2019-2020, warm Winter of death

As a portent, the death of Blanca Fernández Ochoa at the end of last Summer wasn’t the best. No better were the fires that burned in Guadarrama over the Summer.

In November we had surprisingly good snowfall – see the video we made on Nov 24th – with half a meter of consolidated snow on the ground..but nobody believed it would last. It didn’t. A misery of rain and pissing mist slowly wiped out the snowpack in the first weeks of December. One of the last days that it was possible to ski, the 7th of December, i was coming home on a packed mountain train in the late afternoon. We’d already had some delays and mishaps – the train broke down in the tunnel under Puerto de Navacerrada – and were running well over an hour behind schedule..when we hit two women walking on the track just below the old Siete Picos station.  As luck would have it, they were in the worst possible place when the train came upon them – how did they not hear it coming? – ..they were on a small bridge over Río Pradillo, making escape much more difficult than in any other spot. According to the driver, the train only ‘brushed’ them aside..unfortunately being brushed aside in this particular spot amounted to a fall of five or six meters to the rocks in the stream bed below the bridge. One of the women was badly injured, the other died.

In the first days of the New Year, we did a little hard-snow climbing on Peñalara’s East face – see the video we made on January 03 – finding 45-50º ramps of bullet-proof snow. Not a place to fall. My son went back to school after Reyes (the 6th of Jan) to the terrible news that one of his schoolmates, a kid he played with occasionally, had died of a brain tumour over the holidays.

Barely a week later, on Sunday the 12th of January, a man fell to his death on the East face of Peñalara..not far from where we had been climbing in the New Year.

After weeks of gloom, the snow returned in the final third of January..to coincide with the San Sebastian holiday in Cercedilla (20th of Jan). Surprisingly, once again, almost a meter of snow fell in four or five days..so the season was saved? The consolidation of the Winter of San Sebastian..? A few ‘powder’ days? A few days of good skiing, yes.  But there was no consolidation..and the season was not saved. Not this time. More light rain and the vicious pissing mist, in the last five days of January, once more attacked the seemingly generous and semi-consolidated snowpack. By the first of February it was all gone, utterly wiped out once more.

We have not known such desolation..in my time in Sierra de Guadarrama.

 

 

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Peñalara, easy hard-snow climbing

It’s weird..after late November and early December with the Sierra covered in snow..to arrive at Cotos in early January to find not a patch, not a shred of the white stuff. The mountains are apparently snowless. Washed clean by the rain and mist of December..month of meteorological misery and unnatural temperatures, as so often in recent times. But there is snow..for those who know! You have to hike a bit to get to it, but it’s there alright. Even enough for 350 vertical meters of climbing..on Peñalara’s East face. Hard-frozen snow, excellent for climbing..and not so good for skiing.

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So..it’s back to Autumn

Like i said..it was too good to be true. Winter starting in November in Sierra de Guadarrama..that’s something that belongs to the past. I guess you could say that it was a false start, at best. And it was good while it lasted..almost three weeks! Then followed three weeks of wind and rain..and warmish temps and mist and more rain. And more wind. Practically no snow left at this point. So..it’s back to Autumn.

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Autumn..in Cotos, 2019

Autumn in Guadarrama..once upon a time you would have expected snow from early November onward, but not any more. Or if snow does fall – and it does – you expect it to be quickly frazzled by the sun beating down week after week..or washed away by torrents of rain, ephemeral. But this year the snow is there, solidly and in some quantity. Quality is not bad either. Skiing without polishing rocks in mid-November..that’s a throwback in time. Will it last? Dunno. Make hay while the sun shines!

The brave among us would even say it looks like Winter..brash?

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Winter?!

A little bit hard to believe..and too good to be true..but, for the moment, yes, it looks like Winter..and it’s only mid-November!

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Otoño!

Autumn has arrived..with its magic of fallen leaves.

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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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