Walking Holidays

Europe’s majestic mountains ~ with a genuine specialist
Organised & Self-guided Walking

Walking Holidays | Welcome | Contact | Offers | Reviews |Collett's Ltd. is ABTA bonded W6883 - Travel with confidence
p +44 (0) 1799 513331
Closed
Tel. 01799 513331 - ClosedCollett's Ltd. is ABTA bonded W6883 - Travel with confidence
Organised & Self-guided Walking with a Genuine Specialist

Thank you for the many photographs and letters you have sent us. Please feel free to email admin@colletts.co.uk with any photos and comments. All our guests receive a questionnaire shortly after their trip, which you can view here.

74 + 6 =

An enthralling twin-centre itinerary for the moderate walker exploring some of the gems of the Pyrenees.Includes both the UNESCO Ordesa & Anisclo Canyons and one night in a high mountain refugio.

23 – 30 June • 7 – 14 July • 11 – 18 August
£875 per person

A sublime week exploring the dramatic and extensive Ordesa & Monte Perdido National Park offering you a unique twin-centre holiday either side of a night in a remote mountain refugio. This itinerary showcases this UNESCO World Heritage Site in all its glory – and includes the lesser-visited but just as stunning Anisclo Canyon.

On our Ordesa National Park Explorer Walking Holiday you will venture into the rugged, high mountain wilderness of both canyons where you will find a stunning landscape dotted with mountain lakes and spectacular views. Your luggage will be transferred between the two hotels leaving you free to immerse yourself in your sensational surroundings. This really is hiking in the Pyrenees at its most dramatic! The holiday price includes accommodation, breakfast, three course dinner with wine (7 nights), packed lunches (6 days), return transfers to and from Zaragoza – and all transport to and from the walks.

Explore the UNESCO Ordesa & Anisclo Canyons

The Ordesa Canyon, Pyrenees - Walking Holidays in the mountains The Ordesa Canyon, Pyrenees - Walking Holidays in the mountains
hike the GR11 in the Pyrenees with Collett's Mountain Holidays hike the GR11 in the Pyrenees with Collett's Mountain Holidays
Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks
Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks
Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks
The Ordesa Canyon, Pyrenees - Walking Holidays in the mountains The Ordesa Canyon, Pyrenees - Walking Holidays in the mountains
The Ordesa Canyon, Pyrenees - Walking Holidays in the mountains The Ordesa Canyon, Pyrenees - Walking Holidays in the mountains
hike the GR11 in the Pyrenees with Collett's Mountain Holidays hike the GR11 in the Pyrenees with Collett's Mountain Holidays
Peaks & Passes Walking and Hiking in the Pyrenees Peaks & Passes Walking and Hiking in the Pyrenees
Peaks & Passes Walking and Hiking in the Pyrenees Peaks & Passes Walking and Hiking in the Pyrenees
Ordesa Canyon - Pyrenees Ordesa Canyon - Pyrenees
Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks
Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks Ordesa & Anisclo National Park Explorer Walking and Hiking Weeks
  • Includes airport transfers to and from Zaragoza and daily transport to trailheads
  • 3 nights in the Hotel Palazio, Nerin
  • 1 night in Refugio Goriz, located at 2200m
  • 3 nights in Hotel Bujaruelo, Torla, gateway to the Ordesa Canyon
  • Breakfast each day (buffet breakfast in the hotels; basic breakfast in Refugio Goriz)
  • Packed lunch each walking day (6 days)
  • 3 course evening meal, wine included (7 nights)
  • Detailed route notes & transport to/from the trailheads each walking day

See Pyrenees – Ordesa National Park Explorer for more information and to download our factsheet.

Spring came late here in the Pyrenees this year which means that the tops of mountains are still sprinkled with snow. The Sierra Partacua and Sierra Tendenera ranges that tower over our base in Panticosa look even more majestic as we hike below. Some of our higher routes still hold snow so the Pyrenees team have been getting creative with routes so that guests can enjoy the most stunning days out in the mountains. A little exploration has led us to the discovery of some absolute mountain gems.

It was with this in mind that I sat on our balcony one morning, cup of tea in hand, contemplating Cucuraza, a very inviting peak of 1767m and a hop skip and a jump from our village. I consulted the map. There was indeed a faint path leading to the top, 650m of ascent and the possibility of some stunning views of the Valle de Tena. I finished my tea and packed a bag. It was time to explore!

Walking Holiday Accommodation in Tuscany with Collett's - Il Rigo Agritourismo Walking Holiday Accommodation in Tuscany with Collett's - Il Rigo Agritourismo
Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees
Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees
Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees
Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees

The path ascended steadily at first through lanes, then fields and then through the beautiful beech forest that carpets the mountain’s slopes. The trees provided welcome shade from the sun and soon I had climbed almost 200m. The sounds of bustling Panticosa gave way to sounds of the forest; insects, birds and my steady breathing. Cucuraza was making me work for those views! One of the joys of the Pyrenees is that you rarely meet people on trails at this time of year if you know where to go – access to a little local knowledge is a big advantage. After 45 mins of walking I had the beauty and solitude of this forest path all to myself.

A further 200m saw the wooded track opening out onto a clearing where, to my surprise, the last of the elderflower orchids were still in bloom. Pale blue forget-me-nots, tiny primroses and spring gentians all swayed between a carpet of buttercups. It was such an unexpected sight that I had to stop and enjoy the moment.

I needed the break as in the last 250m the path became steeper. The beech forest became pine and the trees gave off the most beautiful aroma. I imagine this is the smell that pine flavour air fresheners are aiming for – how can they get it so wrong! I can tell you that nothing beats the smell of a mountain pine forest on a Monday morning.

