First Challenging Day of Hiking and Meeting the Sunset on GR11 in Pyrenees, Spain | Day 2 Refugi Malniu – Cabana dels Espravers
It was our second day of a GR11 section hike when we did 12kms getting from the Refugi de Malniu to the shelter Espravals in Pyrenees, Spain.
For that day, we planned to start our trail as early as possible and we did wake up at 6am as we had a quiet warm night and slept quite well. Also the terrain where we camped was relatively flat so it helped a lot too. Unexpectedly there was a bit of rain that night and we even heard the thunder somewhere in the distance. But already being used to the changeable mountain weather we knew that it is a normal thing to happen, we just hoped it won’t arrive in the middle of the hiking day.
Looking at the map, we saw that we’ll have to do 800m up and then 800m down that day but we still didn’t plan to cover much distance. One of the reason was that we wanted to enjoy the places we pass by more by stopping and surrendering to the pictures. And the other was that we didn’t want to spend the night at the high altitudes like 2500m because of the colder and more unstable weather. So we tried to plan our stages accordingly to be able to stop at the level of 1500m and less.
So we had our breakfast, wrapped up our camping gear and the tent and were out on the trail at around 8am as we had planned. We came out to the refugee house Malniu that was located at the bank of the beautiful lake with the proper name Malniu and was quite big. There nearby we saw the controlled campsite area as it was called where you could stop for a night or even a couple of nights but it was necessary to register at the refugee house. We saw there camping several people with the big tents and also there was a parking lot with lots of camper vans on it. So we made a conclusion that it was quite a popular spot. To us is still didn’t make sense to camp at such place just for one night as there could be potentially quite a lot of people in the high season.
At that point we were searching for the water source to resupply and hoped to find the clean river stream nearby. Soon we came out to the open fields and the views around us were very beautiful. The trail went quite gently up and the sun was still behind the mountain so we had a nice hour to enjoy the fresh wind and shaded trail. As the previous day we were hit by a very strong sun and almost got a sun stroke we didn’t want to repeat it that day.
Shortly we faced the crossroad with no signs of the GR11 so we had to look at our map to make sure we follow the right direction. It turned out that the trail going upwards was leading to the Peak Puigpedros where most of the people were heading. And our way was to follow the mountain cliff and the trail going alongside it. It was one of the rare cases when there was no clear marking.
The path was still leading us uphill with magnificent views of the valley below and soon we entered the pine forest so we were still escaping the direct sunlight. At some point the trail went flat and even went downhill so we appreciated the variety of the terrain at that part.
Then when we crossed several river creeks and small waterfalls, the trail gradually was becoming steeper and we had to get over the rocks and roots of the trees climbing up. The trekking poles were helping us a lot to get through the narrow rocky steep paths but still we had to slow down our pace significantly.
We were getting closer to the glorious bald mountain ranges standing high in front of us and could guess that somewhere there we had to climb and cross them.
There was still la lot of lush rich greenery around us even though it was already the end of July and that is one of the things why we love the mountains so much. When closer to the coast the grass was already getting dry and yellow, here it still felt like spring.
We had our little break in the shade of the tree having a snack and then continued to climb up. At that point we had left to do 450m of an uphill and then 600m of a downhill but it wasn’t still the hottest time of the day so we thought we were going fine.
So we got to a mountain plateau with lots of wide space and cow’s pasturing on it, we had to cross several rivers that weren’t too deep luckily and soon arrived to the Refugi d’Engorgs where a lot of people were resting and chilling out. We decided to stretch further because we wanted to find a nice shaded place to have our lunch break.
There we could hear the marmots doing their specific sounds and were very excited to meet them and film them on camera, as well as the mountain goats. But knowing how shy they usually were it was a challenge for sure.
For some time we were hiking through the green plains and bushes surrounded by the mountain walls on all sides and this area reminded us a lot of the beautiful hikes we did in Bouillouses and Vall de Nuria natural sites that were very close to our hearts and which were one of our favorite areas to hike in.
Then we came out to the lake called Estany dels Aparellats and there nearby we were able to find a shade under the big rock which was a luck to find in such sunny kingdom with no trees. From there we could observe some people adventurous enough to have a swim in the lake and it looked quite tempting even though we knew that the water must be cold.
Soon enough the trail turned to the huge rock fall and we faced the last and steepest part of the uphill to do. It was only 1km long but looked quite challenging. And we knew that in the mountain world the elevation decides everything and not the distance. We were even able to spot some patches of snow in those place left which was exciting to see.
So we passed along the other lake Estany dels Minyons and started to tackle the uphill. It turned out to go in a zigzagging style so was not that challenging as it looked from a side. And we almost didn’t notice how we arrived at the highest point of it from where we could enjoy the amazing panoramic views over the lakes below and also the breathtaking pictures of the mountain ranges in front of us. It was one of the most beautiful views we saw on the trail so far.
We even could see our trail for the next day from that viewpoint and it was obvious that the long and maybe challenging climb was expecting us. It didn’t look extreme though. When we were getting ready for this trail we already knew that the main challenge of this trail is that it constantly leading up and down and then up again. So we were mentally prepared for that.
We didn’t stop for long up there and started to make our way down. At first the downhill didn’t seem steep nor challenging to us as it was following quite gently the mountain hill. But after some time it turned to the rocky path which was more challenging and also went more steep. So in the end it felt very long and tedious with no shade, it was around 3kms in reality but it took all the last powers out of us and we couldn’t wait to have a rest and stop at out camp spot already.
It was around 4pm at that point and the sun was shining strong but we were happy we could get to the place before the hottest time of the day and be able to relax in the shade at that time. But we still felt a bit dizzy because of all the sun we got that day and hoped to find a spot easily.
So went to check out both banks of the river and didn’t really like the Cabana dels Espravers side because of the amount of cows pasturing there. We decided to stay at the opposite side and found a relatively flat spot there.
So we had our shower there and then began to cook dinner. We did use our wood stove again and found the second time around that the dry moss was working the best for putting up the fire. After half an hour or so the food was all ready to eat. It was a very delicious dinner with the mix of dry tomatoes, shitake mushrooms and mix of rice with carrot and our favorite spices. So it felt like a real treat after such exhaustive hot day we had.
We still had time to hang out outside our tent meeting the sunset and we enjoyed it thoroughly. The weather was very nice and it was this idyllic type of day when there is almost no wind and very comfortable temperature. We learnt to appreciate these kind of days as we knew that every day is different and the next day the weather may not be the same.
That day overall turned out to be quite hard and especially the long downhill in the sun was a challenge to us. The next day was going to be another challenging day with a long uphill and downhill. But we hoped it to be beautiful and that we’d have a nice rest at our camp spot and with new powers we’ll be able to tackle and enjoy it.