Protest!

Fridays for future..we’ve been out on the streets these last two Fridays, protesting.

¡NO HAY PLANETA B!

That makes four or five Fridays so far this year.. Does it make a difference? Can young (and old) people in the street put pressure on (mainly old) people in positions of power to make real changes? ..to stop burning our planet?

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Posted in Climate change, Conservation | Tagged | 1 Comment

Black August

The hillside above La Granja marked by wildfire.

The hillside above La Granja marked by wildfire.

This last month of August has indeed been a black one..for many reasons. On the last day of July, late in the afternoon, my ten-year-old son tripped and fell in a relatively innocent way while walking down the lower Lliterola Valley in Benasque..it didn’t seem like a terrible fall, but he was in pain, and the grass was glowing fluorescent. Back in town a couple of hours later that evening, he was in better shape but could not use his right hand. Next day, early on the morning of the 1st of August, a doctor at the regional hospital in Barbastro diagnosed a broken bone in the hand..the clean fracture in the middle metacarpal was clearly visible in the X-ray.

A small accident, not a big deal if compared to others..fourteen people were to lose their lives in various accidents in the Spanish Pyrenees this Summer. Nevertheless it was the end of our vacation as far as outdoor family activities were concerned, this being day four of two weeks in the Pyrenees..no visit to the range’s dying glaciers, no first three-thousand-meter peak for my son, no kayaking..and no more outdoor-active Summer in general, no rock-climbing, no biking, no swimming at least until September.

So, having decided to cut our stay short and come home early, we were heading back to the center of the Peninsula at the end of that first week of August..when news of a wild fire in Sierra de Guadarrama began to filter thru. Not one fire but two, in fact, at two different locations, one to the South in the vicinity of Puerto de la Morcuera and the other to the North having its origin close to La Granja. The Sierra burned for several days, particularly the blaze on the Segovia side. Were it not for massive human and machine intervention, the consequences might have been much worse..even so, over 400 hectares burned in the La Granja wildfire and 300 in La Morcuera. It may not sound like a lot in comparison with a million hectares burning in the Amazon or three million in Siberia..but we don’t have that much Sierra.

The not so scenic view from the Royal Gardens of La Granja.

The not so scenic view from the Royal Gardens of La Granja.

And then at the month’s end, as if all this were not enough, another drama took place on the stage of the Guadarrama mountains.. Blanca Fernandez Ochoa was the only Spanish woman to win a Winter Olympic medal, and her bronze in 1992 was only the second ever Spanish Winter medal after her brother Francisco won gold in 1972. Two further bronze medals were added to the Spanish haul as late as 2018. In 1988 in Calgary Blanca had led the pack after the first run in Giant Slalom, but unfortunately fell in the second run. In those same Olympics she placed fifth overall in Slalom, and that year in the World Cup she placed fourth overall. So finally taking third place in the Slalom event at Albertville in 1992, in what was her fourth and last Olympic participation, and thereby winning a medal was a considerable reward after much frustration.

Back home she received a hero’s welcome. Her life after giving up skiing seems to have been an ongoing slalom, with ups and downs..maybe not so different from many other lives. An early marriage followed quickly by divorce, another marriage, two children, another, apparently acrimonious, divorce. Her professional life also saw fluctuations and swings of fortune, ebbing and flowing from running small businesses to appearing on reality tv shows..it would appear that in recent times she was finding it hard, and feeling forgotten and even abandoned. She had also suffered from bipolar disorder since early in her life, and it seems reasonable to think that this may have been a factor in decisions she made this last month of August. Whatever her motivations, on the 24th of August she decided to hike up the mountains that had seen her grow one last time..and on reaching a secluded spot, in all probability that same afternoon-evening she took her own life.

What followed was one of those human circus events that make it difficult to distinguish tragedy from comedy. Her family did not realise the seriousness of her disappearance for some days..after the authorities were eventually alerted and her car was located parked in the Fuenfria Valley, a huge search operation was mounted. Hundreds of forestry agents, police, firefighters and volunteers spent four days combing certain specific areas of the Sierra accompanied by multiple vehicles, helicopters, drones..and all to no avail. All this massive activity was supervised by hundreds of journalists. In the end Blanca’s decomposing body was located by an off-duty policeman and his dog some ten days after her disappearance. By which time the media circus had acquired gigantic proportions..and the amplification of this personal tragedy was truly overwhelming.