Finally, I reached a col where the path flattened out. The top of Cucuraza is a long, flat, tree-covered tongue that juts out over the valley bellow. I was free to marvel at the 360 degree view. The mighty Punta Garbada and Punta dera Garmo were visible above, the turquoise of Bubal lake below, terraced meadows, trees of all hues, snow covered peaks and rugged mountain ranges in the distance. All enjoyed by only me and the birds.

The Pyrenees remind me every day why we puff and sweat up mountains. Moments at the top are precious beyond words. These are the memories we will remember long after the ache in our legs has disappeared.

The GR10 & Grand Cirques – Self-guided Hut to Hut in the French Pyrenees

If you require any information, please contact us on 01799 513331 or email admin@colletts.co.uk

General or Quick Enquiry


Mountain Flowers – Pyrenees & Picos
Alpine Flower book for the Dolomites

Mountain Flowers – Pyrenees & Picos
by Cliff Booker & David Charlton

User-friendly, minimal technical language
beautiful photography and stunning close-ups

We are delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of a new pocket field guide to the beautiful flowers of the Pyrenees and Picos de Europa, written by two of our experienced and well-known Flower Walk Organisers, who will be organising wildflower walks for us in the Pyrenees in June this year.

A sequel to their successful book Mountain Flowers – The Dolomites, also published in association with Collett’s Mountain Holidays, Mountain Flowers – Pyrenees & Picos will contain more than 170 species, beautifully illustrated and arranged by flower colour and habitat, avoiding technical language where possible. It will appeal to those with little botanical knowledge but will be sufficiently detailed to be enjoyed and used by the more experienced.

You can buy a copy at £9.95 (plus £2.50 UK P&P) using our order form in the adjacent tab or call us on 01799 513331.

Mountain Flowers – The Dolomites
Alpine Flower book for the Dolomites

A superb Alpine Flower book
by Cliff Booker & David Charlton

User-friendly, minimal technical language and stunning close-ups

At last! A superb, beautifully illustrated, inexpensive and user-friendly reference book for flower enthusiasts visiting the Dolomites. Collett’s Moutain Holidays has teamed up with our longest-standing and popular flower walk organisers, Cliff Booker and David Charlton, to produce a handy-sized, ring-bound pocket book, which can only enhance the experience of anyone visiting the Dolomites to enjoy the magnificent and diverse flora – using a minimum of technical language and featuring stunning photographic close-ups. ‘Mountain Flowers – The Dolomites’ is available exclusively through Collett’s Mountain Holidays.

You can buy a copy at £9.95 (plus £2.50 UK P&P) using our order form in the adjacent tab or call us on 01799 513331.

Order here

Order your copy

Mountain Flowers – The Dolomites or Pyrenees & Picos

  • *With international dialing code if outside of the UK, this is required for payment. Thank you.
  • UK Shipping is £2.50 (£4.00 for 2 books), US Shipping is £8.75 (£11.95 for 2 books). For other countries, please contact us. If you require more than one copy, we will discuss postage over the phone.
  • £ 0.00
  • If you found us on the internet - what was the search term?
    If you check this box we will include our Holiday Brochure for the Dolomites, Pyrenees and Picos de Europa.
  • If you would like to order more than one copy of each book, give us a call on 01799 513331 - Thank you.

    On successful completion of this form you will be redirected to a page entitled 'Wildflower Book Order Success' and you will receive an email confirmation (please check your junk email and white list us). If you are not directed to this page, scroll down to see if there are any issues highlighted. Thank you. Click 'Order Now' to continue.

Reviews

Reviews

Mountain Flowers – The Dolomites

29th February – I just received yesterday a copy of the new guidebook, from Colletts! David and Cliff did a great job! I was a little worried it would have too few specimens, like the Alpine Flowers book I bought in Corvara with just 70 flowers. Mountain Flowers – The Dolomites has nearly 140, with great photos, common names in three languages, and very useful environmental information. – Peter Stevens

1st March – I received ‘Mountain Flowers – The Dolomites’ yesterday and I love it! Very beautiful photography of native habitat of my favorite plants along with great information on their growing environment. Great to see them in their native haunts. I also like the way it’s bound. Thank you so much! – Eric Lucas

1st March – Brilliant, the colour production is very good and the size and spiral binding are just the job for field work by your target audience. Well done to David & Cliff! – Martin Rogerson

1st March – ‘Mountain Flowers – The Dolomites’ is just lovely! Perfect size to carry around, really easy spiral binding but more importantly, the content: The photos are clear, as are the descriptions and there is the right amount of information without being over wordy, thank goodness. I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching for a good and up-to-date guide, so I’m very happy. I wish you every success with the sales in the future. – Trina Stanton

1st March – Highly recommended – great photos – makes you want to go. Well done Cliff & David. – John Dower

Congratulations on your new book, “Mountain Flowers: The Dolomites”, that I received yesterday from Colletts. It is lovely guide, so well designed and layed out, with spectacular photos and just right write-ups. I really like the size, spiral binding and coating – just right for the pocket or pack and practical for hiking. I look forward, someday in the not too distant future, to using it on a visit to the Dolomites, preferably on one of your walks with Collett’s. I hope you will consider a similar volume for the Picos de Europa? Thank you for creating this lovely book. – Valerie Melanson

Thank you for my book which arrived a couple of weeks ago. I must say it has lots of really excellent points.
The size is good as it will fit in your pocket. The ring binder style is excellent, easy to turn to the flower picture and no spine to weaken causing you to lose pages. The way the flowers are grouped in colours is great as it will be easy to match species and of course the photography is beautiful . All in all a really well thought out book which I can’t wait to use in June when I take one of your holidays! – Beverley Wood

Awe-inspiring hiking in the Pyrenees on the GR11

If you require any information, please contact us on 01799 513331 or email admin@colletts.co.uk

General or Quick Enquiry


Each September, Collett’s offers the opportunity of a week of high level walking on the GR11 in the Pyrenees. We follow five consecutive stages of this world renowned long distance footpath – showcasing some of the best hiking in the Pyrenees amidst stunning landscapes dotted with mountain lakes and spectacular views – To book click here

Day 3 – Refugio Repromuso to Baños de Panticosa

12.2km/7.5 miles – 700m ascent – 1150m descent.

Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3

Our fourteen man dorm room had been an experience. By the time we had returned to the room and clambered up into our bunks it was already pretty toasty and the whole thing was authenticated by a couple of snoring Frenchmen. It was just that though, authentic, and the group were all in good humour the next morning as we emerged sleepily for breakfast. Then gathering outside on the refugio decking to put our walking boots on. The air was crisp and clean and the bowl was still in shadow, perfect walking conditions.

Cam and I had already been up for hours as we had returned to our hill spot to watch the sunrise, forgetting we were in a bowl and that it wouldn’t make an appearance for ages. It was lovely nevertheless. We watched the mountaineers’ head torches wander off up the various paths from Repromuso in the dark and wondered what plans they had for the day.

The sun finally appeared after we’d been walking for twenty minutes or so but we were using that to our advantage as we had all of our ascent for the day to do in one, starting straight away. The sooner we could get it done before it got too hot the better.

We were lucky in that mackerel clouds began to gather as we climbed, creating further shade for the long trudge up, although they were worth keeping an eye on in terms of incoming weather. The weather never arrived though, or at least it didn’t catch up with us. Our climb took some time, zig-zagging our way up through grassy slopes, passing small lakes and snow patches. The snow was too much of a temptation for some and a snowball fight broke out during a snack break at the base of the final climb. We then pushed on up a long scree slope. The path was narrow and lose and the dark, dusty rock reflected the light back up at us making it pretty tough. The only redemption was that the view back down towards Repromuso was stunning. One of the mountain ranges in view reminded me of a glacier-less Marmolada (a familiar sight for visitors to the Italian Dolomites). Finally we were making the final scramble to our highpoint. Again the ground was lose but we all made it to the top safely.

We were greeted by a sapphire lake surrounded by the charcoal down slopes of the Infiernos. It was amazing that on that first day they had seemed so far away and yet here they were right in front of us. The snow like marble slab up close was even more impressive and the climber in me began to wonder how one would even begin to get up there. We took in the view and then began our descent to find a suitable lunch spot. What started as a moonscape of rock and scree soon became green again and we found the perfect place for lunch at the Azules lakes. I could have stayed there for a very long time. The sun was out, the water was clear and a cool breeze moderated the temperature. I took off my boots and dipped my toes in the icy water whilst I ate my sandwich. The group spread out across the flat, grassy banks at the water’s edge. It was definitely one of my favourite lunch spots I’ve had in the mountains.

We packed up and continued our long descent towards Baños de Panticosa, passing the Bachimaña lakes with their enormous limestone islands and glacial scarring. The sun had been steadily burning off the cloud and the afternoon was turning hot and hazy. By the time we reached refugio Bachimaña everyone was happy to have a number of cold drinks in the shade. We still had around 600m of descent to go so we made sure to rest our knees there for a while.

The final descent followed a section of one of our most popular day walks in the Pyrenees. The track passed numerous waterfalls and plunge pools, winding in and out of the trees. It was pretty unrelenting for the knees and I think everyone was ready to put their feet up as soon as possible but the views out in the direction of Panticosa were remedying. Finally Baños came into view. A bizarre mixture of almost every form of architecture mankind has ever experimented with all in one place, all in varying forms of dereliction. We finally arrived there weary from the day to be greeted by the Pyrenees team who had come to pick us up and take us back to Panticosa for the night.

Staying out in the mountains for two days had really felt like a mini adventure and the group had bonded over our experiences. It was now time to get back, shower and change, have a pre-dinner drink, chat and then enjoy the meal! The next day we were all being treated to a rest so we discussed what our various plans were and in the most part that involved not a lot. Very sensible indeed.

Day 4 – Baños de Panticosa to San Nicholas de Bujaruelo

18.6km/11.5 miles – 1000m ascent – 1200m descent.

Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 3
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 4

We returned to the front porch of Hotel Sabocos early Thursday morning. In the most part we were rested and ready to go for the final two days of the GR11. Many people in the group had taken the opportunity to visit the local outdoor pool, mooch around the shops or go for short strolls in and around Panticosa. There were two exceptions: one being one of the chaps who had sustained an injury on Tuesday and was still in need of rest and the other being Cam who had decided to summit Monte Perdido (3355m) on his day off. This wasn’t enough to stop Cam from setting a good pace and taking on our rather immediate 1000m climb from the Baños carpark without a problem. Unfortunately our guest’s injury meant him dropping out for the day with the hope of re-joining n Friday.

I ended up being dropped to Baños early so that everyone else could fit in one mini bus. This gave me time to re-contemplate the bizarre architecture. Baños has long been recognised for its spring water and has a rich history reaching back to Roman times. It became a fashionable for a while when favoured by the Spanish Monarchy but has since fallen into disrepair. The hotel and spar are still well kept and could be easily compared to the quiet austerity of Greenwich, London. The buildings surrounding them however span hundreds of years between them, with a series of small builds that look like a Victorian train station and unfinished concrete high rises that could easily be from the 70s. To top it all off, at that time of day, the place was mostly deserted. It reminded me of Portmeirion in North Wales (the chilling setting to TV series ‘The Prisoner.’).

