Ascent of Monte Perdido on 1985-07-15

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, July 15, 1985
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Monte Perdido
    Elevation:10984 ft / 3347 m

Ascent Trip Report

Here I headed northeast on a narrow mountain road choked with tourists to finally arrive at the large main parking lot of Ordessa National Park. I was about 2:00 PM. Distressed at the size of the lot, and having driven all day, I resolved to get into the mountains as soon as possible. I bought a map and guidebook to the park, threw some food and clothes into my pack, laced up my hiking boots, and was soon hiking up the wide herd path leading up the Ordessa Valley.

It was very hot at first, and I soon changed into shorts, and for a while hiked without my shirt. The trail was crowded as it gradually rose, passing waterfalls on its eastward way up the Ordessa Canyon. After a couple hours treeline was reached, and the sheer walls of the canyon were visible, with the foaming river in the middle of its grassy floor. The day hikers grew less, and soon the canyon came to abrupt end of a rock wall, with a tall waterfall plunging over it. The trail zig-zagged up a steep, crumbly rock slope on the right side-wall of the box canyon and proceeded along a pretty alpine meadow on the flat for a while until another apparent dead-end was reached, and scaled steeply on one side, then another—like climbing giant curved steps. The views back down the canyon were great as I experienced extensive above-timberline mountain regions for the first time in the Pyrenees.

At about 5:30 PM I reached a rustic mountain hut, the Refugio Ubeda, or more commonly, Goriz. I was apprehensive, since I had no reservations and it was late, but once inside the “hutmaster” had a bed and a meal for me, and I paid in the pesetas I was glad I had. For the rest of the day I lounged around the Refugio, ate a very disgusting dinner in the common room, full of flies, and walked around a little the rocky meadow in my socks that surrounded the hut. I talked to no one—everyone was in large groups, and I was the only solo hiker there that evening. After watching the sun set and a herd of sheep on the next mountainside over move into a packed herd for the night, I went to sleep in a big bunkroom with a big group taking up most of it. I had no sleeping bag, but it was very warm that night, and had no trouble.

Monday, July 15:

I woke up around 8 AM, ate some of the cereal and tunafish in my pack, locked some of my non-essential things in a locker at the Refugio Goriz, and started climbing Monte Perdido. The first part of the hike climbed steeply up a wide bowl-like ravine over occasional cliffs. Halfway up the ravine, snowfields appeared, but I found I could cross easily without crampons or ice ax. There were lots of people on the trail.

At the top of the ravine was a bowl of slush called Lago Helado, and there the trail turned right, at first following a steep , sharp rock ridge for a while, then following a steeper gully of crumbling gravel once the snow in the gully was past. The wind was ferocious, and climbing the crumbling rockslide was utterly exhausting. Dead to the world, the gully finally ended and I rested at the foot of a 100-foot snow dome, which I scaled and shortly came out on Monte Perdido’s summit, at 3355 meters (11,008 feet) the highest point I had reached to that point in my life.

I ate some food, took some pictures, and talked to a Spanish priest who had led his church group of kids to the summit (so much for rugged mountaineering). I took a picture of his group, waited for a while after they left, and then started down. The steep rocky gully I almost “skied” down, causing a mini landslide as I controlled-fell down. I fell once on the treacherous narrow ridge section, but was soon back down to the Lago Helado in the col. From there it was more weary downhill down the giant step-like formations of the ravine over occasional snowfields. Once I lost the trail and had to climb down a “step” by myself—the cairns were small and frequently obscure.

The snow was soon behind me, and I arrived back at the Refugio Goriz. I emptied out my locker, and checked out by returning my locker key and getting my Penn student ID back (it was the only ID card I had with me for collateral). I started hiking down towards my car after a quick lunch at the Refugio.

After the pleasant traverse of the meadows above the Ordessa Canyon and the steep descent to its floor at the Cirque de Soasso, it started to sprinkle lightly and my feet started hurting bad—real bad—and I still had 7 km of the Ordessa Canyon floor to descend. I hiked quickly down the long valley, passing most people and stopping to put on my red windbreaker (which did little to keep my dry) and take it off as the rain varied in intensity. I became a waterlogged zombie, and my feet unbearably painful with blisters as I passed the trail landmarks I remembered from my hike up the previous day. At long last I came to the parking lot and my car, during a slight lull in the rain. I gleefully took off my hiking boots and drove out on the narrow park access road as the heavens absolutely opened and I blasted Traffic on my small tape player. I came to the first small town, Torla, and stopped at a small roadside hotel, the Hostal Bella Vista. They had a room for me at 800 pesetas, which I, sunburned, tired, and footsore, accepted.

Monte Perdido lords over the head of the flat-bottomed Ordessa Valley in the Pyrennes (1985-07-15).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6588 ft / 2008 m
    Trailhead:4396 ft / 1339 m
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cool, Very Windy, Partly Cloudy

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