Hiking the Pyrenées: Carros de Foc

Hiking the Pyrenées: Carros de Foc

Summer has started, the beautiful weather is here, and I am still working. Still, I can't help daydreaming about our hiking trip last summer in the Catalan Pyrenées. Carros de Foc is the most intense hike we have done in recent years and comparable in beauty to our honeymoon hike at Torres del Paine in Chile. (We didn't sit on the beach after we got married, we spent Y2K in a tent at the summit in the pouring rain!)

Located in the Aigüestortes and Sant Maurici National Parks, Carros de Foc is a high mountain circuit with nine refuges, and you can enter and leave from different points. We arrived late our first day and slept at Refugi Colomina where we ate a hearty mountain meal and saw a fox hunting at dusk. We left early the next morning after a quick swim. The scenery is spectacular and changes in every section. There are mountain lakes, rocky climbs, snowy mountain passes, and sunny meadows galore. But be warned: the refuges are rustic! In some we slept in dormitories with 40+ people, snorers included! My absolute favorite stay was our second night at the Refugi Josep Blanc, which is built right on the lake. (You can see Josep Blanc in the photo on the little peninsula that juts out from the left.) It's advisable to make reservations in advance because the refuges fill up and camping in the park is not allowed.

 I'm not going to give you a day by day account of our trip, but I will include a few photos. The refuges will pack you a picnic if you order the night before. The distance between refuges varied between 2-6 hours, but we dawdled, and swam, picnicked and went very slowly. A couple of times we skipped a refuge and did two sections in one day, but we were good and tired every night.

 A view from our bedroom at Josep Blanc. Yes, we had a family bedroom for four, luxury!

Swimming at the summit, that's snow in the background and the water was cold!

In theory swimming is forbidden, I think the park service doesn't want to rescue hypothermic campers, but we were told that it was okay to swim.

Good equipment is key! Laurent won the bad boots award on this trip, duct tape at every refuge, I don't know how he made it. We brought sleeping bags and probably too much equipment, carrying a heavy pack at altitude is brutal, next time I'll pack lighter.

I definitely re-grounded myself on this trip. It was good to get away from the office and emails. Up in the Pyrenées there is barely any internet coverage. The refuges had wi-fi and a waiting line to charge smart phones, but it was great to disconnect for a week.


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