The Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, unique in Catalonia, located in the middle of the Pyrenees between four counties with much to offer to the visitor. An unmissable event for hikers, nature lovers and wildlife observers. We invite you to discover this corner with the personal story told in first person by Francesc, one of Outdoor Adventour’s guides.
My relationship with the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park began 20 years ago, when I was still working as a computer scientist. At that time, I always looked forward to my holidays to escape from the city and enjoy my great passion: birdwatching and observation of other animals. The day I knew it was possible to observe the Alpine Marmot (Marmota marmota) in the park, I started planning a new getaway. This great rodent had disappeared from the Pyrenees years ago, but the French reintroduced it in 1948.
A few days later I unplugged the computer, hung my binoculars and, with some friends, travelled to the Pyrenees. We left the car in the parking lot of Prat de Pierró and started walking towards the refuge of Amitges (2,380 m), one of the guarded shelters of the Park. I was so happy to be there! Observing Chamois (Rupicapra rupicabra), finding trees pierced by woodpeckers, Common Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) with its peculiar beak…
Finally, just before reaching the refuge, I heard a loud whistle. It was the signal of the marmots! I could see a group right away. They were on top of some stones basking in the sun. It was fantastic! I also saw a girl who, a little higher, was observing the same group of marmots. Later I found out she was the refuge guard. It was a weekend of discovery of the Park and I returned home with my batteries well charged!
However, over the years I realized that it was not enough for me to go to the mountains only on weekends, and this was how I began to prepare myself for a change of life. After studying and doing many practices, I am now a wildlife and mountain guide in the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. The Park has become my everyday landscape and I am excited because it never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes I imagine what it must have been like 40,000 years ago, when it was covered by glaciers. I wonder if I would be able to identify the more than 270 glacial lakes or the place where l’Estany Negre de Peguera is now, which, with its depth of more than 70 meters, is the deepest in the Park. I wonder how the twin peaks of the emblematic Encantats were like… Probably they were higher and the legend of the Chamois hunters that made them famous had not yet originated. Or how the Park was when it was created in 1955, when hydroelectric power stations were inaugurated throughout the Pyrenees.
Since then and thanks to the conservation work, in the Park there are more species than before it was a National Park. Both fauna and flora. At present we can observe with certain ease some mammals like the Fallow Deer (Dama dama) or the Chamois (Rupricapra pyrenaica); we can hear birds such as the Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) and watch the flight of the majestic Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) or some small groups of mountain Citril Finch (Serinus citrinella)… In the world of flora, we find the Alpenrose (Rhododendron ferrugineum), the Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), insectivorous species such as the Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) or the Common Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), different types of orchids … Among amphibians, the Common Frog (Rana temporaria) … The list is infinite. There are also more difficult species to observe, such as the Stoat (Mustela erminea), the Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), the Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), the Pyrenean Newt (Euproctus asper), the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), the Pyrenean Desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) or the Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus).
I work in the Park all year. When there is snow we move with snowshoes or mountain skis and the rest of the year by foot. In winter, the snow makes me happy because it makes me think that, thanks to it, in summer we will have water. In spring, when little by little the green covers everything, I am excited to observe the coming and going of the animals feeding their young and the plants germinating before the first cold arrives. In autumn, the colours are set to change, and I lack eyes to appreciate the shades of the Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), of the Silver Birch (Betula pendula), of the Wild Cherry trees (Prunus avium) …
During my guides, I explain the environment that surrounds us to my clients, and while I do it, I realize that we are privileged. We can enjoy the tranquillity, the lakes, the waterfalls, the twisted waters, the Firs, the wild fauna, the flora, … and everywhere I discover an invisible balance, which we do not see at first sight, but that we appreciate when we stop, and we watch.
Now, when I make a wildlife guides or a journey, and I pass by the same place where I saw the marmots more than twenty years ago, I cannot help stopping to greet their descendants. And then I smile because, either because of fate or because of the chance of life, the girl that I saw then also observing the marmots, today shares life with me.
Francesc Capdevila i Torrell
Sports Technician in Mid Mountain
Guide of the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park
Guide of the Parc Natural de l’Alt Pirineu
Member of the Spanish Association of Mountain Guides (AEGM) nº partner 1202
Member of the Catalan Institute of Ornithology (ICO)