Why do people go to the mountains?
Because we are drawn by their beauty, by the incomparable sensations that the mountains provoke in us, because the experience of being in the mountains stirs our soul in a way that few other things do.
But going to the mountains is not only beautiful, it can also be dangerous. Witness the terrible death-count of this last weekend..six people lost their lives in different accidents in the Sierras of the center and north. Six people like you or me who were happy or excited on Friday evening or Saturday morning to be heading to the mountains for the weekend..six people who came home from the mountains in a box. They will never again be happy or excited, or sad or angry, about anything. Some might say that it’s a high price to pay for having fun in the hills.
In the mountains dwell dragons.
Ice dragon spotted on Hermana Menor last week
You’re not convinced? The nature of the beast is unclear? Well, take a look at this one from a couple of years back..
Frozen rime dragon..frozen in time
Can you doubt it? Do you not see the saliva dripping frozen from his terrible mouth? ..the coiled power of his tensed rear leg ready to defreeze, uncoil and pounce?
Yes, there is great beauty to be found in the mountains.
There are also very real dragons to be found in the mountains.
Last weekend there was also an accident in Guadarrama, on the steep frozen slopes of Cabezas de Hierro..not fatal but still serious and requiring heli-rescue. Maybe surprisingly, it did not involve an avalanche. I say maybe surprisingly because of the multiple and enormous avalanches that occurred during the earlier part of last week as a consequence of the massive amount of precipitation that fell over the previous weekend. When speaking of snow science in North American English it is typical to refer to factors of instability in the snowpack as dragons. So you have invisible dragons, hidden dragons, sleeping dragons..and so on.
Avalanche debris from a major slide above the Laguna Crande
I have never seen slides in Guadarrama as big as those of last week (and there have been very considerable avalanches in recent years)..nor extending over such a large area.
Looking towards Dos Hermanas, various slide paths and crown fractures can be observed. You can also see the frozen Laguna in the bottom left corner.
Probably most of these slides ocurred while the storm was still blowing, or soon afterwards, thereby limiting the possibility of accidents involving skiers or climbers.
Here you can see the debris reaching right down to the Laguna
Though in Guadarrama you never know..lots of people get out even in the worst weather imaginable. Myself included.
Looking in the opposite direction (towards Peñalara), the run-out of another big slide from the east of Hermana Menor
So..let’s be careful out there.