Friday, 9 August 2013

Pica d'Estats


Pica d’Estats N42.66700 E1.39788  is one of those summits where you can have one foot in one country, the other abroad – i.e. it is shared by France and Spain. It is 3143m high with a prominence of P1281 and comes tenth in JMH's Iberian prominence list.
Pica d'Estats summit
The pista from Areu to the carpark and barrier at La Molinassa is quite rough. I am glad I did it the night before because it takes about an hour each way, driving. On the way back down I was stuck behind another car and we were overtaken by a jogger.
There was no advantage in staying at the Refugio de Valliferrara as it is very near the start and the path is actually better than the aforementioned pista. After the refugio the path deteriorates rapidly – and it is quite convoluted with more twists and turns than a Swedish TV crime drama.
Pica daisy
For a long while, despite the occasional signposts I was doubting that I was going the right way as the path traverses around the Serrat d’Areste and into the Barranco de Sotllo.

Barranco de Sotllo
Estany de Sotllo
Outlet of Estany d'Estats and crossing point
Eventually the path reaches the first lake, Estany de Sotllo (2349m) N42.64879 E1.38258 and then there is the difficult task of crossing the river twice without the aid of the collapsed bridge at 2433m N42.65506 E1.38602.

The second lake, Estany d'Estats (2457m) N42.65624 E1.38822 is a good place to camp and gives a good view of the summit which looks tantalisingly near – however, there is still a long way to go using the voie normale.
Coma d'Estats
The Coma d'Estats was snow filled and it was time to put on crampons. The snow slope is long and gets quite steep at times.
Port de Sotllo
The snow runs out before the Port de Sotllo which is a collado and where you step into France (2853m) N42.66888 E1.39788.
The map shows a path that goes along the ridge over Pic Verdaguer to the summit – I didn't like the look of it. So, I followed the usual route which goes round the back into France and involves some decent and re-ascent and crossing a lot more snow. I tried to reduce the number of crampons on and off by crossing one patch without them – and regretted it halfway across when the drop looked steep, long and the footprints I was stood in were still icy out of the sun.

The path rises to Coll de Riufred (2967m) N42.67083 E1.40224. Crampons off and it is an easy ridge walk with the occasional bit of scrambling to the summit and with hardly a cloud in the sky tremendous views of the Pyrenees east and west.
I was having a peaceful few minutes to myself when suddenly a host of Grande Randoneurs turned up with several dogs. I left soon after.

My descent route was very much the same as the ascent – I even found myself taking pictures of the same things because the lighting was so different between the morning and afternoon.

23.34km, 2483m total ascent

Overnight in a picnic area on the N260 overlooking the resort of Sort. Quite often on this sort of journey certain roads keep turning up. The N260 is one of those roads, as it runs to the south of the higher Pyrenees all the way from Biescas to the Mediterranean Cote de Vermeille. I look forward to meeting it again, as I continue east.

Then overnight at Xixerella Park campsite, Andorra. (1397m)

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