Baños de Panticosa

Will Leach

July 7, 2015

Cracking weather on the GR11 path, an up-close chamois sighting and a beer at the lakeside Refugio and an amazing waterfall on the way down. It’s only a short 10 minute drive winding up the narrow valley north of our base in Panticosa to the small spa town of Baños de Panticosa, the starting point of our walk!

One of the best ways to see the whole Picos de Europa range is from just outside the national park. At 2539m the peak of Peña Prieta is a prominent feature on the skyline and easily visible from Posada el Corcal, Collett’s base in Tama. The walk to this peak was recently included on the organised walk programme for the first time, with 3 guests keen to join Sarah, one of our walk organisers, to take on the challenging walk! Starting from the pass of San Gloria, at 1609 metres, the walk follows an imposing ridge line and passes over a number of other peaks before the final accent to the peak of Peña Prieta. Clear skies meant that the hard work to reach this point paid off and we were rewarded with 360 degree views of the Cordillera Cantabrica and all three massifs of the Picos de Europa national park from one of the highest peaks in the region. After a descent by the same route we had certainly earned a quick stop on the way home for an ice cream!

Bachimania Walk in the Pyrenees

Driving into Baños is an experience in itself, the town was built up rapidly, with the hope it’s healing waters would secure it a permanent position on the map. Its mineral waters are said to be a treatment for digestive, respiratory, skin, nerve and kidney disease. The early season in the Pyrenees is quiet and a great time for walking so the small, one horse town of Baños with several 4 and 5 star hotels, spa complexes, and even a casino seemed a little excessive with only a few walkers in the village!

At 1630m the lakeside town is the perfect starting point for the walk, the morning chill is completely taken away as the sun streams over the valley sides and illuminates the far side of the dense woodland and rockface. The route begins on wide tracks which gain height quickly through the shade heading north.

It’s not long before the route contours around the narrowing valley and zig-zags back and fourth, at times crossing the river beside some beauiful rapids and falls.

Bachimaña climbs mostly on smooth bouldery terrain, giving the path a rugged and natural feel without being too challenging. To break up the climb as we come into the morning sun the route levels in places over short, flat meadows between the boulder fields and valley traverses. It’s a good chance to look back on yourself down towards Baños in the morning sun and beyond to the jagged Sierra de Tendeñera; the striking limestone ridgeline above Panticosa.

The wildflowers and fauna are diverse in the early season and even on the popular GR11 route and only half way into our ascent, an eagle-eyed guest, David had already spotted a Chamois grazing just across the river from us! We also came across the bright orange remedy flower, Arnica.

As you climb higher alongside a large waterfall you feel you begin to really break away into the wild but before you know it, the refugio comes into sight beside a large, deep blue reservoir. It was a welcome stop for a refreshment as the heat of the day picked up and we ate our lunches overlooking the water.

Full of energy, we set off once more, this time climbing steeply at first to contour high above the first reservoir. Clusters of Alpen Rose were in abundance as we came around to the second larger reservoir, the scale of the glacial valley is breath taking, the reservoir is so large that even a sizeable island sits in the centre of it like a giant iceberg! Not far beyond it, the French border still towers above, snow still sitting on the higher peaks.

As is the norm with out-and-back walks, you are amazed to turn around on yourself and realise the stunning scenery you have had your back too! The stream beneath is all the more visible on the descent and the sun is now illuminating both sides of the valley. As you drop down lower to the flatter meadows you can take a slight variation on the route, crossing a small footbridge and taking a tighter, more densely vegetated route alongside a series of small ponds. The detour brings us out the main path alongside a sign for “Cascada”. With time to spare we took the track down, knowing that after such a stunning walk it would be hard to top. Less than 2 minutes off the main trail we got to a viewing balcony, and we were not disappointed! A huge waterfall that dropped into the spa town beneath thundered right in front of us. It was the icing on the cake after a long but rewarding route and a great snapshot of the Spanish Pyrenees!

Many thanks to Will, one of our local hosts and walk organisers in the Pyrenees, for the photos and blog piece!