Aneto is the highest mountain in the Pyrenees and in Aragon, and Spain's third-highest mountain, reaching a height of 3,404 metres (11,168 ft). It lies in the Spanish province of Huesca, the northernmost of all three Aragonese provinces. It forms the southernmost part of the Maladeta massif. It is also known as Pic de Néthou in French, though this is little used as the mountain lies entirely within Spain.

Aneto is located in the Posets-Maladeta Natural Park, in the municipality of Benasque, Huesca province, autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It is part of the Maladeta massif and is located in the Benasque valley. It consists of Paleozoic terrain of a granitic nature and Mesozoic materials. Its northern side holds the largest glacier in the Pyrenees, covering 79.6 hectares (197 acres) in 2005; it is shrinking rapidly due to warming summer temperatures and decreasing winter precipitation over the 20th century â€" it covered 106.7 ha in 1981, and over 200 ha in the 19th century (Boletín Glaciológico Aragonés, 2004). It is estimated that, in the last 100 years, it has lost more than half of its surface, and that in 30 or 40 years it may disappear.



Initially, the great mass of granite did not even have a name. There are indications that the shepherds and hunters from the southern valleys who perceived it referred to it as Malheta or Malahita or Punta. The first cultured traveler who caught sight of it from the port of Benasque, Louis Ramond de Carbonnières, would simply describe its appearance as needles of ice in 1787.

Finally, the highest point of the Pyrenees eventually inherited the name of a small town on the eastern side: Aneto. The French, on hearing the Argonese pronunciation of "Aneto", retained the last two clearly accentuated phonetic syllables, "ne" and "tu", ignoring the first syllable "a". On transcribing, the French name "Netou" was created. In transcribing, its French name, "Netou" was retained, even though the summit and slopes are completely within Spanish territory. Several maps of Gallic cartographers subsequently accepted the toponym referring to the peak as "Nethou", a nomenclature that is still used today. This is not the only denomination in France: Nelto, Nettou, Anetthou, Annetton, Anelthou, Nethom or Aréthon are other historical variants that persist.



Towards its side, further to the west, lies the Maladeta, that, though not being among the five highest peaks in the environment, took over the toponym that alluded to the entire massif. It subsequently earned the greatest interest of climbers, especially in the early 18th century. Mainly, it was a matter of perspective, since from the natural entrance to the valley or arriving from France, its top is in the foreground, while the crest hides the true extent of its eastern neighbor, taller and with larger glaciers. Only after Friedrich von Parrot reached the top of the Maladeta in 1817, that it was learned that both Aneto as well as its neighbors the Pico del Medio, the Punta Astorg, the Pico Maldito and la Aguja Schmidt Endell towered higher. Until then, the Monte Perdido had been considered the highest. However, the uncovering of the highest point of the Pyrenees had hardly been accomplished when the mountain began to earn a reputation, as several glacial disasters, some fatal, dissipated the interest in crowning it. In fact, the death of Luchon Barrau, considered the dean and leading expert in the area. He fell in a crack in the ice on Maladeta. This caused a real shock, and the natives, already very fearful of venturing on the glacier, took genuine panic of the mountain, which they considered cursed.



Aneto rises to 3404 meters above sea level in the center of the Pyrenees mountain range whose territories runs almost entirely along the border between France and Spain. The peak lies to the northeast of the province of Huesca and occupies the eastern end of the Malditos Mountains. The ridge that connects it with the famous Maladeta, further to the west, exceeds 3,000 meters high, and stands out in a row of peaks called Coronas, which, together with the crest of the portillons, gives the massif its characteristic image.

Although the valley is the source of the Ésera river, which flows towards the south, the snow of the Aneto and its glacier are filtered by a great gulf in Aigualluts to empty into the Aran Valley and the Garonne river, destined for France. The waters of the western and southern sides, however, meet in the Superior, Middle and Lower mountain lakes, then decline into the river Ballibierna after passing the Ibonet de Coronas.


This agglomeration of summits, all markedly Alpine is the birthplace of what were once the largest glaciers in the Pyrenees, which stretched up to the mouth of the Congosto Ventamillo with depths of ice several hundred meters thick. Today, global warming has reduced the portentous mass to eleven glaciers that total only three hundred acres. No one knows for sure the beginning of the melting process, but it has now accelerated rapidly, and it is expected that the Aneto permafrost and the glaciers of the Pyrenees could disappear starting in the middle of the 21st century.