Finally the group arrived and we started walking. Baños is steeply walled in on almost every side so the only way to go was up! We could see our path from Tuesday afternoon snaking its way up through the trees. Our aim was to climb higher than the lakes of Bachimaña too so I think many people in the group were less than looking forward to gaining so much height in one go. Cam reassured us that the path was extremely well graded and when this turned out to be true everyone seemed reinvigorated. We climbed steadily away from Baños for a long time but at no point was the climbing incredibly strenuous. Eventually we reached a series of lakes where we took a break. Once again it was near deserted, the air was still and the water was like glass. Over our shoulder, back in the direction of Panticosa, a cloud inversion had been steadily forming throughout the morning and from this height is was more or less at eye level. The familiar sight of Telera was making an appearance over the cloud bank.

We pushed on to our high point for the day and finished the last part of our 1000m climb on a gently ascending traverse through a lakeside boulder field. It was pretty scrambley and everyone was careful to watch their feet but finally we reached the col. The col saddled two beautiful views: the cloud inversion one way and Vignemale (3298m) the other way. Vignemale is a stunning peak and one of many that marks the border between Spain and France. Imposing and enormous it seems to have every aspect of a mountain all in one! Glaciers, sharp ridges, pinnacles, smooth marble slabs, rolling grassy shoulders, long scree slopes and boulder fields. Basically it looks impenetrable. Lucky it wasn’t on our agenda for the day however. Instead we were to descend and skirt beneath it, joining a wide valley leading down to Bujaruelo.

We enjoyed a long lunch at the col sharing the sunny spot with a group of French ladies. One of our group produced an umbrella and shaded himself from the sun which made me smile. Moments like that must cement our reputation as English and I was in no doubt that the ladies knew from where we hailed!

The walk down from the col crossed more boulder fields as it followed the river down. This proved quite tricky and the group moved more or less in single file, concentrating on their feet. Each time we paused to sneak a look away from our shoes Vignemale was becoming more and more dramatic, rolling in and out of cloud. We were keeping an eye on the weather with still quite a way to go. We had only just started our 1200m of descent to reach our pick up point and nobody was keen for the rain to put in an appearance. As we crossed the increasing river and joined the valley however the sun broke through, lighting the place in an autumnal glow. The dry grass was soft and golden and the grassy lower slopes of the surrounding peaks were a dampened mossy colour. The gradient almost levelled too, continuing to descend only slightly. This was a relief for everyone’s knees! Especially one of the guys who had started to experience an uncomfortable twinge in one of his. Unfortunately the twinge worsened as time went on and getting to the end of the day was tough for him. The group was supportive however and we took a sociable pace onwards.

The best part about the valley was the company we found! For surrounding us on every side were marmots. They scampered around, diving into their burrows, standing proudly on lookout rocks nearby and whistling incessantly. What started as an excitable first sighting eventually became common place as we saw them in their tens maybe even hundreds over the next few hours.

The path changed lower down, skirting through trees and into impressive gorges. At one point we were walled in for hundreds of meters above and below as the path became cut into a gorge wall. By this time in the day the light was aging and the clouds slowly pulling over. Everyone was tired and about ready to reach the end. Every now and again we’d be greeted by a new and beautiful sight which would rekindle the enthusiasm, for example the long shadows of autumn trees over a grassy shoulder above us. With the charcoal sky and the fiery trees it looked quite surreal.

We dropped into a flat basin just above Bujaruelo. The wide path allowed everyone to group together and chat as we walked, although such a wind picked up that the gusts made it tricky at times. The river water ran silver beside us below a mackerel sky. Enormous limestone cliffs watched us as we passed. We crossed a few final bridges and arrived in the sleepy collection of buildings where we were to be picked up from and sure enough Ric was there with the van. Everyone piled in, happy for a seat and were driven down to our hotel for the night in Torla.

Cam and I waited for the second pick up at the local refugio and too enjoyed a well-earned sit down and drink. We people watched for a while. Children were playing in the river, climbers were hanging up their gear on a nearby fence. Tents were being constructed in a busy campsite too –the place really was a hive of activity. As we sat there the sun, which had already left the valley, cast a pinky-orange glow on the very top of the cliffs above us. It was reminiscent to the Enrosadeiras of the Dolomites.
Not long after Ric arrived to take us back to the hotel. It was a scenic drive even though evening had truly set in and we arrived in the castle town of Torla just in time for a shower and change before dinner. The guests assured us there was no rush – they’d happily discovered the bar. The chap who had dropped out that morning had joined us at the hotel too, feeling much better after another rest day. It was nice to have the full team back together.

The Hotel Bujaruelo is sizable and yet cosy like a mountain lodge. The communal spaces, which include a dining/breakfast room, reception area, sitting room and bar, are well kept and carefully designed to be both modern but warm so that visitors feel immediately at home. The room we were shown to was enormous with an amazing bathroom. The beamed, sloping ceiling added to the chalet feel and a little sitting room area had a dark wooden floor and comfy leather seats – a proper snug.

There wasn’t much time to explore as it was dinner time so we made the turn around and emerge back downstairs feeling a little more human. Dinner was three courses and once we had navigated the menu with Cam’s translation help we all tucked in to a lovely and sizable meal. When dessert was cleared and coffees distributed it was evident that the long day had taken its toll and it didn’t take long until people started heading to bed. Everyone had earnt a good night’s sleep.

