The Aiguistortes National Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty in the Catalonia region of the Spanish Pyrenees mountain range.
The national park is already a winter favourite for skiers and snowboarders. Spring, Summer and early Autumn bring hikers that get to see the diverse flora and fauna between the dramatic mountain backdrop.
Booking this trip was due to coming runner up in a winter photography competition for a new adventure company. Because of this me and my partner got £600 off an ice climbing long weekend we had been eyeing up with a company called Inversion Travel (which I highly recommend, we also followed this trip with them a few months late for a multi-day trek to the Selvaggio Blu, Sardinia – I will follow up soon with an overview and some pictures from that tip).
We flew into Barcelona, where we stayed for a few nights beforehand before being picked up from city centre (with the option of airport transfer) by one of the inversion guys. Our adventure was only a few hours away from the city.
The accommodation was an apartment with kitchen facilities where we stayed with our group and guide. We stayed just outside the village of Vall de boi (pictured below). This was provided within this package and our food was cooked for us each day in by our guide (who was also brilliant and a trained chef). We given a brief of what to expect and chance to chose from a few options of where we would start. We were also given kit needed for the climb and any kit of our own was checked to ensure it would be suitable.
Each morning we set off on a short before the sun had risen in the mini van to the national park entrance, we then spent the first couple of hours hiking in the dark through the park. I honestly could not tell you which way, I just remember a narrow river needing to be crossed very carefully on naturally formed stepping stones. I also we went from the lower ground that was cool on marked trail up to a slight altitude and hit the snow.
ed off at the airport from the inversion guys.
This trip also reinforced that I am a walking risk assessment. I am clumsy at the best of time but when the densely packed snow covered uneven ground and large boulders, I seem to have a gift of finding and falling in covered ditches. It was freezing cold and damp, but we were all in good spirits and I just couldn’t help but laugh at myself.
On the first day of climbing we started by heading to small clearing that had some compact ice covered rock and a frozen short waterfall with plenty of ice to allow us to practice our ice climbing and observe each other. We were taught the fundamental skills of ice climbing including using crampons, technique with axes and using ice screws. This was all led by an experienced guide called Simon Edwards from North Wales Rock Climbing (also the chef I mentioned above) and the guys from Inversion. Once we picked up the basics we were able to give a taller water fall, with less ice a go. Before descending back down once the day was over.
On the second day we started much like the first. We set off a little earlier to be able to reach a further point. We went to another wider waterfall at a higher elevation. The approach was tough but the views and the climbing at the top was well worth it. The climb on this day involved a traverse before climbing up, which was a nice challenge and helped to build confidence in using the axes and crampons again. When descending down from this we had to abseil down from via the first climbing route to get back down to the ‘bowl’ (clearing) from day one.
The final day had a lower temperature and the weather had suddenly changed to heavy down poor. We all had waterproofs and winter clothing with us, but the sheer amount of rain started to eventually get through everyone’s clothing. The approach became even tougher. I should add in for context here I suffer from endometriosis (endo). The chronic pain from this can make just getting out of bed and walking some days really challenging. On this trip I had brought a tens machine and hot water bottle with me to wear before getting out of bed and following our days climbing. However the bitter cold and the camp was causing my hips to seize and suddenly the sharp pains I normally get with my endometriosis were amplified and repeated like a knife in my hips, upper legs and back with every step. I’ll save you from the rest of details that come with this condition but I kept walking and tried my best to mask it.
Eventually the rest of the group were starting to get fed up with the weather. There was no sign of any break and even after the sun had rose it was getting too much for everyone. The group were getting tired, cold and grumpy. One by one they suggested heading back, the guides suggested it may be best for everyone. I didn’t want to be responsible, so I carried on further before everyone just made the decision.
We all decided to head back to our accommodation and just spend the latter part of the day relaxing, eating and having fun. The following morning we sorted out our kit (see below) and helped to pack up gear before being dropped off at the airport from the inversion guys.
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