Enjoying the trails in the National Parc Aigüestortes
Two weeks holiday and trailrunning in the Spanish Pyrenees came to an end with a great two day trail through the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici. Inspired by many day trailrunning trips and a family three day / two night Refugi experience I set out to run the Carros de Foc trail.
The Carros de Foc Trail is a high-mountain route (most Refugi are above 2000m and the highest pass is around 2700m) with a circular itinerary of approximately 55km connecting nine mountain Refugi. There are many options and most people will take three to seven days starting at any of the Refugi.
Conclusion: Carros de Foc = Perfect for a two day / one night Refugi trailrun.
I choose to go counter clockwise based on my starting point, Camping Sol I Nue at Espot (great campsite by the way – relaxed, clean and very friendly staff) and advice that the 2700m mountain pass between Refugi Ventosa I Calvell and Estany Llong could best be approached from the West in order to climb (instead of descent) a very large big boulder field.
The reservation for the Refugi Ventosa I Calvell, more or less half-way meant that day one would be a little easier in distance and height than day two. This suited me fine because you need to be at 19.00 at a Refugi for evening dinner. With day two a little longer, ending at the campsite I was not in a hurry other than be ‘home for dark’.
Whilst evening dinner and breakfast was included for only 45 euros I could pack minimally …
… only taking summer running clothes, rain trousers, wind jacket, warm jacket, extra pair of socks, poles, rescue blanket, some plasters, head torch, phone, charger, extra battery pack, about twenty muesli bars, some electrolyte tablets and motivational Dutch candy, i.e. ‘dropjes’. It all fitted easily in my larger 24 litres Race Elite INOV-8 Trailpack. Good thing about running in the Pyrenees is that there are enough clear stream to take drinking water so I only needed a half litre soft flask.
Of I went at 0615, using the gravel road for the first slow ascend to Refugi Amitges (2310m) in time for a breakfast coffee, enjoying the ‘quietness’ of the sunrise only disturbed by multiple deer crossing the road. Although people use the trails, filling up the Refugis with about seventy persons every evening and many more day walkers I still enjoyed most of the two days in total tranquillity …
… enjoying many times the ‘noise of nothing’ during a break or a single ‘Olla, Buenos’ when passing others.
Via the Colomers and two mountain passes of 2600m I ended the first day at the Refugi Ventosa at 1300. A bit early maybe, but it gave me the opportunity to relax / read in the sun, enjoying the beautiful views and just experience how nice ‘boredom’ can be when completely disconnected from the outside (social media) world.
All Refugi have a strict rhythm of evening dinner at 19.00, lights out at 22.00 and breakfast from 06.30. The quality and luxury differs quiet a lot with Ventosa being a ‘little harsh’ with no warm water, only one shower and two toilets for approximately seventy guests. As usual you sleep like ‘sardines in a box’ in a row of 35 people. Luckily I slept near a window because it becomes very warm with all those bodies in a small place. Dinner consisted of soup, followed by a salad, than chicken or a sausage and yogurt as dessert. All right but definitely not high cuisine and ‘just enough’ for hungry mountain walkers / runners. Breakfast was a good buffet with enough calories to get you going again for the day.
The next day started with a challenging climb through a very large boulder field and some snow patches to a 2740m mountain pass. I enjoyed my lightweight pack and flexible trailrun shoes (INOV-8 Roclite 305) scrambling my way upwards, feeling a bit sorry for any with more heavy backpacks and amazed by some younger children making their way.
This day I experienced both steep, rocky trails through large and small boulder or scree fields surrounded by rocky peaks and also nice forestry trails along lakes passing meadows with mountain cows grazing. Sometimes the trail followed ‘a path for giants’, i.e. rough tracks made to build the several hydroelectric dams and pipelines.
The extreme differences in terrain and views after every new mountain pass was what I enjoyed the most and inspired me to keep going!
These two days proofed again the adagio that trailrunning in the mountains resembles walking for inpatient people with an overall average speed of just 5 km/h (excluding long breaks, but including many photo stops!).
But who cares about time, no race, no finish, just yourself deciding when to run, walk, stop for a break.
Already having tasted the Spanish Pyrenees during the PirineosFIT 2017 Jaca Trailweek in June 2017 I would like to advise everybody to also enjoy these great mountain trails.
The Carres de Foc makes for an easy to organise yourself multistage trailrun, at a pace you like, with no ‘pressure of competition – just following your heart beat’ …
… according to my rough scale:
- extreme = one day;
- a bit strange = two days;
- ‘normal’ people = three days.
Whichever category you fit in, I hope I inspired you with this story to also come and enjoy the Spanish Pyrenees, I am sure you will find and enjoy the trails.
Some final statistics (for if you are interested):
- Distance: 24km
- Running / Total time: 4 / 6 hours
- Height gained: 1500m
- Height lost: 1100m
- Highest point: 2600m
- Distance: 38km
- Running / Total time: 8 / 11 hours
- Height gained: 2000m
- Height lost: 3000m
- Highest point: 2740m