HRP 2023 east-to-west: stage 2 - l'Hospitalet to Salardu

The defining feature of the day: THAT BOULDERFIELD. If you know, you know!

HRP 2023 east-to-west: stage 2 - l'Hospitalet to Salardu
Looking back to the Estany d'Airoto and the adjacent boulderfield from Col d'Airoto.

Day 9b: l'Hospitalet to Col de L'Albe

After a very good lunch in the l'Hospitalet shop (see previous stage) I headed up and - after some slow going on the boulderfields around the lakes, a reminder of things to come! - camped at ~2450m just west of the Col de L'Albe. It was rather windy but water was readily available from some small pools.

Day 10: Col de L'Albe to Cabana de la Serrera

Stopped at Juclar for "second breakfast" of eggs and bacon. Unlike French and Spanish refuges, the Andorran ones don't seem to follow a "no cooked food until mid-day" dogma.

Compared with how I remember it in 2018, Cabana Sorda was looking very nicely done up with a wooden-boarded interior, a WC and solar panel powered lighting. And the usual metal benches, tables and bunks as all the Andorran shelters seem to have.

Cabana Coms de Jan seemed less attractive: the water point was broken and the front area was covered in cow dung and flies.

I finally stopped at the tiny Cabana de la Serrera on the way down to El Serrat. I'd also used this on my 2018 crossing, and thought I was also going to have it to myself again... but later two Czech guys out on a two-dayer turned up.

Day 11: Cabana de la Serrera to Port de Boet

In 2018, Joosten's guide took me south from Serrat to Llorts and into Spain over the Portella de Baiau. But Martens' version of the route heads straight up from Serrat through a ski area and over the Port de Rat into France and then over the Port de Boet into Spain; the routes rejoin at Pla de Boet. I'd decided to take a look at the new route.

As it was I got so fixated on following the signs to Port de Rat that I completely missed the detour to the Tristaina lakes, which Martens seems to rate quite highly. But it was Sunday and the whole area was mobbed with day trippers - and their dogs; Andorrans seem to love dogs - and I felt out of place with my big pack. I did get an excellent and huge mixed grill for lunch from the ski-area restaurant.

Ski area mixed grill.  Feed the Hiker Hunger!
Ski area mixed grill. Feed the Hiker Hunger!

Going down into France from Port de Rat I spotted a way of avoiding going quite all the way to the valley floor: I took the other path to Port de Boet which can be reached by cutting across from from the dirt road zigzags. That misses the Etang de la Soucarrane and instead goes up near the Etang de Medecourbe. That lake isn't "camp friendly" - it's hemmed in by steep and bouldery sides - but there's a nice flat grassy area a little below it by its outflow stream which was in use by some campers.

Above the Etang de Medecourbe outflow looking back towards the Port de Rat.
Above the Etang de Medecourbe outflow looking back towards the Port de Rat.

I continued on a bit further (steep!) and camped higher up nearer Port de Boet. There was plenty of water to be found from small streams. I could have got a bit higher but I could hear a lot of cow and sheep noises and bergers shouting up at the col and thought it best not to get under their feet.

Day 12: Port de Boet to "the tricky bit below Certascan"

A big day, beginning with the final haul up to the Port de Boet, including another steep section this one with a cable handrail.

Then a big descent to the Pla de Boet. I took the short detour to Refugi Valferrera but at 10ish the staff were in cleaning mode and the kitchen was closed.

More climbing followed, with a break for lunch at the unmanned Refugi Baborte (also known as Refugi del Cinquantenari), then over the Coll de Sellente and a big descent to Pont de Boavi.

I'd found the "tricky section below Certascan" - the lower section in the woods and the crags, anyway - a bit of a route-finding nightmare descending it in 2018. But ascending from Pont de Boavi it seemed easy to follow a cairned path most of the way to the river crossing. There was still some improvisation required after the path just seemed to disappear into a scree field. I decided to show this bit of the trail who was boss by camping on a tiny bit of flat ground a little above the river crossing, and getting in the water stark naked for a wash. It was cold! Subsequently heard from someone who'd camped up at the Estany de Romedo de Baix that the mosquitos up there were diabolical.

