When we go through the spanish Pyrenees from west to east, from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, the first three-thousanders of the range can be found in the province of Huesca. They stand over the beautiful valley of Tena, in the area of Panticosa and Baños de Panticosa. Amongst these peaks, one of the easiest is Garmo Negro. A real high-mountain climb, a hard one (for it comes to over 1400 meters to be climbed from Baños de Panticosa), but a reasonably easy way to go over the barrier of three thousand meters for the first time in your life. It won't be any harder than walking uphill and maybe leaning on some rocks using your hands.
Should anyone reading this page want to make the day a little bit harder, the route "Full ridge" shall lead you to the summits of two close-by three-thousanders. I know, that's not much of an altitude, but it's about the best the Pyrenees can offer ;-)
ROAD ACCESS: You have to start from Baños de Panticosa, a 19th-century spa resort placed at 1636 meters of altitude. To get there, take at Huesca road number N-330 to Sabiñánigo, across the tunnels of Monrepos. After Sabiñánigo you have to get road N260 north for 13 km to Biescas. North of Biescas, follow the road to the french border and turn right before Escarrilla (road sign "Panticosa / El Pueyo de Jaca". Then follow the signs to Balneario de Panticosa.
Another possibility is to approach from the city of Pamplona (via road N-240 towards Huesca, turning left to Jaca and Sabiñánigo at Puente la Reina de Jaca). In order to get to Panticosa from France, you will need to cross the mountain pass of Portalet from Pau and Laruns. Note that the road crossing this mountain pass is usually a troublesome one during winter, and you might find it closed. In such a case, the only road access from France would have to take place by the neighbouring valley of Aragón and the Somport Tunnel.
RAILWAY ACCESS: The closest rail station is the one at Sabiñánigo (some thirty to forty kilometers south of Balneario de Panticosa)
NEAREST MAJOR AIRPORTS: Zaragoza / Barcelona (323 km)
No need for permits nor special rules to be applied, apart from those that arise from common sense and respect for nature.
Please note that Baños de Panticosa is undergoing a major restoration and parking inside the resort is NOT allowed nowadays. There was a free parking lot at the entrance of the place, by the water bottling plant, but the works going on at the Balneario have turned it really tiny. In fact, in my last visit to Panticosa (September 2006) it seemed to have desappeared. Anyway, either you arrive to the Balneario really early or you might be bound to leave your car somewhere on the access road. The only vehicles allowed inside the Resort (there is an access control) are those related to personnel working there or those who can produce proofs of a lodging reservation. If you have a reservation in the mountain hut "Casa de Piedra" ask the hut personnel for a ticket to be shown to the guards at the access barrier.
When To Climb
Garmo Negro is best for a summer or autumn climb. Even if you are in an extremely good shape, you will need a long day for the trip. Winter and spring can be dangerous because of avalanches.
Camping and Huts
Nearby camping site at Escarrilla (http://www.campingescarra.com/). Free camping is -though officially illegal- also tolerated on the trail to Garmo Negro, you can find some good sites in the Mallatas of Argualas (see Normal Route).
There is a guarded hut at Balneario de Panticosa, called "Casa de Piedra" and controlled by the Mountain Federation of Aragón.
Check weather conditions at www.barrabes.com (link "el tiempo", on the left side) or www.meteo.fr.
Count Henry Russell - The "father" of Pyrenees mountaineering
Count Henry Patrick-Marie Russell-Killough, a french-irish aristocrat of the nineteenth century, happened to discover the Pyrenees after many travels all around the world. He surely saw something in this border chain, for after this discovery devoted himself to climbing in the Pyrenees and became a lover of the Pyrenees in a poetic and romantic way. Amongst other climbs, some of his accomplishments in the Pyrenees were:
- Pic d'Anie
- Midi d'Ossau
- Monte Perdido(7 climbs, including a solo one)
- Posets (3 climbs)
- Pico de Eriste
- Grand Vignemale (33 climbs, including a number of nights spent on the mountain - one of them in the summit)
- Picos del Infierno (first recorded climb)
- Garmo Negro (first recorded climb)
- Gourgs Blancs(first recorded climb)
- And so on... For mountaineers interested in the figure of Count Russell, try reading his book "Souvenirs d'un Montagnard" (Memories of a mountaineer)
Valle de Tena Spanish web page of the Valley where Garmo Negro, Picos del Infierno and Peña Telera are placed. No english version, I'm afraid
Balneario de Panticosa Web Page of the spa resort that serves as a starting point to climb Picos del Infierno and Garmo Negro. Includes resort information, how to get there and other relevant information on the place. English and French versions included
Local Guide Company Adventure sport company organising multiple activities in the area. Might be a good place to ask if you are looking for a guide to climb in Panticosa. Only spanish version, sorry, but e-mail address included