Hiking the GR11 in Aragon in the Spanish Pyrenees

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August 27th 2013
Published: November 14th 2013
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The very popular Parc GuellThe very popular Parc GuellThe very popular Parc Guell

Everyone wants to get a photo with the Serpent
We started in Barcelona for our 2013 trip to hike portions of Aragon's GR11 and GR11.1 trails in the Spanish Pyrenees. In 2012 we had concentrated on the GR 11 in Cataluna, so we started further west on this trip. The hike was set up with some buffer in case of bad weather, illness, etc. In the end, that was a good plan. We started in the Pyrenees in the Val d'Echo and ended in Torla, staying at refugios and hotels. Our trip was at the end of the season, so most refugios were not crowded. Beware, going high season would be a very different experience. We made reservations at all refugios, which guaranteed a spot, but reduced flexibility. Most high Pyrenees refugios close at the end of September, and most require payment in cash. The ones below provide a bed, breakfast, picnic lunch, and dinner, sold separately. For a high level map view, see this web site and map with an Excellent overview of the Central Pyrenees.

Editor: Apologies for lack of accents on the Spanish and Catalan words. I'll correct this when I figure it out!

Design points for this trip:

• No sleeping bags, tents, cooking equipment, meaning we required staffed refugios.
• Reasonably-sized
The Banys Oriental HotelThe Banys Oriental HotelThe Banys Oriental Hotel

Our refuge in Barcelona
overnight backpacks (related to former).
• Achievable by two fit individuals circumnavigating 60 years of age with one of us at 4' 11" and 92 pounds.
• Some taxis or buses used to reduce walking on roads.
• Elementary level of Spanish required.

Why did I write this Travel Blog:

My husband Randy spent a LARGE amount of time planning both this trip and last year's trip. He finally found good information sources after significant investment of time. We found many of the most useful were sources while we were in Spain in 2012 as well as during this trip. His main source was the Spanish Prames GR11 Senda Pirenaica book and map set. Having this Blog might point people to some information sources that would be useful in planning their own trips to this area. See the bottom of the blog for a list of references as well as links in the text.

Day 1 - Wednesday, 28 August 2013, Barcelona

This was our second trip to Barcelona, so we had already seen the required sites of Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, La Pedrera so did not repeat them. I would definitely recommend them for those who will be visiting Barcelona for the first time. We purchased a 2-day Barcelona Card; these can be bought for multiple days. It was a good deal for us, since we visited a number of the museums and sights, and just hopped on the metro without thinking about it. And at least one museum was not of our interest, so we walked around a bit then out, then to the next sight. This time we bought the Barcelona Card online before leaving, and picked it up at the Barcelona airport. Saved a good chunk of time versus walking to the Plaza Cataluna to pick it up like we did on the first trip. Our flight was late, so didn't have a lot of time for sightseeing on the first day. Rough list:

• Stayed at the Banys Oriental on Carrer de Argenteria in the Bari Gotic as we did on the last trip. Really like the place.
• Lunch was tapas at Taller de Tapas (really excellent). esparragos a la plancha, ensalate, papas bravas.
• Visited Parc Guell again since we love Gaudi's architecture and like to spend our arrival day walking around to set our body clocks from Pacific Time. This time we visited Gaudi's Studio which we missed last time. It gave us
Barcelona from the Museo MilitarBarcelona from the Museo MilitarBarcelona from the Museo Militar

The Museo Militar on Montjuic.
more background on his life and works. Thought it might be less crowded on a weekday. NOT!
• Next to Montjuic to see the fortress and the Fundacion Joan Miro, Centre d'Estudis d'Art Contemporani. The teleferique was expensive so we walked up the hill. The fortress (Museo Militar) really isn't very far, maybe 1/2 mile walk. It was built in the 1700s, but the high area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Variously used to defend Barcelona as to attack or subjugate its by different factions: Spanish, Revolutionary, French, etc. Also used as a prison. The fort had a great view of the harbor and the city, and is well worth the trip. The Joan Miro museum is absolutely fabulous, a must see.
• A light dinner at Tapas de Born, with a paella valencia and gazpacho starter, shared the main dishes of pollo a la plancha and salmon a la plancha. Dessert was a nice lemon sorbet.
• Both tapas bars very near the hotel in the Bari Gotic section. Walked through this old town section which is a worthy destination unto itself.

