Port de la Bonaiqua

Port de la Bonaiqua is an important, wide highway that crosses the main ridge of the Pyrenees at over 2000 meters, and that is kept operational year round. But it is not a "political border" pass. In this area the Pyrenean main ridge is completely in Spain. But it is "geographical border" pass. The north side of this pass is in Spain, but no longer part of the Iberian Peninsula.

In the records department, this pass is the highest paved road pass in Catalonia, and the only paved pass over 2000 meters in the Spanish Pyrenees. Spain's other 2000 meter plus passes are in its mountains along the Mediterranean coast, the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra de los Filabres.

I have used the pictures of panoramio and flickr contributors, as well as other web sites to illustrate this page. There are copyright notices and links  to all original pictures. My own pictures were on a computer, that was stolen at the train station Frankfurt Airport (model Acer Aspire One (serial# NUSGPAA01625101C947600F)

 

01.(000.0km,0700m) START-END SOUTH ALT: Sort
02.(004.3km,0730m)Rialp
03.(014.2km,0820m)LLavorsi
04.(029.9km,0950m)lower turnoff to Esterri d'Aneau
05.(036.2km,1270m)START-END SOUTH: turnoff to dirt road to Pla de Berret
06.(049.7km,2072m)TOP: Port de la Bonaiqua
07.(062.4km,1270m)Salardu
08.(072.2km,0980m)START-NED NORTH: Vielha
09.(087.2km,0720m)turnoff to Col de Portillon on left, in Bossost
10.(091.5km,0630m)Les
11.(110.5km,0470m)START-END NORTH ALT: Chaum


Approaches

From South.
The profile starts in Sort as the road follows the noisy Rio Noguera Pallaresa up a narrow V shaped valley. For the first dozen kms the road never leaves the valley bottom, and the I don't remember the stream getting out of ear range.

The first time the climb gets a little more than just noticeable is where the road bypasses the village Esterri d'Anneau. It is just a straight ramp without other features, wide with shoulder - but boring. An alternate, slightly longer route goes through the village, and is probably more interesting from the seat of a bicycle.

At point 5, on the other hand, the road has a very particular feature. For no other reason than the apparent decision to gain elevation here, it curves back into a valley to gain a hundred meters. Continuing up the valley on a sideroad, goes over the unpaved Pla de Beret summit, which is about 200 meters lower than this pass, something you would not expect from looking at a map the first time.

 Spaghetti Salad South Side    copyright: Rudolf_Girona (Panoramio)    piclink

Past this point the first high peaks come into view next to the road, Lo Teso and Roca Blanca, reaching between 2600 and 2700 meters and always foregrounded by power lines. What follows is a real spaghetti road with about 17 switchbacks. The road never reaches up any flank of a mountain, but just switches back and forth at very bottom of the valley, which now reaches above treeline.

The top is a busy place, where apparently everybody has to stop on one of the many dirt turnoffs. A bar/restaurant is reminiscent of a copy of a Disney Castle (that is the copy of a copy of a copy of a castle). Ski lifts disect the landscape into sharp wedges. Housed under an protective metal roof stands an old snowcat with a memorial plaque below it. The animal foraging scene is also quite diverse, and I am not able to identify all species or attach meaning to all the monuments.

From North. (described downwards) I see more cyclists over on this approach than I have encountered since leaving the Costa Blanca. Rather than following the valley bottom, here the road does the opposite. It stays high up on the ridge, along a traverse above the Vall d'Aran. The result is a fantastic panorama, and many instantly recognizable pictures with mountains topping out at a little below 3000 meters. The only thing I did differently with my pictures, compared to the ones I am able to show, is that I included more road in the foreground. Four 180 degree switchbacks step down the mountain, connected by long ramps. For some this is not enough curvature. But this is a major highway, not a remote hilltown road.

 Copyright:  lionel loubet (Panoramio)  piclink

For me this is also one more day with crystal perfectly clear weather and an azure blue sky. After a long enjoyable descent, and having passed at least a hundred racing type cyclists, I roll through the skyscraper skiing condo development Salardu. It appears closed down, dead and mothballed into sterility, Manhattan after the plaque broke out. Ever after this, the road keeps on dropping, in spite of the fact that it is now at the valley bottom. The road keeps collecting one resort after another, becoming more and more alive and noisy, all nestled under enourmous walls of mountains. Finally the road passes through Vielha, a virtual resort city with different neighborhoods of different hotels, catering to different kinds of tourists, including cyclists who want a huge breakfast, and to know that their bicycle is kept in a save place.

Below Vielha  the traffic can be very heavy and at times very unpleasant. But I continued to profile past my own turnoff up to Col Portillon, until the road exits the mountains at Chaum.

cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow

A Day on a Tour with this point as highest summit:

COMPLETELY PAVED:

( < Pic de l'Orri | Col de Peyresroude > )
Port de la Bonaiqua : Sort > Rialp > Llavorsi > Port de la Bonaiqua > Salardu > Vielha
Notes: gps data and distances are on stolen computer



Copyright: Panoramio Contributor:   Vicente Maza Gomez    piclink

 Copyright: Panoramio Contributor:  Plamen Troshev     piclink


summit area; Copyright:  Panoramio Contributor:   Julian Silver  piclink