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Trail > High Pyrenees Mountain Bike Holiday | Trail Scouting

We are currently preparing a new trip, we are going to call it the High Pyrenees Mountain Bike Holiday and that tells you pretty much everything you want to know. The idea is to ride some of the higher mountains in the Pyrenees, and there will be epic climbs as well as amazing descent because the high mountains aren´t really accessible any other way. We are also looking at options for both helicopter uplifts and mule uplifts for a couple of the trails. The trip will be tough technically and also physically, and we will only offer it to people who have done at least one other mountain bike holiday with basqueMTB. The timescale for this holiday still isn´t clear, there are an awful lot of trails to explore and red tape to cut through before we can offer this trip. The added complication is that we can only explore these trails during certain times of the year, due to weather and snow conditions, but the search for the best trails is on and last weekend we headed to the high mountains to search out some new trails.

Ultimate Pyrenees Update – 2019

Just a quick update from Doug. This scouting trip was really useful but it took a while to add it into one of our holidays. Ultimately the highest trails, along with the mules and helicopters, became our Ultimate Pyrenees mountain bike holiday. The other trails we rode this week, including the trail where I broke my bike, made it into our High Pyrenees and Backcountry Pyrenees mountain bike holidays.

The useless uplift company who damaged bikes we have obviously never used again. The small taxi company we used has now grown to a fleet of vans and trailers and we bring them 100´s of clients a year!

Arrival, Thunderstorms, Crashes, Hospital and Disappointing Trails

We arrived in our destination, deep in the Pyrenees, for a few days of trail searching only to be greeted by huge thunderstorms rolling up the valley. We listened to the heavy rain over night and in the morning we woke up to a fantastically moody landscape painted in grey, with a low mist and heavy cloud cover.

After a long breakfast and multiple weather forecast checks we decided to abandon our plans for a big mountain day and head off to check out some of the lower trails. We followed the riverside singletrack out of the town with the thunder sounding behind us and the skies moody but dry. Pretty quickly Carlos managed to rip a tyre and we decided to head back to town and replace it rather than risk a dodgy fix. As we retraced our steps we reached a rocky step that I remembered from the climb and I tried to jump it but got the line wrong and ended up in the bushes. As I pulled myself together it turned out I had a nasty cut near my eye that we thought might need a stitch or two so while Carlos fixed his puncture I visited the local hospital. Thankfully no stitches were required, just a very good clean and I was ready to ride again! As I left the hospital the heavens opened and we watched as the streets turned to rivers and lightning seemed to strike the mountains all around us with a startling frequency. As with all storms it passed fairly quickly and after lunch we tried a second attempt on the lower trails, this time without incident but without finding anything startlingly good. At least it gave us a chance to stretch our legs for a bigger day the next day.

3000m of Descending, Cliffs, Flying Bikes and Amazing Trails

The next day dawned bright and clear with no sign of the thunderstorms that had ravaged the valley overnight. We had a 9am uplift with a company that organises paragliding so it was a quick breakfast and off to the meeting point. I won´t mention names but lets just say that this company wouldn´t get our business again, a stark contrast to how we like to run things at basqueMTB as we were greeted with indifference and the bikes were treated the same way. Oh well, that´s why we spend so much time researching our trips but it was a shame for Carlos and Asier both of whom had their bikes damaged. The first thing we did when we reached the top was call a different uplift company and reschedule our next two uplifts for the day.

If the mornings uplift was disappointing and eventful then the downhill was to be even more eventful but not at all disappointing! We wanted to take photos but there were clouds moving across the sun so each photo stop turned into 30 minutes of staring at the skies and waiting for a patch of light. On the second stop, after we got the photo, I was getting onto my bike but hadn´t quite regained my vision after staring at the sun for so long, suddenly my foot slipped and the bike started running down the hill with me out of control, perched on top. I managed to throw myself off and watched in disbelief as my beautiful Orbea Rallon started to accelerate down the hill. It kept going for what seemed like forever, bouncing and tumbling off a small cliff until it came to a stop a hundred meters down the mountain. After checking the bike over the only damage was the front wheel, which took most of the impact. We spend 10 minutes jumping on it and we got it straight enough to finish the day. Hats off to Mavic and Orbea for making some proper equipment!