Day 2: Thursday, 29 August 2013, Barcelona

• Lovely breakfast at the hotel. We should have hustled a bit more to get to the Museo Picasso at the 10:00 opening time. But we tarried and they ran out of audio guides just a few people ahead of us. I have seen a number of Picasso exhibits (NYC 1983?), but I would have loved an audio guide. We did find a book in the museum that had images from the Velazquez "Las Mininas" (the Maids of Honor). That was important as Randy was not familiar with the work (and I had not seen it for some time). There are 45+ works by Picasso interpreting the Velazquez painting, so it is important to know the context. Fabulous museum; we spent a good 2 hours there.
• Normally Randy is not a non-stop museum guy, but we wanted to see some contemporary art as well as historical and archeological sites. Used the Barcelona card to see some museums that we normally would have skipped. We are glad we did, since we found some treasures. My notes aren't too comprehensive in all cases since sometimes they are after the fact, but the museums were:
• Fabulous helados at the Italian Gelateria just down the street from the hotel (towards Iglesia de Santa Maria). Hazelnut and Pistachio, my favorite.
• CCCB: Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona. A retrospective of Italian filmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. We weren't familiar with his works so did not stay long.
• MUHBA: Museo Historica de Barcelona. The archeological dig under the museum was fascinating. We have always loved seeing the development of a town from an archeological perspective.
• MACBA: Museu d'Art Contemporani De Barcelona.
• Dinner at El Cuatro Gats, specializing in Catalan cuisine. Dined here twice on our last visit, and each time have had a wonderful meal. Randy started with a Gazpacho de Melon - really good. My salad was goat cheese in a thin pastry shell wth almonds, tomatoes, onion on greens in a light vinaigrette. We both had the baked fish, although I did not write down the variety but it was not a familiar name to me. It was baked in a small cast-iron skillet on a bed of thickly sliced potatoes. Lovely Catalan sauce which was not overpowering. Shared a bottle of local white wine.

Day 3: Friday, 30 August 2013, Barcelona to Hecho.

An uneventful day mostly filled with travel to progressively smaller towns on progressively smaller buses. Only 1 bus per day from Jaca to Hecho at this time of year, so we decided to have a nice morning in Barcelona with one more fabulous Banys Orientals breakfast. Bus from Barcelona-Sants to Huesca was about 4 hours. The bus was timely, so our 20-minute layover was enough to get a bocadillo at the bus stop cafe.

We had 2 hours in Jaca, so walked to the Citadel ("Ciudadela", a great example of 16th-century military architecture). Unfortunately one can only visit the inside with a guided tour, and our 2 hour window was not aligned to tour times. Instead we walked to an ancient Roman bridge, the Puente San Miguel. The bridge was fabulous - 3 catenary arches constructed of stone where one riverbank was substantially higher than the other, and of a more durable substrate.

Arrived in Hecho (sometimes spelled Echo), at the hotel Casa Blasquico, another gem thanks to Randy's good planning. Small, 6 rooms, but with dining awards. A nice starter of white asparagus with smoked salmon. Dinner of merluza (hake - a firm-fleshed white fish), lightly floured and sauteed. Couldn't help but try the wine from Aragon - Pescallunes. Randy was responsible and had strawberry sorbet for dessert, but I couldn't pass up the tiramisu. Better start hiking soon, or I won't be able to waddle up the trail! Strolled around the town after dinner for about 20 minutes, then retired.

Day 4, Saturday, 31 August, Hecho to Hotel Rural Uson

Dinner ended at 11:00, so breakfast wasn't until 9:00 a.m. Gave us some time to walk around the town. Another lovely hamlet constructed in cobblestone. Found the bakery and the supermarket so we could return later and buy a picnic lunch for the hike.

Another nice breakfast, and we moderated ourselves this time. Headed up the road where Randy had found some trails to the Monastery of San Pedro in Silesa We started up the GR15 then cut over to the HU-13, a small trail that descended to Siresa from the higher GR15 trail. Fabulous views of Siresa and the monastery. 13th - 14th century monastery was recently restored and is lovely, set in a very picturesque town.

