Early Spring skiing in la Maladeta

Spring is the season for mountain skiing. Particularly for Big Mountain skiing. Even in the Guadarrama where we don’t have any really big mountains, Spring is usually the best time to ski the bigger, steeper lines of Peñalara’s East face for example. But this year even Peñalara has very little snow in comparison to other, more normal years when it has been possible to ski well into May. Fortunately it has snowed a bit more in the North of the country, and the Pyrenees – even though it has been a poor year there too – have a good deal of snow in some areas, particularly the high central Pyrenees of Aragon, the Maladeta.

So I headed up there with a friend last Friday to take advantage of a few days of good weather just before the traditional Semana Santa full moon washout. We arrived in Benasque valley late in the evening and hiked the 400m vertical to the Renclusa Hut as night fell, sometimes losing the trail in the dark and even with skis on feet breaking thru 30-40cm of crusty snow. Just before 10pm we finally reached the hut which would be home for the next four days.

The Renclusa Hut, 2140m, Benasque valley.

The Renclusa Hut, 2140m, Benasque valley.

In the following days we climbed and skied several 3000m peaks in the area, generally enjoying good weather and snow conditions, and low avalanche risk.

On the up..

On the up..

Temperatures were relatively high and this made for sweaty climbing once the sun began to hit, though it was nice to be on the summits, where sometimes you can hardly stand up, with barely a whiff of wind..

From the summit of Aneto, highest point of the Pyrenees, looking back down the short rocky ridge known as El Puente de Mahoma, with almost absolute calm.

From the summit of Aneto, highest point of the Pyrenees, looking back down the short rocky ridge known as El Puente de Mahoma, with almost absolute calm.

Each day consisted of the same routine, up with the dawn, breakfast and then up the mountainside, reaching a summit around midday, usually including some slightly more complicated final section, steeper climbing, a rock ridge or a snowy arête.

On the up once more..  (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

On the up once more.. (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

Climbing steeper terrain..

Climbing steeper terrain..

The first days offered magnificent views from the summits, with practically no cloud build-up of any significance.

Summit of Pico de Alba, looking towards la Maladeta Cccidental.  (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

Summit of Pico de Alba, looking towards la Maladeta Cccidental. (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

And of course what goes up must come down..and what better way to do it than skiing! In this case, the skiing was great, on perfect early-afternoon corn snow.

Skiing the Maladeta corn!  (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

Skiing the Maladeta corn! (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

The third day saw a change in the weather with poor visibility and the weird phenomenon of snowfall with relatively high local temperatures, around 8 to 9ºC. This did not stop us from getting up the mountain!

Overcast conditions..with snow on the way.  (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

Overcast conditions..with snow on the way. (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

Above 2700-2800m the fresh snow did however slow us down..

On the Maladeta Glacier. How little we are in the big mountains..  (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

On the Maladeta Glacier. How little we are in the big mountains.. (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

This same soft, fresh powder of course made the first part of the descent very, very sweet..though we had to wait the better part of an hour for a little light to break thru the clouds and offer enough visibility to allow fluent skiing. But the wait was worth it..

Powder turns below the Maladeta in low light.  (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

Powder turns below the Maladeta in low light. (Photo: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

The following day the worsening weather scenario convinced us to descend to the valley and head home, but once again I have to thank la Maladeta for wonderful moments..and for just being there, offering such a deep experience of Nature in its most pristine and even primordial form. Gracias, Maladeta.

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About coldspringdays

Éireannach is ea mé, i mo chonaí insan Spáinn. Rugadh mé i lár na tuaithe, ar feadh blianta bhí mé ag teitheadh uaithi, i bhfad as an tuath, ach sa deireadh d'fhill mé, ar ais go dtí an tuath.. An Irishman am I, settled in Spain. Born was I in the middle of the country, for years I ran from it, far from the country, but in the end I returned, back to the country..
This entry was posted in Nature, ski, snow, the seasons, Weather and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Early Spring skiing in la Maladeta

  1. Marcos says:

    Great entry and photos. I hope we can climb Mont Blanc together next year. See you soon. Marcos.

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