Believe it or not..yes! It’s usually possible to climb ice in the Sierra de Guadarrama from sometime in December to late March..and in a good year – which this was not – even into early April. I think the latest I’ve climbed ice to date has been April the 10th or 11th. But in this year of incredibly weird weather, with wintry conditions persisting right thru to the end of April – where were they in December, January and March? – it seems that anything is possible.
So the other day (Sunday, 22 April) I headed towards Cabezas de Hierro to see what I might find there. At about 2100m on the north face of this mountain is generally the most reliable place to find climbable ice in the Sierra. There was around 20cm of snow above 1700m, at 1850m this became more like 40cm or sinking in to the knee, just before coming out of the woods below La Cabeza de Hierro Mayor. Looking across to the other side of the valley, Peñalara appeared whiter than at any time this year so far.
As I worked my way up towards the icefalls I saw that there were a couple of other groups of people ahead of me obviously with ideas similar to mine. Getting closer to La Cabeza Mayor it became clear that there was indeed sufficient ice to climb, maybe not abundant but enough..the phenomenon of frozen waterfalls – waterfall ice – maintaining itself till the last week of April!
I had to wait in line a while as the group ahead of me roped up and began to climb; the temperature while not exactly warm was well above zero, meaning that the ice though easy to climb would not offer great security. When my turn came I quickly moved up the icefall and after about 20m on finishing the steeper part – not very steep, maximum 60º – I worked my way out to the left and climbed back down on easier terrain.
What a weird, weird year! And what next? Anyone for Summer skiing in El Sistema Central??..!