Next towards our destination for the night, the Hotel Rural Uson. I am now finally getting to see some birds. The Aragon River lies below us, and we were walking up a valley with steep cliffs and gorges. The number of raptors and vultures is amazing: I hope to be able to identify some of them. I just couldn't drag the heavy Birds of Europe book, so opted for the Birds Europe birding app on my iPhone. Not impressed, but it didn't weigh anything!

After checking in at the hotel, we walked up the value and scouted for birds near the river. We would cover some of the path again the next day, but we wanted to stroll versus hike, which is better for birding.

The Birding in Spain web site had the Hecho and Anso Valley areas listed as popular destinations, so we built in some extra time in the schedule for birding. We discovered the next day that the Gabardito Refugio was closer than our notes indicated, 5K not 7K, so hikers could easily have walked from Hecho to Gabardito and skipped Uson. We arrived at the hotel Uson pretty early, so investigated the start of the hike to Gabardito.

Late dinner at the hotel - they had one sitting at 9:00 PM, so we were really hungry. A really nice salad with goat cheese, lettuce and asparagus. Dinner was a great sauteed fish, probably trout. Vanilla ice cream for dessert with a drizzle of honey. Finally to sleep!

Day 5, Sunday, 1 September 2013, Hotel Uson to Refugio Gabardito

I awoke early and went out to see some birds. I am not the best birder, so was having trouble finding and ID'ing the little birds. Smallish breakfast at the hotel then a slow start. Randy's sunglasses fell apart, fortunately on the hotel floor. Patched them up and they held up for the trip. Started on the trail about 10:30, and we were really surprised to arrive at 11:45. Ate our lunch on the picnic table, then walked up the gorge to see if I could spot the rare Wallcreeper. (I DID!).

At Gabardito, we had a nice dinner of pasta with shrimp, clams, and mussels as a starter. A really good beef burgundy main. Good chats with the other guess. Our dinner partners were two young guys from Barcelona, Joseph and Uri. Their English was about as good as our Spanish, so we both got some practice. They were hiking La Senda de Camille, a popular 6-7 day circuit. We ended up running into a number of people doing this route. A circular route has some advantages of the same start and end location, versus our point-to-point hike.
Hiking from Garapata to LizaraHiking from Garapata to LizaraHiking from Garapata to Lizara

The Senda de Camille guided tour group hiking from Garapata to Lizara
This is another of the routes that has its own map and book, making planning a lot easier than piecing a route together from the Prames GR11 book. Last year we crossed a number of hikers traveling another popular circuit, the Carros de Foc in Cataluna. There are guide books for this circuit too, see the link.

Day 6, Monday, 2 September 2013- Refugio Gabardito to Refugio Lizara

We chatted with a guided group hiking the La Senda de Camille, and Randy got a great photo of them hiking towards Refugio Lizara. We took a short side hike to a peak to the right of the pass, while the guided group hiked to the left to the major peak, Pico Bixaurin. They had great views,; hiking it would be my recommendation for others.

The hike was another lovely one and uneventful. We arrivea at the refugio by 2:00 and ran into Joseph and Uri again. They had arrived at noon and were digging in to a large lunch. We scouted out the start for the next days trip, which ended up being a good idea since the GPS and maps did not agree, and the signage was poor.

We chatted some with Uri and Joseph, and learned a new Spanish word, Dominguero. Sort of an intersection of our English "Weekend Warrior" and "Sunday Driver", it is someone who goes out only on Sundays. In this case, they used it for weekend hikers who go travel to the refugios then complain about them not being sufficiently fancy. We thought it was a good word to tuck away!

Gabardito is not reserved via the general web site, see gabardito@gmail.com o en el teléfono 974 375 387S.

Day 7, Tuesday, 3 September 2013, Refugio Lizara to Refugio Canfranc

Early start since this would be one of the longer days. On the trail by 8:00 a.m. We kept up a good pace, with only one snack break before our 1:00 lunch stop. Last year we had some trouble finding the trail, but so far it hasn't been a problem. We traversed a number of meadows and pastureland with cows, who tend to obscure the trail. There were only a couple of spots that were challenging to follow. The binoculars proved to be handy in spotting the distant trail markers.

