Porta del Cel: The Hut-to-Hut Trek to Heaven

By Sierd van der Bij

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Porta del Cel: The Hut-to-Hut Trek to Heaven
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It's quite a statement to say that the Porta del Cel is the hut-to-hut trek to heaven. And yet, it is true. Porta del Cel is Catalan for Heaven's Gate and if you consider that the highest point of this trek is Pica d'Estats, the highest peak in Catalonia, it somewhat makes sense. In the Catalan Pyrenees, you can't higher than the Porta del Cel. This makes this trek an adventure for seasoned mountain goats. If you want a little piece of Catalan heaven, then the Porta del Cel with 65 kilometres and 11.000 vertical meters, is the hiking route to take. Som-hi!

Just as the Carros de Foc, this is the Catalan side of Spain and the Pyrenees. Som-hi is Catalan for Let's go. Sure, you can get around with Spanish, but if you want to crack a smile in the Catalan refuges, it will be worth it to work on your Catalan. On the Porta del Cel you will have at least 5 hiking days to practice your Catalan. Before we get carried away by this beautiful language, let's have a closer look at this hiking route. What is the Porta del Cel? Where do you start? What is so special about this hiking route? Is it for you? In this blog post, we'll answer all your questions!

What and Where Is The Porta del Cel?

The Porta del Cel is a 5-day circular hut-to-hut trek in the Spanish Pyrenees offering a small escape to the French side. On the Porta del Cel you start and finish at the same point, you visit 4 different huts, refugis in Catalan and refuge in French, you cover 65 kilometers of distance and about 11.000 meters of elevation. There's so much to do on this wild side of Catalonia, so it is no surprise that this trek is only a stone's throw away from that other epic adventure, the Carros de Foc. Where the Carros de Foc already offers plenty of elevation, the Porta del Cel takes you much higher by adding in the 3,164-meter-high peak Pica d'Estats. This is the highest point of the Catalan Pyrenees.

Not only do you climb the highest peak, but you are in the largest national park and see the largest mountain lake in Catalonia. In that respect, the Porta del Cel is truly a trek of superlatives. That largest national park is called Parc Natural de l'Alt Pirinieu and you will have some of the most beautiful views that not only Catalonia but also Spain has to offer. Porta del Cel is Catalan for Heaven's Gate and if you focus on those few aspects, it is not hard to understand why. So where do you find Heaven's Gate? Well, let's not entirely go there. Let's just say that the Porta del Cel starts and ends in Tavascan, a 4 hours drive from Barcelona, and basically on the border between Spain and France. Now is that heaven? We'll leave that up to you ;)

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Is The Porta Del Cel For Me?

We would be lying if we told you that the Porta del Cel is for everyone. Other than taking a rest day, you can't really take the pace, and with that the challenge out of the Porta del Cel. In that regard, the Carros de Foc is much more flexible and thus suitable for a wider audience. On the Porta del Cel you will definitely be hiking for at least 6 to 7 hours a day. During the final stage, you are even hiking for a bit longer than that. This, together with all the elevation, makes the Porta del Cel definitely a hike for seasoned mountain goats. If you are not new to hut-to-hut treks, multi-day hiking, and have your gear up to level, you could consider doing the Porta del Cel.

However, if you have never done a hut-to-hut trek like the Kesch Trek or the Alta Via 1 before, then you might want to start your journey in the Catalan Pyrenees with a longer version of the Carros de Foc. You can find all options for the Carros de Foc here. This is also not the most suitable option for (young) families. There are other hut-to-hut treks you can do first before you make your way to Heaven's Gate. For instance, another great long trek you can hike in Spain is the GR221 in Mallorca.

Now, if you are looking for the most epic adventure you can do on this side of the Catalan Pyrenees and you are aware of the fact that it is going to be a challenge, then, of course, this is totally for you.

Is The Porta Del Cel For Me?

Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the La Porta del Cel with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

Porta del Cel Accommodation: Staying in 4 Refuges

At Bookatrekking.com we like to do things properly and when it's about accommodation on treks in the Alps and the Pyrenees, this means you should stay in mountain huts. Refugi is the Catalonian word and Refuge the French name for a hut where mountaineers can enjoy a bed, a meal, and in, most cases, even a fresh draught beer or a good glass of wine. On the Porta del Cel you can find 3 refugis and 1 refuge and what these three have in common is their fantastic locations. In the most remote spots in the Pyrenees, you can check into these safe havens. Now, in contrast to for example the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Alta Via 1, it is possible to not only have breakfast and dinner, but also lunch. This makes the Carros de Foc and the Porta del Cel some of the only hut-to-hut trekking options with full board. This will save you a few extra grams in your backpack.

Porta del Cel and Alt Pirineu Hiking Map

There are plenty of maps and guidebooks that can help you do the Porta del Cel or any other trek in the Spanish Pyrenees. Below you can find a map with an overview of the Porta del Cel and l'Alt Pirineu.

Porta del Cel and Alt Pirineu Hiking Map

Did you know that we can book all huts and refuges for the La Porta del Cel for you? Check out all our options here.

Porta del Cel Itinerary - 5 Days to Heaven's Gate

Day
1

Tavascan - Refugio de Certascan

Duration: 05:40 h
Distance: 14.5 km
Ascent: 1500 m
Descent: 370 m
Today you will begin your walk along the river and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. You continue your way through the valley between the peaks of Causes and Pic de Sabollés. You will end this day on the shores of the largest glacial lake in Catalonia, at Refugi de Certascan.

Refugio de Certascan

Info
Refugio de Certascan
Day
2

Refugi de Certascan - Refuge du Pinet

Duration: 05:30 h
Distance: 12.4 km
Ascent: 1040 m
Descent: 1040 m
Today you will cross the border to France and you will barely notice it. No border post, no passport checks, and definitely no queue. The mountains don't adhere to imaginary lines. On the French side of Heaven's Gate Way, you will find Refuge de Pinet, where you will find Marion. She has lived the Refuge life since she can remember, her father having managed Pinet before her. Here, at 2,240 meters you will definitely have a good and relaxed time.

Refugio de Pinet

Info
Refugio de Pinet
Day
3

Refuge du Pinet - Refugi de Vallferrera

Duration: 05:35 h
Distance: 12.8 km
Ascent: 890 m
Descent: 1200 m
Upon walking back to the Spanish side of the border, you will come eye in eye with the highest peak of Catalonia, Pica d'Estats. You will be climbing for about 900 meters until you reach this stunning peak. Technically, this peak is exactly on the border and that also explains its name, States Peak. It was first climbed by Count Henry Russell and Jean-Jac Denjean, pioneers in Alpinism in the Pyrenees. Take it all in before you slowly descend to Refugi de Vallferrera for a well-deserved cervesa.

Refugio de Vallferrera

Info
Refugio de Vallferrera
Day
4

Refugi de Vallferrera - Tavascan

Duration: 07:05 h
Distance: 18.9 km
Ascent: 990 m
Descent: 1770 m
You are waking up in quite a legendary place. Refugi de Vallferrara is the oldest Refugi in Catalonia. Since 1935 mountaineers have thankfully made use of this refuge, which is so strategically situated on the GR11 and the route to and from Pica d'Estats. Now, if you think you are almost there, you are wrong. The trek back to Tavascan is a long one. You won't be bored, though as you walk past streams, glacial lakes, and the lower peaks of Catalonia. All of a sudden, you reach Tavascan. Well done, you've knocked on Heaven's Gate!
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Packing List for the La Porta del Cel

It doesn't matter where you are going trekking or for how long: Carrying the right equipment with you is paramount. For a hiking trip in the mountains, you will need, first and foremost, a good backpack. Its size will depend on how many days you will be spending in the mountains, the season, and the clothes you will be taking with you. We have prepared a packing list with some essential clothing that you should include and some extras that you may find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

At Bookatrekking.com, we not only book your huts, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your La Porta del Cel, including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

Getting To and From Tavascan for the Porta del Cel

The best starting point for your Porta del Cel adventure is Tavascan. Tavascan is a small town deep into the Catalonian Pyrenees. As is so often the case with mountain adventures, it takes some time and effort to get to them. The journey is part of the adventure, especially to Tavascan.

