning, the entire crest of the Maupas, thus seeing the path traveled days ago. To the back, the valley of Luchon. Below us, the lakes of the Montañeta and the lakes where we will spend the night.

    Stage 4. From the Vénasque refuge to the Artiga de Lin refuge, through the Benasque and La Picada mountain passes

    • Distance: 9km
    • Positive Elevation Gain: 400m
    • Negative Elevation Gain: 1100m
    • Approx Time: 6 hours (with stops)
    • Max Altitude: 2477m Puerto de la Picada
    • Minimum Altitude:1470m Ref. Artiga de Lin

    A day in which, until the long final descent towards the lands of the Val d'Aran, we go around mountains between passes through the slopes that join them, with little unevenness.

    Description

    Today we begin by repeating the short path that separates us from the Port. Once the descent that would take us to the bottom of the Benasque valley has begun, after about 100 meters of unevenness, we will turn left onto a path that has the number 23 marked on the routes of the Luchon Passes.

    Detour to Puerto de la Picada. Photo: Chemari Carrera/Maspirineo
    Detour to Puerto de la Picada. Photo: Chemari Carrera/Maspirineo
    We will pass by the old Cabellut house, with the cabins of the miners who lived there when, during the short months of the Pyrenean summer, the Pico de la Mina was worked. The ore that was extracted from there was taken on horseback to Luchon.
    Cabellut House Remains
    Remains of Casa Cabellut
    Las Basetes del Portillón, between the two passes. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Las Basetes del Portillón, between the two passes. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Towards Puerto de la Picada. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Towards the Picada Pass. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    The path does not lose much altitude, and in a comfortable diagonal it deposits us in the Puerto de la Picada. A place that gives us a great, different perspective, at the foot of Puerto de Benasque and Pico Salvaguardia. Towards the Val d'Aran we can see the range that starts at Mont Corbison towards Montpius, and the entire range from Tuques de Villamuerta to Tuca Blanca de Pomero.
    Puerto de la Picada. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Puerto de la Picada. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    In a short time we will pass through the crossroads of the descent towards Era Artiga de Lin, with the Pas dera Escaleta, which would take us back to the Hospice de France.
    Descending towards Era Artiga de Lin. Photo: Chemari Carrera/Maspirineo
    Descending towards Era Artiga de Lin. Photo: Chemari Carrera/Maspirineo
    The descent, long and stretched, will take us to the forest of Artiga de Lin, a place that can only be defined as the home of fairies and gnomes.
    Forest of Era Artiga de Lin
    Forest of Era Artiga de Lin
    Pont de Pomerò. Photo: Chemari Carrera/Maspirineo
    Pont de Pomerò. Photo: Chemari Carrera/Maspirineo
    Shortly after walking through the forest, in the middle of a meadow, we will find the Refuge of Artiga de Lin, our resting place for the night.
    Artiga de Lin Era Shelter
    Era Artiga de Lin Refuge
    But today, as an exception, we recommend that, once settled in, we take a walk until we visit the Uelhs de Joèu. An incredible place: the water that descends from the Aneto glacier, upon reaching the upper areas of Llanos del Hospital, enters underground in the Forau de Aigualluts, leaving part of the upper Ésera valley without a river. After traveling 12 kilometers underground, in which it crosses the border mountains, it reappears in an extraordinary way in the middle of the forest in the Val d'Aran.
    Uelhs de Joèu. Photo: Artiga de Lin Shelter
    Uelhs de Joèu. Photo: Artiga de Lin Refuge
    In this way, that water forms one of the sources of the Garona and, ignoring the apparent reality on land and its slope design, after traveling through the south of France it flows into the Bay of Biscay, instead of following its natural course towards the Mediterranean.
    Chemary with Silvia and Joan, guards at Era Artiga de Lin. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Chemary with Silvia and Joan, guards at Era Artiga de Lin. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo

    Stage 5. From Era Artiga de Lin to the Renclusa Refuge through the Coll de Toro/Còth de Hòro and the Forau de Aigualluts.

    • Distance: 9.5 km
    • Positive Elevation Gain: 1025m
    • Negative Elevation Gain: 400m
    • Approx Time: 6 hours 30 min (with stops)
    • Max Altatude: 2241m, Col de Toro
    • Min Altitude: 1470m, Artiga de Lin Refuge

    Day back to the Benasque Valley. The end of our circular journey through the hospitals is near.

