Defining Degrees Of Difficulty…
With regards to the level of ‘difficulty’ of a trail – ‘difficult’ can take many forms and be the difference between an experience of a lifetime or a disaster for different levels of hikers. Having completed several thru-hikes over the last five years or so, each with their own degrees of difficulty, it’s easy to name particularly ‘difficult’ trail days that stick in our memories for one reason or other, be it from tears of anguish, utter frustration or sheer exhaustion (and that was just on the GR20!). Each trail has its own difficult sections, and when hiking as a couple, undoubtedly a few difficult moments!
But this particular hiking day in the Pyrenees, there was none of that drama. It was memorable for no other reason than for simply being ‘easy’. It’s not very often we get to say that, so when an easy trail day presents itself, it’s all the more enjoyable as we can really take the time to appreciate the mountain scenery, waterfalls, glaciers, wildlife, and wildflowers that sometimes we overlook when heavily fatigued or are concentrating so much on trying not to slip and fall from a narrow path along a cliff edge!
As trail days go, there was no huge descent or terrifying scramble up, which we were both grateful of after what we’d already had to contend with on the previous few days! Today, the terrain was significantly less challenging, but none-the-less beautiful, as we continued on through the majestic mountains of the Pyrenees… And really got to enjoy it!
All in a day’s walk… Beautiful scenery that we really got to appreciate with it being what we considered an ‘easy’ hiking day.
Sunday 20th August 2017 – Day 10 – Wild Camp (approx. 5km after Parzan along the Barranco d’Ordizeto) to Camping Forcallo, Es Plans – ‘A Proper Campsite Beckons…’
Start time: 08:28. End time: 14:30. Distance: 15.6km. Ascent: 1,150m / Descent: 1,171m.
Well we successfully managed the challenge of our first ‘dry’ camp so to speak, whereby we had no access to a river or lake and now only had what was left of the water we had hiked up with the previous night. It was enough to brush our teeth, have a drink with breakfast, and see us through with about a litre each until we found a water supply that morning after setting off.
Having hiked out of Parzan up to the Barranco d’Ordizeto yesterday meant we had already completed about a quarter of today’s distance, so we were looking forward to a shorter day, especially as we had earmarked another ‘proper’ campsite to stay at. An afternoon at camp would afford us the luxuries of taking a shower, sitting on a toilet, as well as getting some laundry done – just some of life’s little pleasures on the trail!
The GR11 continues along the Barranco d’Ordizeto, following a track all the way to the reservoir, Ibon de Ordizeto.
The sun was shining and we were treated to clear skies again. It was going to be another hot one!
The mountains either side of the valley were immense. But we knew we had a steady climb to the top of the pass and today wouldn’t be too taxing.
After setting off, we couldn’t believe our luck again as much of the GR11 route throughout the morning was on good track. Although it can be fairly uninspiring, track and road walking always enables us to maintain a good pace, with the benefit being we get to our end destination much quicker. So in what seemed like no time, having already camped along the Barranco d’Ordizeto, we were partway to the high point of the day – the Collata Chistau at 2,346m.
We passed a spring-fed water point about half an hour or so after we had set off walking, so we were able to stock up with fresh supplies. It was so refreshing because the water was icy cold.
Soon after, we reached the reservoir Ibon de Ordizeto. (Lago Urdiceto). There were two hikers walking at a really fast pace behind us, who were the first people we had seen. They stopped at the reservoir but caught up with us again as we reached the pass. They started telling us how bad they thought the Spanish walking maps are, and that the waymarking here on the GR11 was not as good as over in France on the GR10. We had not had too many problems with the maps or with route finding thus far, so we shall have to do some future hiking in France to make our own judgement about that! They did comment that whilst hiking on the French side they’d had really poor weather, which is why they chose to cross over into Spain and explore the Pyrenees from this perspective, so after hearing that, we were liking our decision even more to make Spain our first Pyrenean adventure! And that was the last we saw of them – We said goodbye to the two guys at the top of the collada as they were following a different route.
We were thankful of a little shade as we headed towards the reservoir.
We took the track that runs above the reservoir and pressed on, keen to reach the top of the pass.
Looking back at Ibon de Ordizeto.
The Rio Barrosa flows through the valley.
