The West Face of Posets and the Chistau Valley

Posets, also known as Lardana*, is the second highest mountain of the Pyrenees at 3369m. It rises to the West of the Valley of Benasque, constituting a long high ridge that runs from North to South for a distance of 4 kilometers above 3000m.

The West Face of Posets, and the Lardana Glacier.

The West Face of Posets, and the Lardana Glacier.

The valleys to the East of Posets on the Benasque side are well frecuented and served by guarded mountain huts open all year round. On the other side, the West Face of Posets, it’s a different story. The Valley of Chistau (or Gistaín) is less easy to access, consequently sees much less human traffic, and generally guarantees a more solitary Pyrenean experience.

The Posets-Espadas ridge seen from low down in the Chistau Valley.

The Posets-Espadas ridge seen from Las Granjas de Biadós in the Chistau Valley.

Not only does it have the attraction of being quieter, to reach the summit of Posets from the Biadós area you face 1700m of upward struggle..one of the biggest climbs in the Pyrenees.

Early morning, climbing out of the Chistau Valley..

Early morning, climbing out of the Chistau Valley..

I’ve wanted to do this route for years..and finally last week, despite having a really bad cold, i managed to convince my snowboarder friend Marcos to go for it. Route-finding wasn’t so easy in the lower part of the valley, but we slowly worked our way up thru the trees.

..gaining altitude, on the way to the summit of Posets.

..gaining altitude, on the way to the summit of Posets.

Slope after slope, snowfield after snowfield, on we toiled..sometimes steeper, sometimes flattening out a bit, but ever upwards. At 3000m you get a close-up view of the upper West Face wall of Posets, towering above the residual Lardana Glacier.

The upper West wall of Posets, and the Lardana Glacier -or what remains of it- to the right.

The upper West wall of Posets, and the Lardana Glacier -or what little remains of it- to the right.

At 3200m we reached a small col on the ridge..here the snow finished and we got out the rope for the last section of rock ridge to the summit. Apart from a few meters here and there at the beginning where you have to scramble a bit, the ridge is not difficult..and the final stretch is almost horizontal, if a little airy.

Marcos on the last section of the ridge, relatively close to the summit, the Pyrenees stretching out behind him.

Marcos on the last section of the ridge, relatively close to the summit, the Pyrenees stretching out behind him.

At five in the afternoon we reached the summit..quite a long day, fortunately it’s Spring with light until late! There was practically no wind, and we were completely alone..as we had been almost all the morning.

The continuation of the ridge to Espadas to the South.

The continuation of the ridge to Espadas, 3329m, to the South.

Given the hour, we didn’t stay long on the top..heading quickly but carefully back down the ridge to the col where we had left our snow-sliding-boards. In spite of our haste, it was still 6.30 in the evening by the time we were ready to ski.

Here's me..skiing off the col at 3200m.

Here’s me..skiing off the col at 3200m.

We skied down with the sun, you might say. As our local star dropped in the western sky, so did we on the western slopes of Posets..almost 1500m of descent towards the Chistau Valley.

Further down..the valley beckons below.

Further down..the valley beckons below.

The snow was hard at first, then a tad crusty before softening up towards 2900m and below this point we had good afternoon spring snow. At one point we had to remove boards to walk across a rocky snowless slope..and then down, down, down once more.

Finally down to the valley bottom..beside Río Zinqueta.

Finally down to the valley bottom..beside Río Zinqueta.

One of the wonderful things about skiing is how quickly you can get down what it took you several hours to get up. It took us over six hours to get to the col at 3200m..and less than one hour to get back down to the valley floor. And it would have been more like 30 minutes if we hadn’t had to take skis off a couple of times.

Crossing back over the bridge towards Biadós in the twilight.

Crossing back over the bridge towards Biadós in the twilight.

Ten hours and twenty six minutes had passed since we crossed the bridge over the Zinqueta river in the morning..quite a long day of activity. And there was still a twenty minute hike to get back to the where we had left the car!

* The weird and wonderful world of names: Posets or Pocetz? ..Lardana (aragonés) or Llardana (catalá)? ..Tuca Llardana or Punta Llardana? Also the name Posets is Catalonian, but the mountain is entirely inside Aragon, and a considerable distance from the modern frontier of Catalunya..? Lardana/Llardana is clearly the more local name. Reminiscent of Sagarmatha/Chomolungma/Qomolangma/Zhumulangmafeng/Everest..?!

..and the numbers can be contested too: is the correct height 3369m or 3375m? (!)

Advertisements

About coldspringdays

Éireannach is ea mé, i mo chonaí insan Spáinn. Rugadh mé i lár na tuaithe, ar feadh blianta bhí mé ag teitheadh uaithi, i bhfad as an tuath, ach sa deireadh d'fhill mé, ar ais go dtí an tuath.. An Irishman am I, settled in Spain. Born was I in the middle of the country, for years I ran from it, far from the country, but in the end I returned, back to the country..
This entry was posted in Mountain, Nature, ski, snow and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s