Foreigners are no strangers to the heights of the Sierra de Guadarrama. Guiris*, Spanish colloquial word for foreigners of European origin, were among the first to frequent the Sierra for the purpose of scientific investigation from the early 19th century and were later also among the first mountaineers to enjoy the Winter wonders of Guadarrama. Their names and nationalities are etched into the landscape: camino Schmid, pinar de los belgas, loma del noruego, camino Puricelli, ducha de los alemanes etc. Over the years i’ve gotten used to bumping into foreigners of all kinds when out and about in the mountains. But even more so recently, some days to the point where you could play.. spot the Spaniard!
For instance, last May i went one Sunday to climb and ski the East face of Peñalara. There weren’t too many people about earlier in the morning as my partner and i hiked towards Cinco Lagunas and climbed to the top. But on reaching the summit we found a regular crowd, including one large group speaking English in various accents along with some other tongues. We skied down to the bottom of the East face and my partner decided to head home as he was expected for lunch. I headed back to the summit for another ski. There, while i was preparing for the descent, a guy with a big camera came over and asked politely in faltering Spanish if he could take some shots of me skiing down. I said sure and asked him where he was from.. Canada. We talked a little in the angular tongue and then down i went, once more finding myself quickly at the bottom and skiing away from the face and down a last small slope with heavy wet snow where i came to a stop close to a group returning from the Laguna de los Pájaros. We began to converse in Spanish about the changing weather and the amazing quantity of snow at the end of May.. after a minute or two one of them said to me “where are you from?” Obviously i’m Irish..as was he and one of his pals, both long time Iberian residents like myself. And on the way back to Cotos, on the Laguna trail i passed two or three more groups of non-nationals.. guiris, seemingly taking over Guadarrama. Well, yes..there were lots of locals about too, but the percentage of guiris was very high. If i ran into something like one hundred people that day, around fifteen of them – as far as i could tell, i didn’t hear them all speak – were foreigners.
* Guiri (pronounced ghEE-Ree) is contemporary, colloquial Spanish, something like American Spanish gringo, but much less pejorative. In contemporary usage it typically refers to Caucasian foreigners of (West) European or North American origin. Africans or Chinese, for example, are not guiris (excepting maybe white South Africans). South Americans are not guiris. Eastern Europeans are not usually guiris. It’s not too clear if a black North American hanging out with a group of his white Anglo-american friends in Plaza Mayor would be a guiri ..?