If you drive past Formigal (the second largest Pyrenean ski resort offering 137 kilometers of marked slopes) just over the the Spanish-French border, from atop Col du Portalet a gorgeous valley lays out before you. At the center of it all, standing 2885 meters tall, is the “Riena” of Ossau Valley: Midi d’Ossau. One of the most iconic peaks in all the Pyrenees.
She’s visible from every peak in Ossau and Tena valleys. She’s a bucket-lister for amateur climbers (me!) as the ascent requires some technical skill.
I’m not a huge fan of winter trips to the Pyrenees and it’s not because I don’t like skiing (I do snowboard a few times a year!) and it’s definitely not because of the cold. It’s the GD traffic. It used to be because the lodging was too expensive, but we bought a van with stationary heating and solved that mf problem. These mountain roads are not apt for Sunday ski crowds heading down the hill. And if you know anything about Spain it’s that if the sun’s out, no one stays indoors. These winter rays are some of the most delicious, soul warming treats ever. But the ski resorts are hell.
So, we snowshoe instead.
This is one of the most classic winter snowshoe routes. It’s the typical “beginners” route. Though some of the surrounding peaks have some pretty steep gradients (Pène de la Glère, Peña Blanca, Aneou), the route up to Canal Roya is very moderate.
There is marked parking on the right side of the road just past the border and the hike starts where the informational sign sits just down towards the creek, on the other side of the road.
Should you go during winter, I recommend following a track in case you lose visibility. There were many moments where we couldn’t make out the hills and snow banks and straight up trusted the GPS.
Though the accumulated elevation gain was a bit under 1000 m, our legs the next day were feeling the difference between a simple hike in snowshoes instead of boots.
The last leg of the journey was the steepest part and because of the position of the peak and the obvious cold at 2400 meters, it was quite icy. Be warned. Also, as you arrive to the top, the right side of the peak (north-west) had quite a cornice in the making, from the icy northern winds. Again, be warned to not get too close to the edge.
We only barely got a glimpse of Midi d’Ossau as the clouds cleared just long enough for one photo. And the summit selfie was pretty whatever.
But when we got to the car, the sun defeated the clouds and alas, had the most beautiful views as we stuffed our faces with bocadillos through our front row views of one of the most spectacular valleys in all the Pyrenees.
We contemplated making our way across the crests between Canal Roya and Pène Glère, Peña Blanca, etc (the peaks to the left), but visibility was quite shit when we were up there, so we acted on our instincts and our growling tummies and headed back to the van.
I’m having a hard time uploading my GPX tracks but will work on it and hopefully have it on the bloog soon!