11 days in Northern Spain, Apr 2019

Discussion in 'Trips Reports' started by Stuart, Apr 26, 2019.

  1. Stuart

    Stuart Ultralighter


    This was the longest trip I've ever done. It went really well. A tremendous part of the world, wild, remote, spectacular. Gear performed well and I had a great time.

    The route
    I started at Riglos, a small town north of Zaragoza in northern Aragon. The photo above shows the scene that greeted me as I stepped off the train. I finished at Alquezar, a small tourist town in the heart of the Parque Natural de Sierra de Guara where I took a bus back to Barcelona via Barbastro.

    The first part was largely on the GR1 and the Camino Natural de Hoya de Huesca which run largely on the same route. The second part was on paths around the Mascun and Balced canyons using the town of Rodellar as a base.

    Route and rough distances

    Day 1: Barcelona to Riglos by train then walked to just short of Loarre, 15km
    Day 2: Loarre to just after Bolea, 17km
    Day 3: Bolea to Meson Nuevo just after Arguis, 19km
    Day 4: Meson Nuevo to Nocito (campsite), 17km
    Day 5: Rest day pottering around Barranco de Pillera canyon near Nocito, 9km
    Day 6: Nocito to Nasarre via Abellada, 26km
    Day 7: Nasarre to Rodellar campsite and half day rest, 10km
    Day 8: Circular walk around Mascun canyon, 20km
    Day 9: Short walk on Mascun canyon floor, 9km
    Day 10: Rodellar to just before Radiquero, 21km
    Day 11: Radiquero to Alquezar, walk around canyons near town and travel back to Barcelona, 15km walking

    The good
    Going on the train worked very well. Overnight Paris to Perpignan and then a change to Barcelona on the way out and a day train from Barcelona to London via Paris on the way back. Train from Barcelona to Riglos and buses back all were easy and comfortable.

    First time I used a Strat2. Took a bit of getting used to but performed well. Speedster stove was brilliant for one person meals as was my DIY wood burner.

    DIY dehydrated food was great, I didn't get the hunger cravings I've had in the past.

    The route was well signed for the first days and the 1:40K Editorial Alpina map was excellent for the latter part. There are lots of short local paths looping off the GR1 which I really enjoyed as they generally led somewhere wonderful.

    It was easy to find wild camping spots and water. Most villages had a fountain. I stayed at campsites in Nocito and Rodellar which were fine, very quiet with good facilities.

    Daytime temperatures were perfect, around 15-20 with hardly a drop of rain. Nights were occasionally below freezing but mostly around 5 I'd guess.

    Doing some work on my Spanish hiking vocabulary. Don't expect English to be widely spoken by older people. There are loads of French tourists round here in the bigger towns so French is helpful too.

    Do better next time
    I panicked and took way too much food and warm clothing. So bag was too heavy which was a literal pain for the first part until I ate most of the food. I noticed my energy levels really dipped in the second part, maybe due to the weight of the bag? Maybe my food wasn't as good as I thought?

    Viewranger was hopeless. I downloaded maps and routes which I could see but the function to actually locate where you are did not work at all. I checked when I got back to the UK and it seems fine here. Had it worked I had GPX routes and maps downloaded from several sources.

    Some photos
    Looking back at Riglos. Typical scenery for the first few days. The path mainly keeps low but most days had around 500-1000m of climbing usually in fairly short stretches.

    First night's camp in the Strat2. Difficult to cram it into a tight spot in the forest. Fortunately nobody hared up the track in a 4x4 chasing wild boar.

    Canyon just north of Bolea. A small hermitage is crammed into the folds of the rock.

    Hermitages and abandoned villages were good bets for a flat spot of ground. Ermita de la Trinidad even provided a table and running water.

    The route was well signposted. I gather the GR1 is a bit hit and miss in this regard but Aragon seems to be on the ball.

    There was snow higher up and on northern slopes. But also the flowers that emerge when it melts. I had to abandon a planned section of my walk due to a heavy snow fall in early April. Spring doesn't come early here. I was mostly walking at 900-1200m altitude, dropping down to around 600m in Rodellar.

    Camp spot at Meson Nuevo near Arguis, an abandoned terraced field. Views were OK.

    There is a lot of limestone and sandstone here. Often, erosion has created rivers with polished sandstone beds. Lots of dry stuff for woodburners. Note careful placement of stove on rock. The whole thing fell over just after I took this photo, incredibly balanced against a stone. Burner kept going and pan didn't spill a drop.

    Countless abandoned villages in northern Aragon that fell into disrepair in the 60s and 70s as Spain's economic boom kicked in giving people more job opportunities elsewhere.

    Campsite at Nocito. Great views but freezing nights as the air falls down the flank of the Tozal de Guara mountain.

    The tenth beautiful waterfall in half a mile of walking near Abellada. I burst out laughing turning a corner to find yet another one.

    Another former terraced field in an abandoned village provides a great camp spot with views of the fading evening light over the high Pyrenees to the north.

    Canyon country. The Mascun near Rodellar where 3 major canyons run parallel to each other. Heaving with climbers and canyoners in summer apparently.

    Somehow the path didn't look like this on the map... There were numerous bike tracks. Spain. Health and safety.

    Eroded needles, vultures flying above.

    Canyon between Rodellar and Alquezar which reminded me of Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars.

    Final campsite of the trip. Disconcerting to find loads of shotgun shells 50 yards away.