The Canfranc Refugio was pretty basic, but we did meet two nice pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago de la Compostela. One was from the Netherlands, the other from Germany. It was the first day for both of them, since their starting point was just over the border in France. Nice dinner of chicken in a light Spanish sauce, and a great cream of broccoli soup. (Reservations from same site as Lizara. Respomuso, Bachimana, Casa de Piedra will also use this web reservation system).

Day 8, Wednesday, 4 September 2013, Refugio Canfranc to Hotel Santa Cristina

A really short day today! We had an amusing start. As we left the refugio, a car with French plates pulled up and 4 women jumped out. One spoke Spanish; they wanted to know where to get the stamps for the Camino de Santiago passport. They appeared to be driving the Camino. Since we hadn't seen many pilgrims, we told them to ask at the Refugio. Me thinks that driving the 850+K of the Camino is not quite a pilgrimage!

Walked to Canfranc Estacion to visit the old railway station. Fortunately we hung around a bit, and discovered that there were tours. All were in Spanish, and our guide spoke really rapidly, but we were able to understand a bit. Reading the outside placards helped. The French architecture was lovely, but in disrepair. It is in the process of being refurbished, since the area is a popular ski destination.

We found a great panaderia and bought lots of bread and cookies, so we enjoyed a nice lunch. After walking to the hotel, Randy wanted to scout out the next stays start, since it would be one of the longer days. It was a good thing that we did, as it took us nearly an hour to be confident that we had the right path. The GR20 maps and the GPS disagreed a lot, and we did not understand all of the hotel clerk's directions. Finally everything matched up, and we could relax. The hotel Santa Cristina had a nice spa room that was included in our off-season rate. We took advantage of the sauna, pool and jacuzzi, which felt great with our tired muscles. (OK, we haven't had really hard days yet, but it was great anyway!)

Nice dining room with an avocado and prawn salad. We have been married too long, we always order the same thing. Main dish was dorada in a romesco sauce. Dorada translates to gilt fish, a small whole fish. Quite nice! And Tiramisu for dessert! Arranged for a 7:00 a.m. breakfast since we needed an early start.

Day 9, Thursday, 5 September, Santa Cristina Hotel to Formigal

Great breakfast at the hotel and another day of lovely weather. On the trail by 8:00 since it would be a long day. The deal was that I wasn't supposed to bird so I could keep up a good pace. Cheated by putting a pencil and small pad in a handy pocket to take notes and make quick sketches. This ended up being a brilliant idea. I could find the birds in the app later without forgetting the significant field marks, which is my downfall. Arrived at the Ibones de Anayet (lakes) by 1:00 for lunch. Lovely spot with a lot of folks. The trail down was long but fine, until we hit the main highway. Walking on the new asphalt was really hot and hard on the feet. At the bottom of the ski lifts, we fell in with a German couple who we kept crossing on the trail. They had really lightweight gear and were camping, with packs no larger than ours. They were walking to Sallent and planned to go to Refugio Respomuso too, so we said our "hasta luegos" and proceeded to the Hotel Nievesol. ( +34 974 490 112 )

Day 10, Friday 6 September, Formigal to Refugio Respomuso.

Another fairly short day. We should have followed Randy's original plan to taxi to the Refugio Respomuso parking lot. We had decided to walk, but the GPS was not matching the GR11 maps. When we found the "old" highway, we ran into lots of machinery and a worker who told us they were resurfacing it. He did not know if there was a way to get around the construction, and it wasn't obvious. Since rain was due later, we decided to go back to the hotel and hire a taxi, reverting to the original plan. An excellent 20 Euro investment, since it started raining an hour after we arrived at the refugio.

Nice refugio, but only 4 guests and bunks and lockers for 100! We were the only ones dining, so it was a quiet dinner. The bad weather forecast must have discouraged the German couple who we had hoped to see again.

Day 11, Saturday 7

Randy approaching RespomusoRandy approaching RespomusoRandy approaching Respomuso

Refugio just visible over his right shoulder.
September, Refugio Respomuso to Sallent de Gallego (actual vs planned)

We had an early breakfast at 7:00 a.m. It was very stormy, and we were unwilling to ascend to the pass. It was raining within 5 minutes after leaving the refugio, with significant (and close) thunder and lightning within 15 minutes. We decided to descent to Sallent de Gallego. It poured most of the way down. There were a few short lulls in the cloudburst, so we had lunch at the picnic tables near the parking lot. Arrived in a torrent, and found a nice little hotel, Hostal Central. Walked in and booked it without looking around. We had just about every surface in the room covered with soggy clothing. The pack covers didn't work effectively with the rain running down our backs. The hefty bag liners were invaluable, and we had Sea-To-Summit bags around most items, so the pack contents did not get wet, just the packs themselves.