Day 5 – Faja de Pelay and Ordesa Canyon

20.3km/12.5 miles – 800m ascent – 800m descent

Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 5

The final day! It had come around surprisingly fast as these things have a habit of doing. We had reached our final section of the GR11 which was to be a walk along the iconic Ordesa Canyon. Ordesa is a must when visiting the Pyrenees. Around 15km in length the gorge delves 1000m deep in places and its enormous limestone walls provide incredible views throughout.

We had planned to walk the Faja de Pelay, an impressive balcony that runs high above the canyon floor before descending and returning alongside the river itself. Unfortunately we woke up to grey skies and foreboding weather forecasts. The majority of weather sites Cam and I checked predicted some form of thunderstorm at some point in the day but none of them could quite agree as to when it was going to happen. Now the last place one wants to be in a thunder storm is 800m above the valley floor on an exposed ledge without an escape route, so I was keen not to make the wrong decision. We all agreed that we would get the bus up to Ordesa all the same and reassess when we arrived.

The weather in the Canyon was perfectly undecided. Moody grey clouds were collecting overhead but equally warm shafts of sun and blue sky were escaping through them regularly. We checked the forecast again and it remained determined that there was likely to be some form of storm mid-afternoon. After a fair amount of discussion and division in the group it was eventually decided that we would walk the canyon floor route up to the valley head. This way we would stay nice and low and we could turn tail if the weather changed its mind at any point.

The valley floor route was very beautiful. Silver birch trees lined a well-kept path and their canopy was a kaleidoscope of reds, yellows and oranges. The sun kept popping out, teasing us and there were plenty of looks skyward throughout. I wondered if we’d made the wrong choice backing off of the Pelay at times too but the valley walk was lovely. We stopped at plenty of viewpoints and waterfall plunge pools. Apparently in early season the water is quite ferocious due to melt water and heavy rain. We climbed steadily but it was easy going in comparison to our previous days.

The lunch spot was excellent. By a waterfall terrace a series of rocks similar in style to the Giant’s Causeway turned on their side jutted from the bank. These made amazing seats and the group spread out finding their own rock benches to have lunch on. The water was clear and cold but that didn’t stop us from dipping our hands in.

It was only a little further to reach the head of the valley. The narrow river track opens out suddenly into an enormous glacial bowl at the foot of Monte Perdido -The lost mountain (Known as that because of the way it is obscured from view to the French side). It really did become the lost mountain when it suddenly became obscured by a heavy, black cloud. We kept an eye on the cloud but celebrated the official finish of our GR11 trail, enjoying the moment.

When we turned back down the path big, fat drops of rain began to bounce off of the dusty path. They carried on just long enough for us to stop and put our coats on, then stopped, giving way to warm sunshine a little further on. Many of the group stopped again to remove their waterproofs again but sure enough it began to rain again five minutes later. This went on for around half an hour before the decision was made by a loud rumble of thunder off in the distance. Coats went on and stayed on as the shower built into a downpour. We put our heads down, sheltered slightly by the tree canopy but soon it was torrential and the thunder seeped into the valley sending shattering bouts of sheet lightning clattering off of the Ordesa’s high walls. By the time we got back to the refugio and bus stop everyone was soaked through.

It was a dramatic end to the GR11 walk but we all agreed that we had done well to escape bad weather throughout the week, only getting caught on our last afternoon. I for one was also pleased that we weren’t up on the ledge when that storm came over…
We caught the bus back to Torla and got picked up by the Pyrenees team, heading back to Panticosa for a very much deserved warm shower, drink and dinner.

Earlier in the day one of our couples had announced their 49th wedding anniversary so over dinner the bubbly flowed with an atmosphere of twofold celebration. The group was all back together a week later after walking a considerable section of one of the world’s best walking trails. The five days had seen us travel approximately 76.2km/47 miles, climb 4200m of ascent and descend 3850m. Not bad at all.

The next day we all met for some pre-departure tapas. How else would you finish a holiday in Spain? It was lovely to see how the group had bonded over the week and lunch was a lovely affair of easy conversation and a great relaxed atmosphere. Cam and I were both very sad to wave off our group of walkers as they climbed into the van heading to the airport. It had been a fab week and one that we’d do again in a heartbeat.

Join us next summer hiking the GR11

2-9 September or 9-16 September 2017 – £775 per person (excluding flights)

To book click – Hiking the GR11

Each September, Collett’s offers the opportunity of a week of high level walking on the GR11 in the Pyrenees. We follow five consecutive stages of this world renowned long distance footpath – showcasing some of the best hiking in the Pyrenees amidst stunning landscapes dotted with mountain lakes and spectacular views – To book click here

The final few weeks of each summer season bring a change to proceedings in our Spanish Pyrenees resort of Panticosa. For two weeks only our team splits operations and two dedicated organisers leave the day to day goings on in resort to join guests on a five day tour of one of the world’s best walking trails. Five days of walking and one additional rest day back in Panticosa sees the group spanning three valleys, skirting along the Spanish side of the French/Spanish Pyrenean border.

For the first week of the GR11 2016, Cam and I (Colletts walk organisers) were lucky enough to be those assigned to the trail with a group of eight due to arrive on Saturday evening. We prepared our maps and routes, checked the weather for the week ahead and collected our walk packs, then headed across the Hotel Sabocos (Our base in the Pyrenees) to greet them.

Once everyone had been shown to their rooms and settled in we reconvened on the terrace to share in a welcome drink. As Panticosa became bathed in a soft evening light we perused our routes and began to get to know each other. Soon enough it was dinner time and headed into the restaurant to tuck into our first three course meal of the week. As usual Hotel Sabocos didn’t disappoint and with a healthy accompaniment of house wine we reached the end of the meal satisfyingly full. It was time for bed for tomorrow was the start of our GR11 week.

