Waterfalling, every which way

pineta valley2
This picture was taken a couple of years ago and shows the steep sides of the valley and the course of the river through the centre. The campsite is in the far distance, beyond the bend in the river bed, in the bottom of the valley.

The valley is quite unique. For a start it’s a very steep valley never wider than 500m across whilst in excess of 2000m at the sides. A glacial trough within a glacial cirque there is a fair bit of scree which may have many walkers, me included, wincing, but the glacial activity does mean that when you get up high you get a fair few surprises in the landscape.

The main peak in the valley is Monte Perdido at 3355m. Monte Perdido translates as the lost mountain. Now you may wonder how you could lose something quite that big, but believe me as the mist rolls in through the narrow valley…

We’ve been here 3 times before and have undertaken some challenging walks and some easier ones in previous years.

We camp at Camping Pineta which is about 4 km down the road from the refuge where or near where most of the hiking trails start, close to the Ordesa y Monte Perido National Park boundary.

Our plan is usually to start with an easier walk, then do a harder one, followed by a smaller recovery walk before contemplating another major route, you get the idea. This is important because believe me, I’m no mountain goat, instead I’m falling headfirst into middle age which has two main consequences for walking. One, as I get older I find I struggle more and more with the heat, so heading up a mountain in full sun is not so appealing. Two, I find that each winter I accumulate a little extra padding and insulation to see me through the colder months. This is usually shed on summer walking holidays but last year we didn’t get a walking holiday, so this year I had a two year cushion around the midriff etc. to haul up and down the mountains.

Add to this having less time this year, and having done all the easier walks in previous years, we went straight for a longer, harder walk than we’d usually start with and took on the waterfall walk, Faja de Tormosa, during which you cross a number of waterfalls.

 Route Faja Tormosa
Route Faja de Tormosa, Thanks to Joaquín for this picture and his more fully documented autumn walk on this route here which had me longing to return in autumn

We walked up from the campsite to the Refugio de Pineta (bottom right of the map). This is where there steepness of the valley becomes a challenge because most of the 700m ascent in this walk is right at the beginning.

This first small waterfall is about a third of the way up and was our first water stop. You can see there’s still plenty of vegetation at this point but the bleaker barer higher ground can also be seen.


Whilst it’s steep up to this point, once across this waterfall it starts to get scrambly and you have to haul yourself up over large pieces of rock, but luckily you are still mostly in tree cover. As you can see it’s bright but not blazing sun so a perfect day for walking, or so it seemed.

From here we headed up to the point where the path splits. In one direction you can climb further up to the Collado de Anisclo, the holy grail. This is the first walk we tried on our first year here. It was full sun and an absolute killer. Needless to say we didn’t make it. One day we will make it up here and be able to see over into the next valley and walk along the ridge. This is one of the difficulties of being day walkers, having to get there and back in one day, actually makes it a longer walk than for those who are walking the loop who go up and stay at the refuge. But refuges aren’t generally that keen on dogs who are our walking companions.*

At the split we stopped and had some lunch… ish. My sandwich was just made when the first of the rain started. We huddled under a bush to avoid soggy bread whilst donning our waterproofs and consulting the map. At this stage we had two options, head back down the way we’d come, a familiar but steep and rocky and therefore slippery when wet path, or go on walking along the hillside with a bit of up and down before coming down a more gradual descent we’d walked before, as it was also the end of another walk approached from the other direction.

We decided to push on, we crossed waterfalls but I’m afraid there are few pictures to document our progress. The camera was hidden away to keep it dry. Most of the time the only thing we could really make out was ourselves. We could have been anywhere. The mountains were completely hidden from view, what was that about lost mountains? So little was there to see for most of the walk that  I actually got excited and delved for the camera when the mountains begun to come into view again:

The ‘View’ above us


The view at the Valley head
The View at the Valley head

At this point, having crossed the last of the waterfalls – they really were pretty impressive… honest … one even included abseiling down a 10ft rock face using chains fixed to the rock, the weather did begin to brighten. Indeed we even dried out sufficiently on the way back down to remove the waterproofs that had been a godsend.

Our descent was witnessed by numerous chamois, which always give me a thrill, and a marmot who warned others of our approach and stared us out whilst we walked along, but disappeared when I stopped to get the camera out.

Our next walk on the opposite side of the valley did provide opportunity to take pictures of where we had been on this walk, we were blessed by better weather and so, so much more on that walk which I’ll share in another post.

Part of the route of our walk and some of the waterfalls we crossed, photographed from the opposite side of the valley.
Part of the route of our walk and some of the waterfalls we crossed, photographed from the opposite side of the valley.

Total distance – 14 miles

Elevation –  start – 1200m, peak – 1900m, gain 700m

 * In checking the technical details for this post I found this description of the walk from Pineta to the Collado – it makes me feel better about my failure to conquer it thus far, as a number of guides appear to have been written by people who have either never actually got beyond looking at the map, or possess such superhero levels of fitness they should not really advise us mere mortals:

Make no mistake, the major part of today is a tough, strenuous walk which will have you clambering up rocks and over fallen trees and negotiating minor landslides. Statistically speaking, the climb from the Pineta Valley bottom to Collado de Anisclo represents a vertical ascent of just under 12oom in almost exactly 2km of walking and scrambling. Put another way, you’re heaving your way up a gradient of just under 60%. The considerable compensation comes from the ever more spectacular views at your back of Valle and Circo de Pineta as you advance

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