Personal log of a novice backcountry skier in his backyard
After yesterday’s icy misadventure, today we decided to hit Astún, just accross the valley from Candanchú. After a somewhat uncomfortable night in the van parked near the river in Villanúa, with Buffy getting more than her share of the quilt, we drove to Astún. The parking was filling up fast, and we were lucky to to find a slot “not too far” from the snow. I had never been to Astún, I knew nothing and I had no plan whatsoever. Yet after examining the situation, 3 things were quite obvious: 1) The main mountain across the parking (La Raca) was in the shade …and was going to be in the shade for most of the day due to its orientation, which meant probably lots of ice. 2) Just across the road from where we were parked, a little path went uphill and several groups of tourers were already on it. It didn’t look too difficult but without knowing where it went… (3) At the far end ahead of us there was a mountain full of sun were also several tourers were skinning up. And unlike the path across the road, it seemed much closer to the the slopes and the lifts, which might come handy where one doesn’t really know one’s way around.
So up I went, following a nice little valley with some steep chutes up on my right. The obvious path was full N, following the little stream, but that seemed to take me further and further away from the resort. While I was considering what to do, I heard a loud schuuussss and I managed to glimpse a lone ski flying down a steep hill on my right, with a lone skier not far behind cartwheeling at full speed. The skier was lucky to come to a stop after a last somersault (true). A guy -not far behind me -called him to see if he was ok. Turns out the guy was ok -which is hard to believe seeing how fast he was going, that the hill was full of rocks and trees and that he wasn’t wearing a helmet- but he was stranded in the middle of a rocky and icy slope with no skies nor poles. With the help of two other guys we helped him come down safely and suggested him to buy lottery as -clearly- today was his lucky day!
Once everything was back to normal I decided to follow my new friend (the tourer who had also witnessed the fall) up to the Ibon de Truchas, at the top of the Truchas chair, somewhere on our right. The snow was still quite hard, so I was very happy to have my ski crampons on before the situation got too tricky. The crux was a steep slope on our right that was wide enough at its base… but getting more and more narrow at its top. We did ok -although some transitions were a bit tricky- and up we went all the way to the Ibon, with magnificent views of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau, Anayet, Balaitus and other 3,000m peaks to our East.
The ski downhill was sweet; the snow was a bit too slushy on some bits… but fun nevertheless. Only 400m on today’s route, but very exciting and technical. Now we are back at home as the weather forecast is not so good for tomorrow and we need a good night’s sleep. Time to make plans for the next few days.