Day 3 at Aigüestortes National Park, Spanish Pyrenees.

Length: 7,5Km / Walking time: 7h / Elevation gain: 600m / Elevation loss: 720m
Length: 7,5Km / Walking time: 7h / Elevation gain: 600m / Elevation loss: 720m

Hiking from Refugio Colomérs to Refugio Restanca is not too strenuous.

It is Day 3 of the Aigüestortes National Park trekking tour at the Spanish Pyrenees. A 7.5Km long walk, and with 600m of elevation gain and with 720m of descents.

Not being too demanding, it still allows me to evaluate how the participants will behave in more challenging situations.

When starting the day’s walk, we think it will be tough to overcome the previous day in terms of beauty. It’s recurrent reasoning during this trekking tour.

In fact, the previous day was full of memorable moments, and the arrival at Refugio Colomèrs, from where we leave on this third day, is an image that is never forgotten.

In this mountain hut, during breakfast, one feels certain overall tranquility among the various hiking groups. 

The participants, who are with me, cannot identify this sensation due to their lack of experience in this place.

In most of the mountain huts where we will be, there will always be a morning stir motivated by the excitement of the day’s challenges.

Perhaps because from this mountain hut, one can find easier hiking trails than those that can be found from the next huts where we will overnight, and because of that, the groups are quieter.

Although also from here you can find challenging trails, of course, for whatever reason, they are not so popular.

For this day, although the walk is not too tough, the participants will have to overcome a set of challenges. The way they will perform will allow me to assess how they will react during the next few days is similar circumstances.

To give you examples:

      • the first ascent from the mountain hut to Port de Caldes, has it is going to be described below;
      • walk-on loose stones, kind of a quarry or gravel area, requiring some balance;
      • the long descent to the Reatanca mountain hut.

That is why I can say that this is also an important day for me.

Hiking at Fox at Aigüestortes National Park
Hiking at Fox at Aigüestortes National Park

The first big hike section starts at the exit of the mountain hut to Port de Caldes, a 3Km ascent where we have to overcome 420m of elevation gain.

This ascent is made at a slow pace and with a rest at halfway. This rest stop is essential and makes it a challenge that everyone completes successfully within their capabilities.

At this resting spot, in the year 2006, I had the opportunity to photograph a fox walking around here.

It was June, and around us, everything was snow.

I realized the elegant animal was looking for food. It got close enough to us until it realized that we had no food, which lost all the interest in us.

At the time, I still didn’t have my good camera always at hand. 

When I saw the animal, I was a little nervous because I wanted to take the picture, but I was afraid that the animal would run away.

But it didn’t, it stayed there around us long enough for me to take the picture.

Fox at Aigüestortes National Park
Fox at Aigüestortes National Park

This was, for many reasons, an important moment for me.

      • In 2006, and especially during/after this trip, was when I decided to embark on a professional life related to outdoor activities. At the time, I was no more sensitive to capture images in these environments than anyone else.
      • Although I had a long personal experience in these matters, I lacked professional experience and had no particular interest in photography. Because of that, I didn’t invest in being a good photographer. I only had a cheap camera and not much knowledge.
      • I hadn’t even considered how to carry my camera so that it was always handy and ready to shoot. I never realized how important that is.

It was during/after this tour in 2006 that I decided to dedicate myself to a new professional career, as I said above. The love for photography came after that decision like a natural consequence.

From Port de Caldes we start a long descent, and in the middle, we still had to face two small elevations that give us a broad view over the surrounding peaks.

Hiking at Fox at Aigüestortes National Park
Hiking at Fox at Aigüestortes National Park

The place has such a landscape that it becomes irresistible for photography lovers. Still, the moment when we usually arrive there is terrible to photograph. 

We are usually in the middle of the day. The shadows are very sharp, the shade from hats and the sunglasses hide the faces.

Anyway, it is impossible to resist to photograph, and you can automatically hear the cameras shooting.

The descent punishes the quadriceps a lot. If the boots don’t have the necessary space near the toes, it also punishes them.

This is also a moment I can understand who will have problems in the longer descents of the coming days.

Questions about the next day’s hike will soon be asked when the group realizes that this long descent will turn into a challenging uphill on the next day. 

It is what I call suffering by anticipation.

I often try to get the participants to focus on the current day. Try to make the most of the landscape and the place where they are at the moment.

I’m thriving on the task while I’m talking and get their attention, but when I stop, the same questions will soon arrive.

It seems that the temptation of wanting to know what they will do tomorrow and afterward is like a rubber band that goes back to the place when you get it loose.

Yes, part of this descent will be the next day’s ascent.

We continue our descent, and soon the tree wall is thickened as a sign of being at a lower altitude.

Restanca mountain hut, Aigüestortes National Park, Spain
Restanca mountain hut, Aigüestortes National Park, Spain

The tip tops of these trees begin to close the broad view we had, and we need more concentration on the trail where we are walking. The tree roosts can trip us up.

By our left side, a stream shows us the way down to the Restanca mountain hut, where we will spend the night.

Arriving closer to the end of the walk, I often realize people start getting grumpy. But all fades away to the first glimpse of the mountain hut.

The Refugio Restanca, seems framed between the branches of the trees. At the lake’s edge, the Restanca mountain hut shows rugged and relaxed like a sentinel of the lake with the same name.

With several rooms, each housing 18 to 20 people on average, it is a hut where I can rest better than in those where you have 60 people sleep in the same area.

Also, having hot water for bathing gives you an added comfort level, something you will not have the next day at the next mountain hut.

So, we come to the end of another day. 

The usual routine of dinner serves as a relive, to share the hiking adventure and the highlights of the day.

Tomorrow will be another day.

David Monteiro

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *