Pico de Aneto (3404m) July 19/20 2013
As I wasn’t going to the Alps this year, I was trying to find something overseas that could be done in a couple of days. It was the beginning of March when Fraser (my niece’s man) gave me a call and said do you fancy doing Aneto. Well Aneto wasn’t even on my radar, I had never heard of it. He then explained to me that he wasn’t giving Mont Blanc a go this year and that Pico de Aneto was the highest mountain in the Pyrenees. As I am easily led I said yes of course.
The training started in earnest, I was in the Reeks every weekend (mostly with Stephen who keeps me on a short rope) sometimes on my own, putting a little more in my ruck sack each time and before I knew it, it was July the 19th, I was feeling hill fit and I was on a plane heading to Barcelona. I caught the train to Sitges and had a lovely evening with Kim and Fraser. Rory, Fraser's pal turned up at 7pm and we soon had an early night.
We got up at around 9am the following morning, and had breakfast; the sun was splitting the skies. We left Sitges at around 11am in a hired car heading for Hospital de Benasque. The drive was rather pleasant through the dry and sun-bleached countryside and finally through the ravines and past dams, arriving at Benasque about 3 and a half hours later. We had tapas for lunch and I bocht myself some sunglasses.
We drove the final 20 minutes or so to the car park just before Hospital de Benasque, kept going a bit and came to a barrier so turned around and went back to the car park. (We weren't sure here if we could drive all the way to La Besurta as some of the books say you can). We then got out of the car put our gear on and headed off. At this point I noticed a lot of people waiting at a bus stop but took no notice. A bus passed us about five minutes later carrying everyone along the road to La Besurta, but the valley we were in was beautiful and the wee walk would loosen our legs.
It was around a 6km walk into La Besurta and we covered it at a good pace. There was a small hut selling some sort of food there but we just passed it by and headed up to the La Renclusa Hut, where we were booked in for 2 nights. 35 minutes later we arrived at the hut (2140m).
Dinner was from 5.30 onward so I decided to go and have a look at the path to the SW which we would be heading up the morns morn. The red dots were well spaced out and easy to miss so I just followed the little cairns that folk had contributed to. About an hour later (I got carried away) I was a fair bit above the hut and confident that I could find my way up the path in the dark, so headed back down for dinner.
The chef excelled himself, with a starter of warm pasta, then beef stew which was mainly bones and pudding was sort of semolina. We then headed for the shower then sorted out our gear for the morning, taking only the essentials, then went to bed. We didn't get much sleep as there were still people coming into the room with head torches on and sorting gear out. It grew quiet but the guy above Fraser was the snoremeister and possibly the fartmeister, all night long.
We started moving with our alarms at 4am, got dressed grabbed our rucksacks, I had a can of Monster and an energy bar and we headed off into the dark. At around 5am the sun just started coming over the horizon and we had some lovely views. When we got to the first bit of steep snow Fraser put his crampons on as he was slipping. Rory was going very fast, so I told him to head off if he wanted to, so he did.
About 3 hours after we had started we, met Rory again who had waited for us and presently we came to the ridge where we would find the Portillion Superior gap, where we would go down and start off on the glacier. We had somehow come off the path and were about 15m too high but we could see where the path started on the Glacier so we climbed back down. We got roped up here, put our crampons on and got our ice axes out As it was a really sunny day you could see for miles in all directions and the top of Aneto about 3 km away.
We headed off. There was a fair bit of snow on the glacier but it was still nicely iced up. We were going fairly slowly, and every now and then we would come to some rocky patches which we had to take our time over with the crampons on but they proved easy enough.
Half way across the glacier Fraser started feeling ill (sore head and feeling dizzy) maybe altitude, so I said to Rory why don’t you head off with my flag and I will stay here with Fraser and if he doesn’t feel better in a while, we will head back to the hut. Rory was off like a rat up a drainpipe; he headed off and was soon lost from view. I said to Fraser take plenty to drink and rest here as long as you like, don’t feel you have to go on. About half an hour later, Fraser was feeling better so we headed off again.
We were going slow but Fraser was determined to get to the top, soon we arrived at the steep bit of the glacier and I may have started sweating a bit, a German guy passed us and said, I am getting too old for this (he must have been all of 30 years old), less than an hour later we, met Rory coming down near the top. He handed me back my flag and said the ridge at the top was fairly scary but he had taken pictures at the cross. Soon we were off the glacier and ready to go over the bridge of Mohammed. I took my rucksack off got the flag out and my diced beany and made short work of the ridge which was narrow and fell away nearly vertical at both sides but had good hand holds. I was on top of the Pyrenees; here I got another German (maybe the same one) to take several pictures of me by the cross with my Falklands flag (I heard some mention of Malvinas here but let it ride).
I made my way back across, met Fraser on the other side and said go across it’s not as bad as it looks and went and had a wee rest and something to eat. Fraser rejoined me and we started making our way back down. By this time the snow was like wet sugar and the rain that was forecast was heading our way with thunder and lightning close behind.
By this time my feet were soaking, I was wearing the Meindl Matterhorns that I had bought for my ascent of Mont Blanc in 2007 and they are a wee bit worse for wear. We navigated back across the glacier with no more incidents. It was hailing off and on now and the thunder and lightning was still behind us. We arrived just below Portillion Superior and I put the rope back in the bag but we left our harnesses on just in case.
We scrambled back up to the Superior gap and instead of going left along the track we had taken earlier we headed straight down another track in the snow. This was marked on the map as a less defined track. We were soon off the snow and onto a red spot track with cairns. The red spots started appearing in different directions but we just followed the cairns. We ended up in a large boulder field; these were the size of 1 ton grain sacks but great fun to scramble over. We re-joined the track about 1km from the hut and it started pouring rain. We made it back to the hut in 12 and a half hours soaked but fair happy. Rory had been back in the hut with his feet up for 4 hours…We congratulated each other on summiting, went for dinner and slept. Up at 7.30am and off for 8, my toes were hurting so I said I was definitely getting the bus. On arriving back down at La Besurta, Fraser had a look at the bus times and said the next bus wasn't until 10, so we just headed off down the valley. 5 minutes later we see the bus coming towards us (like déjà vu) we kept going and it was a pleasant, although sore walk back to the carpark.
Woke up with the normal headache from over indulgence, had breakfast and headed down to the beach, where we swam, floated and relaxed for a couple of hours. All too soon I was back on the train heading towards Barcelona thinking of what I will get up to next…
An uneventful 4 hour drive took us back to Sitges, we showered, got changed, had a dinner of ½ pound home made burgers with salad and then headed out in to Sitges town.
As Rory is a Sailor, Fraser said we would walk down to the Marina, about 2 miles away. On the way we passed a nudist beach on the front, I remember looking down seeing this German, naked, buttocks clenched, legs akimbo playing volleyball with his girlfriend who was wearing a bikini, made me chuckle. A night of debauchery ensued.