Sometimes the unexpected occurs..and life surprises!
For several years now we’ve had little or no useful snow in December in the Sierra de Guadarrama – useful that is, from the admittedly narrow point of view of a backcountry or mountain skier.
However this December things are a little different. We haven’t had huge quantities of the white stuff, but above 2000m there has been a fairly reasonable accumulation in some areas and in certain orientations, this last due to the mysterious ways of the wind. And yes..there’s enough of those white frozen crystals piled up to make for some alright skiing.
What’s more – and this is really surprising – there’s even enough snow to make ski-touring possible, a ski-tour being something that implies covering considerable distances and elevation gains (and drops!) in the day while travelling over the mountains.
So my buddy Felix and i set out, the other day, to do a little ski-tour starting from Puerto de Navacerrada. We headed up towards El Alto de Guarramillas (Bola del Mundo, 2262m) and from the top skied down the other side into the quaintly named El Ventisquero de la Condesa, a toponym which might be loosely translated as “the Countess’s Blizzard-Zone”..! A ventisquero is a place where ventiscas or blizzards occur, and it’s also used to designate great accumulations of snow.
From down in the valley – where the River Manzanares rises – at just below 2000m, we skinned back up to the top of the next mountain heading East, Cerro de Valdemartín, 2282m. The whiteness of this mountain is often dramatically visible from Madrid in Winter..and this year is no exception.
Looking East from Valdemartín offered the wonderful prospect of Cabezas de Hierro, 2380m, second eminence of Guadarrama, and views into the Lozoya Valley. The “Iron Heads” seemed well covered in snow too!
We skied off the top heading SouthEast towards the Arroyo de Valdemartín area, traditionally a place where you are guaranteed to find good snow. To our hurt surprise just below the summit we encountered a stretch of extremely shallow snow and did some rock polishing with the bases of our boards. Fortunately, further down the snow was good as expected and made it possible to really let the skis rip.
Once more below 2000m, it was time to put skins back on skis..but now we had to choose between continuing East and heading up towards Cabezas – which would make for a really long day – or back towards where we had come from. Partly influenced by minor damage to ski bases we decided to head back.
We looked longingly back in the direction of Cabezas de Hierro, but knew that our legs would thank us for being merciful..and that the solstice day is only so long and that night comes quick and sudden in Winter.
Felix insisted on us shooting a selfie before leaving the top of Valdemartín again..though he was out of battery, so..yes, “your wish is my command, Sir” it was, et voilà!
I’m sorry that i have no heroic ski shots to post but, as usual, we were too busy enjoying the ski to bother with fotos. So, we skied back down towards the Manzanares and the Countess’s Blizzard-Bowl, once more letting skis rip in abundant creamy snow for a good part of the descent. All too soon it was time to trudge back upwards again.
The sun was now dipping in the western sky, throwing ever longer shadows, and the snow was starting to refreeze under our skis..adding a little challenge to skinning up with legs growing tired, and the cold began to bite for the first time in the day.
Last summit of the day was Bola del Mundo, the weirdly named “Ball of the World” once more, where we stopped to talk for a while – glad that there was no more climbing to be done – and take in the dreamy views to the West.
We started our last descent of the day towards Puerto de Navacerrada, doing a tad more rock polishing in the upper part of the piste that drops sharply down from the top-station and then finding some slightly crusted snow that required more careful skiing. Still, an interesting descent..we had gotten quite bored with all that sweet creamy snow from earlier in the day(!)..and when the snow began to peter out at the end we stopped, took skis off and walked down the last fifty meters or so.
So, a ski-tour of 12-13km and just under 1300m of elevation gain..and drop of course – that’s the fun part! What you climb is what you get to ski. Not bad, even pretty good for pre-Christmas in Guadarrama.