Day 7 – Trail ride #1

08/08/10 (415 miles)

“…we reached the summit of Tossal del Puial at 1914m and rode out of the forest, into breathtaking views over the surrounding region, so time for a quick lunch stop while eagles soared overhead.”

D-day (or trail-day) was finally upon us at last. At the June Horizons Unlimited meeting, a very helpful Austin Vince marked up a 1:50,000 map of the Sort-Andorra region for us, with all the trails they would be using for their forthcoming PyrekneesUp (good write-up here of the 2010 PyrekneesUp), while later at the HU meeting a very friendly Manuela Beis, a regular on the HU Bulletin Board (nickname Pumpy) told us about the trails she too leads over the Pyrenees and promised to forward on some maps to us. Sure enough two days later, two marked up A3 map copies arrived in the post! Proving yet again, the incredible support in the biking community.

So bikes and camelbaks at the ready, with so many trails marked up for us, we thought best to start off easy and head for the trails from the village of Tornafort (route here), head south of N260, then off onto the twisty hill climb of LV-5131 up to the hilltop Tornafort 1400m. H not impressed with the twisty lane and struggled after having a ‘moment’ on a corner with sheer drop.

nice views from the trail

At Tornafort, I rode up part of the trail to check out its suitability not wanting to get halfway up and find it unpassable for Helen. Turns out to be not too bad, gravelly with the usual fist sized rocks and the odd football boulder. We made up a few hundred yards to the trees and have a quick break, where we bizarrely meet a Spanish family out for a walk!

Breaktime on the trail

The trail after this point was a smoother climb up what looked like a forestry firetrack, with the occasional break in the treeline to see the dizzying heights behind us, passing a pickup of forestry workers. After a half hour’s climb we reached the summit of Tossal del Puial at 1914m and rode out of the forest, into breathtaking views over the surrounding region, so time for a quick lunchstop while eagles soared overhead.

lunchstop at the top

Bony del Fener, a Ridge too far…

H however is still struggling with confidence, so we look at changing the route to continue along across to the next peak at Bony del Fener 1919m (seen to the left of the image above) and head back west towards the road down to Gerri de la Sal as opposed to continuing eastwards and further trails.

After setting off along the firetracks, just before we reach Bony, the lane goes steeply downhill along the ridge and then rises again to the summit. This turned out to be just too much for H (who hadn’t experienced much downhill descents in the mountainous regions of the Midlands before the trip), as it was deeply rutted with loose stones. Not knowing the braking ability of the Serow with its slightly wooden rear drum brakes and the balance of front/back braking it got too much. So the process involved me riding my bike down the trail 50m, then running back uphill (in the 30+ heat and full kit) grabbing the Serow and riding it down 100m, before running back for mine again etc. This took about 3-4 relays, before it smoothed out enough for H to feel confident enough to tackle the remaining downhill to the ridge. I was by now slightly wet.

We rode then over the few hundred meters to the uphill section of Bony, where I told H to wait and I would ride up and over to check its suitability.  Halfway up I soon realised it might be a bit of a struggle, as I dabbed my foot, slipped clutch and spun up the rear trying to find grip in the loose clay-like surface, away from the foot deep ruts. ulp. Still, up on top, it looked smooth enough although didn’t go as far as the descent on the other side. So I headed back to where I’d left Helen to find she’d ridden up the first 100m or so, parked up and was now in bits, realising it was too much to go on with. Not good. It wasn’t so much the climbing was the problem, just the confidence to get down the trail, meaning there was no other option but to turn back. Worst of all was the realisation that the whole trip now was a bit of a disaster for H and not quite the ‘holiday of a lifetime’ to reflect on in years to come.

We had hoped that away from the traffic and roads things might be different as Helen had coped ‘very’ well with the local muddy trails around the Midlands, so this was deeply upsetting for both of us to know that these mountain trails were also out-of-bounds. 😦

The photo doesn’t do justice to the steepness of the climb and rutted corners up ahead…

The view up Bony del Fener

The view back down Bony and up again to the rocky hill-climb awaiting our return, with Helen mid-photo starting the ‘easier’ final downhill section.

The view back down Bony del Fener

(To be honest I loved the challenge of the climb, could do them all day and can thoroughly understand why people rave about these trails, and cannot recommend them enough to any trail riders out there!)

We rode back down to the lower ridge, where I pointed to a spot to stop and I would take it up the trickier sections. However, Helen intended on giving it a go, so I reminded H to keep it in 2nd gear, slip the clutch when slowing, keep the revs up all the way and use both feet for balance and paddling. The Serow has a mighty wee motor and to have faith in it. To Helen’s credit she did herself proud and scrambled her way to the top. Mission accomplished.

The rest of the ride back downhill was fairly easy-going after this bit of excitement. I managed to freewheel it most of the way down saving a bit of fuel. so it was all a bit of a weird experience riding downhill on a silent bike. Helen was also surprised how well she coped on the return leg, as she’d had the fear of downhill now thinking the bike was going to let go.

Cooling off on the return leg

A change of plan…

We made it back to camp then with little further drama, where we made a quick change, before hitting the pool, then back to the tent for a cool beer (chilled in the river), spicy sausage baguette and a siesta. as this is meant as a holiday for both of us and it’s no fun if one of us is having a nightmare, we decide to call it a day and make tracks soon back up to the coast where we can relax at the coast in the sun. So we plot a route as direct as the crow flies back up west of Santander, to the Comillas (a place we had read about in a Guardian article) and the beach after a day of rest tomorrow.

The rest of the day is pleasantly spent relaxing by the tents reading our books, using each other to lean against back to back, top tip! H works her way through a nice bottle of the local Navarra Crianza, while I’m tucking into the Estrella beer (5.4%). The Motorcycle Diaries are reading well. La Poderosa II (the mighty one, a Norton 500) has finally died on their journey across latin America from Argentina, to Chile and northwards. Now as stowaway’s on a boat, but wherever they stop they manage to arrange food of sorts and meet great people who open up their homes to them. Bit different to our insular approach, as we’ve yet to have a proper chat with the neighbours.  Two more bikes (KTM Adventures) arrive at the far side of the campsite and set-up, while we observe the strange local custom of packing up tents etc late at night, then leave camp.

I might try to sneak in a quick trail ride tomorrow on our day of rest…

Day 8: Trail Ride #2

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