Yesterday, Sunday 5th May, i skied the Far East. But no, i haven’t been to China or Tibet or Pakistan..i’m talking about the Far East of Peñalara. Such is the relief of the Peñalara massif that the prevailing west and northwest winds cause huge amounts of snow to accumulate on the East slopes of the mountain. The area that i typically ski all Winter (when there is snow!) is that of Dos Hermanas and Laguna de Peñalara..the Near East. Then there is the zone below the summit of Peñalara, also accessible when the weather is reasonably good but more serious avalanche terrain and inevitably a full day out..the Middle East. And then there is the vast Eastern domain of Claveles stretching down to Cinco Lagunas and north to Laguna de los Pájaros..and beyond – skiing here means good weather and a really long day out..it’s the Far East.
To get to the Claveles zone starting from Cotos you need to pass under the East face of Peñalara (you could also go over the top) and you will have to walk for a couple of hours before really beginning to ascend. My plan for the day was to begin by climbing a short gully that is known as El Corredor del Bloque Empotrado and possibly to ski the gully if i found it to be in condition..
Somewhat to my surprise, and despite the soft wet new snow of the slopes below, in the corredor i found only old snow and frozen hard even at midday..excellent for climbing but at over 50º not exactly attractive to ski. Given that i had had something of a close call on the steep northeast face of Hermana Mayor the previous day i decided to continue along the ridge to Pico de Claveles..
From the peak i skied down the spur and swung northeast to descend the gentle slopes towards Laguna de los Pájaros and then southeast to the Cinco Lagunas area finishing up at 1950m in Arroyo Pedriza. Though the by now superhumid new snow was not great to ski lower down, it was really wonderful to be in this place that i visit so rarely..and i’m not going to complain.
Then it was back up to the Claveles spur to ski down southeast and more or less towards home. On the way i stopped to observe some quite large natural sluffs..there were several but one in particular left heavy humid snow piled up a meter deep.
I finished the day by descending once more as far as Hoya de Pepe Hernando, then back up to the Laguna de los Pájaros trail where i changed back to hiking boots and home along the trail to Cotos.
A long day indeed but that’s what it means to ski the Far East!