Mountains of Single Track in Spain with BasqueMTB,
Day 3 – Cotiella then an Ainsa evening
Locations were Val D’Aran – Day 1 || Benasque – Day 2 and Day 3 || Ainsa – Day 4 || Biescas Day 5 and Day 6
Then we spent three days riding in the Basque Coast
Then we spent another two weeks driving around Spain
Another brisk fall day in Val Benasque means getting up at 7:00am for another massive breakfast. Fuelled by food and excellent Spanish coffee we were ready for another day of Pyrenees alpine singletrack. However this time we were going for a pleasant ramble hike-a-biking via a series of trails and valleys. The climb was a bracing 560m over a 2.9km distance mostly hiking from 1800m to 2348m to a rugged alpine col. We then rode part of the Grand Ruta trail ascending from south east of the Cotiella limestone massif to the small town of Saravillo at 1020m. After a massive lunch our vans then transported us to Ainsa where we rode the Coda Sarten, one of the EWS Stages.
BasqueMTB’s six day High Pyrenees trip had us sample riding in 4 Pyreneean locations from approximately the Central to West Pyrenees. Trails were the best we’ve ever had the privilege of riding in the high alpine in Europe. Travel was tight and well-organized, accomodations were well-chosen; FOOD was amazing (and copious); service was superb, and weather was incredible.
We were now settled into the expectations of good weather and once again, were not disappointed. The day greeted us was sunshine and morning’s cool air. It was perfect riding temperatures and a good day to get into the alpine. We were again shuttled by Basque de Novela. You can never give enough Kudos to BasqueMTB for supporting local companies during his tours.
After a somewhat windy long drive from our hotel at Benasque we were dropped off at approximately 1650m elevation leaving us with a nice long hike to get to the pass below the Cotiella massif. The group hiked and bike at a good steady pace and covered ground in due course surrounded by gorgeous alpine vistas. The predominant limestone deposits of the Cotiella region means erosion of the ground into karst, caves and interesting topography. There are ridges, meadows, lakes and (due to the cool fall temperatures) no bugs!
We were warned by Doug that the pass just below Cotiella was usually quite windy so faffing around would be limited. However we got to the pass where we were greeted by views that went on forever seeing clearly even as far north as into France and nothing but sunshine and good cheer. Unfortunately there was no alprestaurant with beer but that also means a decided lack of other people on the trails as one has to be self-powered to get to this destination.
Lack of crowds mean that we could blast down the trail. At Cotiella this is the dividing line between the counties of Ribagorza where Benasque is located to Sobrarbe where Ainsa is situated. The trail descending from Cotiella itself is a mountaineering and hiking access route. Of course if we encountered people we would respect their right of way but we saw no people until we got to a beautiful alpine lake – Ibon de Plan. at 1910m. Ibon de Plan is close to an alpine refugio and easily accessed from a gravel road that bisects the Grand Ruta GR 15 trail that continues to the valley at Saravillo.
The entire descent is natural. Which is to say it’s rocky, technical and has lots of places to eat caca de la vaca! Govern your speed accordingly and try to remember that Pyrenees rocks are sharp and tend to cause flats. It’s a long beautiful ride.
One of the definining characteristics of BasqueMTB trips is the ridiculously high quality and quantity level of the food. An amazingly hearty and frankly massive lunch of Pasta Carbonara, Paella, Chicken, Lamb ribs, Sausages Beer and Coffee left all of us with the meat sweats. Luckily we had a good half hour to recuperate as we set off for another late afternoon ride.
This time we were deposited at the start point of an Ainsa EWS enduro stage where we climbed just enough to work off some of that post-late lunch belly then descended trails of incredible quality to the old town of Ainsa. It’s also worthwhile to note that we were incredibly fortunate in trail conditions as it had rained just last week. The Ainsa trails can be dry and dusty but for us, we experienced joyfully tacky dirt
This night we stayed in Ainsa at the Hotel Sanchez where they served Tronzadora Beer. Beer proceeds support the Zona Zero Pirineos, the primary volunteer trail maintenance group taking care of trails in Ainsa. A cause we can get behind!
Overview of our ride today