Photos: Kike Abelleira | Video: Osole Visual
This is a mountain bike adventure that I have had in my mind for a long time. The idea was to tour around the highest mountain in the Pyrenees, Aneto which stands at 3404m tall amongst several other 3000m peaks. We wanted to mountain bike as close to it as was realistically possible due to it’s protected status and make the full circuit around it, similar to the famous Tour de Mont Blanc. It was our Tour of Aneto.
Our big Pyrenees mountain bike adventure has been in my mind for years, but I have never had time to ride it because we are always guiding our Mountain Bike Holidays at this time. I have been thinking about it though! Then we had our CoVid crisis here and we were effectively confined to our houses for weeks on end. At the same time all of our holiday bookings were cancelled, or rather rescheduled and our 2020 calendar was suddenly empty. I decided to grab the opportunity and sent a mail to Orbea asking if they would be interested in sending a journalist, photographer and video maker along to capture a “big Pyrenees mountain bike adventure”! I didn’t give them much more information than that but they said yes straight away. It’s great working with Orbea! And with that all of a sudden I was committed.
“Don’t think that because we spend more days than most up here that it makes these days any less special for us. This was fresh air in the lungs for us after what has honestly been a challenging 2020. Spending time with these friends and enjoying these amazing places never gets old and we never forget how lucky we are to be able to do this and share it with people”Doug (guide)
The team selection was easy. We are the longest running Pyrenees mountain bike guiding company and obviously we know a lot of people in this area. So I chose Kike Abelleira for photos, Martin Campoy for video, Quiri for GoPro support, Paul from Vojo for French words and Iñaki from MTBPro for Spanish words. Then myself from basqueMTB, (because it was my idea), and Borja from our team. Borja is used to the high mountains, has climbed Aneto god knows how many times and is an accomplished ultra runner so could be sent running to the valleys to bring us beer if an emergency struck.
“Life in the mountains teaches you to value the small moments of a long journey, without thinking about the destination or the objective, simply living that present”Martin Campoy (film maker)
Paul has joined us for a few adventures previously, most notably for the trip, also helped by Orbea, which became our Ultimate Pyrenees mountain bike adventure. You can read about that here. Unfortunately there was a problem with team selection; Shimano released a new electric motor and the Spanish launch was on the same dates as our trip, so sadly Iñaki couldn’t come. Shame on you Iñaki, you chose an e-bik over us! At least we would get to ride with Iñaki a few weeks later at the Orbea Rise presentation!
After so long indoors we wanted to have as much time in the open air as possible. That meant avoiding hotels. And that meant a quick call to our friends at Trekking Mule! Very quickly I had high mountain camps set up for the 3 nights of the trip. The mules carry in the equipment so we can have a glass of wine and a hot meal after a long day of biking. We use this arrangement on our Ultimate Pyrenees holiday so we are well used to the service! I always manage to stash a little (big) bottle of whisky in my sleeping bag for the evening meal. This year I brought a cask strength A’bunadh from Aberlour. A whisky I can highly recommend, check out Aberlour here. It’s a perfect mountain advenutre whisky because it has almost 60% which means you are carrying around less useless water.
“The idea of this trip is quite simple: to recharge your batteries, to go to the root of our sport, to what we love. Making up for lost time away from nature, and not depriving yourself of suffering a little in order to benefit from it”Paul (Vojo) Read his article here, in French
Alberto and Alvaro are our mulateers, these are guys who I find it hard to imagine meeting anywhere other than a wide open mountain top; guys who camp more days than they sleep inside and who live with their mules in the open air. These are mountain dwelling, mule-smelling, good people with faces wrinkled in equal parts by the sun and by endless smiles.
“The Tour of Aneto was exactly what I needed after the Covid-19 lockdown, reconnecting with the mountains and being away from civilization for a few days. A true mtb adventure with like minded friends”Kike (photos)
We won’t get into the route details here. We basically kept Aneto at our right and kept going until we ended up back where we started. A lot of mountain biking seems to be about exhausting yourself and ending up right back where you started; maybe it really is a big old life metaphor. The route was important because of course our job is searching out the best singletrack in the Pyrenees, however it was just a small part of the overall trip. You can be sure that the Tour of Aneto featured plenty of top quality trails, however what made this trip special was the team, the experience and the escape. The trails were secondary to that.
The high mountain camps really gave that touch which turned this trip into a mini adventure. After a hard day on the bike we would roll into the camp, or carry our bikes up to the spot we had picked for that night. As we arrived the guys from Trekking Mule would be waiting for us with socially distanced high-5’s, tents pitched and a big table set out for dinner. Typically we had time to change out of our bike clothes, grab a quick drink and relax for a bit. Then before it got dark Alberto or Alvaro would bring out big servings of amazing, hearty food which they had prepared previously and now heat and serve. We had beef cheeks in red wine, chickpea stews, amazing soups and even local cakes. Additionally, this being Spain and that being how Spanish people roll, each person brought something from their area. We had cheese, pates, dried meats and they were amazing. I brought whisky.
Here is the thing. If you are locked in your house it is possible to excercise. You can pace, even run around. You can do yoga, press-ups. Or you can sit around and drink beer. I don’t want to say which one I chose but let’s just say that I wasn’t at my physical peak for this trip. Unless you judge purely on body weight and accumulation of mass.
“A perfectly tuned concert where bikes are the instrument but the experience goes beyond the mountain bike. You have to come prepared to savor it at every step or pedal because it is a constant cascade of emotions”Borja (guide)
This is an intense trip, we had long days and long climbs but we took them steadily and chatted and enjoyed the views. Step by step, story by story we gradually scaled the seemingly unscalable. What seemed like huge rocky walls surrounding our camps in the morning were broken down and passed over. Anyone can do that, it is honestly more a case of setting your mental attitude correctly and enjoying the process.
One of the things that Orbea helped with was the budget to make a video. Martin was the obvious choice, one of the fastest local riders, good guy, ukelele player and he has a fantastic, unique style when it comes to video making. We made this video up as we went along, wrote the theme song, “Hard for the Body is Good for the Soul”, and generally had a lot of fun doing it. I think that comes across in the video! There will be English subtitles soon but really I think that if you love the mountains then you understand!
“As a filmmaker, I must confess that my work is neither easy nor relaxed. Regardless of the effort involved in carrying the bike, the camera equipment and the jolts during the long and technical descents, my head constantly thinks where I am leading a story where the script is written in that very moment. Either way, I take full responsibility for getting results and being able to tell stories about mountain bikes and people committed to the culture of Mountain Bike”Martin Campoy (Filmaker)
Thanks to everyone for making this trip possible. Thanks to Orbea for helping and also for providing the Orbea Occam bikes we used for this trip. It was the perfect bike for something like this. (You can read my Orbea Occam review by clicking here.) Thanks to Kike Abelleira for the amazing photos, you can find Kike on Instagram here. Thanks to Quiri for the great YouTube video which you can see here. Thanks to Martin, what a job he did with the video, amazing. You can find Martin on YouTube here too. Obvious thanks to Paul from Vojo here and you can find his link above with his quote. Thanks also to Trekking Mule, Chris at PyreneesConexion and Marc and David at Aran Bike Parks for the help, the best cheese we have ever had and also the amazing trail we enjoyed on the way to Val d´Aran.
We will be offering the Tour of Aneto in the future, for now the closest trip is our Ultimate Pyrenees.