After years of going to the mountains alone – very often – or occasionally with a partner, i recently joined a club and have rediscovered the curious experience of heading for the hills in the company of twenty or more other bodies. It would be dishonest of me to say that i was not in the least apprehensive about my first collective outing in many years, but it turned out well.
The activity started from el Valle de Hecho, on the Western edge of the Aragón – or central – Pyrenees, quite close to Navarra and the Basque region. The first day’s objective was Pico Bisaurín, 2670m, the high peak of the area.
From Refugio Gabardito, situated at 1380m in the upper Hecho Valley, it’s a long and relatively flat approach. While it didn’t promise much in the way of skiing down, it lacked nothing in terms of rugged beauty.
As we crossed the extensive flat terrain of the Plan de Dios Te Salve, the nature of our large group became more marked, stark even..emphasized by the great white open space.
To be all alone on this high snowy plain – i thought to myself – must be quite a sensation..but the presence of the group, the line of humans progressing towards their objective, the fact of belonging to the collective, was also something of a special experience..
..and while, for an odd moment or two, i might have missed the loneliness, i was also – and this surprised me a little – really getting the group thing. Yes, i too can be a herd animal..(!) (or maybe rather than herd i ought to say pack? As in pack of.. powderhounds?)
Shortly after this, as we approached the Collado del Foratón, there was something of a spontaneous disgregation, with different elements of the group separating and choosing alternative lines of ascent. I went for a more direct line towards the col, crossing an icy slope directly rather than lose meters to take a more relaxed approach.
I thus inadvertently found myself out in front, with most of the group well below me. I didn’t realize it but the two people whose line i was vaguely following were not actually members of my group at all, but fellow travellers.
And so as we moved into the steep section of the climb, that old – and oft desired – sensation of solitude did not abandon me. It didn’t last for too long however as Carlos soon caught up with me.
There are multiple advantages to being accompanied in the mountains, not least among them you have somebody to take photographs of your worthy self.
In the following photo you will appreciate two things: the terrain is definitely not flat any more, and i am clearly posing and smiling for the shot.
Finally we reached the top of Bisaurín. Cold. Wonderful to look all around. Peaks of the Western Pyrenees. Mesa de los Tres Reyes, Pic d’Anie, Castillo d’Acher, etc. And looking East towards the Central Pyrenees, Aspe, Collarada, Anayet, Midi d’Ossau, Palas, Balaïtus, Infiernos, and so on.
To the North a multitude of snow-covered peaks of the French Pyrenees that i do not know. And to the South the deep valleys of the Spanish side, in luscious blue and brilliant white contrast.
We waited for twenty minutes, having transitioned to downhill mode and taken the few photos that cold hands would allow..and just when about to ski off the top, several others from the group appeared along the summit ridge. We hung on a little longer but the cold slowly grew severe. At the urging of the others, we gladly slid valleywards.
It was not only the cold that urged us downwards..the clearly forecast deterioration of the weather in the mid-afternoon was upon us. The clouds were coming in and flatlight conditions were threatening. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable ski in moderately steep terrain with somewhat heavy but stable new snow. After regrouping in the upper Barranco del Foratón we quickly made tracks for the lower valley, as the weather rapidly went downhill. Snowflakes began to fall..
We were back at the trailhead well before dark..and back to the small hotel in the village of Siresa before seven, shower, drinks, dinner, all in all a convivial evening. Activities organized by a club have their advantages!