    More info
    I found these websites really helpful (some are only in Spanish or maybe Spanish and French)

    https://turismo.hoyadehuesca.es/la-hoya-de-huesca/natural/camino-natural-de-la-hoya-de-huesca (practical route info and GPX files)

    http://www.johnhayeswalks.com/2013/04/gr1-sendero-historico-review.html (commentary and route info)

    http://www.prepyr365.com/es/rutas/senderismo/prepirenaica-trail.html (route alternatives and GPX files)

    www.rednaturaldearagon.com/senderos/ (look for "Sierra y canones de guara" in the menu, details of many fabulous small local paths off the GR1)

    http://www.juanholgado.com/ (Spanish blog with lots of route alternatives around Rodellar and Alquezar, Search under "senderismo" for sendero historico or click pirineos, pirineos centrales and scroll down for Sierra de Guara)

    The Cicerone GR1 book is also good but aimed squarely at people staying at B&Bs.
    Editorial Alpina produce an excellent 1:40 K map of the Sierra de Guara park with a guidebook in Spanish and French.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
    qy_, Arne L., theoctagon and 21 others like this.
  2. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    Excellent Stuart.

    Tempting for that time of year or maybe up to a month or so later.
    Bet it's hot in summer!

    Maybe could have used Alpinequest ok if on Android as discussed before. Multiple source free maps and worked no problem for us in Spain.
  3. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    That looks tempting.
    theoctagon likes this.
  4. WilliamC

    WilliamC Thru Hiker

    Thanks for sharing this. It looks an interesting area and you timed your visit well.
    The Viewranger problem seems strange. In my inexpert opinion, it would seem to be a problem with the phone's GPS rather than the Viewranger app if you could see the downloaded maps but not locate yourself on them. Did you have a phone signal when you were in Spain? If not, that might explain why the location is working back in the UK.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2019
  5. Stuart

    Stuart Ultralighter

    Yes it was a good time to go. Even in mid April at times you could really feel the heat. I wouldn't recommend it in summer. Even several Spanish people I spoke to said it gets unbearable.

    Regarding Viewranger, I could be a phone problem. I didn't think I needed reception to get a GPS fix but it seems I do. For example, I just switched internet and network off and OS Locate wouldn't work. The phone is a Sony Experia T3.
  6. Clare

    Clare Thru Hiker

    Looks great Stuart.
  7. maddogs

    maddogs Trail Blazer

    great report and useful notes, thanks!
  8. WilliamC

    WilliamC Thru Hiker

    It's perhaps your settings. You can choose between using GPS only, wifi + mobile networks, or wifi + mobile networks + GPS for finding your location (it might vary according to the version of Android you're on, I'm not sure). Obviously, if you choose wifi and mobile networks you won't get a location when you don't have a mobile signal.
    tom likes this.
  9. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    Using GPS + mobile networks can also mess up accuracy (android always tries to trick users into switching on mobile networks tracking)
  10. Fair Weather Camper

    Fair Weather Camper Thru Hiker

    Very nice Stuart. :thumbsup:

    Looks like lots of variety there :)

    Into the possibilities bank, for earlier or later season trips.

    The train is good isn't it??
    A most civilised way to travel across Europe.

    Which reminds me...
  11. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    Finally had time to look up your route properly - the GR1 seams a great choice and a tempting idea for the shoulder seasons. Thanks for sharing
  12. Stuart

    Stuart Ultralighter

    Re my Viewranger problem, I do think it's my phone. For "Location" when I choose GPS only, neither Viewranger nor OS Locate work. Is there something I can do about this? Some other setting to play with?
  13. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    Have you tested the gps?
    Depending on the OS version something like:
    settings > about phone > diagnostics > test > test GPS
    Should do it...
  14. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    I had problems on and off with my previous phone where it just couldn't "find" any satellites for a while and then worked again. The locus app has a function were you can "see" the visible satellites. I use that to check as well as the free GPS essential app (uses GPS to measure altitude for example) Sometimes one app tells me that GPS is switched off when it isn't. A phone restart with GPS location switched on can help. Also, viewranger is always slower to find satellites than locus in my phones...
  15. Stuart

    Stuart Ultralighter

    I've looked at the test function and it doesn't show anything that resembles GPS. Phone is Sony Experia T3 running android 4.4.4 and I just can't find any setting relevant to checking if GPS is working or to change its setting.
  16. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    You might have to dig around....

    From a quick peruse of some forums it seems to be a known issue...some things to try there...
  17. Davy

    Davy Section Hiker

    Nice trip report - re the Xperia, I'm on my second in 4 years and have had no GPS issues with either except occasional dodgy orientation with Google maps. I use Locus pro in airplane mode out and about and its been 100% reliable to date. Not sure if this helps....
  18. Cop

    Cop Hiker

    Hey! Is this related to Piligrim routes in Spain? Or it is different? Because I am planning to walk Camino Frances, and I would like to know is that similar?
  19. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    Sort of; my partner did the Camino Frances last year....there is a lot of info online about it; its rather popular
  20. SafetyThird

    SafetyThird Section Hiker

    re GPS, does google maps work? I've sometimes found that when another app has difficulty, running google maps allows you to watch the error circle gradually come down until it has a solid fix. Once that's done, the other apps will work too.
  21. Stuart

    Stuart Ultralighter

    The main route I followed at first was the GR1 which is not one of the Caminos, the old pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela. The western start of the GR1 is at the border between Asturias and Castilla y Leon at a remote spot Puerto de Tarna. I can't find the exact spot but the Camino Frances must, I imagine, cross the GR1 somewhere SW of Pamplona.

    BTW I've edited the main post to include daily distances and add another website I forgot about but which was really helpful.
  22. Stuart

    Stuart Ultralighter

    Thanks, I'll try that when I'm out and about next.

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