Enjoying the walk along excellent track which helped us push on at a good pace.
Today was drama free and simply a wonderful walk in the mountains.
Panorama looking back through the lush valley.
New signage indicating less than a kilometre to the top of the pass!
Taking the GR11 route, which veers to the left, there is a small bothy just along the top of the pass. It was locked, but a chair had been left outside, so I took great pleasure in off-loading my pack and sitting on it for a rest break. The chances to sit on a chair and rest your lower back are few and far between on the trail – unless, like Wayne, you invest in a lightweight, collapsible chair and refuse to compromise on comfort by accepting the extra 500g of weight it means you’ll have to carry! Having sat on it myself for a trial, I must say it was a good investment and worth the little extra weight. I’m sure I could find 500g of superfluous items to swap out for a chair for the PCT! (Clearly, we’re not ultra-lightweight hikers by any stretch of the imagination!)
Making the most of full sunshine to charge the solar panel, and doing a spot of power tanning myself!
Taking great delight in having a chair to sit on! (A real luxury on the trail!)
Enjoying the view…
After a little relaxation and sustenance having shared a bag of peanuts, we then got on our way. From this point, the GR11 follows a clear, well-waymarked path over the Collata Chistau, skirting the southeast ridge of Pico de las Tees Guegas (2,596m).
Fully refreshed and on the move again…
The descent was on gentle gradients and the path afforded us easy walking.
There are several day hikes in this area for walkers looking to summit a few peaks.
Panorama of our magnificent mountain view. We were enjoying every minute on the trail today!
In the distance are the high peaks within the Posets-Maladeta Nature Reserve where we’d be heading the following day.
Paint flashes looked recently renewed along this section of trail.
The descent was not too taxing at all and very scenic. We enjoyed a little variety as we found ourselves crossing several streams, passing by trickling waterfalls, then continuing through shaded woodland, before walking through a pleasant meadow. There was plenty to admire in every direction, so it didn’t seem long until we joined a road and started looking out for the campsite.
Feeling privileged at having this view all to ourselves! Apart from the two hikers whom we spoke to at the pass, we hadn’t seen another soul all day.
Taking time to capture the beautiful scene on camera.
We crossed several streams and passed crystal clear cascades.
Another little bothy where we stopped for a rest break and to enjoy the view.
Back on track and picking up the pace again.
Again, the trail is well-marked and signs indicate distances to towns, high passes and refugios.
We were wowed with how green it is for such a hot place!
Re-filling with fresh water from another natural spring we passed along the way.
Following the dirt road to Es Plans.
We spied what looked like a good camp spot by the river, but wild camping is prohibited at lower elevations. We had our sights set on a proper campsite anyway!
Camping Forcallo at Es Plans is only open for the peak summer months of July and August – so apart from a brief mention in the guide-book, we knew little else about the place. A quick Google search also returns limited results as they do not have a website.
We arrived at the campground around 2:30pm and paid for one night’s camping in the café, which is across from the camp area. (€ 4.50 pp + € 5 for tent) There isn’t a supermarket, but there is an amenities block with hot showers and a washroom for pots and laundry.
Having showered and got our laundry chores out of the way so that our gear would dry in the afternoon sun, we then just chilled out at the campsite, sunbathing and reading our Kindles until the sun went behind a mountain and the camp was in shade.
Camping Forcallo in Es Plans is a lovely family-run campsite, with cafe-restaurant next door.
Our camp spot at Camping Forcallo in Es Plans. Making use of the trees and fencing to hang our washing out to dry.
A German couple whom we’d passed a few times on the trail turned up around 5:30pm and camped near us. They were having a ‘rest day’ the following day and staying for 2 nights. We couldn’t afford that kind of luxury as we no longer had any rest days left after using our one and only ‘extra’ day up in Bujaruelo. We couldn’t complain though as tonight was really an unexpected treat having a ‘proper’ campsite instead of wild camping a few more kilometres up the trail.
And it was all good! If we made our miles the next day, we’d be at another campsite before nightfall! (The next one would be even better having an on-site supermercado so that we could resupply with food again for the last time.) We couldn’t believe how fast the time was going. We had just 3 more trail days to go until we’d be heading back to Barcelona for some pinchos!