Day 1 – Canal Royal and Ibones de Anayet

14.5km/9 miles – 900m of ascent – 600m descent

Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's Hiking the GR11 with Collett's
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's Hiking the GR11 with Collett's
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's Hiking the GR11 with Collett's
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's Hiking the GR11 with Collett's
Hiking the GR11 Hiking the GR11
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's Hiking the GR11 with Collett's
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's Hiking the GR11 with Collett's
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's Hiking the GR11 with Collett's
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's Hiking the GR11 with Collett's
Hiking the GR11 Hiking the GR11
Hiking the GR11 Hiking the GR11
Hiking the GR11 Hiking the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11
Hike the GR11 Hike the GR11

The next morning with walking gear on and ready to go we caught a lift to the Valle de Canfranc. An impressive start point the cliffs here are as good an introduction to the Pyrenean landscape as any other. Towering, tiered mountains toy with the nature of a Wild West film whilst grassy plateaus allow for a more alpine angle. At the time of year our GR11 walks run the landscape is just being touched by the first breath of autumn, so as we posed for a team photo and shouldered our packs we started a steady ascent into a golden grassed, glacial valley.

We scaled the side of a gentle river for some time, its banks scattered with rosehip, pausing briefly at the overgrown ruin of an old rifugio. The further we climbed the more highly the valley walled us in, building to an impressive crescendo and soon enough we had reached the head of a glacial amphitheatre. It seemed as if, to the untrained eye, that we had reached a dead end. The way ahead was the steep back wall of the murrain so we pressed ahead towards it in order to find our path, passing bell-necked cows and dried up river beds.

The group settled comfortably into their uphill paces and we began to climb an unobvious track amongst the copper green and purple scree to the high point of the day. Steadily we climbed high above the valley, improving our views as time went on. We made sure to take plenty of breathers to make sure the views were fully appreciated.

We were rewarded at the top by a dramatic change of landscape. Most noticeably in the distance were the peaks of France, in particular the Pic du Midi D’Osseau (2,884m). The Pic du Midi is a regular in the Pyrenean vista, with a recognisable twin peak and dark rock. It positioned itself behind the wide, shallow Anayet lakes, making for a stunning photo opportunity which we all took advantage of.

From here the group split into two. Cam offered to accompany people on an extension to a further peak whilst others who were keen to descend to the end of the walk could stick with me. We watched as Cam’s group paced off up the hill then turned to wander across the flat, grass land, passing grazing horses and a good smattering of the classic red and white striped GR11 markers. As we reached the edge of the plateau we left views of the Pic du Midi behind us and were instead greeted by the Infiernos. Picos del Infierno (Hell’s peaks) consist of three peaks, the Western (3073m), Central (3082m) and Eastern (3076m) all of which are joined by an exposed and impressive ridge. From a distance these mountains seem as if they are home to an enormous snow patch when actually the dark rock is instead divided by a smooth marble slab. These mountains quickly became my favourite view in the area.

The path dipped lower into the valley, chasing a stream into the midst of a system of ski lifts. The area is home to a popular ski resort in the winter months and we were heading to base of numerous ski lifts to finish our walk for the day. As we arrived into the lower valley a number of helicopters made an appearance and continued to circle for some time. After a certain amount of hypothesising their purpose for being there we remembered that just over the hill was the finishing line for that days Vuelta stage (Spain’s answer to the Tour de France). Sure enough as we climbed into the resort mini bus at the end of the walk by Dan (One of the Pyrenees team), we saw all of the team buses packing away and heading off to their next destination. An exciting way to bring the day to a close!

Cam’s group arrived back at Hotel Sabocos just in time to shower and join us for a well-deserved dinner.

Day 2 – La Sarra to Refugio Repromuso

10.6km/6.5 miles – 800m ascent – 100m descent

Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2
Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2 Hiking the GR11 with Collett's - Day 2

We snaked our way up through narrow mountain roads in the minivan to our trailhead. We were heading for some hydroelectric works north of Sallent de Gállego. The area is tied together by a network of hydroelectricity plants and pipes stemming from reservoirs, Franco’s stamp on the area. They fit in quite well with the landscape, snaking up the hillsides to water towers and dams higher up the valleys, trapping enormous and beautiful bodies of water. The van dropped us off by the reservoir’s lapping waters.

We walked up through the trees for some time, pulling steadily away from the river down to the right. As we gained height we found ourselves above an impressive gorge with steep drops. The trees here were definitely showing the first pulls of autumn and the colours in the canopy were scattering a beautiful light on the path. Eventually our tree cover broke and the gorge opened up with views of a few large waterfalls. This was our turn off point for the Ariel lakes. These lakes aren’t on the GR11 trail but instead provide a lovely detour and addition for what would otherwise be a very short and easy day. For anyone who wanted to head straight to our accommodation for the night (the Refugio Repromuso) they would need to head straight on towards the largest right-hand waterfall. Our whole group turned left however and began our steep climb up to the lakes. It was a long pull up over lose ground and narrow tracks but we took it steadily with plenty of breaks to help ourselves to the wild raspberry bushes that lined our way.

