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.
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.
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..
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.
The first days offered magnificent views from the summits, with practically no cloud build-up of any significance.
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.
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!
Above 2700-2800m the fresh snow did however slow us down..
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..
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.