Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

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the long winded Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici

translates from Catalan as Winding Waters and Saint Maurici Lake.

lying in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees

it’s accessible from several towns in the Lleida district of Catalunya

about 350km from Barcelona.

a walk of 5- 6 days (el Carros de Foc or Chariots of Fire)

includes staying in numerous refuges.

the alternative, day hikes,

are a long hard slog.

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from Espot, a small town to the east of the park,

good walks are available.

leaving the carpark 15 minutes out of town,

a two hour walk gets you up to Estany de Sant Maurici (Saint Maurici Lake).

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The craggy twin granite peaks of Els Encants tower over the lake

 visible nearly all the way up

toward Amitges

the rocky high mountain path

winds through forest,

lakes appearing out of nowhere

the whispering pines so still

you hear the ducks coming in to land

refugio Amitges at 2380m

stuck amongst slender pyramidal rock

has dormitory beds for 74 people

bookings essential in August

buying the evening meal and breakfast obligatory.

From Amitges it’s another two and a half hours west to Refugio Saboredo

or back the 3 hours to Sant Maurici,

then the two more back to the car park.

another option, Refugio Mallafre,

is a short walk from Sant Maurici

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another day walk also goes from the carpark at 1800m,

heading across to refugio JM Blanc

along, initially, the Fonguera Valley.

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more isolated, even in August,

it’s hard to know why.

wandering up the valley is spectacular

before the path starts to climb out,

a steady rise, the fields closing in with rock,

the river gently rolling way below

while the sky grows dark quickly

threatens a storm

the path gets steeper still

climbing higher

the valley almost out of sight

over boulders

up to a wall

where the path up to the pass,

the Collada Monestero at 2716m,

is all loose rock and scree,

remnants of winter snow asleep in the shadows,

punctuating the wild untamedness of high mountains.

And that’s why it’s isolated

even in August

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the Information centre in Espot

pointed out how going east to west

avoids the 1000m climb out of Espot to JM Blanc at 2400m.

but the climb up the collada (pass) is huge,

a steep scree incline for half an hour.

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looking over the other side,

catching your breath,

rock towers peer down on us before we

skip press on and on

and on

dropping toward JM Blanc refugio

steps that hammer away at the feet and the knees.

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the times given in Aiguestortes are walking times – quick ones.

taking photos, drinking water, catching your breath, eating, adds more.

maybe 50% more.

an 8 hour walk can take up to 12 hours

if you like to take in the view.

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to stay in Refugio JM Blanc

nestled amongst crystal clear lakes

would be perfect,

otherwise it’s back down to Espot,

a gentle town

amongst the craggy wild

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~ by Drifting, Rambling on September 2, 2016.

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