Puigpedrós Summit (2914m) from Malniu Refuge
At 2914m, Puigpedrós is the highest peak in the Spanish side of Cerdanya. It translates to “Rocky Peak”, as the summit of the mountain is covered with many large loose rocks.
From the summit, you can see iconic mountains such as Canigò in France and Pedrosa in Andora. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Aneto in Aragon.
There are many different routes you can take to the peak. Ours is an 11km circular route that passes by the beautiful Malniu lake (Estany de Malniu).
The route is steep, but not technically challenging. Remember to take a hat and plenty of water, as it’s very exposed and there are no natural springs.
Start Point: Malniu Refuge
Our route starts from Malniu Refuge at 2138m, which is usually easily accessible by car. (Do check the condition of the road before setting off though, and bear in mind it’s unsurfaced).
No car, no problem! You can hike to Malniu from Puigcerdà in around 4 hours following a stage of the GR11. (This is how I first discovered the place).
It can also be reached from Andorra la Vella, though this is a two-day hike, also along the GR11, stopping at L’Illa Refuge.
At Malniu Refuge you’ll find a bar, toilets and a natural spring at your disposal.
Stage 1: Leave Malniu Refuge following the GR11
Our route starts from the rear corner of the Malniu Refuge campsite, through the field of cows and horses. Follow the signs and red and white markers for the GR11.
Already we have spectacular views across the valley to the Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park.
Stage 2: Follow the Stream up to La Tossa
Look out for where the path splits off from the GR11 up to the right. There’s a footpath sign for Puigpedrós, and the rest of the route is marked by cairns. (Small piles of rocks).
This steady ascent takes us out of the woods, up above the tree line, where it ends in a small grassy plain.
Stage 3: La Tossa to the Marshes of Puigpedrós
From the plain, we’re going to climb up the steep slope to the right on the ridge. There’s no clear path, though there are cairns marking the way. Providing you keep following “White Partridge Ride” (El Serrat de Perdius Blanques), you can’t go too far wrong!
At the end of the ridge, you’ll find some maze-like wetlands to work your way through. You should be able to make it across without getting your toes wet.
We went in early summer, and the whole area was an explosion of tiny wildflowers. There were also literally thousands and thousands of ladybirds everywhere!
(NB if any geologists reading this can explain to me how there’s so much running water so high in the mountain in mid-summer please do so in the comments!).
Look and listen for the marmots, which abound in this area.
Stage 4: Final Ascent to the Rocky Peak
One last push uphill to get to the top, you can see from here where the mountain gets its name! You’ll find the easiest route by skirting around to “the back” of the peak.
From the top enjoy the amazing 360º view across the Catalan, French, Andorran and Spanish Pyrenees. Look out for Puigmal, Canigó, and Aneto in the distance.
Stage 5: Descending “White Partridge Ridge”
We’re going to take a different track back to form a circular route and take in the beautiful Malniu lake. Descend the other side of the peak, cross the marsh again, and follow the other edge of the ridge.
On this side you’ll find a steep, scree-covered precipice. Don’t go down there! Keep following the ridge until you see a track marked by cairns to the left. If you’re camping at Malniu you can probably see your tent from here!
Stage 6: Steep descent to Malniu Lake
This is the most technical part of the route, though it shouldn’t be a problem for active people.
The route follows an incredibly lush and fertile gully. It must have the perfect combination of sun and water, as everything was vibrant and thriving. We also noticed that it’s full of blueberry bushes. They weren’t in season when we passed, but we’re tempted to go back when they are (Mid-summer)!
At the bottom, you’ll find the spectacular lake Malniu. Framed by limestone crags, and surrounded by more lush vegetation. Underground streams disappear and reappear all around.
Our route here cuts across the front of the lake, straight back to the refuge. If you’re just visiting for the day, it’s worth doing the tour. Better yet, stay the night and spend the next day exploring both Malniu and Guils lake (Estany de Guils).
Stage 6: Back to Malniu Refuge
Almost back… Follow the signs and yellow PC-R markers back down through the pine forest all the way back to the refuge. Nice work, you’re back to home base and ready for a cold beer and possibly a barbecue!
Flora and Fauna
The area surrounding the refuge is rich pasture, so you’re guaranteed to see some beautiful Pyrenean cattle and horses. Overhead, you’ll almost certainly see large vultures, and if you’re lucky maybe an eagle or two. Up near the summit, you’ll find lots of marmots. Listen out for their distinctive whistle.
Pine forests circle the mountain up until around 2400m. Around the lake, and just below the peak are the marshlands. Rich in small plant and small animal life. The most surprising of which for us was the thousands of ladybirds!
As mentioned above, the area around the lake is full of blueberry bushes. The zone is also renowned for mushroom picking, we saw lots of people out with baskets. The easiest place to spot them is in the cow pats, though not sure if these are edible or popular if they are!
When to go?
Potentially you could climb Puigpedrós any time of year.
Bear in mind, however, that throughout winter and even into spring, you can find large quantities of snow.
The route we took from the refuge up to the summit could be done with snowshoes if you came back the same way. The steeper descent down to the lake would probably require crampons and piolet. Obviously, only consider attempting this route in winter if you know what you’re doing and have the proper gear.
Where to Stay?
You can either stay in Malniu Refuge, which is a great refuge with nice food or camp in their field for a very reasonable fee.
Check out our review of Camping at Malniu here.