Snowshoeing in Spain? What? Sounds funny, but it’s true! I was hiking to two mountain cabins in three days in the north of Spain with my snowshoes. I made a part of the path carros de foc – charriots of fire. Maybe for this time of the year not a completely fitting name 😉
I’m not that sporty as the first men going the carros de foc who made it back then in only one day – but in summer (how easy is that…). Because of that I accommodate myself first into the cozy Hotel Saurat in Espot. The whole place still has the charm of an old mountain village. Few houses, most of them made of stone. Some quaint bars, two, three country stores and a handful of hotels. In fact, it could directly be from a fourties trashy novel. “My” hotel has the advantage of letting me park my rental car on the hotel’s car park and store the rest of my luggage until Sunday. Thank you very much 🙂
The next morning I’m ready to go: the snowshoes firmly stapled on my backpack I march in the direction of Torre del Moros which overlooks the village. After about one kilometer the path branches off to the right down the valley. The snow is tightly packed and leads me up to the mountains. Soon I dive into a light birch forest nicely illuminated by the sun. At the end of this short wooded area is already the first of many meandering lakes – that’s the translation of the National Park name Aigüestortes, where I am.
It’s hard to find the correct way through the following conifer forest in winter. At least that’s what I can read from the chosen path of my forerunners. With my snowshoes still mounted on my backpack, I jog now and then into trees. More than once I have to bend my knees to crawl beneath branches. Finally on a steep path upwards through deeper and deeper snow I put on my Raquetas de Nieve.
It goes endlessly up now the valley step, leaving behind the trees which are becoming more and more sparse. The 2000m mountains come nearer and the loneliness sinks in. Since I left Espot I only saw 3 men which didn’t look like hiking up all the way to the Refugi. Until the afternoon of the next day I should be alone on the tracks! It seems to be that the Pyrenees aren’t that overtravelled in winter.
Since hours I’m wearing only a T-shirt – another difference to the local Alps. When the sun shines, it is warm. You can see it also on the snow. On the south slopes it already becomes a bit slushy starting at 11 o’clock. Nonetheless I find my way to the idyllically situated Rifugi JM Blanc where I arrive at 1pm. Both innkeepers Guim and Guilliem are still on tour – for promotion purposes as it turns out later.
What should I do? I need a peak. I prepared the Tuc de Saburó for that case. Let’s go. Because I don’t trust the existing tracks across the lake I go along the rim – later it turns out that the lake lies beneath a 1 meter big layer of ice. Caution is the better part of valor 😉
I’m going up three plateaus now – each one with a frozen lake. Until the Tuc de Saburó is before me. Going onwards in the same manner I miss the non existing tracks up to the peak and continue unnoticed along the ski track half way to the Collada de Saburó. Somewhere in the middle of the slope it comes to my mind that I’m not going to the summit. Time and first of all my power is not enough to turn around and find the correct way up. So I continue my way up to the shoulder and enjoy the now 250 meter lower view.
The way back is the same as forth. The last steps are the hardest, but the innkeepers are there now. They give me a do-it-yourself Clara, or as we say it in Germany: Radler. Wonderful 🙂 The Refugi JM Blanc is small but beautiful. It has a cozy general room with a crackling fire in the chimney, showers with hot water (1 Euro for 6 minutes! Luxury!!!) and !!!free!!! wifi. If you wish, you can even pay by card. Seeing this, the Alps should take one or two looks regarding technical gadgets here!
Although the weather conditions are perfect, I’m the only guest in the cabin! On the next day, there would be 20 guests here, but today I get all the attention. That is why the Reggae background music can be increased in loudness – for the chilly atmosphere. The timespan to 7:30pm, dinner time, flies away quickly using the free wifi. I get served scalloped spaghetti with salmon in a casserole. Very yummy and pasta is exactly what is needed for a strenuous next day!
But on returning my dish I see another one standing on the counter. That is the next course. A huge soup plate full of vegetable salad with peas, carrots and olives. Ahaaa, “segundo plata” (I’m trying to clarify it in my broken Spanish – the innkeepers can speak English of course, but when do you have the oportunity to try your rusty Spanish?). Nope, more like a “medio curso” says Guillem. Oh gosh, I’m already full!?!?!? So be it. As a good customer I’m eating at least half of the vegetables. Bashfully, I’m switching plates again, the second one for a third one, a beef goulash. This course alone would have been enough for me, too. So I’m totally sorry again for returning almost half of the portion. The dessert, slices of ananas, finish my four course mountain cabin meal.
Totally happy and totally full I’m going to bed (mass accomodation indeed, but alas, I’m alone here *g*).
Notice: there is an avalanche risk when hiking outdoors – take your beacon, probe and shovel with you and study the avalanche bulletins. Do an avalanche course also!