GR11 Hiking

Day 16: Ordesa

Kilometres walked: 26km  / Total distance: 310km/ Elevation gain: 1277m / Elevation loss: 388m / Time walked: 6h30min

I leave the campsite before 07:00. I was awake for about an hour in the middle of the night, trying to download new books to my ereader using the WiFi of the camping. I haven’t read much, and not at all last week hiking with Nicole, but I hope I have the time and energy to read a bit more now that I’m hiking alone again.

It sounds weird, I’m on vacation after all, but I’m surprised by how little ‘free time’ there is for things like reading, writing or drawing. After walking 6-8hrs during the day, setting up camp, filtering water, cooking dinner, washing up (if possible) and figuring out logistics for the next day, I’m usually straight off to bed, or too tired to do anything that requires any mental capacity. Fortunately the scenery is usually amazing enough that not much entertainment is needed.

Tourist Hotspot

From the camping I walk to the trail again. Easy, just across the river. I follow the blazes through the forest, still following the river Ara. Sometimes it’s far below me, sometimes almost level, but rarely can I reach the water. Soon after Puente de los Navarros I enter the Ordesa and Monte Perdido national park. There’s a sign with a whole list of things that are not allowed, including camping except in designated areas.

Ordesa is the first national park of Spain, known for its natural beauty, and a tourist hotspot. You don’t notice at first, as the trail takes you through some nice forest and it’s quiet, until it suddenly crosses the parking lot where a busload of tourists is dropped off every 15-20 minutes.

I’m a tourist too, of course. And all these people are here to hike and enjoy the natural beauty, as am I. I shouldn’t complain. But after spending two weeks on very quiet trails I’m not used to seeing this many people at once, and some of the people are obviously not used to sharing the trail with anyone at all, walking three abrest at snail’s pace.

The trail is easy. A walk in the park, literally. It’s beautiful here, with some impressive waterfalls, but I can’t help but wonder why the trail yesterday wasn’t at least as busy, because it was at least as beautiful.


I slowly make my way up and a few trailrunners fly past in the other direction, descending down the trail. Suddenly I really miss running, getting a runner’s high and just being able to go fast, being unburdened by a pack. Instead I plow through, overtaking people whenever I can. Am I getting a little competitive on these busy trails? Maybe.

The hiker bubble from the camping is doing the same route today and I leapfrog with them. I want to hike alone, but it’s nice to catch them every once in a while.


I end the day at Refugio Goriz, which is perched high upon a ledge above the valley floor. Most of the way up was on very easy trails, but the last climb up the cliff in the full-on afternoon sun does me in and I arrive thirsty and soaked with sweat.

After checking in I join my hiker bubble friends on the terrace for a soda and a caña. I’m lucky -early planning- to have a booking at the refugio. They do not, and will hike another 30-45 minutes until they reach a site where it is allowed to camp again.

The refugio, situated at the end of the busy Ordesa valley and at the foot of the Monte Perdido, a popular climb, is crazy busy and fully booked the whole summer. Camping is allowed near the refugio, if the refugio is full, and for a maximum of 50 people. Little tents pop up on the grassy slopes after dinner. I’m knackered and a bit overwhelmed by all the people, so hide in my bunk as I write this blog until it’s an acceptable time to fall asleep. 21:00. Hiker midnight.

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