Epic Mountain Bike Holidays | Spain | Basque Country | Pyrenees

Latest Posts

Uncategorized > Scouting for our Spanish Pyrenees Holiday

Scouting for our Spanish Pyrenees Holiday

south pyrenees
Some photos from our south Pyrenees mountain bike trip.
The start of another big descent.
A couple of weeks ago I took a bit of a holiday down in the Spanish Pyrenees, checking out some locations for my mountain bike tours there. I rode in some stunning places, taking in the high mountains and also some of the lower foothills, where the mountain biking is arguably better. This is really a photo essay of where we ventured. The plan for the South Pyrenees holiday is to take in what I consider to be some of the best areas for mountain biking in the Pyrenees, sticking to the southern, Spanish, side where the weather in October and November is perfect, letting us enjoy the stunning autumnal colours. This tour is available now, however I wanted to take advantage of some local knowledge to add some more trails to my list of options so we can account for different skill levels and changes in the weather. The rough outline for the trip is shown in the map below.
One of the options for the South Pyrenees tour week.
On this recce we explored the trails in the more Western part of our tour. These trails are within a couple of hours drive of our base in Hondarribia so it was easy to ride them over a long weekend. Day 1: We stopped off in the valley of Roncal, a stunning place where the rocky peaks of the Pyrenees tower overhead. The plan was to check out one of the higher mountains and look at options for descending from there. The morning was clear and cold, just as Autumn in this part of Spain should be, and the frost on the cars told the whole story. We started with a 13km climb on road, (this would be done in the van on our trips), which was perfect to get our legs warmed up. From there we took a very narrow and technical singletrack climb which wound round and up the mountain giving us some stunning views.
You can see the peak we are aiming for!Stunning views all around.
Eventually the singletrack became too steep to bike and we had a sustained section with the bikes on our shoulders to reach a col, and then again to gain the highest peak. On the north sides of the hill there was already some snow gathering in the hollows, indicating that it wouldn’t be too long before these high peaks would be out of our reach once more. The views from the top here were amazing, with the Pyrenees stretching away to the east marking the border between Spain and France. It’s worth mentioning here that just at the point where the trail becomes impossible to bike there is another option, we can turn left, skirting the butress of rock above, and meet the trail we took today as it makes it’s way back down. This misses out the top section but gives a better all round day in my opinion.
Getting to the end of the rideable section!A fair bit of this to reach the top.
The descent was great, long and quite broken at the top, but lower down it was a fast flowing ribbon of singletrack. I was leading the way, trying to stay ahead of the fast local bikers and only just managing! Once we reached the bottom of the valley the fun didn’t stop, we had around 10km of stunning riverside singletrack to take us back to our starting point again. Truly a great day of mountain biking and it was fantastic to reach the summit however in future I think the riding is better if we stay slightly lower down. Day 2:After the epic of day 1, with its big section of carrying, we fancied something a bit more rideable on the way up. We stopped off in a stunning little village further south and east and checked into our hotel for the night. Looking out the window of our room we could see the mountain we were going to ride towering above us and our nerves weren’t helped by the insistence of the hotel owner that it was impossible to get a bike downour chosen descent. He tried to advise us to climb another way and use our proposed climb as the descent, however 12km of fireroad descending didn’t really appeal to us so we stuck with the original plan. Thank god for that!
Riding the Margas at the start of the day.
We started our day by touring round the base of the mountain to get to our climb up the back. This was an amazing trip through tiny little villages, each linked to the chapel at the summit of the mountain by ancient paths, and each village linked to the other by the same ancient paths. These paths are what makes this a great place to mountain bike, you can tour round the bottom of the mountain on singletrack, and then from the top you can descend down to any of the 5 villages on stunning singletrack. We only managed one climb and descent on our day, however I think that on another day we could try for 2, maybe with some help from the van. Our descent took us down a wrinkle in the side of the mountain, it was a stunning mix of rocky and loamy switchbacks with fast, but technical, sections in between. I took lots of pictures but, because of the lack of light in the wrinkle, none of them turned out. Pity!
