Summer 2014: The Catalan Pyrenees

This is a repeat of last year’s very successful HISS, with many lessons learned. However, I have surveyed and mapped more trails, about 600 kilometres in all, which take the rally’s ‘territory’ beyond the range of the maps we used last year.  Only a handful of riders covered anywhere near the 450 kms of trails that were in the 2013 HISS and I’m not sure that anyone did them all – let alone the prospect of riding them the other way round! – so there will be plenty for HISS ‘veterans’ to do!

Many riders also used other trails, especially the well known ones to Andorra, and some also invented their own using Satnavs. However, these included riding through highly sensitive environments where they risked fines of up to €600. There were very clearly indicated on the ground by prohibition notices and the culprits hadn’t bought the guide, which had photographs of exactly the same – unmistakable – signs (this is one reason the guides are now compulsory with the entry fee).

The HISS trails are set out in five ‘Chapters’ that reflect different zones around the area. Although the chapters can be used as itineraries this not the primary intention. None of the chapters are meant to be mutually exclusive, nor do they indicate a grading scale of difficulty. Rather, the routes are grouped in themes pertaining to three different environments, which vary considerably in the relatively small area of the Pallars Jussà.

The surrounding sierras are almost entirely wilderness, however, and each has its own special character. Note that the natural heritage in this area is important and three of the trails pass through nature reserves so special care should be taken respect the environment and to comply with the rules!

Finding 'lost' Pyrenean villages is a delight

Finding ‘lost’ Pyrenean villages is a delight

The Rivers High trails Deep – Mountains High trails are located in a mountainous zone more typical of the Pyrenees. Most are access to mountain pastures from isolated villages, hence are more populated, so care should be taken to avoid conflict with the residents – and the livestock!

The High Anxiety trail itself is well above the normal impact of agriculture, although horses and cattle graze freely there in summer. It is a high mountain environment well above the tree line and in the scree zone. This places special challenges and risks for the rider. It is also just within the border of the Aigüestortes National Park, where all motor traffic is usually prohibited, but in this case access is allowed – please respect this privilege lest it is removed!

Using the routes:

Some routes share the same territory in an area called the Conca de Tremp, Both are sequential ‘itineraries’ that run in opposite directions, anti-clockwise and clockwise respectively. The main difference between them is that The School Run trails are usually quite short with attractive road sections between them, which are outlined in the guide. Whereas the Conquer the Conca itinerary has as much trail as possible. These two itineraries are designed to be totally interchangeable, with some routes being especially suitable for inclusion in The School Run.

The Rivers Deep – Mountains High and High Anxiety trails are arranged in a dendriform pattern rather than sequential itineraries. Many of these trails converge at passes, ‘colls’, between, hence their ‘direction’ is uphill, therefore numerous different itineraries can be devised by mixing and matching these routes.

The weather varies considerable between the Conca de Tremp and the ‘High’ routes, the latter being cooler and wetter and especially prone to thunderstorms developing during the course of the day. So planning should take this into account, either riding the Conca routes in the morning when they remain relatively cool, or leaving the High routes if the weather deteriorates. Apart from the main roads that converge on La Pobla de Segur and Tremp (N260 and C13 in La Pobla, and C13, 1311 and C1412 at Tremp) there is a useful – and highly rideable! – section of the N230 between Pont de Suert and Areny that makes a very neat link between trails.

As before there is plenty to do ‘off bike’, the white water rafting was a great success but there is plenty more. The campsite gets a discount price for groups of folks who are staying there and the company also does other action sports like kayak and canyoning . . .

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  • HISS Spring 2014

    June 16th, 2014
    First arrivals at the Aragon Hiss
  • HISS Summer 2014

    September 1st, 2014
    First arrivals at the Catalonia Hiss