The first descent was around 1000m and started off very technical indeed but gradually got faster and more open as we descended from the high mountain down to the valley below. The upper section was a bit of a shock to the system but it was an amazing trail, starting in the high, open mountain top and descending through lots of different ecosystems right to the valley floor. After lunch we took another big uplift, with a fantastic company this time, and we rode one of the best trails I´ve ever ridden… another 1000m with amazing flow on a well defined singletrack through woods and rocks. We were pushing it for the 3rd uplift but went ahead anyway and were rewarded with another amazing descent, this one a bit less used but with a great feeling of being up in the mountains and amazing singletrack. We finished in the dark and starving but luckily for us we had parked the van outside an amazing local restaurant where we filled up on local meat and wine and mulled over a day that was amazing and eventful in equal measures.
The trails today might form part of the High Pyrenees mountain bike holiday, on a rest day from more extreme mountains, but in reality they are more suited to the Backcountry Pyrenees holidays we run. We will be testing them out this autumn with a view to including them in all the Autumn Backcountry Pyrenees trips in the future.

Finally the High Pyrenees Mountain Biking Trails We Were Searching For

On our final day we tackled a big route reaching almost 3000m in height. Starting from the town we climbed for around 2 hours, gaining 1000m vertical on easy fireroads with amazing views, until we reached a refuge at the head of the valley. If we were to do this as a trip this section would be uplifted. From that point we suffered to gain another 1000m of vertical, largely carrying or pushing our bikes for around 4 hours. I don´t mind admitting that I found this very hard, I am coming back from a neck injury and this was the first time I had carried the bike for several months and it took it´s toll on me, although the views over the biggest mountains in the Pyrenees really took the sting out of it. Reaching the top we found ourselves on a ridge of sharp, black, flint-like stones which offered surprising traction as we winched along the ridgeline to reach the high point of the day. It had taken us just over 6 hours of constant climbing.

From here the trail starts to trend downwards, although there are a series of short, sharp climbs to pass minor peaks on the ridgeline. The descents are something else, something from the fairytale book of mountain biking! There is no singletrack, not enough people pass by here to make trails, but you have a wide hillside covered in loose black stones and you make your own tracks. I thought it was one of the most amazing things I´ve done on the bike, very much like skiing in fresh snow. I got a technique of unweighting the bike, leaning it and weighting the front wheel and then using more pressure on the inside handlebar to let the bike drift. I don´t know why it worked but it did! Every now and then you would find a lump and could jump a bit before landing in the amazing, black dirt and putting in some more turns.

After around 1000m of descending, interspersed with morale sapping climbs, we reached the treeline and some actual singletrack. This was talked up to be amazing so you can imagine my dissapointment when we were greeted with a very indistinct singletrack which had been damaged by cattle. I was on the verge of throwing my toys out the pram when suddenly the trail started getting more defined, and then steeper and then all hell broke loose and we were faced with one of the best, natural singletracks I have ever done. It dropped for hundreds of meters through the ever changing landscape and every seriously challenging section was a balanced by a piece which flowed siniously through the woods. Eventually the trail spat us out just above our town and then we followed some riverside singletrack back to town where we drank beer and stared into the distance. People nearby must have thought that we had had a bad day, or that our dog had just died, but it was just the day´s experiences, views, sufferings and triumphs sinking into our tired, tired brains.

I spend a lot of time thinking about that trail that night. Was it worth it? Is it right for basqueMTB? Is it the sort of riding I want to take people on? The day was +/-2000m, around 50km and unquestionably tough. I´m fit and pretty strong and I suffered a lot. I decided that for me it was worth it, I had to change the chip in my head out of “enduro-mode” though; this isn´t a climb to get to a descent and if, like so many peole say to me, “the descent has to be worth the climb”, then maybe it´s not the trail for you. You can get better singletrack and more descending by sticking to trails which are lower down and less extreme. For me the experience was worth the climb. We rode some of the highest trails you can ride in the Pyrenees, something very few people will ever experience and it was an adventure, a real one not one that starts because you have made a mistake. The experience will stay with me for as long as I live, I know that with utter certitude and for that reason alone it was worth the climb several times over for me.

Will it make it into the High Pyrenees mountain bike holiday? The honest answer is I don´t know. It was a bit too tough and if I found it like that I´m not sure how our guests will find it. There is a responsibility associated with taking people on a day like that, it´s committing and you can´t just give up and wait for the van to come and get you. You also have to continually ride with your head, not giving too much on the climbs and not taking too much back on the descents because those sort of mistakes can really bite you on this sort of day.

What do you think, is this something you would like to do? Why not let us know in the comments below… 4hrs hiking with the bike, is it worth it to get access to some amazing, high mountain trails?

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Established 2008, basqueMTB have been offering amazing mountain bike holidays across the Pyrenees, San Sebastian and Northern Spain. Dedicated shuttles, the most experienced guides and more than a decade of experience organising our award winning mountain bike holidays, come and visit us and see what all the fuss is about.

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