The Pedraforca is our mountain. Now, it might be appropriate to write an mushy introduction about why it is an emblematic, wrapped in magic mountain. However, it feels unnecessary and, in case you really need to read one, do not fear, there are plenty of them on Google.
The Pedraforca is an indispensable goal for hikers and climbers. Nevertheless, to restrict yourself to get to the shelter by car, climb to the peak and take a picture for your Instagram profile is kind of simplistic –and almost offensive to those who are in love with El Berguedà.
The massif and its surrounding valleys –although not all them belonging to El Berguedà– are astonishing locations worth some effort to get to know them. Besides, the ascension to the Pedraforca is not easy hiking: the climb has level II or II+ stretches, some rocks may fall off, and the descent through the rocky hillside of Saldes requires some skill –basically to avoid rolling down it, but, hey, everyone has their own style. To sum up, it is not a good initiation route, nor to do with young children or kids that are not used to hike.
Fortunately, there’s no need to reach the summit in order to know the Pedraforca. The PR®-C 127, better known as Pedraforca 360º, is a circular route which has no technical difficulty despite being quite long. It can be easily done with children or dogs at any time of the year. In case you find its 17 km (which are readily accomplished in 6 hours) too heavy, you can split the trail in two journeys and spend the night, for instance, at the Lluís Estasen shelter, which happens to be on your way and located in the bucolic area of Jaça de Parts. For the bravest, the classic trail followed to ascend to the Pollegó Superior (the peak) departs as well from the shelter. Thus, if you have a couple of days to spend, it is a great idea to walk the tour around the massif and bring yourself to do the ascension the day after.
The Pedraforca 360º trail starts and ends, theoretically, in Gósol. However, the good thing about circular routes is that you can start wherever you want. You can depart, for instance, from the lookout of Gresolet, which is also where the parking of the Lluís Estasen shelter is. If you do start form Gósol, it is almost mandatory to leave early in the morning in order to arrive at first time in the afternoon, and thus have time to visit the Picasso Centre, where you will see lithographs of the paintings the artist made during his stay in the area.
Wherever you start from, this route will take you through varied landscapes, always escorted by spectacular views upon the Pedraforca from every perspective. You will pass through El Collell, dividing line between the waters of the Segre and the Llobregat basins, and nexus between the Pedraforca massif and the Cadí mountain chain. Also, you will go through Coll de Jou, with its paleontological site, and you will have the privilege to admire a great diversity of habitats, from rocky slopes to beech forests, but Scots pine and mountain pine forests as well.
Well, do not get your hopes up too much. From the Pedraforca 360º trail, you will merely pass by the beech forest. If you want to go deep into this protected forest, which overflows monumental trees and which at some point fuses with the hugest silver fir forest in El Berguedà, then your route is the Stroll through the Pedraforca’s mountainside and the Gresolet Valley. This hike will show you the two main attractions in Saldes: the Pedraforca and Gresolet. Besides crossing a beech and silver fir forest of great natural value, it also takes you to the Gresolet Sanctuary and the Gresolet shelter while offering great views upon the Pedraforca. It is a bit longer than the previous one, but it can be accomplished in around 6 hours. And, since it stops over in the shelter, it gives you the option of getting seated for lunch or even spending the night halfway.
This applies to the rocky slopes as well: from the Pedraforca 360º
track, you will see them without stepping on them. Should you want to penetrate this dynamic and only apparently barren habitat, the PR@-C 123 or Tour around the Pedraforca from Gósol takes you for a walk through the two main rocky slopes of the massif. This route crosses the Pedraforca through the Enforcadura (the fork, i.e. the mountain pass through the two peaks of the Pedraforca), passing through the Gósol and the Saldes rocky hillsides, then flanking the massif on its northern side. It does not take you to the peak, but it is the same track people use from both towns to get to Coll de Verdet or the Enforcadura, wherefrom you can start the ascension to the Pollegó Superior –and the inferior one as well, if you are good climbers. It is a circular route departing from Gósol, but you can start from Saldes as well if you go first to the Lluís Estasen shelter, where you find the PR.
If all that going around the mountain left you craving for the summit, it is okay, there are options for everyone. The Classic route for the ascension to the Pedraforca starts from Saldes and takes you to surmount the Pollegó Superior (2.506 m). Passing by the Lluís Estasen shelter, you get to Coll de Verdet and therefrom it is only a matter of climbing to the peak. There is no need to be an expert climber, but the ascent is quite a hard one and you need to mind the rocks that might fall down –fundamentally, care to warn those who are behind you to keep them from welcoming them with their noses. Be careful with the descent through the Saldes’ rocky hillside, too! It is easier to do it running smoothly and putting all your weight back –trust me, you do not want to fall forward–, but it’s up to you. It’s none of my business.
If you like Gósol better, you can reach the summit from there as well. All you have to do is to go up through the rocky hillside of Gósol –which is much gentler than the one of Saldes– following the PR@-C 123 up to the Enforcadura and then take the trail that climbs to the Pollegó Superior. Once at the peak, there are plenty of options. You could follow a circular track, going down to Coll de Verdet to find the PR again. You can also turn back, thus avoiding the rocky slope of Saldes. Or, if you still want some more, from the Enforcadura you can climb the Fals Pollegó.
And what about the Pollegó Inferior, poor thing? It is not like I hold some grudge against it, the thing is, it is much more difficult to surmount. The typical route is The Great Diagonal, a quite difficult circular track departing from Saldes. It is an alpine route with some third-degree climbing steps. There are many ways to get to the top, but, in general, it is advisable to have some previous climbing experience. It is not like everyone uses ropes and harness, but in some stretches you might feel safer that way.
You can also get to the Pollegó Inferior (2.455 m) from the Enforcadura, passing by the Fals Pollegó and then crossing the channel that separates it from the Pollegó Inferior. Yet, the difficulty is pretty much the same.
Having said that, do me the favor of getting excited for this spectacular mountain and try to get to know it well. It is worth it. Nevertheless, do it driven by good judgement; the emergency services are fed up of picking up nutty folks playing chamois! This mountain deserves some respect, although there is no need to be afraid of it. If you yearn for it, but you feel uneasy, hire a guide, that’s what they are for! The guided ascent to the Pedraforca is the perfect way to make first contact with the massif and the climbs with safety and in good company.
Oh! One last thing: don’t be too sloppy. Rocky hillsides and rock walls are very sensitive habitats and they are already quite damaged by high frequentation. Be respectful towards the environment, do not leave the marked route and pick up the wrappers of your sandwiches.
Come on, to adventure!