The weather this trip has been pretty harsh. Things seem to be getting better now but most of my goals have been put to bed. I haven’t gotten what I wanted but I’ve gotten what I needed. Time to think while going point to point has helped put some things in perspective for me. I’ve often said that its the journey and not the destination or the goal. This has been in regards to the mountain experience or with regards to avalanche awareness. I’m beginning to look at this as a life philosophy. Its important to have goals and strive for them but so much of life is missed with such a narrow focus. With life changing events like the ones I’m going through I feel like this journey has really helped me move towards a positive frame of mind. Ready for the challenges that lie ahead. I feel very fortunate right now.
I started this portion of the trip with the intent of skiing the North Face of Mulhacen, the highest peak in the Iberian Peninsula. After that the next stop would be Andorra for the Canale Este on Coma Pedrosa. After a very long drive and a fitful and short nights sleep, I awoke to blue skies on the southern coast of Spain. I was stoked. The weather window I had hoped for was good. 100km later I met a wall of clouds. It looked like a sandstorm at sunrise. The cloud deck was 1000 meters, The peak stands well over 3000m. I drove to Granada anyway hoping that I could go anyway. Sierra Madre ski area is the base for Mulhacen and the lifts were closed due to lack of visibility. You couldn’t even see the first tower on the gondola. I surely wasn’t climbing up into the pea soup in an unfamiliar range to ski a 2000′ big line that ends with a 300′ cliff. Tried to check out the Alhambra and couldn’t get tickets. Rough day. Back in the rental and onward to Andorra.
After another 10 hours of driving I arrived in Andorra and found a hotel. I woke early and saw blue sky over the Arinsal Ski Area. All the areas in Andorra were closed already but the hotels were open and you could make it to the trailhead for Coma Pedrosa, Andorra’s highest peak. With all the new snow I was a worried. The Canale Este is 3300′ of vertical and goes directly from the summit. It’s 45 degrees average and about 50 degrees at the steepest point. Being alone I’m trending more conservative so it doesn’t take much for me to back off a goal. The upper half of the mountain was in a cloud. In the distance I could make out some recent avy activity. The hazard for the day was the French equivalent of Considerable. That was enough for me. The idea of being in harms way for 2 hours booting up the couloir solo into no viz with recent activity was not appealing.
I drove to the other side of the country, about 20 minutes and got my boots on at Pas de la Casa. This is the pass that leads to France. I headed up the ridge to a saddle. After one short traverse across a 45 degree test slope my suspicions were confirmed. Most of it slid. I ended up skiing hippy turns in 8′ of good pow all day and got the summit of Pic Maia. Ended up with about 5000′ vert and a smile. Tapas were my reward at the pass summit restaurant. I love the jamon of Spain, so much richer than prosciutto. Bacallao which is refreshed salt cod is also awesome. Pan tom is another favorite.
Afterward I jumped back in the rental and headed toward Verbier. Chasing the windows can be fun, especially when you are rewarded with a good day. Outside of Nimes I got in the left lane sandwiched between some Ferraris. Topped out at 235kph and held it for about 20 minutes, such a rush driving that fast. Made it to Argentiere and got a room, I just didn’t want to drive anymore. Enjoy the photos.