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.


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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.

Energy required:
1,962 calories

Time taken:
3 hrs 58 minutes

Tired but happy.

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