Winter Week in Benasque
For more than 3 years in a row I was dreaming about visiting Pyrinees with snow. Either I could go but there was no snow or there would be snow when I couldn't go. But this time in the second week of January weather forecast news whispered about the upcoming cold wave in the Spanish peninsula and possible snowfalls in the mountain areas starting from January 15 and I didn't think long. Booked the apartment in Benasque for the whole week and we drove there with my husband and our Luna on Saturday, January 14.
Our apartment Los Lagos was booked through Villmor agency . It was small but well equipped and even had a little work desk by the window which allowed Juan to work throughout the week. Moreover, dogs are allowed in the property for a supplementary fee. These are the places that can be explored in the area.
Eriste Viewpoint and Espigantosa Waterfall
Our first morning, on January 15, we went to Eriste viewpoint to enjoy the views that were still lacking snow and only had a bit of it at the very top of the peaks.
In Benasque I realized that I left my tripod at home, 6 hour drive away from where we were. So I had to look for alternative solutions. After enjoying sunrise at the viewpoint we decided to continue to Espigantosa waterfall. At that moment it was still accesible by car, via narrow unpaved road along the steep cliff.
From the parking of Espigantosa waterfall I captured these mountain fragments with my telephoto lens, first 70-200 mm f2.8 and then adding 2x teleconverter.
Since I couldn't get my camera sit still for a desired long exposure composition, I shifted my focus to Luna being the main protagonist.
How to get there
It is possible to leave the car at Eriste viewpoint and continue walking until the waterfall which is around 1 h 19 m, or continue driving along the unpaved road until the parking near the waterfall. At times of bad weather or snow it may not be possible by car, would either require proper 4x4 or crampons (if walking on icy road stretches).
The tripod problem was solved on Sunday evening by finding a second hand one in Vielha, 1 h 20 m drive from Benasque. It was an emergency one and served me on a couple shoots.
3 Barrancos Trail
In the morning the landscape changed completely. Weather forecast proved to be accurate and it started snowing, we woke up to a whiteout scene all around.
Luna and I took a walk along 3 Barrancos trail, it's a fairly easy one, but with snow at some stretches of ascent rocks can be slippery and recommended to wear crampons. Like it happened with tripod, we also forgot our crampons 6 hour drive way at home. So I did only part of the trail until it started to look slippery.
Benasque - Mirador del Valle Benasque trail
The trail starts before the parking near the Interpretation Center of Natural Park Posets-Maladeta (After Eroski supermarket) and there is an indicator pointing to the trail. I found Maps.me app to be my best guide for this trail. The ascent to the viewpoint is 2.3 km and lasts about 1 hour. In my case the trail had a plenty of snow from the full day continuous snowfall and I also made various stops for photos.
As it was very cloudy, golden hour made no sense, and getting to the viewpoint for blue hour was just what I needed. The low clouds moving across the valley added an atmospheric touch.
Somewhere towards the end of the trail I discovered a spot from where I could see the road curve and had to capture a car with lights on passing through it.
When you reach the viewpoint, you realize that the village has a shape of semi circle.
Mirador de Cerler
This viepoint is higher up the road from Cerler village and is looking at Cerler peak on one side and surrounding mountains on the other side. It was the only sunset with beautiful light in our whole week. The bonus was the running military at training.
Being at this spot I envisioned an aerial shot and had to come back with my drone. My next visit ended sadly when I lost connection with the drone and broke its 2 propellers on manual landing as it hit the snow hiking poles...Luckily I had replacement propellers in the apartment, just needed to return one more time, what a luck! Weather conditions most days would be either be intensive snowfall with low visibility or strong winds, I had to hope that none of these would be happening at the moment I'm there. I got a bit too lucky - no strong wind, no intensive snowfall and...absolutely no clouds!
It's important to note that this road stretch is outside of the natural park territory and outside of the restriction zone, as I tend to always check Drones En Aire map and Airmap application.
How To Get There
The viewpoint is located at the curve of A-2617 but there is not parking, a very brief stop is possible but for shooting it's best if there are 2 people going. One can drive the card until Ampriu and photographer can leave the car during the brief stop and continue shooting.
Trail from Benasque to Anciles is the easiest walk, all through the plain terrain and many people can be seen walking their dogs there in the mornings. The most magic moment was walking on Tuesday morning after the whole day of snowfall and seeing those low clouds floating below the peaks.
We also walked that trail several times and Luna enjoyed running in the snow.
In the second half of the week the weather changed to strong winds and cloudless sky.