The Crown of the Lakes
Congratulations to the Andorran folk who put this new route together last year. It is truly magnificent and I recommend it to anyone who is up to long mountain walking days. The rewards are unspoilt mountains sprinkled with lakes and rushing water around every corner, quality huts, spectacularly positioned, with very tasty food and the chance to circumnavigate a whole country in 5 days.
A mighty challenge 94km, averaging 1,600m of ascent and descent per day, just as well we had a very strong group of walkers in our Ramblers Holidays group. Congratulations to them all too, proving that a trek like this is entirely possible in your seventies.
With our excellent local guide Mark, we discovered so much abou life in Andorra, past and present: stories of smuggling, of passage to freedom in WW2, of harsh mining life, deadly avalanches and miraculous escapes. The last bear (for the moment) sadly run over a couple of years ago, and no wolves here, but we saw the marmots, deer, the mountain goats and the vultures.
The wild flowers were at their peak were a blast of colour, highlights included the monkshood, pasqueflowers, fields of marsh orchids, vanilla orchids, st Bruno’s lilies, Pyrenean lilies and on and on….
Our days were long, twice we walked 11 hours, and usually, having covered many km, climbed over some Col up at least 1,000m, down again, at about 3pm, Mark would point to some impossibly distant spot with a barely discernible roof or chimney and declare it as our destination. But we made it, even through the rumbling thunderstorms, with only two downpours in the whole week.
I liked Andorra a lot. I arrived with a mistaken idea that it would be a tacky cheapo ski resort with the countryside scarred by runs and over commercialised. How wrong. I liked some of the quirky modern architecture and stone clad tall buildings, the steep sided valleys, the hidden villages and lots of untouched valleys. A hut system where every hut has to offer free dorm space, rather like the Scottish bothies, where we saw countless young people enjoying the mountains, that’s a good thing. Quiet, very freindly and the drink’s cheap.