What makes a destination special? Is it the place, the encounters, the vibe, the moment? Or is it linked to our sometimes- fleeting approach? To those rushed-out experiences leaving us with a bitter aftertaste?
This is a feeling often experienced in the daily work of the pilot, the photographer, and the videographer. We
arrive, we go about our business, and we leave. The place is a means, not an end. This is why Simon André wanted
to come back to the vicinity of Benasque.
If this destination has been the set of a few mountain bike presentations and the crucible of beautiful pictures,
the latter have only scratched the surface and have barely unveiled its beauty. The idea is thus taking the time to
explore the most superb trails of this area and share them, taking the time to create beautiful images and to make
encounters. At his side Anthony Marcou, videographer, and Ulysse Daessle, photographer.
The Aneto is the Pyrenees’ highest summit. Culminating at 3404m, it is only attainable by alpinists and hikers. All
around, different mountain ranges are stretching, offering extremely varied trails typologically speaking: ranging
from high plains to undergrowth, from red rock to loose soil, from luxurious mountain to arid desert.
Chris fell in love with this area a long time ago. It fascinated the adventurers who directly faced the peak.
“The first explorers found themselves in front of enormous glaciers that they had to bypass during three days before
reaching the Aneto’s peak.”- Chris
Chris from Pyrenees Connexion will take care of the logistics, essential given the photo/video equipment. The
team will be completed by Dani from Altituderides, who will be the guide and sometimes the model too.
THE LUXURIOUS MOUNTAIN
We leave from Benasque, northbound, through a landscape that seems to have been taken out of the best ad-
venture novels: a verdant valley, a torrent lined with fire-red trees nestled on the promontory of an abandoned
seaside resort. Closed in 2019, its history dates back to the 16th century and it was one of Europe’s highest resorts,
located at 1720m.
The road makes us take a trail linking Spain to France. A few torrents and lakes dot the road. The view on the
Maladeta Massif and its culminating peak the Aneto is breathtaking. Simon is having fun with the trail to immortal-
ize a few nice actions, under the lammergeiers’ curious watch. They will be following our journey during the whole
day, like silent and attentive guardians.
The Benasque Port crossing is finally opening down the road. Rock gully between the Sauvegarde peak (2738m)
and the Mine’s peak (2707m), it is one of the rare routes between Spain and France. On the other side, we can see
a majestic lake, out of sight of the famous Hospice of France. Arranged by the Counts of Comminges in 1325 to
trade with Spain, it is a place steeped in history because of the wars and the many tales of smuggling.
Leaving this sight behind, the group turns towards the Val d’Aran valley, leaving the aridity behind to find the
mountain in all its luxuriance. Is it really Spain or a landscape from a fairytale? The debate will stay open until the
saving rest in the city of Veilla.
A tunnel straight out of the Cold War opens like a passage to the depths of the mountain. Its open doors seem
to be ready to close at any time. This appearing after the long and winding mountain road feels unreal. This is
Llauset’s pass’s key.
Exiting the tunnel, a dam built under Franco’s regime reinforces the mystical aspect of the place. At the end of this
passage stands the pass. The trail will pass through astounding landscapes, where iron-red water flows; where the
Pyrenees transform into Iceland.
And above, the magical desolation of the high mountain. Rough and shaped by time and elements. Simon and
Ulysse are struck by a feeling of wholeness, while Anthony hastens to descend as soon as possible, oppressed by
“If taking your time is a major challenge, having time is also one. So many options, so many possibilities. We would like
to stop on each stone to grasp each angle on the camera. Redoing each action until perfection. Elongate a day from 5 to
10 hours.” - Ulysse
Lammergeiers are drawing mysterious choreographies with their shadows around the trail. The sharp rocks
quickly remind the group that this environment is hostile and that a single misstep can have heavy consequences.
It is crucial to stay alert despite the amazement that seizes us.
The desert morphs into an alpine pasture. The flora takes back its rights to the mineral. Benasque is only a wheel’s
THE RED DIRT
This trip’s last part takes place in a less abrupt area. The alpine pasture morphs into a blood-red rock under the
wheels. The loose ground invites us to be careful. The Mediterranean vegetation offers a real contrast compared
to the two previous days. We left the desert behind to enter the American West. We have to play it tight and find
the aesthetics in this crumbly ground.
Soon man’s presence becomes manifest: the trail is now arranged for all to enjoy. It is time to let go of
the brakes, and ride while considering the accumulated fatigue. We have to accept to release the ten-
sion that accompanies the search for beautiful pictures and to focalize entirely on where to put the wheels.
EVERYTHING STARTS FROM THE TRAILS
The journey reaches its end. If the breathtaking landscapes constituted this trip’s main highlight, the magnificent
paths we have traveled are its backbone. Thomas, the owner of the Castejon Del Sos camping site, is also the
president of Puropirineo which creates and maintains the trails. He takes us behind the scenes of creating such
Creating a destination is no easy job, no matter how the starting trail is. More confidential than others, Benasque’s
valley is developing and democratizing itself.
“For Puro Pyrenees, the goal is to incorporate new areas in the Aramon territory and place ourselves in Cerler’s ski re-
sorts. But also think about working and opening roads and trails that can be combined with the use of the chairlift during
the summer, with the facilities, with the ski lifts... This is our immediate future.”- Thomas
While waiting for these future developments, Benasque already offers a unique experience. It is a place where it
is important to take your time to appreciate and savor all its nuances on and out of the trails.
“I personally think that I rarely took this much time to contemplate places. The fact that our goal was to bring back
beautiful images changes radically the approach we had to this mountain biking trip. I am sometimes in the bulimia of
kilometers and elevation gain always fearing to miss the gem...” - Simon
Discover the trails from the trip:
Day 1: https://www.komoot.fr/tour/996392446
Day 2: https://www.komoot.fr/tour/996392815
Day 3: https://www.komoot.fr/tour/996393124
Partners: MET - Bluegrass - Pirrelli - Crankbrothers - Number A - 7Mesh - Hope
Pictures & Text: Ulysse Daessle
Riding : Simon André
Video : Anthony Marcou
Translation: Lumir Daessle