Catalonia is a beautiful and diverse region of Spain, which has the feeling of being totally autonomous, a country within a country. The cities of Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona are well known, the beaches of Costa Brava are equally famous and although the wetlands of the Delta l’ Ebre are not slightly less well known they are just as impressive.
The mountains and scenery of Aigüestortes i Estanys de Sant Maurici provide yet another region of outstanding beauty. Enjoying a pleasant day trek through the forests of the Catalonian wilderness with good company was an excellent way to spend a late spring day.
Our guide explained why some of the trees were older than others, with avenues of younger pine trees amongst the mature beech forests. This is the result of avalanches we have swept down the couloirs, gathering momentum, their awesome power ripping trees out by their roots or felling them like skittles. Their route is easily visible even today.
The familiar fragrance of pine was everywhere like walking within a giant air freshener, the fallen, discoloured needles now providing a cushioned carpet away from the main path. Recalling a previous trip to the Catalan region I wondered whether this was good mushroom hunting terrain too.
Our own route followed a small fast flowing river towards its source, although it narrowed as we gained in altitude, it’s power was no less formidable and no less irresistable.
At one point we passed a small but impressive waterfall, the river was jetting far out from the cascade. Although not especially high it produced a fine spray many metres from the falls, the altitude causing this to freeze on the bark of the surrounding trees and rocks. In some places it is more than a centimetre thick, a surprising springtime sight in Spain.
When we eventually reached our objective there was a further surprise. the glacial lake was living up to its name, half of the surface was covered in ice. The summits of surrounding peaks set against the clear, blue sky make a suitably impressive backdrop.
A short stop and it was time to make our way back, crossing a few short but slippy areas of snow and retracing our steps back down the valley. Sometimes taking the same route back can be uninteresting but this is not the case in this stunning national park.