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El Aneto is with its 3404 meters the highest peak of the Pyrenees


The peak of Aneto is seen at the top rigt corner of the photo

Narrow as a saber's edge

There’s a tense atmosphere as we strap on our harnesses and ropes, getting ready to leave for the terrifying el Paso de Mahoma. The climb starts with a 25-meter trek over big boulders before the last 5 terrifying metres until finally ascending El Aneto. The climb itself is technically quite simple but on both sides of the rocks, no more than one metre wide, there is a 200-meter steep ? at the top. It's this height and also the many fatal accidents occurring here that has given El Aneto its legendary reputation.
 

El Aneto is the highest peak in the Pyrenees at 3,404 metres. The first ascent of the mountain was made in 1842 by, among others, the Frenchman Albert de Franqueville who named the last stretch to the peak 'El Paso de Mahoma' (Mohammad's Pass). The name is taken from the Koran and means in order to reach Paradise it is necessary to go along a passage as narrow as a sabre's edge.

We arrive on a Friday afternoon, checking into the cosy hotel called Hospital de Benasque, situated in the beautiful Possets-Maladeta nature reserve. In the village of Benasque, we meet our mountain guide Sergi from Espacios Libres. We decide to meet on the following morning at 5 am.
 
After breakfast we begin the long trek to the top that is expected to take 6 hours. It is still dark when we start walking so we have to have our headlamps strapped on. We are moving at a brisk tempo making sure to stop every hour to drink water and eat chocolate and nuts for our blood sugar levels. The first three hours is a demanding hike with many big boulders and an ascent of 900 metres.

Suddenly we discover a narrow passage through the mountains. In front of us we see the mighty glacier of El Aneto. El Aneto is, with its 84 hectares, the largest glacier in the Pyrenees and in Spain. We can also catch a glimpse of El Aneto’s rocky peak, surrounded by snow. The view is stunningly beautiful.

We allow ourselves a 10-minute break before we continue our walk over the glacier. The clock has turned eight and the sun is burning now. The glacier becomes softer every minute that passes. The ascent from the valley up to the top is 1504 metres and I start to feel it in my legs. The last hour is supposed to be the hardest since it's very steep and the snow on the glacier is loose. Finally, we reach the rocky peak and now only El Paso de Mahoma stands between us and the highest mountain peak in the Pyrenees: El Aneto.

El Paso De Mahoma - very narrow
"El Paso De Mahoma" - Click to enlarge
We have reached the snow line
"Up by the snow line" - Click to enlarge
We can see the peak for the first time since we started walking
"We see the peak" - Click to enlargeLast short break one hour from the peak
"1 hour from the peak" - Click to enlarge


El Paso de Mahoma

My heart beats like a drum when I slowly start working my way over the pass. When I am almost over I meet a girl who is crying and being comforted by her boyfriend. He says that she's afraid of heights. I am amazed how someone who is afraid of heights could end up here. It's very crowded, noisy and tense. Since the pass is very narrow, only one person at a time can cross and therefore people are discussing who is to go first.

Once we are over the pass, we take our pictures of the top. It is unbelievably beautiful and we can see large sections of the Pyrenees. Despite this, I cannot fully enjoy the view since I know that El Paso de Mahoma is the only way back...
 


How to get from Barcelona to Aneto (Benasque)
Benasque is about 310 km from Barcelona. The easiest way is to go by car. The roads are good and it takes about 4 hours.

Car hire: Cars can be rented cheaply through: ebookers.com

Hostels/Hotels: There are plenty of hostels and hotels in Benasque. Search for accommodation in Benasque.

Guides: To rent a mountain guide for one day costs about €75 per person. This includes insurance, and equipment. Go to http://guiaspirineo.com/ for more information.

Other activities in the area:  Alpine skiing during the winter season in Cerler, one of the best ski resorts in the Pyrenees. During the summer, in addition to ascend Aneto, you can go trekking and climb the water-filled ravines, the so called Barrancos.
 





 



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