Finally Pyrenees!

Ski-tracks on Pico Culivillas

Ski-tracks on the summit ridge of Pico Culivillas

I usually get to the Pyrenees a couple of times every Winter-Spring to do some climbing and skiing..and this year i’ve made plans several times to go, but for one reason or another i’ve had to put it off again and again – until last weekend. Starting with a visit to Valle de Tena on Saturday, the objective was Pico Culivillas, a mountain which dominates the ski resort of Formigal.

Pico Culivillas, in the center of the foto, seen from the road to El Portalet

Pico Culivillas, in the center of the foto, seen from the road to El Portalet

In this exceptional year of snow it was possible to move on skis immediately from the car-park, making the approach to the peak very quick.

Culivillas, again in the center, from the near the car-park. To the left and further away, Pico Royo.

Culivillas, again in the center, from the near the car-park. To the left and further away, Pico Royo.

The mountain rises up majestically as you get nearer, its North face looking steep and very attractive to ski..as is the case with several other peaks and steep lines in the area.

Summit arête, steep entry couloir, snowfield and steep exit couloir (lower left), looking good!

Summit arête, steep entry couloir, snowfield and steep exit couloir (lower left), looking good!

On the way we deviated slightly from the ascent route to climb Pico Royo, a secondary peak to the East of Culivillas.

Marcos climbing Pico Royo, the spectacular Midi d'Ossau in the distance

Marcos climbing Pico Royo, the spectacular Midi d’Ossau in the distance

Unfortunately the surface layer of recent snow on the North face of Pico Royo did not look good for ski, so we had to climb back down and continue ..beautiful summit nonetheless.

Me on top, looking towards the main summit of Culivillas (Foto: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

Me on top, looking towards the main summit of Culivillas (Foto: Marcos Fernandez de Moya)

And continue we did, moving quickly along the snowy ridge which led to Culivillas as the weather threatened to complicate the day, clouds suddenly coming in and closing down visibility. Fortunately they dispersed as quickly as they had appeared..returning us to bluebird conditions.

Marcos on the way to the summit

Marcos on the way to the summit

The descent from the top along the ridge was a little exposed with vertical cliffs to the North and steep bare rock to the South but offered nice creamy snow. We moved cautiously searching for the entry couloir to the North face, which let itself be found without too much difficulty but presented somewhat crusty snow.

Approaching the grassy top

Approaching the grassy top, in the background Pico Royo can be seen in the middle distance plus our descent route along the arête at first and then down to the left.. (Foto: Marcos)

Then big free turns on the snowfield and once more in search of the correct entry point to the steep exit couloir ..which was less obvious and offered slightly dangerous sluffy snow plus a constriction right at the end which made for “interesting” skiing. After the couloir it was down to the pistes of the resort and the car-park.

The following day we started from Canfranc -with its amazing international station- in Valle del Aragón and headed for Somport. Due to the weather looking a little unfavourable we changed our initial plans for more North face skiing and prudently settled for a more relaxed day of activity. We climbed the South and skied the East face of Pic Benoú, a peak on the border with France which dominates the Astún ski resort.

The clouds play with Pic Benoú

The clouds play with Pic Benoú, center photo, seen from La Raca (Foto: Marcos)

The South-facing slopes of this mountain showed evidence of considerable avalanche activity during the Winter. Near the top we devised  a huge cornice thru the playful clouds..at first we could not work out what it was that we were occasionally able to glimpse, but as we got closer it became clear..a vertical cornice up to 7-8m high.

Marcos below the cornice

Marcos below the cornice

We spent a pleasant hour on top of the mountain..as the clouds disappeared and left us another bluebird day. And then skied down the East face..

Ready to ride..

Ready to ride..

On the upper slopes we had wide open snowfields and the quality of the snow could hardly have been better..perfect creamy corn, just right for big fast turns.

On the down..in the sun..

On the down..in the sun..harvesting the corn.. (Foto: Marcos)

The lower slopes of the mountain offered more challenging skiing with steeper terrain plus some big crevasses..and dodging between the avalanche barriers which protect the resort.

And we had time for one more ski up and down in the afternoon on the opposite side of the valley, before heading home in the early evening.. half a thousand kilometers to the Southern slopes of Guadarrama. I do love the Sierra de Guadarrama but sometimes it occurs to me that it wouldn’t be bad to live a little closer to El Pirineo!

Advertisements

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 ski, snow and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Finally Pyrenees!

  1. Marcos says:

    It seems it´s snowing there again… let´s try Aspe next weekend!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s