One of the most traditional activities undertaken by practitioners of alpine skiing or ski mountaineering is reaching the summit of Aneto on skis, not just so they can take in the breathtaking views of the highest peak of the Pyrenees, but so they can enjoy the almost 1,400-metre descent awaiting them between the sub-peak and Plan d’Aiguallut.
The north-facing nature of this route means that the snow hardly transforms for several days, with the advantages (skiing on powder snow) and drawbacks (skiing on untransformed snow which is not very stable) that this entails.
Before you begin… #PlanEquipAct
In addition to ensuring that you #PlanEquipAct to prepare yourself for winter mountaineering, remember to check and pay close attention to the avalanche report for the day of your activity.
You should also consult the ATES, or avalanche terrain exposure scale maps for the Aneto region, which you can find at this link. It will help ensure you choose the correct route based on your group’s experience and the current risk of avalanche.
Routes for ascending Aneto on skis
There are two main routes for skiing up Aneto, both of which start at La Renclusa refuge: via Portillón Inferior or via Portillón Superior. In order to get to La Renclusa refuge in winter, you will need to park your car in El Vado and then walk for two hours. You can find the route description and map on the page on accessing La Renclusa refuge in winter on its website.
The route that passes by Portillón Inferior is less transited than the one that goes via Portillón Superior (which is the route commonly chosen in summer). It is up to you which one you choose, although you must take into account that if you go late in the season, the Portillón Inferior route may not have any snow. However, on the Portillón Superior route you will have to take off your skis, while on the Portillón Inferior route, you can get all the way to the end with your skis on.
Below is a description of both routes, which we have taken from the book Rutas con Esquís / Pirineo Aragonés. Tomo IV (“Routes on Skis. Aragonese Pyrenees, Vol. IV”) by Jorge García-Dihinx.
From La Renclusa to 2550 metres
|From La Renclusa refuge (2,140 m), head SW along a plain. After this flat section, continue south on a steeper area. After the steeper first 300 to 400 metres, the gradient levels off once you reach 2,550 metres. To the left, Cresta de los Portillones blocks the path, so you can keep walking without fear of getting lost
In this very flat section, decide whether to continue the Portillón Superior route or switch to the Portillón Inferior route.
Crossing Portillón Inferior (2736 m)
|In the flat area at 2,550 metres, turn left (E) towards Cresta de los Portillones, walking alongside the wall to your left and climbing up the gap or pass to the right of the peak of the Portillón. Try not to mix this up with the Falso Portillón, which is found further to the left, next to La Renclusa peak.
In order to get to Portillón Inferior, first pass beneath the peak of the Portillón and climb diagonally south. After sticking to the west face, head towards the Portillón Inferior plain, from where you will be able to see the entire route up to Aneto. Continue south along a long and gentle diagonal trail which joins up with the normal route at the top.
The Portillón Inferior route crosses over the glacier at a lower altitude, meaning that it is also a route that is more exposed to possible avalanches that may start up on the normal route.
Crossing Portillón Superior (2895 m)
|In order to cross at Portillón Superior from 2,550 metres, follow the route to the south. Once you reach a plain at 2,850 metres, turn left (E) to join up with Cresta de los Portillones diagonally. On the way up to the Portillón you will see a rain gauge, which is actually found above the Portillón. If you reach this point, you have gone too far and you will need to climb back down to reach Portillón Superior.
You will need to take off your skis in order to climb down 20 to 30 metres. Once there, a long, gentle climb will take you to Collado de Coronas (3,208 m).
From Collado de Coronas to the sub-peak of Aneto
After reaching the flat area of the saddle you will have to tackle the final part of Aneto, where the gradient increases, zig-zagging uphill towards Punta Oliveras (3,292 m). Then the climb narrows and eventually levels off when you reach the sub-peak of Aneto, which you are separated from by Puente de Mahoma.
Puente de Mahoma, 3400 m
|This horizontal section takes you over giant boulders. It is not a particularly difficult climb (grade I), but it is very exposed, with huge drops on either side. If the rocks are dry, you can cross over without using crampons. In winter conditions, however, crampons are a must, and it’s a good idea for the first group to cross over first in order to guide the rest and clean the snow from the rocks.
After crossing Mahoma Pass, there is just a short climb on foot to the highest peak of them all… Aneto (3,404 m).
Descent directly to Aiguallut
The classic descent usually goes straight to Aiguallut, taking the steepest part of the mountain and heading north and slightly to the right. The final part of the descent takes you to Barrancs Valley, which you then follow north-west until you join up with the route at Plan d’Aiguallut.
Now all that is left is to continue along Plan Baixo d’Aiguallut until you return to La Besurta. Despite the large descent, the only problem with this option is that you have to follow the Aiguallut plain in its entirety, as well as the return journey to La Besurta, which can take up to one hour longer.
Return to La Renclusa and La Besurta via Portillón Inferior
The shortest way to get back to La Renclusa or even La Besurta at the end of the season is the Portillón Inferior route, although skiing diagonally won’t be as fun. To do this, ski the first section to Collado de Coronas and then head diagonally north, aiming a little beneath Portillón Superior so that you can make it over to Portillón Inferior without having to push yourself along with your poles.
From there, you can ski down (except very late in the season) to La Renclusa and then towards La Besurta.
Aneto Seguro agradece a Jorge García-Dihinx, autor del blog de La Meteo que Viene y de los libros Rutas con Esquís / Pirineo Aragonés los textos y algunas de las fotografías de esta entrada.