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David-Guenot: Track 3105 in area near Unid, Unid ()
Length: 13.6km, Creator time taken: 9h37m, Ascent: 1022m,
Descent: 1033m

Places: Start at Lon 0.696163, Lat 42.582, end at Start
Logged as completed by 1
Looking at the maps in my obsession to tackle a few +3000m before the end of the season, I found quite a few ones in the N of Spain which seem rather accessible (in the absence of snow), and this one was surely one for me: not too much climbing, a 360° vista and a bit of light scrambling, too. And then, the Pas del Caballo, which I was not too sure I could tackle, but I had read it could easily be contoured. Easy walk ? Nope. The boulder-strewn portion of the GR11 which you first have to cross after only five minutes or so made me smile... on the way up !! Not on the way back. This is a hike for mountain goats, but with surfing skills as well to jump from rock to rock and cope with all the scree. Nice wildlife: I spotted quite a few groundhogs, a vulture, a golden eagle and some beautiful flowers.

The E end of the Vallibierna ridge, from the Presa de Llauset (start).

This walk starts at the Presa de Llauset, which can be reached after a good half-an-hour drive up from the village of Aneto, in the Vall de Baravés, somewhere between Catalunya and Aragon. Just before reaching the lakeshore, you have to drive through a rough 1.5 km tunnel which would make you feel more like going to the mine than going for a hike !! At the end of the tunnel, the Estany de Llauset, its concrete dam and loads of space to park your car. Another wee tunnel then allows you to reach the GR11, which you will follow along and above the lake. The ascent begins as you leave the GR11 at the W end of the lake and start making your way up the Vall de Llauset. The trail is well-defined all the way up to the Collado de Llauset (2865m) and the going is relatively easy, until you reach the scree slopes of the Pico de Llauset and its S Top. On the way up, I had noticed a shoulder which starts at around 2630m and would take me to Pico de Llauset S Top (2881m), from which I could then easily reach the Pico de Llauset (2904m), which I had intended to climb from the col anyway. This off-track part of the ascent was rather steep and care was required due to the mix of loose scree and loose rock. The vista from the top was fantastic, with only the massive white ridge of Vallibierna to the N blocking the views.
The massive, vertical S cliffs of Vallibierna (r.) and the dark scree slopes of the Pico de Llauset (l.), as seen from its S Top.

It was then a short stroll to the Pico de Llauset (2904m), and a steep, careful descent through some more scree to reach the col at 2865m, where the mix of colours to the W made me think of the "Terres de Sept Couleurs" in Mauritius. I met a Spanish hiker there and as we were both going in the same direction, we started talking and ended up spending the rest of the day together.
The last portion of climbing up Tuca de las Culebres (3062m) is quite rough and steep, with the use of hands required on quite a few occasions. Tuca de las Culebres, despite its outstanding situation and fantastic views, does not have, to my opinion, enough prominence to be really considered as a separate summit. Anyway, standing on the top of this narrow ridge, facing the Pico de Aneto (3404m) and the whole Maladeta range is just an incredible experience.
The Maladeta Massif, with the Pico de Aneto (3404m,l.) and the Pico de Tempestades (3278m,r.), from the top of the Tuca de las Culebres.

But the most exciting part was for sure the Pas del Caballo. Between Tuca de las Culebres and Vallibierna, which stand only a few tens of meters apart from each other, the ridge becomes so narrow it leaves you no chance to stand on it. You can contour it to the right (S), adding a bit more scrambling, as did my Spanish mate. But the most adventurous will just sit on it and slowly make their way as if riding a horse (hence the name), then stand alongside the N slope halfway, holding firmly to the creviced rock to reach the col with Vallibierna. It is only a few meters, but is really impressive, and I was very proud to get through it with no hesitation nor fear !! From there, it is a mere 1 or 2 minute scramble to reach Vallibierna at 3067m, where we stopped for a snack and a rest.
The Pico de Vallibierna and the Pas del Caballo (literally "saddle of the horse"), which can actually be contoured to the right (with a bit of scrambling).

We then followed the still relatively narrow ridge to the E, enjoying the flight of a golden eagle and the stunning views all around. The descent to the E is not too steep, but once you have been through all the scree, it is a matter of finding your way in a true maze of rocks and boulders. We followed the cairns as much as we could, and found our way alright, but it sounds evident that you could easily lose your way under poor visibility. I got quite exhausted and a bit sick in the last part of the descent, with my knees begging for mercy, but the scenery remains stunning until the end. A great day out, but probably the most difficult walk I have done so far.
Views on the Estany de Llauset and its dam, from the E end of the main ridge. The elusive trail winds its way down to the left (NE) through loose scree and boulders, before joining with the GR11 and contouring the summit on the foreground.


Uploaded on: Mon, 31 Aug 2015 (16:03:24)
Trackback: http://mountainviews.ie/track/3105/  
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British summit data courtesy:
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"ASTER+": Hillshade and Contours
Courtesy of Tiles GIScience Research Group @ Heidelberg University More detail here