When the rain relented, we walked around the town. lovely old church, but no way to get inside - we went back a number of times on Saturday and Sunday. Found a Menu del Dia for 20 Euro at Malinche, but it was just average.

The ladies that ran the Hostel Central were very nice. Maybe mother and daughter? Anyway the younger woman spoke some English which was useful when we got stuck. She made a taxi reservation for us to Banos de Panticosa, so we could get back on track. Original plan was Refugio Respomuso to Refugio de los Ibones de Bachimana, but of course we bailed out on crossing the pass, so had to get back on track.

Day 12, Sunday, 8 September 2013, Sallent de Gallego to Banos de Panticosa

Some rain in the morning, but walked around town when it wasn't raining (or not much). Visited a nice panaderia for bread and cookies for tomorrow's lunch. Actually, every panaderia we ran across was quite good. Look for pan entero - whole wheat; pan integral - a nice dark bread; panes cereales, with seeds, etc..

Had a lunch aft the cafe - nothing special, but with the refugio and panaderia picnics, we were getting pretty tired of bread, cheese and ham. A salad and eggs was a nice break.

Short taxi ride to Banos de Panticosa, think it was 30 Euro including
Refugio de Los Ibones de BachimanaRefugio de Los Ibones de BachimanaRefugio de Los Ibones de Bachimana

We did a day hike to the refugio since we had skipped the alpine crossing from Respomuso due to a thunderstorm
tip. Really ritzy hotels and spa here. (One of the refugio guys referred to them as "the ugly hotels"). The Refugio de Casa de Piedra was really nice. The refugios that we have visited in Aragon so far are much nicer and better equipped than those on our Cataluna trip last year. Many of these in Aragon were also on roads, which makes provisioning much simpler, and would explain the better services. We never did figure out how Respomuso was supplied, but some of the huts such as Goriz had helipads. This refugio was well named: a lovely stone building. It was nearly bursting with day hikers and climbers - a large bus was picking up a group of French hikers who were lunching as we arrived. I noticed a sign near Panticosa where we left the highway stating "Francia, 10K". The area is clearly a popular day and weekend destination. This group looked like they could outdistance us in 10 minutes!

I was surprised to find wifi here. Nice to recharge and stay connected. Most refugios had a few plugs. Since it wasn't crowded, we could charge up the iPhone which we wanted for emergency contact with the
Refugio de Casa de Piedra Refugio de Casa de Piedra Refugio de Casa de Piedra

We stayed 2 nights so we could get back onto our schedule
US. And I had the bird app, so wanted to keep it charged.

Our dinner partner, Cesar, was very patient with our Spanish, and we had a nice conversation. He appeared to be car camping, and we noticed a lot of the dinner guests were staying in their camping vans. This is probably a pretty good deal - a hearty dinner for a reasonable cost, with less cost for lodging.

Day 13, Monday, 9 September, Refugio de Casa de Piedra

Did a very nice day hike up to the refugio that we skipped, Ibones de Bachimana.

Visited the fancy spa at the Banos de Panticosa . It was a real treat. Stayed over 2 hours visiting quite a few of the facilities: sauna, igloo, swimming pool, a huge jacuzzi which was more like a pool with different types of jets. One room had a huge warm marble stone, maybe 20 feet in diameter, on which one lays and relaxes. Some interesting shower-like jets with alternating temperatures and water pressures. We just cycled through many of them and revisited the ones we liked. Great after many days of hiking!

Day 14, Tuesday, 10 September, Casa de Piedra to Refugio

de Bujaruelo

Set the alarm for 6:00 a.m. and breakfasted at 6:30 with backpacks already set. We were eating breakfast when we notices that then manager was enjoying some great jazz. HIs name was Ignacio; he and Randy started discussing jazz. He is a big jazz fan and was familiar with the Monterey Jazz Festival, which we would be going to in a few weeks. Randy sent him some CD's later, hope he enjoys them! We were out the door by 7:15 since this was to be the longest day. The weather forecast was poor, but I noticed stars when I stuck my head out before breakfast, so took that as a good omen. We really booked going up the hill, and were just a tad slower than the 2 hour rated time to the Ibones Altas de Brazato. Stopped to put on rain jackets, and lo and behold, Cesar appears on the trail. He was doing another high alpine route and then back to the refugio where he had parked his van. We tried to keep up with him going up the col, but he is a regular mountain goat and he outpaced us, skirting off the GR11 to visit the lakes. This part of the trail around the col was the hardest - lots of talus, where every step needed to be made carefully. We got to the col about 11:00 and decided to "brunch" since we needed a break and rain was coming. It is a good thing we did, as it started raining and we did not get to finish our lunch until 3:00. Not tired of tortilla espanola on a bocadillo yet, but pretty tired of salami!

The scenery was fabulous, but Randy didn't take many photos due to the intermittent rain. Since the forecast was for rain most of the day, we were pleased to have just intermittent showers. The day was about 1200 meters in altitude gain and 20K. It was rated by the GR11 book at 9 hours, but by the signposts the reverse direction was 6 1/2 hours. But lots of putting on and taking off of rain gear was a bit inefficient. So we were pleased to walk through the doors of the very nicely appointed Refugio de Bujaruelo after 10 hours. We had time to wash some clothes, take showers, and relax before dinner.

I loved the last 25 minutes through the Ruta Ornitologica, with lots of signs indicating the locally common bird species. That would be on the list for the next day for sure! Not getting much birding in on this trip, the very few days where there was a bit of time, we weren't in the best spots, or in pouring rain.

Dined with a nice Australian couple, Pete and Sarah, who were taking off a year and traveling for 3 months. They only had a few weeks left, and just arrived in Spain from France. They were teachers in Canberra and were planning on relocating to Hobart, Tasmania, where she had grown up. More on them later!

Day 15, Wednesday, 11 September, Refugio Bujaruelo to Torla

Visited the Ruta Ornitologica after breakfast. Unfortunately it was pretty much a bust since it was really windy, so I was unable to see or hear the birds. Got a few glimpses but no firm IDs. Headed down the trail instead. We had pictured a leisurely hike to Torla, but some parts of it were quite eroded so it took some time to navigate a few stretches.

The Hotel Ordessa was at least 2K closer than Torla, so that saved us some walking on the road. Had a fabulous 3rd floor room with skylight windows. Randy played with the remote, which opened and closed the windows. Unfortunately, we had the worst dinner yet. Awful fish, a hake in a mussel sauce, but so hungry I ate it anyway. Inedible dessert, some sort of rock hard tart with plums. And really, when I don't eat dessert, that means it is BAD.

Day 16, Thursday, 12 September, Torla to Refugio Goriz

The Hotel Ordessa tried to redeem itself with a really good breakfast and picnic lunch. Got a reasonable start on the 8:30 a.m. bus to the Parque Nacional Ordesa y Monte Perdido. There was a good system of buses to and from the park. Recommend an early start as the buses appear to fill up quickly. Incredible vistas even from the bus.

The Aussies were also headed to Goriz so we walked with them a bit. Lots of great views of the cascades on the hike up, and lots of side trails to investigate vistas. The first part was more like a fire road than a trail: broad and not very steep. There was a lovely cascade called Cola de Caballo (Horse's Tail). The valley opened to a lovely cirque where most of the day hikers stopped. The trail then began to club steeply and have lots of switchbacks and very long traverses as it rose from the valley to the higher plateau. It looked tricky from below, but wasn't hard. The tough folks took the climbing route, which looked like some class 3 climbing was required. The views from the high trail were spectacular, showing the open valley below with meandering stream. This was another day of great weather, not too hot or too cold.

