Last week i got to spend some days in the Pyrenees with father-and-son team Angel and Diego. There are probably plenty of fathers and sons – and not a few mothers and daughters either – skiing in the Pyrenees. But you don’t see too many kids skiing the high peaks of the Maladetas, with a dozen or more summits well above 3000m, in their early teens.
On the first day we set out from La Besurta (1900m) which lies below the Renclusa Hut and headed for Pico Cordier, a snow-capped summit in the Western Maladetas. Temperatures had dropped in previous days and even at midday with the sun shining it still felt cool as we approached 3000m.
The cold meant that the snow remained very hard on North-facing slopes above 3000m and we changed to crampons as the terrain got progressively steeper on the ramps leading to Pico Cordier.
The final section below the summit is a mini-couloir that reaches 40º and with hard frozen snow you need to place your feet well in order to get up it. But no problem for Diego, who stepped up resolutely under the watchful eye of his Dad.
Coming out on the summit ridge the wind really began to let us know that we were high up in the mountains..just in case anybody had forgotten. In the few meters that remained to the top it went from cool to freezing.
At this point i abandoned Angel and Diego taking the rare opportunity to ski down the South-West Face of Cordier in good conditions. The snow was still pretty hard at first but later softened up quickly..as did the weather, the freezing wind chill of the summit instantly giving way to warm summery sensations. Rather than descend all the way to Laguna de Cregüeña i stopped about half-way and headed back up to Cordier and then down the North side in pursuit of Angel and Diego, who were waiting at about 2900m. The snow down to that point on the Northern slopes was still very hard but loosened up a bit thereafter and even threatened to be enjoyable as we descended to La Renclusa.
We had a relaxing evening at the Renclusa Hut and a good night’s sleep before setting out once more next morning. The objective for the second day was Pico Aneto, monarch of the Pyrenees. We climbed at a good pace to the Portillon and then headed across the Aneto Glacier towards the summit. This long traverse above 3000m often seems to take forever, especially when the day warms up and you are feeling the altitude, but on this day we seemed to move quite quickly. However when we arrived close to Collado de Coronas (3190m) the wind made its presence felt anew and things suddenly seemed much cooler. Diego despite having put another thousand plus meters of uphill behind him gave no indication of tiredness, so on we went. From that point the snow was also hard frozen and showing no signs of softening, so we decided to proceed up the steeper ramps below the summit with crampons and axes.
Then finally came the part that so many dread..the twenty or so meters of rocky ridge that separate the end of the snow ramp from the summit. The notorious Puente de Mahomé – “Mohammed’s Bridge” – which has to be crossed to gain the Paradise that is the summit of Aneto. Angel used the rope to belay Diego along the ridge and soon we were on top.
A few quick photos at the top..and then carefully back along the ridge, where a vertical kilometer and a half of down awaited.
Having safely made it to the other side once more it was time for me to decide if i wanted to ski the upper ramps in their still white asphalt state. I opted to descend a little further in crampons before switching to skis..and tasting the strange pleasures of sliding on the hard stuff with wide boards. Thankfully the snow began to loosen up below Collado de Coronas and we could all enjoy the descent from there on..
There was even some really loose snow further down where it was possible to let the horses run a bit..cool! And we were soon down to the plateau above Barrancs looking back up at the Aneto glacier.
From there we skied out the valley bottom known as Barrancs to reach Aigualluts (2025m) where the snow ran out and the descent came to a finish. Diego even admitted to being tired!
And there was more.. but that’ll have to wait for another day!