The High Route to The Lost Mountains

Spanish adventurer, Natalia Cárcamo, took on the challenging 80km ‘High Route of the Lost Mountains’, one of the most spectacular treks you can walk in the Spanish Central Pyrenees. It offers the most spectacular views of Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido, Gavarnie and Vignemale. Natalia takes up the story:

The circular trek starts and finishes at the refuge of S. Nicolás de Bujaruelo which you get to by driving from Torla (Huesca). We allowed five or six days for the trek, with a half-day option to climb Monte Perdido.

Crampons are often needed until middle July but it is recommended to always carry them for there could be ice on the snowfields even in August.

The glaciers are Europe’s southernmost and all greet the last stage of the trek with glacier cirques or glacier tongues.

Although we could sleep in a refuge every night but we choose the versatility and convenience of our Buzzard Robens tent.

Refuge in Robens Buzzard Tent

Stage 1: Ref. S. Nicolás de Bujaruelo (2,273m) Ref. des Sarradets/2,587m/ 7.4km

The Sarradets refuge provides a dramatic view of the Gavarnie Valley and its tireless waterfall to the north. This simple stage offers one of the most mythical landscapes in the Pyrenees: the famous Brecha (gap) de Roland (2,804m). When we arrive we enjoy the view of two 3,000m mountains: The Casco of Marboré (3,006m) and the Taillón (3,144m).

Sunrise from the Brecha de Roland The Casco of Marboré from the Brecha de Roland, like the bow of a ship
Left: Sunrise from the Brecha de Roland - Right: The Casco of Marboré from the Brecha de Roland, like a bow of a ship

Stage 2: Ref. de Sarradets/Ref. de Góriz 6.5km

The refuge is packed so we start walking early in the morning. We get the sun´s first light from the Brecha de Roland – bright pink and blue colours dye the dramatic scenery in front of us.

From the Brecha, we can see the dizzy trail we must take if we don´t want to lose altitude. This is the Sarrios pass, equipped with a long chain. After three hours walking we are on the trail up to the Monte Perdido (3,335m).

If we leave the backpacks we can easily get to the summit and back in about five hours. A worthy rest is waiting for us in one of the most beautiful refuges in the Pyrenees, Góriz (2,200m)

Sarrios pass and the Brecha de Roland.
Sarrios pass and the Brecha de Roland.
Summit of the Monte Perdido (3,335m) background, The Cylinder and the frozen lake of Marboré. Summit of the Monte Perdido (3,335m) background, The Cylinder and the frozen lake of Marboré.
Left: Summit of the Monte Perdido (3,335m) background - Right: The Cylinder and the frozen lake of Marboré.

Stage 3: Ref. de Góriz/ Balcón de Pineta/alt. 2,550m/18km

This is the hardest stage because of the elevation and the distance covered. We can follow the path to Fuen Blanca waterfall (easier but longer) or the path through Faja de las Olas, which it’s not advisable if you get vertigo.

We were take the Fuen Blanca path, our mistake for it proves a tiring, long route despite the beautiful spread of edelweiss flowers everywhere. And the 2,450-meter Añisclo pass awaits.

From here we must get to Pineta, and we decide to take the Faja de la Tormosa route, an unfrequented path that connects to the Balcón de Pineta ascent.

Later that evening it´s impossible not to be delighted with the last of the sun’s rays over the Monte Perdido glacier.

Walking to the Fuen Blanca path Waterfall in Pineta valley
Left: Walking to the Fuen Blanca path - Right: Waterfall in Pineta valley
Evening comes - beside the Monte Perdido glacier Evening comes - beside the Monte Perdido glacier
Evening comes - beside the Monte Perdido glacier

Stage 4: Balcón de Pineta/ Barrage de Osseau(1,785m) 16km.

This morning we start by crossing some snowfields to Marboré lake and the 2,700m Brecha de Tucarroya pass. Face north and there is another refuge – a haven from which to enjoy the dramatic views of the Monte Perdido glacier.

Nice rest at the Espuguettes refuge and beautiful views again of the Gavarnie Cirque. We leave Gavarnie village to the Barrage de Osseau, (1,785m) were we spend the night beside the lake.

Beautiful nights in my Robens tent
Left: On the way to Gavarnie valley - Right: View to the North from the Brecha de Tucarroya
View to the North from the Brecha de Tucarroya

STAGE 5: Barrage de Osseau/Oulettes de Gaube (2,151m) 16km

Vignemale peak is the main attraction of this stage. We walk mainly through GR10 and visit one of the Count Russell famous caves. Henry Russell, who advocates living at high altitude, did not accept manmade structures that, according to him, disfigure the savagery of the mountain. His solution: artificial caves carved into the rocks were the only option for high altitude living. In fact it became a total of 6 caves.

Quenching thirst on the way to Baysellance

Before refuge des Oulettes de Gaube we find another warm and small refuge, Baysellance. This is the highest (2,651m) and the oldest guarded refuge in the Pyrenees. From the Horcada de Ossue (Ossue pass), we climb up to Petit Vignemale (3,032m) in less than one hour. The views from the top couldn´t be better: The Pic Longe (3,298m), the Neouss and Oulettess and Ossoue glacier with its awesome cracks. In a few hours we were already in the Oulettes de Gaube Refuge, where we are delighted with the grandeur of Vignemale Mountains.

Glacier cracks
Vignemale Mountains from Oulettes de Gaube.

STAGE 6: Oulettes de Gaube/Bujaruelo/alt. 1,335m/16km.

The adventure is coming to the end as we return to the start. This stage is the lightest one, starting on the Puerto de los Mulos pass (2,591m), and walking down to the Ara river valley where we´ll meet the GR11 again. The quiet valley is a good cow pasture and it reminds us that the civilization is drawing near.

At the Bujaruelo refuge we celebrate our completion of one of the most beautiful treks in the Central Pyrenees.

Left: From the Puerto de los Mulos GR10 goes to - Right: Ballon Refuge, we walked down to the Ara Valley