We checked in at the refugio about 3:00 p.m. The backpacks had to stay in a locker, so we didn't unpack. Pete and Sarah were outside on the patio along with a lot of other climbers, hikers, campers. We chatted for a bit as we rested. We wanted to hike up to the col to see the view; it was another 300m or so of altitude. I am glad we did, since we got to see into the next valley to the east (probably Monte Perdido). The view of both valleys was spectacular. When we descended, we got to witness the chaos
Carol and Randy in the Val OrdesaCarol and Randy in the Val OrdesaCarol and Randy in the Val Ordesa

The valley terminates in a cirque. Goriz is on a higher plateau.
of the Refugio area. By this time it was a tent city, and the small cement patio was packed with people. Unfortunately I neglected to take a picture of the crowd. The rooms were only for sleeping sardine style, so everyone stayed outside as long as possible. Fortunately dinner was at 7:00 p.m., earlier than the other refugios. There was assigned seating at the dinner, so we sat at the one English-speaking table with Pete and Sarah from Australia, and two really entertaining guys from Amsterdam, Robert and Art. Art wanted us to dispel some American stereotypes, and wanted to know if we drove 2 hours each way to work. And lots of other amusing observations.

We were able to sit and talk, but the other dining room had a second dinner seating. Believe it or not, they served a really nice salad, lentil soup, then steak with fries. And the steak was good! There were over a hundred people to serve, and they did it really well. We sat and chatted for a long time, with the table consuming a lot of red wine. Pete and Sarah did not have reservations, so were hoping that some of the
Looking down into the Val OrdesaLooking down into the Val OrdesaLooking down into the Val Ordesa

From the ridge line below Refugio Goriz
hikers would not show up. At 9:00 p.m., they were assigned the last two beds. Pete took a photo of the locker keys 99 and 100, they were so ecstatic about getting the last spots. They would have been sleeping in the dining room, which they weren't looking forward to.

This is really a climbing hut and we discovered the 9:30 p.m. lights out the hard way, so put our bed sacks together by headlamp. The room was very small, with bunk shelves 3 tiers high. Although I referred to the bedding as a mattress, it was just barely crib width. Fortunately I got a slot on the first tier and next to the wall, so a bit more privacy. The Dutch joked later than if one person rolled over, the whole group had to. Very close to the truth. Warning to the uninitiated: a climbing hut like Goriz is really for the experienced or the young. It is definitely an "experience", but having it once was enough for me.

Day 17, Friday, 13 September, Refugio Goriz to Torla

Pretty easy walk, maybe about 10K, to the National Park HQ and bus stop, since it was mostly downhill. The continental breakfast was mobbed and it was next to impossible to get to the lockers in the tiny room. We weren't in any hurry so let the crowd die out a bit. The lighting and views were great.

A different hotel this time, Hotel Edelweiss. It was really very nice, and appeared to be full although it was very quiet. We wanted to be in the town of Torla so we could walk around and see the sights. The hotel gave us a suite with a balcony, so we finished the remains of our lunch and enjoyed the view. We needed to clean up and relax after the melee at Goriz.

Walked around the town and visited the Park Visitors Center, which is where the buses to the park begin. We wanted to checkout the nearby bus stop for the schedule, since we received different departure info from the hotel than was on the web site.

Dinner at the l'Alaya Refugio restaurant recommended by Pete and Sarah, and Art and Robert, who had independently stumbled onto it. Pete recommended the lamb, but I found the lamb chops so-so. Randy liked his lamb stew. The goat cheese salad was fabulous: had fresh and candied cherry tomatoes, Grilled or broiled goat cheese round, served on fresh field greens and raisins soaked in something interesting. Balsamic vinegar glaze, walnuts, caramelized onions. Worth the trip. 15 Euro prix fixe (menu), including red table wine.

Day 18, Saturday, 14 September 2013, Torla to Sabinianigo

Decent breakfast and a relaxing day without an early start. Walked around the town a bit and tried to visit the Iglesia and the Ethnological Museum a few times, but they were closed. Found one of the PR trails (Petite Randonee), also marked HU, probably for Huesca, this province in Aragon. There are local and shorter trails to the GRs. Walked for a ways to see if we could get some views. We did not go far so did not see anything spectacular, but we did find a kennel with hunting dogs. A female was accompanied by 7 adorable puppies which exactly matched her light brown coloration with white on her face.

We sat in the lovely garden of the hotel where I could just barely get wifi, killing time before the 1:10 bus. Uneventful ride, and we found the Hotel Escartin without much trouble. Escartin was a bicyclist, which I inferred from the photos in the reception hallway. Tiny place, but fine for our purposes. The proprietress recommended a museum, but it did not appear to exist. Walked around aimlessly for 2 hours anyway; it was pretty hot. We wanted to walk to the river to look at birds. The part of the river we found was terribly polluted and looked too dangerous to get close to. We found some shady parkland while unsuccessfully looking for the museum.