    Description

    The next morning, we will leave the Era Artiga de Lin Refuge through a slightly uphill meadow. Light for a little while; As soon as we reach 1,650m, we will have to ascend 400 demanding meters of unevenness.
    Sirgas towards Coll de Toro
    Towing towards Coll de Toro
    It is a section with fixed cable in the more exposed steps but, even with the help of them, we must be very careful if there is humidity. Something that usually happens, because the abundant rainfall in the area includes, on many days, the fog typical of the north of the Pyrenees. A humidity that allows us to climb through a spectacle of color. Flowers often light up the path at many times in the spring and summer.
    Ibón de Coll de Toro
    Ibón de Coll de Toro
    We will arrive at the Col de Toro lake, Còth de Hòro in Aranese, a very special place. Looking south, the Aigualluts Peak covers us from a great view of the north face of the Aneto but, yes, as can be seen in the photo below, to the left of this peak we will have an excellent view of the famous Salenques-Tempestades crest.
    We arrive at Coll de Toro. The three thousand and the Benasque valley appear
    We arrive at Coll de Toro. The three thousand and the Benasque valley appear
    Finishing the descent, we will see the Llanos de Aigualluts; once in them, the Aneto will appear in all its splendor above us.
    Arriving at the Llanos de Aigualluts. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    Arriving at the Aigualluts Plains. Photo: Chemary Carrera/Maspirineo
    El Aneto from the Llanos de Aigualluts. Photo: JChueca
    El Aneto from the Llanos de Aigualluts. Photo: JChueca
    Once in the Llanos we continue descending calmly to the formerly named Forau de Aigualluts. Yes, that great hole through which the waters of the Aneto disappear underground, reappearing on the other side of the mountains, in the Uelhs de Joèu. There we will turn off along the GR11.5 uphill until we reach the Renclusa Refuge, with a final 20 minute descent after reaching the pass of the same name.
    Forau de Aigualluts. Photo: JChueca
    Forau de Aigualluts. Photo: JChueca

    Stage 6. From the Refugio de la Renclusa to the Llanos del Hospital

    • Distance: 8.5km
    • Positive Elevation Gain: 485m
    • Negative Elevation Gain: 870 m
    • Time Approx: 6 h 30 min (with stops)
    • Max Altitude: 2622m, Pico de Paderna
    • Minimum Altitude: 1760m, Llanos del Hospital

    Today, the last day of the route, we will allow ourselves a nice final treat. We could simply descend in a short time from Renclusa to Llanos del Hospital following down the valley; in fact, we could have done that yesterday when we arrived at the Forau de Aigualluts.

    La Renclusa and, on the left, Tuca de Paderna. That is where our route goes. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    La Renclusa and, on the left, Tuca de Paderna. That is where our route goes. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    But we recommend that you do not. The journey that we propose is worth it. And, of course, spend the night between the historic walls of the Renclusa.

    And it's worth it for the journey, for the Renclusa, but also because that way we can reach the top of the Tuca de Paderna. An extraordinary viewpoint from which we will have a perfect view of all the Ports through which our feet and our passion have taken us.

    A summit that is a beautiful farewell to everything we have been through and a final tribute to everything we have experienced during these six intense days. A perfect closing of the circle.

    Description

    We leave the refuge along the path that goes up to the Paderna lakes. We will climb a good slope until the path softens to leave us on a plain with meanders under the Pico de Paderna, imposing from this perspective.

    Paderna Peak. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    Pico de Paderna. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    To the left of the meanders we find the lake, which we overcome to head under a rock cliff that will leave us in a sea of granite blocks that we usually call "the labyrinth"; we will traverse it through the most obvious site avoiding the largest blocks. We continue towards the Paderna pass, leaving the peak to the right, until we see a slightly sloping pass to the left as we look: it is the old Paderna pass.
    From the Collado de Paderna. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    From Collado de Paderna. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    If we know how to orientate ourselves well, among the grass we will find some piece of path, the old passage of the sheep. From there to the Paderna peak there are about 20 minutes of hillside with some sloping path (be careful with the wind).

    The photograph, combining several wide-angle shots, does not do justice to the greatness and closeness that we will see from up there, with all the passes covered before our eyes.

    Panoramic view from the top of Paderna, with all the ports. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    Panoramic montage from the top of Paderna, with all the ports. Photo: Chemari Carrera
    We return to the pass and descend to the Paderna valley, where we have a colored bar measuring snow height as a reference. From there, diagonally to the left, we will see a valley that will take us directly into the upper tube of Paderna and, after descending it, through the forest clearing, we will arrive at the Besurta track, very close to the Benasque Hospital, in Plains of the Hospital.

    There, six days after our departure, we will end our great hospital journey.

Leave a comment

Be the first to comment on this article.