It had been a year since visiting this part of valley and when Jorge suggested climbing “Los Infiernos” I obviously agreed with great excitement, forgetting about the overly-rocky terrain and how hard the descent was on the knees (and feet and toes and quads and..) from Garmo Negro.
Los Picos del Infierno are composed of 3 peaks: the Western Infierno (3073m) Central Infierno (3081m) and Eastern Infierno (3076m).
If you remember from high school Spanish, “infierno” means hell. I’ve heard that the name comes from the very first person to summit these peaks and the storm that hit during his ascent.
There are basically two options to reach the summit. If you’re pressed on time or are feeling strong or want to push yourself, you can go up and down in a day. And many people do it. Since the Pyrenees are more than a stones throw away from the pueblo, we usually have to stay the night anyways. And if I can break up a hike with a 1500m accumulated elevation gain into 2 days, I’m all for it. This can happen from 2 different mountain refugees: Respomuso or Bachimaña. We chose the latter.
We arrived at Baños de Panticosa around 5:30 PM on a Thursday afternoon, with the plan of hiking los Infiernos on Friday. Summer is winding down and we no longer have sunlight until 10 PM. Plus you know, mountain safety 101, dusk is always earlier. So we hurriedly headed up to the mountain refuge where we’d stay the night. Doing this breaks up the hike really nicely. It’s about 3.5 km and 570 m of elevation gain up to Refugio de Bachimaña from Baños de Panticosa. The sign says it will take around 2 hours. We find that these estimations are a bit slower than our own pace. (What can I say, we were both born with long legs and neither of us became pro athletes, gotta take advantage of them in some other way!)
Rushing to get to the refuge was a problem for us because this is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done. You will encounter numerous cascades and pools and vertical mountain walls. The whole way up we talked about how we’d return and prepare the most epic picnic ever and just take it easy so as to enjoy the views and wildlife. It truly is a spectacular hike.
OK. Route info Baños de Panticosa —> Refugio de Bachimaña: It’s so simple. Follow the GR-11. A “GR” will have this white and red marker:
And that’s it!
The great news is that the next morning, the hike up to the Picos del Infierno will start by following the GR-11 and continue for a greater part of the route. It will take you by even more waterfalls and pools and eventually lead you to the inevitable rocky part of the ascent.
We got an early start on Friday morning, as did most of our bunk mates. Many of them joined us (or passed us*) on the trek up.
*We got a lot of wildlife sighting, and since lately we haven’t seen many creatures lately on any hikes, we stopped to take lots of pics of the marmots and “sarrios”, Pyrenean mountian goats which look also sorta look like mini deer.
You’ll great views of the glacier which sits just below the Central Infierno.
At the grand Ibón de Teberray you have the option to continue on to the GR-11 (to the right) which will take you to Refugio de Respomuso or hook a left and head up towards “Los Infiernos”.
Here you’ll get your first glimpse of Pic du Midi d’Ossau in the distance. This epic French peak is on our wishlist but we are trying to get our climbing and belaying game stronger before attempting this ascent.
At this point we had to put our walking sticks away because this is where it gets somewhat technical. Mostly just scrambling and moderate rock climbing. No harness or ropes are necessary but you’re going to want a helmet. There are a lot of loose rocks, and it’s a pretty heavily trafficked route, which means there will most likely be someone above you, also scrambling.
If you suffer from vertigo, I don’t recommend you continue on. Once you get up this initial rock wall and leave Ibón de Tebarray behind you, you’re going to have to cross the “marmolera” or marble mountain face which gives the massif its white streaks of color. It’s a steep ledge along the “marmolera” which you gotta cross.
The views of Tena Valley are so incredible from here. You can see… I was going to start naming peaks but you can literally see the entire valley. (Piedrafita, Anayet, Formigal, etc etc etc.)
Once you get across the ledge, it’s just a last push and upward scramble to the first crest, the Western Infierno.
Now, enjoy the MFing views!
Bask in your triumph! This is the best feeling, am I wrong?
I was so hungry at this point but also didn’t care. I always want to stay on top forever and ever. And in summer with good sun you could, especially if you’re not in a rush to get down.
After you’ve had a photo sesh on top of each “Infierno”, it will be time to contemplate the descent. Pay attention here: As you stand just below the Eastern Infierno and look down towards the Ibones de Pondiellos (the little blue lakes) to the left you’ll see Picos de los Arnales and then a mountain pass. Then another baby peak and another pass just below Garmo Negro. THIS second pass is your target to make the descent back to Baños de Panticosa. Here’s why it’s tricky:
Below this third Infierno in the valley, you’ll also see what looks like a path that leads to “Los Arnales” and to the aforementioned passes. You’ll eventually make it to this path but don’t follow your instinct to start trekking towards that path from the Eastern Infierno. If you do this, you’ll hit a dead end at a steep ravine that, unless you have ropes and harnesses, you won’t be able to rappel down. Instead, from the Eastern Infierno, head to the right, even though it looks impossible at first, begin scaling down this other chimney like cut-out. You won’t have to scramble for long, and the zig-zag descent will eventually lead you to the path that you spotted from atop the Eastern Infierno.
Let me remind you one more time that, you must go to the second pass in order to descend into Baños de Panticosa village.
Follow the cairns from here. There are various paths, all will take you back down to the village, except for the one on the far right which will take you to Ibones de Ordicuso, visible during your descent from los Picos.
Bless these legs of mine!