Backcountry Skiing in the Pyrenees

Personal log of a novice backcountry skier in his backyard

Backcountry skiing in Bonaigua (Val d’Aran) – Easter 2012 (Day 4)

After yesterday’s no ski, my legs are itching for some action. The day is cold but bright blue. We drive up to the Bonaigua roadpass, that marks the border with the Atlantic side of the Pyrenees (or the North side) and is part of Vaqueira-Beret. Up at the pass (over 2000m) I park at one of the resort parkings. The day is bright, the air clean (-1º C) and there seems to be a a very thin layer of fresh snow from yesterday’s bad weather. My goal is to skin up to a rock ( see red cross) somewhere midway up the nearest peak (Tuc de la Cigalera), and then ski down following the same route, where some tracks can be seen. Roughly 300m uphill.

Once equipped, I cross the road and start going uphill through a blue run for a few meters, and then I turn right on to a slope. The snow is very hard on this side and I’m struggling with my edges a couple of times, but no big deal. Slowly I keep climbing away from the groomed stuff and the masses. A young couple on rackets seem to follow the same route but they inform me they are going all the way to the Tuc dera Cigalera (which is actually behind the fake summit that is visible on the photo). They stop to take pictures and I keep going, trying not to get lost as I lose sight of the my rock. I reach a flat portion and see that it makes more sense to keep on the South side of the slop than to follow a direct route to the rock (or at least to where I think it is as I can’t see it anymore!!). The snow is much softer on this side and I hit a steep bit with the climbing aids for the first time (I read somewhere that the less they are used the better as they get addictive). I finally reach a second flat bit and I can see the rock below me. Oh well… it’s been a good 1h hike; I’m wasted, my feet hurt (new boots) and I can’t keep the sweat off my sunglasses. I give up. I see the way to the top of the Tuc dera Cigalera as 2 skiers are coming down from there through the South side of the mountain to where I am.

I drink some water, put on a layer or two, take a few photos and admire the views. The little snow that fell yesterday is still clinging to the trees and makes everything look much more wintery that it actually is.

The ride down is sweet. On the flattish south facing bit my fat skis are like a hot wire on butter. I had never felt something like that before. Then, on the northern bit the snow is still hard but lovely. I have to admit that these K2 Hardsides are every bit as good as I read they were!! Back at the van, Buffy is fine and I have a chat with the two guys that came down from the Tuc dera Cigalera. Apparently it’s like a 1h30 hike to the real summit from the parking, through the South side after the flat where I stopped  (more like 2h for me surely). I decide to try it tomorrow as the clouds -as predicted- are closing in.

On the drive down to Esterri I see a sign that says Bosc del Gerdar and we follow directions to a dirt parking lot. There’s a little mountain stream that goes uphill through a very thick forest. Buffy and I go for a walk, crossing the stream several times on logs. It’s lovely. Please watch THIS video to get an idea of the place.

Back to Esterri under a thick layer of clouds and some rain, lunch, siesta in the van, and another walk along the river (this time further uphill), where we sit down and observe a farmer directing the cows with the help of his 2 dogs. I try to point out to Buffy how dogs can work and be useful to humans but she ignores me. The weather forecast announces strong winds and snow for tomorrow but I’m hoping it will let me give it a go to the Tuc dera Cigalera.

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This entry was posted on April 9, 2012 by in Roadtrip, Spring and tagged , , , , , .
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