By plane:

Tavascan is about 4 hours from Barcelona and 3.5 hours from French Toulouse. Both these towns have an international airport and are well connected with other key cities in Europe. Here you can either rent a car and drive to Tavascan, or you can use public transport.

By bus:

Tavascan doesn't have a bus station, yet it is possible to travel here by bus. From Barcelona, you can first take a bus to La Pobla de Segur. From here you can take another bus to Llavorsi. Between Llavorsi there are two (small) buses a day to Tavascan.

By car:

The easiest way to get to Tavascan is to go by car. From Barcelona, it's about 4 hours and 260 kilometers. From Toulouse, you can count 3.5 hours. In Tavascan you will definitely find a place to park your car.

Getting To and From Tavascan for the Porta del Cel

Safe hiking tips for the La Porta del Cel

When you go on walking holidays it is wise to be aware of a few points. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the mountains. Good tour planning and compliance with the regulations on the mountains will significantly increase safety. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, here below you can find a list of 8 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains:
  • Know your limits

    Hiking the La Porta del Cel is the perfect outlet to escape from daily life. It is an endurance sport along with a beautiful nature experience with a positive effect on body and mind —as long as one is in good shape and has a realistic picture of one's possibilities and limits—. Never overestimate yourself or underestimate the route. Don't overdo it! Always choose the slower variant and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not fun and at too fast a pace it can be dangerous. Be wise!

  • Plan carefully

    Good planning is half the work! Hiking maps, literature, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning the route in the La Porta del Cel and enable you to determine the length, altitude difference, difficulty and conditions of the hike. When planning group treks, the itinerary should always be planned for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast beforehand and contact our trekking experts to find your way around before you start.

  • Be fully equipped

    Equipment is everything. In the most extreme case, it makes the difference between life and death, and in any case, it definitely makes the difference between having fun and having a bad time. Food and water, sunscreen and waterproof and warm clothes must always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone with a full battery (in case there is an emergency). However, packing light makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra luggage with you. Your equipment should always be suitable for the terrain you'll be hiking on in the La Porta del Cel.

  • Wear suitable footwear

    Good walking shoes protect your feet and provide a better fit. Shoes with a good fit, with non-slip soles, water-resistant and lightweight are a must for additional walking pleasure during the La Porta del Cel. Trail running shoes are great for a weekend in the mountains, but on longer hikes or more technical trails, you'll want at least A/B hiking boots. That means it is recommended wearing high mountain shoes that are water-repellent with extra ankle support to prevent sprains.

  • Stay on marked trails

    La Porta del Cel has endless marked hiking trails, which are controlled and maintained and should not be deviated from. It may be tempting, but it's not a good idea to take shortcuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. It increases the risk of disorientation and you're more likely to get lost and have accidents or fall in the mountains. Even steep slopes of packed old snow are often underestimated and dangerous. Are you in doubt? Better don't do it. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you. FYI, 75% of stumbles occur due to carelessness on marked paths or roads, not in open terrain!

  • Take regular breaks

    Remember you're on a hiking holiday. Timely and regular breaks not only provide welcome relaxation but also make it possible to enjoy the La Porta del Cel. The body needs a regular food and drink intake to maintain performance and concentration. Our advice is that if you have little time, it's better to follow the short itinerary than to speed up the long one.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the La Porta del Cel.

  • Respect nature

    Leave no rubbish behind, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Can I Book the La Porta del Cel?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided La Porta del Cel and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the La Porta del Cel not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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