A circular route around the Sierra of Chia; taking in the high pass from Chia to Plan in the high Aragon.
When walking one day near Benasque I looked down the valley towards the massive Sierra of Chia. A massive mountain range seemingly plonked in the middle of the Benasque valley by some greater hand; forcing the Rio Esera and the valley to off to the east. On the side of this massive lump of rock; a tiny shining speck and trail of dust caught my eye. Checking the map; I realized a track ran up the side of the Sierra over a pass to the west and drops down to Plan and on to the Bielsa Valley. A shortcut of 65km over the highway; if you have mountain bike or 4×4 vehicle.
Starting from the village of Chia; I began the climb up the well engineered gravel track. Even in late September; the Spanish midday sun beat down upon me, making the long climb seem harder. After joking with a friendly local farmer; that I was taking the longest way to the bar, I continued on up. Hairpins barely helped lower the gradients as the road climbed ever upwards. Gradually the tree cover grew thinner and the grass tougher. I passed docile Pyrenean cows who seemed to look at me as if I was a madman for making such an effort.
As I climbed above the treeline; a wind began to build that forced to me put on a sweater I had in my back pocket. After climbing for two hours; I reached the pass. Pausing for a minute; I looked back down into the Benasque Valley. Everything seemed to have bluish shine to it; as if I was in some lucid dream. Trying to fill up my memory bank with such beauty I pushed on towards the west. After passing a closed seasonal cafe; I began the descent westwards. After a series of switchbacks; I came to a fork in the road. The left fork has a sign denoting no vehicles and another rusty sign; warning of the risk of forest fires. Taking this fork I climbed a short hill before coming to a open meadow.
In this meadow cows, sheep and a donkey were grazing on the lush grass. Having been chased by a donkey in the past; I did not stop through fear of being chased again. After, I descended for over ten kilometres through pine forests. It was so tranquil; breathing in the fresh pine scent with every breath.
After a while I rounded the Sierra and came again to the Benasque Valley. After another short ascent to regain height above a cliff face; I came to a gate to keep in the cows. After lifting my bike over this gate; I noticed I was surrounded by blackberry bushes.
In the brilliant afternoon sun; I sat and gorged myself on these juicy berries until I felt full. After another short climb; the track seemed to smooth for a fast but safe descent back to Chia.
When returning to the village; I had to climb through the narrow back streets to regain the main road and my car.
A beautiful and most relaxing ride that I will do again to regain the same sense of relaxing in nature. In my opinion best attempted in early summer or early autumn.
Parking, refreshments and other tips
This route can be approached from the west via the village of Plan. However by starting from Chia; you will ride a flowing circular route. You can also start from Castejon de Sos; however you will have to climb up a steep access road just to get to Chia.
My advice; drive up to Chia and keep going through the village. After passing the church on your left and a grand mansion on your right; the road makes a sharp turn to the right. As the tarmac turns into gravel; there is a chapel on your right. Checking with a local farmer; I could park here without problem.
Take plenty of liquids and food because there are no services on the route. There is a cafe near the top of the pass yet is rarely open outside of high season.
3 hrs 58 minutes
Tired but happy.
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