The last part of the climb reminded me of the landscapes seen in the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. Great shards of rock clung together to create an epic entrance to the lakes. The rock was the colour of rusted iron and cadmium yellow. We had lunch by the first lake on a grassy outcrop jutting out into the water. We were walled in on all sides by scree slopes and boulders and some derelict buildings on the far side of the basin suggested old mining works in times gone by. It was very peaceful and a gentle breeze rolled across the water to meet us. After we’d eaten and enjoyed the sun for a while we climbed up to the next two lakes, each one more beautiful that the last. Pico de Pallás (2974m) provided an impressive backing for the last lake where we had the place completely to ourselves. In fact we didn’t see another soul until we arrived at the reservoir Repromuso. We approached on a high mountain track, well above the valley below. We were at eye level with many of the great peaks for a good amount of time and then dropped height towards the dam where we watched a helicopter delivering supplies by winch.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we reached Refugio Repromuso. Its triangular red roof was recognisable from quite a way off. Cam had skipped ahead to sort out our keys and room so we met him there and then enjoyed some afternoon nibbles with a well-deserved beer.

What remained of our afternoon was spent chatting in the bar, taking our things up to our dormitory room and waiting for shower space. It was the proper mountain experience. Repromuso was a real hub, people from all over the mountain spilling in from outside. Mountaineers, climbers and hikers all together, from all over the world, sharing their day’s experiences. It was great! Cam and I got chatting to a couple of French guys sharing our room who had been ticking off a number of peaks in the area. They had some amazing photographs to share and we muddled through with our basic French and their better English.

There was still an hour before dinner and all of our guests seemed happy busying themselves with showers and unpacking so Cam and I took a stroll outside to watch the sunset. We walked up onto a hillock next to the refugio and watched as the light turned a rich, burnt gold. The sun settled perfectly into a gap in the mountain view, above the dam wall. It was silent and peaceful and exactly why both of us love the mountains. A bruised dusk overtook the lake and the water suddenly looked unfathomably deep. Little waves picked up by the increasingly cold breeze lapped heavily, moving with an oily thickness. It was time to head inside to the cosy warmth of the refugio.

When we returned the place had come alive. Everyone had finished showering and come down from the rooms and off the mountain. Instead they had filled the dining room with a buzz of people. There was a great atmosphere and everyone queued up at the bar to receive their dinner. It was a hearty three course of soup and a roll, sausages and rice and a yoghurt. We were joined once again by our French friends and we shared stories and wine until it was time for bed.

It was lights out at 10pm so Cam, Tony (one of our GR guests) and I headed up onto the roof to spy the stars. It was pretty cold but worth it for the lack of light pollution and the starts were getting better by the minute. The Milky Way stretched out across the 3000m peaks, knitting together the glacial bowl. We even saw a few shooting stars. Not a bad way to finish a day in my books.

Join us next summer hiking the GR11

2-9 September or 9-16 September 2017 – £775 per person (excluding flights)

To book click – Hiking the GR11

I am very fortunate to have spent two weeks searching for wild flowers in the High Pyrenees, writes David Charlton. As you may know, Collett’s have offered mountain flower walks in the Dolomites for many years. For the last two seasons it has been my privilege to lead flower walks in the glorious Picos de Europa in the north of Spain. This year I was set the challenge of finding enough locations to enable these very popular walks to be extended to the Pyrenees, where we have offered walking holidays for the last ten years.

I was based in the delightful and friendly Hotel Sabocos in Panticosa in the central Spanish Pyrenees. I am pleased to report that I had no difficulty finding excellent locations in which lovely high alpines, vibrant rich hay meadows and splendid roadside flowers all flourish. While the mountain walking in the Pyrenees tends to be quite steep and rugged, there are first-class locations where flowers can easily be seen a short distance from where cars can be parked. There are walks that are neither long nor challenging on which flowers can be examined and photographed at an easy pace. Equally there are rare and exquisite plants that grow only in the wild, high mountains that require a stiff climb in exhilarating scenery to locate.

Vital to any flower walk programme is a top-class flower destination that is easy to access. There are the four high passes of the Sella Massif in the Dolomites and Fuente De in the Picos. Could I find one comparable in the Pyrenees? Thankfully it was easy. Only twenty minutes drive from Panticosa is the Pourtalet Pass on which Spain’s border with France is located.

On the way up to it, right by the roadside, is a colony of lady slipper orchids (Cypripedium calceolus). Because they are rare in the Pyrenees and in such a vulnerable position they are kept under careful guard. It is encouraging to see that this exquisite orchid is spreading quite freely from several established plants.

The Pass itself was an absolute riot of beautiful mountain flowers. Thousands of Pyrenean fritillaries (Fritillaria pyrenaica) were at their very best. Everywhere was kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) in an astonishing range of colours – red, yellow, orange and white. Alpine pasque flowers (Pulsatilla alpina) were in bloom alongside colonies of the best Narcissus-flowered anemones (Anemone narcissifolia) I have ever seen. Gentians and the Elder flowered orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina) in red and yellow colour forms abounded everywhere. The smallest and tightest form of creeping globularia (Globularia repens) forms prickly mats on the limestone pavements.

I spent the best part of three days on and around this pass, always finding new things and never needing to stray more than a few hundred metres from the road. Superb!

There are excellent, easily reached locations just over the border in France. A large area of splendid limestone pavement provided a rich area for exploration and large, vibrant yellow Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica) were along the roadside, so much more striking than the form that can become a weed in gardens at home.

Of course, seasons are unpredictable and I may have struck lucky to arrive just as the fritillaries were at their best. But my confidence that this is a high-class flower location comes from the sight of thousands of crocus leaves everywhere – there must have been sheets of them (together with many wild daffodils) just as the snow melted. Also I could see the later flowers starting to emerge, including many orchids and a few Pyrenean lilies (Lilium pyrenaicum), frustratingly only just in bud.