Day 13: "The tricky bit below Certascan" to below Enric Pujol

Continued up "the tricky bit below Certascan" easily enough - above the river crossing there's no route-finding issues following the Riu de Romedo - crossed the dam at the Estany de Romedo de Baix - and arrived at Refugi Certascan to find some chicken curry was just about ready to be consumed.

Then it was off over the Coll de Certascan and down to Noarre, which was an airless inferno. I took a leaf out of the locals' book and sat around in the shade for a couple of hours in mid-afternoon before completing the descent to it.

Finally, up again to the last bit of flat ground before the climb to Enric Pujol. There, some some already camped eastbound HRPers told me that the refuge was full (it was; confirmed the next day) and that there was nowhere to camp up there because "it's all rocks" (which is nonsense). But it was getting late and I probably wasn't going to get much higher (to the lakes) before sunset so I stopped here.

Camped on the last flat ground below Enric Pujol.

Day 14: Below Enric Pujol to Estanyola del clot de Moredo

Climbed up through all the fabulous slabby rocks and water terrain above the Enric Pujol refuge, which did indeed seem to have been mobbed the night before.

Water and slabs above the Enric Pujol hut.

Beyond that it was over the series of three cols. The last and trickiest was Coll de la Cornella which was just as unpleasant this way round as it was west-to-east in 2018. That was followed by a long long plod down to Alos. I sat out the afternoon heat on a bench in the shady square outside the church, and drank a litre of unfiltered water from the spout there with no subsequent ill effects.

Once it had cooled down a bit, I did the long haul up to the "tiny tarn called La Basseta" which is a super spot to camp, although the sun disappears behind the headwall rather early.

I was glad to see that the latest (Martens) guidebook's route from Alos up to near Bordes de Moredo now follows a sensible yellow-marked trail - often through nice cool forest - rather than the completely mad bushwhacking adventure Joosten's route led you on here. Although above Bordes de Moredo there's still some decisions to be made about whether to do more distance on easier walking on the dirt track, or to cut across its wide hairpins on rougher ground with only faint paths.
Camped by "La Basseta" in the morning.
Camped by "La Basseta" in the morning.

Day 15: Estanyola del clot de Moredo to Estanys de Dalt de Baciver

Climbing away from Estanyola del clot de Moredo ("La Basseta")
Climbing away from Estanyola del clot de Moredo ("La Basseta")

Folks on the Col del Clot de Moredo confirmed the Airoto refuge had been full the previous night. I'd stopped in it in 2018 just because it's such an iconic building, although somewhat damp, mouse infested and plagued by the worst mosquitoes I'd had on that trip.

After that, the defining feature of the day: THAT BOULDERFIELD. If you know, you know!

Looking back towards Col del Clot de Moredo and Estany d'Airoto and THAT BOULDERFIELD.
Looking back towards Col del Clot de Moredo and Estany d'Airoto and THAT BOULDERFIELD.

Finally got clear of the seemingly endless rocks (and the gigantic pits between them) and up to Coll d'Airoto. Rather than just taking the direct line from there to the Lac Gelat de Rosari I went along the ridge (worthwhile for the views). Then it was up to Marimanya and down to camp by the westernmost Estanys Rosari de Baciver. Actually quite a short day (so, laundry!) as I didn't want to arrive in Salardu in the evening.

Day 16: Estanys de Dalt de Baciver to Salardu

An easy stroll down into Salardu: I just took the path for Salardu signposted from "Parking Orri" which was direct but not as interesting as the guidebook's Bagergue route.

Passing the Estany de Baix de Baciver.
Passing the Estany de Baix de Baciver.

Arrived in town in for a very fine three-course lunch at the "seg'IN".

Checked in at "Pension Casat" which has a cheap single rate and resupplied at the shop. Later, had a good dinner at "La Estrellita", a pizza place.

The biggest disappointments in the shop: no powdered milk or any doesn't-need-refrigeration varieties of dried sausage. I had to make do with a tube of condensed milk (well it does have a picture of a tent and a backpack on it) which seemed to be more sugar than milk, but hey this is Spain; even the only variety of muesli on offer had chocolate chips in it. I had a sausage from the fridge anyway, (somewhere I've got an idea that if you buy the most expensive one it'll last the longest). 500g boxes of couscous were available (although in the Superbolquere supermarket I'd been spoiled by a box of 5x100g pre-portioned packets). I also got some delicious ready-to-eat peaches, amongst other things.

The next stage to Gavarnie is described here.