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We sleep well. Leaving the Hospice de France at 8h00, we climb up the side of the valley, crossing lush meadows then walk along a ridge to the pass at the Puerto de la Picada and into Spain. It’s steep in places but there are no tricky bits, so it has been used by pilgrims, merchants, and shepherds for centuries.
From the pass we can see the Renclusa hostel on the other side of the valley, with the Aneto massif and its glacier bib above.
It’s an easy walk down to the café near the river and up again. The hostel manager tells us: “We have reserved the bridal suite for you.” There are six of us, so I expect to be somewhat squashed, but the room has three bunk beds and an en-suite bathroom. Luxury!
At 4:00 the next morning the alarm goes off and by 5:00 we are on the doorstep with our guide, Narcís. Apart from Venus shining brightly there is no other light outside. We turn on our head torches.
It’s a long scramble over huge blocks. There is nothing that can really be described as a path, making progress slow, but the eerie dawn is fascinating. Candyfloss-pink swirls of mist escape from the rocks and dissolve into the sky.
By 7:30 we are at the Portillon supérior. The Aneto, which has been hidden until now, appears on the other side of the ridge. There is some more chaos to cross, and then we arrive at the edge of the glacier. The rope, crampons and ice axes are extracted from our rucksacks.
I had expected the glacier to be slippery like it was last time, but it is the beginning of July and not the beginning of September. The ice is covered with snow. We walk through wispy clouds which alternately hide and reveal the view. Sometimes the snow seems blue, sometimes pinkish grey – anything but white. The mountains below us, however, are all different shades of blue.
At 11 o’clock we arrive at the foot of the Pas de Mohammed. It has taken us three and a half hours to walk the 3.3km and climb the 500m from the Portillon supérior, including breaks. Not too quick, not too tiring, not too worrying.
The final few metres are another story
We arrive back at the Renclusa twelve hours after we left.
Back to France
Next day we go back to the Hospice de France by a different path, passing through the Puerto de Benasque, drinking coffee in the sun outside the Refuge de Vénasaque and then disappearing into the mist in the valley until just before the Hospice.
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