Dropping into the start of the wrinkle, and my last good picture!
We got back to the hotel just as it was getting dark, had a quick shower, an even quicker beer, a slower bottle of wine and a great dinner. Waking up the next morning to a fantastic breakfast we were ready for a longer, tougher day on the bikes. Day 3: I know we shouldn’t have favourites. Really, every day is special and it is the contrast and balance of the days that is important, however Day 3 was my favourite day. Maybe one of my favourite days ever on a bike. Also, in contrast to the also excellent day 2, the trails turned out to be very photogenic which is a bonus!
Big bedrock trails.
We drove down a narrow, twisty, pot-holed road through an amazing landscape. The valley must have been occupied some time but now all the villages were abandoned with the brick of the houses still standing strong but showing gaps where the doors, windows and roofs once were. In some places the houses were being renovated, maybe as a holiday home or by the few hippies that now live in some of these places. We parked the car in what was probably someones vegetable garden a hundred years ago and started unloading our bikes. The two G-Spots and our bright, technical bike clothes looked outlandish against the broken houses and again I got that feeling of suddenly being very insignificant and temporary that I often get while cycling in the ancient forests.
Modern G-Spots in our car.Old broken down buildings.
Anyway, enough of that, time to ride our bikes. We had a few km of flat-ish contouring to do before a long climb on broken paths to reach our first trail head. Instantly though we were aware we were in a very different place to the previous two days. Here we were often cycling on big slabs of grippy bedrock, the trail marked my piles of stones, painted markers, or just the shape of the land. Tough, steppy climbs, and short chutes sapped the legs but offered fantastic biking as we wound our way down the valley. Then the climb, this was once an old path which was the only way to reach the next valley where there are now a couple of hostels and bars, however it has recently been improved and is now easily passable by car. This offers us some great options to ride the trails here with some help from the van.
Following the valley to our trail head.
The first descent of the day was an unknown quantity, it had recently been cleared by a local rider and we had been told nothing about it apart from “try it”. It started off winding up and down along a ridge, mostly on this super grippy bedrock and all on perfect singletrack. After a couple of km of this we reached the end of the ridge and the trail started dropping, with huge sections of bedrock with smooth hollows to be pumped into and jumped out of and lots of drops as we changed from one plane of the bedrock to a lower one. This bedrock section must have gone on for 2km maybe more before it started to switchback down the hill. Still on bedrock but now more technical and requiring more concentration and less abandon.
Like I say, more concentration. Several Carlos’s on a switchback.
I know I keep on banging on about the G-Spot and how much I like it but here the bike was in its element; dealing with the climbs and eating up these big, physical descents. The descent continued for ages, finally dropping into a loamy section through the wood which was perfect after all that bedrock!
Big scenery. Welcome loam.
At the bottom of this descent we popped out into another abandoned village. Except this one wasn’t abandoned. Or, more accurately it had been abandoned and then resettled! Here was the hostel which we will stay on during our trip, although Carlos and I were missing this out as we were heading home tonight. We sat on the steps for a while, refueling and taking in the scenery before starting off up the climb to our next trail head. This was a bit of an unknown quantity too, all Carlos remembered about it was that there was a huge drop somewhere and that we needed to be careful. Happy days! The trail started with a brutal singletrack climb that Carlos nailed, leaving me floundering in his wake. Then the descent. WOW! It seemed to last for ever, offering a crazy mix of loose corners, bedrock drops and jumps and the odd tree root. Time was getting on and I had some tyre problems so we didn’t stop for many photos, just the occasional stop to shake out the arm pump. Neither of us could believe how long the descent was, it just kept going and going and, although there were lots of jumps and drops, we never saw the “huge drop” from Carlos’ memory. Maybe it is gone. Maybe it was never there. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s still there, biding it’s time, lurking to catch out the unwary and unprepared biker.
Possibly the most remote, and welcome, bar anywhere!Did I mention that this area makes the best bread and pastries?

The comments are closed

© 2009 - Basque MTB, IRUN, BASQUE COUNTRY, SPAIN, Tel. +34 662 614 470
Mail. doug@basquemtb.com