There are three glaciers on the slopes of the mountain: the oldest, Aneto Glacier to the north, the Barrancos, alongside the Las Tempestades in the northeast, and the Coronas or Coronado glacier, in the south.

The rest cannot truly be defined as glaciers without contention, as they have lost all mobility and do not behave as such. Among these are the Cregüella, Alba and Salenques glaciers, which are in a major state of decline. However, even considering them as snowfields, their past glacier state has kept them to date and they are expected to maintain their icy heart for decades.


The mountain's ascent is usually made from the Renclusa Refuge (2,140 m). From there, the itinerary traverses the longest part of the glacier that extends to the north of the peak. The summit is defended by a short rocky passage called the Bridge of Mohammed. It is a narrow ridge of large, stable blocks, with an exposed drop on either side. At the summit is an impressive cross and a contrasting view, with the snow-covered Maladeta massif north and the Alto Aragon region to the south.

The usual ascent is a very easy alpine although a long (12 hour) route. It is taken by many people each year, including many with little or no experience of alpine climbing or high level walking. The number of people who come to climb Aneto each year is significant and makes a significant contribution to the local economy. The vast majority of the people staying at the Renclusa Refuge are there solely to climb Aneto. By comparison many of the adjacent peaks, which are arguably finer climbs, see relatively few ascents and are comparatively quiet.

§First ascent

On 18 July 1842, Platon de Tchihatcheff (ЧихачÑ'в, Chikhachev), a former Russian officer vacationing in Luchon, left from Bagnères-de-Luchon accompanied by guides Pierre Sanio de Luz, Luchonnais Bernard Arrazau and Pierre Redonnet. Also in the party were Albert de Franqueville, a Norman botanist, and his guide, Jean Sors. They took the trail from the Hospice de France, crossed the Benasque Pass, then spent the night at the La Renclusa shelter, a simple construction of dry rocks that is now a large mountain refuge.

The next day, they crossed a pass towards Alba pass and lost their way on the south slope around Lake Gregueña. Late in the day, at the end of their strength, they took refuge for the night in a cabin near the Vallibierna valley.

As the sun rose the next morning, the group left for the Coroné pass. Despite a fear of crevasses, they decided to approach the summit by the glacier. After climbing a ridge only a few metres wide (named the "Bridge of Muhammad" by Albert de Franqueville as it is believed, according to a Muslim legend that says that the entrance to Paradise is as narrow as the blade of a scimitar on which only the righteous pass), they reached the summit on 20 July 1842, where they constructed a cairn and left a bottle containing each climber's name. Tchihatcheff wanted to open a more direct route back across the glacier, but his companions flatly refused, forcing him to yield. Four days later he performed a second ascent with another group, pursuing the same objective that his first companions had denied him. On crossing the Portillon, in view of the cracks that furrowed the glacier, a mutiny almost started, but finally, after everyone tied themselves to a big rope, they crossed the chasms and the passage of Muhammad was defeated a second time.

Thereafter Aneto entered into the dynamics of dissemination and popularization of the Pyrenees peaks. In France, its ascension became a great classic and every spring tourist to Bagneres de Luchon had to try it. Henry Spont wrote a book reflecting on this experience, simply titled Le Néthou, describing the trip, the schedule and recommended equipment.

§First winter ascent

The first winter ascent of the mountain was achieved on 1 March 1878 by Roger de Monts, B. Courrèges, and B. and V. Paget.


The uniqueness of the massif and its appeal has led to the virtual abandonment of farming activities, replaced by tourism. The flora of the environment, therefore, has been impeccably conserved, especially on hillsides and massifs, where the forests remain in their primary state.

§Upper Alpine

This layer, which reaches 3,404 meters above sea level, is the one that presents greatest difficulties for the development of life. The harsh weather conditions that the plants have to endure at the top of the peaks, ridges and crests require the development of an extraordinary resilience. There are a number of factors to endure such as strong insolation, low temperatures and short growing seasons in the presence of snow most of the year.

Totally devoid of woody vegetation, it is colonized by no more than 100 plant species, as well as lichens and algae. 20% of these species are endemic to the Pyrenees. Among the flora present are the Androsace Vandelli, which is found at 2,800 meters, and the Silene acaulis.

§Air traffic boundary

An aviation intersection called ANETO exists very close to the mountain itself, exactly on the border of France and Spain. For pilots crossing the Pyrenees this intersection marks the boundary between the Bordeaux and Barcelona airspaces.

§See also

  • List of Pyrenean three-thousanders


§External links

  • (Spanish) Info on Climbing Aneto
  • Information on the glaciers of the Aneto-Maladeta area

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