Pico de Salvaguarda

  • Pico de Salvaguarda
  • 2738 m
  • Primary factor 374 m
  • Saddle: Puerto de la Glera Gorgutes
  • French/Spanish border, Pyrenees
  • Location: North 42:41.667, East 00:37.917
  • Climbed in September 1997


How to get there: The nearest village is Benasque, which can be reached rather easily from Barcelona in Spain or from Toulouse in France. The trail starts at the high end of the Benasque valley, at the end of the dirt road which passes the Hospital de Benasque, at the exact spot where one would start the hike to Refugio La Renclusa and the Aneto/Maladeta massif.
Route description: You hike up the valley for a few hundred yards, until you reach a faint trail heading left (we did NOT find it, and had to bushwack up the hillside). Follow it until you reach the zig-zagging path leading up the hillside, it is broad and has probably been a main road earlier, connecting valleys in the two countries.
As the path flattens, turn left on a smaller path, which leads across and up towards the Portillión de Benasque, a sharp and narrow cut in the ridge between Salvaguarda and its neighboring peak, Pico de la Mina. A path leads through this cut (which is on the border between France and Spain) and down to a French refuge, only 15 minutes (downhill) away, where one can spend the night or get a meal... But back to Salvaguarda. A trail leads left and up towards the summit, from just below the Portillión, and climbs across the entire south face of the mountain, mostly as a nice and broad dirt path, but in a few places across some rock faces with minor exposure (a cable has been installed in one place, but is unnecessary, if care is taken), before zig-zagging steeply up to the summit, which lies right on the border between France and Spain. An approach from France does not look like a good option, the cliffs on the French side are sheer (indeed, the only easy way down on the French side for miles is through the Portillión de Benasque).
Comments: The view from the summit is great. You get a great view of the Aneto/Maladeta massif, with summits more than 600 vertical meters above you. You also get a good look at the neighboring Pico de la Mina, which looks steep from here. We tried to climb it, but gave up what we thought was halfway up, but turned out to be quite near the summit, so we could probably have made it with a bit more determination :)
For Mina, the best approach is probably to go to the base of the mountain southeast of the Portillión, and climb up the steep, grassy slopes, connected by small pitches of relatively simple rock scrambling, onto the west ridge high on the mountain. We had some trouble with the sharp grasses that grow here, which really can sting and cut your legs. But, looking back, I suspect we could have reached the summit. Too bad, really.
You can also hike down the steep path to the French refuge (10-15 minutes going down, the double on the steep uphill return) and take a small break with something to drink, like we did.