Thursday, 1 August 2013



Cotiella in the Sierra Sardanella is 2912m high – another 88 metres and it would be swarming with people. It is a Major, number 13 in the JMH Iberian prominence list with P1187.

My 2013 Marco Polo road atlas clearly shows a secondary road traversing the eastern side of Cotiella from San Juan de Plan via Barbaruens to Seira, with another branch going to Villanova. Oh yeah? There isn’t even a pista/unpaved road. And anyone who has been there will be able to tell you why Bararuens is literally the end of the road. That is a big drop into the Barranco de Bilse. I am sending a bill to Marco Polo for the wasted diesel.
Just before the road from Seira reaches Barbaruens there is a pista (1130m) N42.50256 E0.39547 that heads uphill. I parked at 1395m N42.50568 E0.37611 – indeed, I slept the night there. The pista is still drivable beyond there until 1535m N42.50785 E.036987 and there is space for a couple of vehicles. But you couldn’t get a 4X4 much further. 

The path then winds through some woods – if you are bored with the path I wouldn’t stray too far to the right, the next view of a tree see will, momentarily at least, be its canopy way below you.

Ibon de Armena
The path follows the cliff edge in the wood and then rises up to a ridge where there is a view of the Sierra Sardanera and then it is down to a pretty little glacial lake, Ibon de Armena (1830m) N42.51529 E036987. In the mud near the lake I found a Buff (headcover) identical to my own. I picked it up and when I reached the unlocked/unguarded quaint looking Refugio de Armena I washed it in a nearby stream and tied it on the back of my rucksack to dry. The refugio is very nice inside – with mattresses, comprehensive first aid cupboard and a radio link to the Civil Guard.
Refugio de Armena
I walked up the Circo de Armena which alternates between grass, scree, rocks and patches of late snow with a steep finish to the Collado de Cotiella (2670m) 42.50808 E0.32308. Just before the steepest section I met three French people who had stayed in the refugio overnight and already been to the summit. I wasn't aware of any funny looks from them at the Buff I was wearing, however, when I took off my rucksack to get a banana, they spotted the Buff I had found. They enquired of its provenance and I handed it over to the rightful and grateful owner.
From this point to the summit it is all loose stone, rocks and scree – if you are planning to go there in a group it might be a good idea to wear helmets. I certainly dislodged several large stones. 
For the ascent I followed a ‘path’ that traverse right across a wide circo to the Collado de la Colladeta (2715m) N42.50853 E0.31696 and then zigzagged through more scree and rocks to the trig topped summit with tremendous views all round.

For the descent I took a more direct and straight course towards the first collado missing out the long traverse. Although a steeper way it wasn’t any worse than the ascent route. From the collado I more or less reversed the overall ascent route, stopping for a chat, at the refugio, with the three Buff wearing French people, who were packing their gear in readiness for a walk-out.

19.87km, 2139m total ascent

Overnight in the Vado carpark, Benasque valley (1730m). Camping is not allowed, however sleeping in a vehicle does not count as camping as long as you don’t put out tables, chairs, barbeques, canopies etc. By the end of the evening there were about ten motorhomes, similar in size to my own, in a semi circle at the far end of the carpark – and several people were sitting outside on chairs under canopies. 

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