Pico Cerler

Elevation: 2407 m
Elevation Gain: 495 m
Pico Cerler takes its name from the village of Cerler, above which it rises sharply. At 1531 m elevation, the village (which belongs to the municipality of nearby Benasque) is the second highest in the Aragonese Pyrenees. From Cerler and Benasque, the west face of Pico Cerler presents an imposing pyramidal form which has been compared to that of K2. From other aspects, however, the mountain’s terrain is much gentler. During winter months, these other aspects form part of the Cerler ski resort.
My Ascents:
June 12 2016.

Spain?! Again? You’ve got to be kidding me! :-P

After speaking at Spanish conferences in 2009 and 2015, I found myself (once again) being sent to Spain to speak at a 2016 conference in beautiful Bilbao. For a country that was never on my list of places to explore, it seems that I’ve spent an awful lot of time in Spain! Fortunately, I’ve come to enjoy the Spanish culture, cuisine and countryside during my many visits.

Since Brianne and Mera never really thought about visiting Spain either, we decided to make a family trip of this year’s Spanish pilgrimage (for some reason). After a 21 hour travel day (made especially pleasant by 8 month old Mera), we arrived in Bilbao where I enjoyed the conference proceedings by day and the Basque culture with my family by night. Once the conference wrapped up, it was time to continue our Spanish tour by visiting Benasque in the heart of the Pyrenees Mountains.

An evening stroll in Benasque reveals pyramid-shaped Pico Cerler to the west. Having done some research beforehand, I was reasonably convinced that Brianne, Mera and I could all hike up Pico Cerler as a family. More impressively still, I was also able to convince Brianne of this!

The next morning, we left Benasque behind and drove 400 m up a steep mountain road to reach the village of Cerler. From Cerler, the peak looked even more imposing (and not entirely baby-friendly). Fortunately, the terrain on the peak’s backside proved much mellower!

Thanks to the Cerler ski resort, one can drive as high as Ampriu to begin the hike up Pico Cerler. At 1912 m elevation, Ampriu sits almost 800 vertical meters above Benasque meaning that most of the work on this particular ascent was done by our rental car. From here Brianne hoped that the resort’s chairlifts would still be running. Sadly for her, they were not.

From the massive esqui area parking lot, the easiest route up Pico Cerler follows the obvious ski resort road to the upper lift terminal visible here. The esqui resort may grant easy access to this beautiful area but it does, unfortunately, somewhat mar the views with its litany of lifts, roads and snowmaking equipment.

A beautiful cascade merits a small diversion from the established road.

Spanish wildlife. I was quite surprised to find lizards like this fellow well above 2000 m elevation. I guess it must be warmer here than in the Canadian Rockies!

Brianne and Mera grind their way up the steep track alongside the lift.

Wildflowers litter the ski area’s vast alpine meadows.

Vibrant trumpet gentians.

The trailhead parking area grows smaller and smaller as my girls near the upper lift terminal. From this vantage (400 m above Ampriu), the highest peak in the Pyrenees (Pico Aneto) begins to come into view.

Brianne consults a handy map.

From the top of the lift, we turned to the climber’s right (north) and continued to follow a ski area road around a bluff and towards Pico Cerler.

Spectacular Pyrenees vistas begin to open up to the west.

Wonderful views of Aneto as we pass the last chairlift and leave the ski area behind.

Pico Cerler’s summit lies just beyond the ski area. As you can see, the peak is little more than a mound of rocks from this aspect. Although one could go up any which way from here, there is a path through the rubble to the climber’s right. Click to see Pico Cerler and the mightier mountains beyond in more detail.

Brianne and Mera follow a faint path marked by cairns and painted rocks.

Atop the summit ridge, the rubble below gives way to granite boulders. Although these boulders were mercifully stable, some care was required to navigate through them to the summit (especially if you’re wearing a baby)!

“We made it!” Mera looks rather pleased to be sitting atop her fourth summit.

The many peaks which comprise the Cerler ski area dominate the panorama to the south. Click to see larger.

Cibollés (left) and Gallinero (right) are the highest amongst the Cerler peaks while El Turbón rises up in the distance on the right. Without a baby, the traverse from Pico Cerler to Gallinero and then over Cibollés would have been tempting to explore! Maybe when Mera is a little older? ;-)

My princess sits atop her summit cairn throne (and demands a pair of sunglasses to scratch and throw).

The highest peaks in the Pyrenees tower above Benasque and Cerler while highlighting the panorama towards Parque Natural Posets-Maladeta to the north. Click to see larger.

Snow-covered picos to the west. From left to right: snowy Picos de Eristes (center left), Pico Espadas (in the cloud), Pico Posets (the second highest peak in the Pyrenees at 3371 m) and Tuca de Ixeia (far right).

Perdiguero (3222 m) marks the border between Spain and France to the north.

The road from Benasque/Cerler weaves its way up lush green meadows below the glaciated peaks of the Pyrenees.

A closer look at the Aneto massif. At 3404 m, Pico Aneto (right) is the highest in the Pyrenees. The high point in the clouds immediately to its left is Pico Maldito (3350 m).

Mera enjoys her “lunch” atop Pico Cerler.

Benasque and Cerler at the foot of Tuca de Ixeia in the valley below.

A closer look at Benasque (left) and Cerler (right).

Summit kisses for my Love! After soaking in the summit scenery, it was time to bid “adios” to Pico Cerler.

Mind your step! Brianne carefully retraces her steps as she descends through the summit boulder field.

Back at the ski resort – it’s a shame we can’t just ski down from here!

Jumping for joy during a picnic amidst the alpine wildflowers!

The aforementioned flowers – joyous, no?

Looking back up to Pico Cerler following our leisurely descent.

Last views of the beautiful Pyrenees before heading back to Benasque for celebratory cervezas. We saw a great many things during our family tour of Spain but Pico Cerler was most certainly the high(est) point!