Tuc des Estanhets | Conangles
Modality: Ski mountaineering
Longitude: 10,5 km
Ascent time 4h and descent 2h
Class avalanche terrain: Complex
Conangles valley is a prime example of the sweeping terrain of the Val d’Aran. From the valley floor, looking at the north-facing side, there’s a height difference of over 1000 metres, snow and ice channels, and sharp ridges that close the cirque from Tuc de Contesa to Port de Rius. The granite substrate and its location on the southern edge of the valley, more exposed to the effects of wind, don’t make it the most ideal valley to visit in early winter. However, when the snow is thick enough, the south-facing position and the relatively high and convenient access from the southern mouth of the tunnel make it an area where you can keep on skiing well into late spring. Here we suggest heading up the valley to the Collado de Conangles, where you can cross the source of the Ribèra de Rius to climb Tuc des Estanhets, a privileged vantage point overlooking the Rius, Conangles and Besiberri valleys. It’s a demanding route, both physically and technically, that runs through complex terrain.
From the Hospital de Vielha car park, at the southern mouth of the tunnel, set off eastbound and gradually gain ground over the meadows until you find the more winidng track that also comes from the Hospital. Follow it until you get to the confluence of the River Conangles with the Estanh Redon ravine. Here you have two options: in the depths of winter, it’s better to cross the Redon ravine and continue on the south-facing side of the valley, following the GR-11 path. In spring, when there’s little snow cover on the south-facing side, cross the River Conangles over the concrete ford and follow the track that climbs up the north-facing side to the beech forest. In any case, keep as close as possible to the valley floor until reaching the bottom of the cirque. Here you’ll head though the valley of the Conangles ravine, which is well-sheltered from the Contesa channels. The first part is more demanding, but then it turns into a gentler grass-covered slope. At the top of this slope, go back into the ravine valley and keep climbing until you reach the frontal moraine which borders the basin of Estanhons de Conangles. From here you’ll already see the hill, but you’ll still have to overcome a series of steep south- and west-facing slopes, avoiding the narrow channel that runs down straight from the hill. Then you’ll arrive at Còth de Conangles, located between Tuc de Conangles and Tuc des Estanhets, with views of the side of Rius. You’ll have to remove the ski skins to descend the 70-100 m of height difference required to safely pass through the small valley on the north face of Tuc des Estanhets. Head up this small but increasingly steeper valley to reach the marked rift to the left of the summit. The last few metres below the rift are very steep and often have large and unstable snow drifts. If you’re not sure about the stability of the snow at this point, simply turn back. In a very alpine environment, pass through the rift on the Besiberri valley side and you’ll be just a 20-metre climb away from the summit. After deservedly enjoying the spectacular panoramic view, start the descent following the same route. Any variant you may want to take from this route will involve greater exposure, so you have to be very sure of the conditions and stability of the snow before making a decision. From the Còth de Conangles to the car park, there’s continuous drop of 1000 m. Enjoy it!