Starting from the small Pyrenean town of Castejon de Sos; I knew exactly which way to cycle by simply looking up at the mountain of Gallinerro. It is an impressive sight; almost pyramid in shape, it soars almost 3,000 metres above the Benasque Valley.
From a distance, its grassy upper slopes; gave me the impression it could have been some huge emerald shining in the late summer sun! Or a spaceship from a faraway greener galaxy! Come on you beautiful people; let your imaginations relax and run wild!
After a short distance on a deserted highway; I turned onto a back road which climbed up to the old farming village of Liri. Just before I got to the village; I turned off on to a rutted road and then after a short rise, a dusty track. Clearing the treeline; I soon began to leave our world behind.
Switchback after switchback; the track climbed up the steep hillside. I was amazed at how much work must have gone into making such a track; simply for shepherds to access higher pastures. In the rear pockets of my gilet, I had stashed; two 500ml bottles of energy drink. Very soon, I had emptied these; yet I was happy knowing I still had two one litre bottles on my bike frame. Remembering, how long the ascent was from segments on Strava; I was pacing my liquid intake so I didn’t run dry too soon.
It was late September but the combination of the Spanish sun and my own body heat kept me warm against a building wind. As I climbed I noticed the pressure in my tyres increasing; so every so often I would stop and let out air in short bursts. Although, I had a pump and two spare inner tubes; I did not want a blowout of my tubeless tyres up here, so far from help.
After reaching countless rises the summit of Gallinero would disappear in and out of view as it would be hidden by bluffs and spurs of the lower hillsides. Yet after almost three hours of steady climbing I finally came to the end of the track. Above me the final summit cone of Gallinero; beneath me the Benasque Valley and beyond. At this altitude with the setting sun; the mid distance to the horizon was turning a surreal shade of blue.
As soon as i stopped cycling I immediately felt cold; so put on the two jerseys and windproof gilet I had managed to stuff into my gilet. Sheltering from the wind behind a small rocky outcrop; I stopped and stared and this amazing place. The effort of cycling such a long and steep hill and completely emptied my mind of stress. Now all I could focus on was here and now; the sun, the rolling hills and mountains, the distant valley, the colours, the silence.
I had truly found a route to relax.
Parking, refreshments and other tips:
There is free on street parking in Castejon de Sos. Also, if you drive down through the town towards Benasque; there is parking at the end of the town by the school and across the roundabout by the playing fields.
There is a small supermarket in the town as well as numerous bars and cafes.
As always, bring more than enough clothing. It might be warm and windless down in the shelter of the town; yet when you go up, the weather changes.
3hrs 53 minutes
Tired but relaxed.
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