Our journey west through the northern reaches of the Spanish Pyrenees took us from their gateway near Banyoles, Catalunya all the way to Ainsa where the mountains effectively peter out. To suggest that the mountains are not spectacular in any part of the range would be futile; they’re all spectacular, but some make the rest seem, well, small.
Our sense of scale was jolted when we returned to Catalunya and caught our first glimpse of Montserrat after months of immersion in the Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa. I was astonished at how massive Montserrat seemed the first time I saw it. It was breathtaking; a huge range of rock fingers and limestone crags which dominate the landscape.
And yet, after our time I other ranges, Montserrat seemed so small and unimpressive. It could only mean that our time around Aneto, the Picos and others had skewed our sense of scale, because Montserrat is and always will be an imposing wonder of nature.
What also struck me on our ride through the winding Pyreneean roads was how quickly the landscape changed from one region to the next. At Senet Lake near Vielha we were at the base of Aneto, the tallest mountain in the Pyrenees at 3.4km and the peaks around us closed off the sky so effectively that we were left without any questions over our place in the universe.
These mountains seemed like the classic image of a conical peak disappearing into the clouds but driving 40km west the whole range changed shape. The mountains became more dispersed and random in their shape. Peaks were broken and jagged, ravines deeper and more narrow and whole areas of land looked to have been swallowed by some insanely huge beast.
It felt as if someone had got bored of creating a fairly uniform set of peaks and decided to get quirkier in their creative expression. And I’m all for that.
Further west the land flattened making its mountain peaks seem even more impressive, despite their height being much less than those in the middle of the Pyrenees.
The mountains have to be seen to be believed. Being around them is such a humbling and empowering experience that I changes your perspective forever.
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