We said goodbye to Torla, and a big hello to Ordesa and Monte Perdido! The parking lot was full of Spaniards decked out in fancy (read: never worn) hiking gear, most of it a bright, bright red, which I imagined was just a bit of homeland fanaticism. We wore all the clothes we brought with us, mixed and matched with no particular fashion goal in mind, just warmth, and even then, the weather took us a bit by surprise. But when we started on our trip, we enjoyed mild temperatures and beautiful autumn colors.
After a couple of hours of hiking, we chose this spot at the Gradas de Soaso to set down our packs and break for lunch. We may have gotten odd looks walking along the trail with a bottle of wine, roll of Principe cookies, and juice boxes spilling out of packs, but we quite enjoyed our picnic on the rocky banks of the Rió Arazas. In case you’re concerned about the apparent lack of nutritional value of our meal, we also ate wedges of tortilla española, bits of bread with jam, cured meats for Phil, and I had a random mix of fruits and veg. The wine we brought across the border was especially worth its weight!
We wound our way up the trail, passing by more and more falls, before being spat out into the Circo de Soaso, which offered us huge, expansive views of the Ordesa Valley. We went on for another hour or so to La Cascada Cola de Caballo, where we admired yet another incredible waterfall. Most of the hikers were only in the park for the day, and turned around here to start the four-hour-long return.
Before leaving Torla, Phillip and I had secured a reservation at the only open refugio in the park, and after a few minutes to take in our surroundings, we started our ascent, por clavijas. For the non-Spanish-speakers among us (myself included), “por clavijas” means that we scaled the mountain on steel “pins” which stuck out from the mountainside in areas where the climb was too steep. We were aided by a chain bolted into the rock, but at times we were climbing straight up the face of the cliff with almost nothing underneath to catch us in case we fell. Nothing plush and fluffy, anyway.
We arrived at the top unscathed and after another half-hour of walking we caught our first glimpse of the Refugio de Góriz, where we’d be spending the night. It was nearing dusk when we finally checked in, and we happily unstrapped our backpacks and slipped into our standard issue pink crocs: a bit of relief for our tired feet, a way to keep the refuge clean of muddy boots, and who on earth would think to steal a pair of these ugly things (theft prevention!).
With a few cookies left in our pockets, we bought tiny cups of coffee and sat down to read and write and warm up. Slowly but surely, the refugio started to fill up with more and more Spanish hikers, just in time for dinner. All seventy or so of us shared the two tiny communal rooms of the refugio for a couple of hours, before heading upstairs to sleep early. By the time we turned in, everyone else in our dorm was already knocked out. In the dark, lighting our way with head lamps, we tiptoed past thirty snoring Spaniards (not an exaggeration) to our spot. We slept on the second of three tiers of beds, long planks with ten thin mattresses and ten woolen blankets. It wasn’t my most comfortable night of sleep, but it was one of the more interesting ones.
But before we went to bed, we stepped outside to brush our teeth and found snow! And in the morning, even more had fallen and we got to see Ordesa Valley in a whole different way on our hike back down. Most of our fellow dorm-mates planned to climb Monte Perdido, and we would have joined them if only we had been equipped with more than just jeans and sneakers. So we bade farewell to Góriz and started our descent through the snow, past great herds of Pyrenean chamois, all the way back to where we started.
Tired but invigorated, I really felt lucky to have had the chance to explore this part of the Spanish Pyrénées. A week before, I had no idea that I’d be in Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, and now I count it among my best adventures. Hasta la próxima, Ordesa!