Now they are going to name sports centers, streets, ski runs after her..too little, too late?

 

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Black and yellow fauna!

Common Salamander

Common Salamander, it’s not everyday you see one..but not that unusual either.

What's this?

What’s this?

A wasp? But not the usual ones..

A wasp? But not one of the usual ones..

Potter wasp..had to look it up!

Potter wasp..had to look it up!

Curious..

Curious..

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Cool Summer so far..

Rock climbing season is underway!

Rock climbing season is underway! (Foto: Carmen)

What a strange year it’s been so far! Summery conditions to start the year, days and days of sun in January followed by a week of Winter at the month’s end, with rain and snowfall. Then two almost completely dry, sun-filled months in February-March, Springy-Summer, succeeded by a kind of return to Winter in April-May with many days of rain and snowfall. Things heated up in second half of May, but then we had a relatively very cool month of June until the heatwave that threatens these last days of the month. Weird weather indeed (once again!)..

Hiking towards Peñalara

Hiking towards Peñalara

So this cool June has been perfect for outdoor activities, and we’ve been getting out there, rock-climbing, mountain biking, hiking, shooting arrows in the forest, and more.

Archer about to shoot!

Archer about to shoot!

Riding the mountain train to Puerto de Navacerrada allows for cool downhill biking in the evenings on the days that the temps do go up a bit..

Downhill biking..in the shade!

Downhill biking..in the shade!

The tops of the mountains still retain the last vestiges of Winter (even if a very scarce one) though the residual snowfields gradually dwindle..doesn’t look like they will make it to July this year.

Hiking past the last small snowfields

Hiking past the last small snowfields

 

 

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Luck and Cap de Llauset – they seem to go together!

Back at Cap de Llauset in the month of May once more..and once more with a weather forecast that left a lot to be desired. And once more, luck was on our side.. ‘audaces fortuna iuvat’ maybe? The proverb dating from classical times says that fortune favours the audacious..but i wouldn’t push it too far with the weather in the mountains.

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Incredible event..!

An incredible event at the top of Hermana Mayor, a mountain of 2270m in the Sierra de Guadarrama, after two ‘Winter’ months, February and March, without a single snowflake – hardly even a drop of rain – on the last day of March 2019..it snowed! Snow fell!!

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The Winter that never was

The Winter that never was..apart from a single week at the end of January-beginning of February. The one-week Winter. It’s true that we had a few days of serious snowfall at end October, followed by quite a lot of rain in November. The first half of December offered some days of wintry sensations..but by the time the calendar Winter rolled in, the anticyclone was firmly installed over southern Europe and the sun was beating down. January continued in the same vein – sun, sun, sun – until about the 20th when the weather finally changed and a couple of Atlantic storms blew in bringing some days of rain, snow and high winds. But it was all over by the first days of February, the anticyclone was back in place and there it stayed thru the rest of ‘Winter’ into Spring..an incredible eight weeks with hardly a drop of rain or a flake of snow, rare clouds the odd day, the skies dominated day after day after day by the sun, very mild temps..weird weather indeed.

Things were looking good in early February

Things were looking good in early February, cirque and laguna of Peñalara.

A visit to 'Bola del Mundo' at the end of February..the snow was holding out despite the sun.

A visit to ‘Bola del Mundo’ at the end of February..the snow was holding out despite the sun.

Early March, it's getting dryer, but still plentiful snow in some places..

Early March, it’s getting dryer, but still plentiful snow in some places..

..some areas in the distance betray bareness.

..some areas in the distance betray bareness.

In general snow on South faces is disappearing fast..

In general snow on South faces is disappearing fast..

..forcing us to turn to North faces, North of Citores.

..forcing us to turn to North faces, North of Citores.

North of Citores, still looking good, mid-March..

North of Citores, still looking good, mid-March..

..if you don't look around too much.

..if you don’t look around too much.

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