Personal log of a novice backcountry skier in his backyard
First backcountry skiing day of the season …finally! After two ugly days (rain, cold, etc) the forecast was spot on for this morning: cold but sunny and dry. So I packed my stuff and decided to hit one of the closest hills with snow according to the info I found on the net: Saioa (alt. 1.419m) in Nafarroa (Navarra), presumably only 1h20min. away from Donosti.
It actually took me a bit longer to reach to the Puerto de Artesiaga, as I couldn’t find the NA-1740 in Irurita. At one stage the fog was so thick that I thought about driving back home but then, after a sharp bend, the sun pierced through the forest of a nearby hill and shortly after I had the majestic Saioa in front of me.
I finally reached the road pass (Puerto de Artesiaga, alt. 990m) about 1h40 after leaving home. Not bad. Quite a few people were getting changed on the side of the road, some others were way up the hill and some others already on their way down. The route was obvious enough, and the snow seemed quite firm from right next to the road. I skinned behind two guys who went for the more direct route, following the track to the SW for a little bit and then straight up to the NE ridge… instead of going all the way to the S ridge.
The day was beautiful, with the thick fog layer blanketing the valley below us, and the Ocean in the distance. The only “but” was a very acute pain in my right heel. “A blister? No, it can’t be… I’ve never had a blister from skiing boots before!!” I tried to convince myself. Unfortunately it was to be a huge blister!
By the time I reached the summit, the wind was very strong and the top part very icy. I snapped a couple of photos, got changed and skied down following first the NE ridge, and then a beautiful slope where the snow was sweet like butter. 420m and a few minutes later I was back at the car, looking at a huge blister on my right heel but very happy with my first day of the season.