4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
We're starting at the Val de Ruda trailhead, which you can get to with any SUV over a relatively good gravel road from Baqueria village.
Once you leave the parking lot, you start the climb toward the first hut - Saboredo - where you can stamp your "forfait" with the first of many stamps on this route.
An easy path takes you across the col to the Colomers hut - from where you follow the trail over a seemingly never ending ascent to the Port de Caldes and Huella Crestada passes, from where you commence a steep descent towards Restanca hut.
The old route took you back along the previous 3km, but now you have to follow the lake shores and commence a long ascent towards the pass of Coll de Tumeneia.
This is where you get a reality check of the day - all up until now was an easy going path (save for a small boulder-y part of the last descent), but you now commence a really steep climb up grassy singletrack which then gives way to a boulder field where the going really gets slow.
Once over the pass, an exposed grassy traverse takes you down towards the lakes (this part can be dangerous in wet conditions!) In wet conditions I'd suggest taking the "old" route and backtracking the last descent to Restanca uphill and then taking an easier path south from Huella Crestada… Now, a long winding path, now without any "official" markings, takes you towards the Ventosa y Calvell paths, where you definitely have to taste the local "Refu" beer to make sure you celebrate your survival on this first of the three stages.
Don't overindulge though - there's plenty more to come!