Nice panaderia where we picked up breakfast and bread for the next day. Small tapas lunch in a little bar, and a goat cheese salad again for dinner. Have to figure out how to recreate it.

Day 19, Sunday, 15 September 2013, Sabinaningo to Barcelona.

I have been carrying the Stones of Ibarra around for the whole trip. I did not want to run out of reading material too early, but it was time to finish it. Fortunately it was quite good. Changed trains in Zaragosa and took the very nice bullet train to Barcelona. Booked all trains and most buses ahead of time through RENFE, the Spanish National Rail Network.


20 & 21: end trip in Barcelona

Another great dinner at Tapas de Taller! Early to bed, then travel home on Day 21.


We exchanged emails with one of the members of the Senda de Camille guided group so that we could send her the photo we took of them on the way to Lizara. She said that their group had a fabulous time on their guided trip. None of the 3 hikers knew each other before the hike, but they had a wonderful time and really got to be good friends.

Key References:

• Hiking Guide: Spanish Prames GR11 Senda Pirenaica book and map set
Valle De Tena Editorial Alpina(1:40,000)
Valles de Anso y Echo Mapa y Guia Excursionista(1:25,000)
Excellent overview of the Central Pyrenees
• Buses: Avanza Barcelona to Huesca.
• Buses: Avanza Huesca to Jaca
• Buses: Jaca to Hecho on Avanza site
• The bus from Torla to Sabinaningo leaves only once per day, so check the schedule ahead of time.
• Trains: RENFE
Refugios Onlinefor some of the Aragon refugio reservation
• info on Val D'Echo, Echo, etc From p. 465 of 2004 Rough Guide
• GR is Gran Recorrido (Sp), Grand Route (En), or Grande Randonnee (Fr)
• GR11 trails are in the Spanish Pyrenees, GR10 are in the French Pyrenees. Lots of trails cross between the countries.


3rd January 2014

Thanks for posting about your trip. A friend and I hope to hike on the GR11 in Spain in June. Did you carry clothes for 17 days in your backpacks? Hiking clothes and city clothes? We can't decide how to manage our luggage while hiking. Any ideas? Thanks, Christy
4th April 2015

Clothing for the GR11 trip
Hi Christy, We carried one set of decent clothing in our backpacks for evenings and to get out of dirty/wet/used hiking clothing. I carried a decent set of Prana slacks and a decent synthetic shirt that were OK for the restaurants in the small towns as well as refugio evenings. They were a poly blend so they could be washed in a sink and dry overnight. I found a pair of really cute Croc shoes (not the ugly ones) which were very lightweight, and used those in the towns and for getting up at night. I found lightweight silk underwear and slept in those while in refugios, since there is rarely privacy there. WE got these cool silk sleep sacks that were very lightweight; the refugios supply blankets and pillows (but I used my fleece jacket as a pillow and stuffed it into the pillow section of the sleep sack). Good luck and have fun. We stayed at the same hotel in Barcelona both going and coming, so we left nice clothing in Barcelona so we had appropriate wear for city restaurants. Of course, we had many layers for the hiking trip which we had with us the whole time.
30th January 2017

La Senda de Camille
Hi there, I am thinking about walking La Senda de Camille but am having trouble finding very much information about it. I would like to do it unguided. I was wondering if you know from experience or from speaking with other people on the trail, the answers to a few questions? First, I would like to go in April and I was wondering what the weather might be like around then and if I would need crampons or other snow gear. Second, I would like to know about booking the accommodations, if meals are included with the night's stay and how much on average the food and accommodation ended up to be for the 7 days? Thank you so much for your blog as it was very helpful :) Cheers!
30th January 2017

La Senda de Camille
There is an active link in the text, http://www.lasendadecamille.com. . I suggest you review it. You will need a working knowledge of Spanish in this area. April is WAY TOO EARLY for hiking in the Pyrenees. One should as some similar weather to the New Hampshire White Mountains or California Sierra Nevada. No earlier than July and no later than Mid- September. Many of the Refugios close in mid-September, especially the higher ones.

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