A couple of lower sites within easy reach of Panticosa held an abundance of two key Pyrenean endemic species I was most anxious to find. The first is the Pyrenean saxifrage (Saxifraga longifolia or Corona de Rey, the King’s Crown, in Spanish). Beautiful rosettes with long encrusted leaves grow in tight crevices in vertical limestone cliffs, taking perhaps six or seven years to reach maturity. They then produce a huge, spectacular spike of white flowers, a glorious sight for several weeks until they are pollinated, set seed and die, leaving the task of producing future generations to the small rosettes growing around them.

Ramonda myconi (Orella d’os or Bear’s ear in Spanish) also grows in tight vertical crevices but always in the shade. Related to the African violets widely grown as houseplants, it has large, delicate purple flowers with protruding stamens.

About an hour’s drive from Pantocosa (depending on how many stops are made to enjoy the roadside flowers!) is the magnificent Ordessa National Park. The scenery here is spectacular with soaring cliffs providing excellent but quite challenging mountain walking. What is its potential as a wildflower destination? Unless you climb high, above the forests of ancient trees that fill the valley, rich flower locations are not easy to find. But a valley running north just outside the Park provided a good circular flower walk with riverside screes and bogs holding many species usually found much higher and a large colony of Martagon lilies (Lilium martagon) about to flower.

I spent my final three nights at Nuria, formerly a monastery and now a hotel, located at 2000m in the east Pyrenees, access to which is solely by mountain railway. My mission was to locate a lovely species of buttercup, Ranunculus parnassifolius. Its flowers are normally white but in the high, wet screes above Nuria is a population with large blooms delicately marked with pink. Snow fell down to 2200m while I was searching but in a flurry of sleet I found a large colony just coming into flower. Their lovely pink and white goblets with flamboyant yellow stamens seemed impervious to the bleak weather and provided a perfect finale to my superb trip.

The mountain flowers of the Pyrenees are superb – I knew that before my visit. My two weeks of reconnoitre have convinced me that a varied and interesting programme of flower walks and visits can be devised to please both enthusiasts and those with a casual interest in wildlife, the able walker and those less vigorous.

So, if you like your mountain flowers, why not choose a walking holiday in the Pyrenees with Collett’s next June? You won’t be disappointed.

The escalating excitement in our van mirrored the surrounding landscape as we made the ascent through the Pyrenean foothills to the village of Panticosa, one of Collett’s long standing summer walking destinations.

Panticosa, Collett’s base in the Spanish Pyrenees is surrounded by 360° of spectacular snow peaked mountains, the village offers an ideal centre for many diverse walking holidays. Over the past week, we have been able to undertake a number of these walks and even the more experienced members of the team cannot deny the breath-taking beauty they’ve been presented with, whether that be gazing up at the formidable Pic du Midi d’Ossau over the French border, or looking down from one of our most popular shorter walks, La Sierra de la Partacua, towards the vibrant blue of the Búbal Lake.

Búbal Lake - Walking in the Pyrenees Búbal Lake - Walking in the Pyrenees
Ordesa Canyon - Walking in the Pyrenees Ordesa Canyon - Walking in the Pyrenees
Ordesa Canyon Ordesa Canyon
Lady's Slipper Orchid Lady's Slipper Orchid
Ordesa Y Monte PErdido National Park - Walking in the Pyrenees Ordesa Y Monte PErdido National Park - Walking in the Pyrenees
Hiking in the Pyrenees with Collett's Hiking in the Pyrenees with Collett's
Lunch, Pic du Midi d’Ossau - Walking in the Pyrenees Lunch, Pic du Midi d’Ossau - Walking in the Pyrenees
Pic du Midi d’Ossau - Walking in the Pyrenees Pic du Midi d’Ossau - Walking in the Pyrenees
Looking over to Conchata - Spanish Pyrenees Looking over to Conchata - Spanish Pyrenees
Walking in the Pyrenees - Foratata Peak Walking in the Pyrenees - Foratata Peak
Office Hour at Hotel Sabocos - Hiking Holidays in the Valle de Tena, Pyrenees Office Hour at Hotel Sabocos - Hiking Holidays in the Valle de Tena, Pyrenees
Sierra De La Partacua Sierra De La Partacua
Ordesa Y Monte PErdido National Park - Walking in the Pyrenees Ordesa Y Monte PErdido National Park - Walking in the Pyrenees

The appeal of the landscape is heightened by the alpine flowers and plants which have been able to thrive here and so far, the season seems to be exceptionally brilliant in terms of floral bloom. Just a short drive from the village you can see the much sought after Lady’s slipper orchid which is afforded the extravagance of 24 hour protection due to its scarceness.  The higher pastures are currently filled with a huge array of different flower species such as the Trumpet Gentian, Early Purple Orchid, Birds Eyes Primrose and Pyrenees Buttercup to name a few, providing a visual pick and mix for flower enthusiasts.

The warm early summer weather has not only been beneficial to the plant life but has also allowed much of the snow to clear. As a result we’re expecting many of the higher level walking routes and trails to be open very soon. For now however we have been able to enjoy the element of drama which the remaining snow brings to the views of the higher peaks. Walking up from the base of the magnificent Ordesa Canyon & Monte Perdido National Park (A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) earlier in the week proved to me that we don’t have to be on the top of a mountain to fully appreciate the landscape. The valley is defined by a crystal clear river punctuated by waterfalls before opening up into a corrie at the base of the highest mountain in the Spanish Pyrenees, El Monte Perdido, translated to ‘the lost mountain’.

With so many opportunities around us for spectacular walking days, the team is full of enthusiasm for the season ahead and we’re looking forward to sharing the unique charm this area has to offer with each of our guests.

See Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees for more information.

Thanks to Caitlin Richardson for the excellent blog post and to Felicity (Flee) Lee for the excellent photos – See Dan & Flee’s Adventures.