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!
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.