We are nearing the end a fabulous few days exploring the Pallars Sobira region of the Catalan Pyrenees. The magnificence of these mountains is undisputable, although the weather was moody whilst we were here and the glorious snow-capped peaks were coy about revealing themselves.
Our first full day of snowshoeing was challenging for everyone, not least because we got hot walking but cold during stops plus it was wet at times – so regulating our clothing was a major pre-occupation! The wide winding paths which we started out on gave way to a steeper climb through pine forest and on paths which were dramatically narrow in places.
But the beautiful open section towards the end of the walk was glorious and we felt a massive sense of achievement at having snowshoed 700 meters of elevation on our very first day. The wine and cheese tasting organised by our guide Miguel at the home of a local artisan cheese-maker on the way back to our hotel rounded off the day in perfect fashion.
We woke on day two to clear blue skies but the rain of the previous day and overnight had washed away much of the snow so we went hiking instead.
The scenery was stunning and the fearless Bristol Nordic walkers conquered the narrow Pyrenean paths and icy sections in impressive fashion. We were rewarded by more cheese and wine tasting and some entertaining menu choices at dinner (potato and pea starter anyone??).
Day three was the jewel in the crown for all of us. We travelled higher into the mountains and had an utterly stunning days snowshoeing in beautiful weather and thick thick snow which our snowshoes made ridiculously light work of.
Miguel took some of our group on a longer hike to the Col, including a cheeky beer at a remote mountain hut along the way. The rest of the party strode out over virgin snow feeling like pioneers. It was hard work 'piste bashing' but Fernando (our other guide) tramped out a perfect path through the blanket of white. Well deserved beers and G&Ts all round at the end and huge huge smiles.
The village of Esterri d'Aneu where we were staying had a good patisserie, small supermarket, and various other cafes and shops and our hotel had an excellent Spa comprising a jaccuzi, spa pool, steam and sauna. We honed in on this with glee at the end of each day and I think we were all surprised at how few muscle aches we had despite the energy expended in the pristine Pyrenean mountain air. Miguel had a passion for this beautiful part of the world which he shared with us in delightful and endearing way and Fernando was always there to help fix our snowshoes; encourage and support us; and pull us out of the odd inadvertently created snow hole!
This was a trip to remember. It will not fade or merge into other holidays. It wasn't always perfect but sometimes that's what makes the best experiences. And our group was fantastic, helping each other through the difficult bits and collectively revelling in our achievements and the sheer beauty of the mountains. We cried, we laughed, we were challenged and we conquered.
Not tripping over the snowshoes, our evening menu choices, piste bashing, trying to stand up with snowshoes on and ice.
A cold beer in the sunshine at the top of the mountain, Ashley’s snowangel, traversing deep snow, our adopted dog on day one, snowbounding, the view from the Col, the spa, Nick's peas and potatoes (now legendary), cheese and wine tasting and G&Ts in the sunshine at the end of one of the best days ever.
Here's a video which gives you a flavour of our trip - it's a bit of fun.
See you next year!