Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hiking the Gredos Mountains

Last weekend we went hiking the the Gredos Mountains, in Avila Province about 2 hours west of Madrid.  You're not allowed to camp in any parks in most provinces of Spain, so we'd booked 2 nights in a Refugio, or a mountain hut. The highest peaks of the Gredos are about 2,500 meters, so not so tall but there is skiing there in winter.  We hiked up to Laguna Grande the first day, a 6.5 K hike.  The weather was awesome, the trail was great, and the kids were running around in short sleeves.  We saw 2 mountain goats on a ridge above the parking lot.  The scenery is dry, high, plains, and the upper parts of the mountains are glacially-carved rock.

 A couple hours in and a few hundred meters higher, we started finding patches of snow.  This was good for lots of snow tromping.
 Four hours in, we came to Refugio Elola, on the far side of Laguna Grande, a lake left in the glacial cirque,  This is the trail on the descent to the Refugio - clouds had rolled in but we still had some peeks at the peaks.
 Day 2 we planned a full day, 12 K circular hike, over  ridge, to the next cirque, the up over the ridge and back down to the refugio.  We had some trouble trail finding out from the Refugio and did some scrambling around the lake until we found the trail over the ridge and down into Garganta, the next cirque.  From there, we again had trouble trail finding going up over the next ridge, and at lunch time we'd gotten socked in with snow falling and decided to call it.  We turned back around, and low and behold on the downward trail we could find cairns and had a much easier descent despite the snow.  At the bottom in Garganta, it was again sunny for lunch and we could see the peaks.  I was ruing deciding to back off.  But then we saw a herd of mountain goats.
 They were moving from one rocky outcropping to another, a group of 1 male maybe 2 females and 2 kids. It was amazing. Easy to see, cautious of us, but clearly used to hikers.  This is a photo of the male, behind a kid and one female crossing an outcropping.

After a sunny lunch and goat watching, it was back over the ridge and around the lake to the refugio.  This time we could again find the cairns for the trail going down, so the trail was much better.  But, it started to snow, and then the snow turned into rain, and Silas had had it.  Mike had to carry him a bit, off and on, for the last 90 minute slog out of the slush, hard work for Mike and an unhappy Silas in unpredictable winter weather.  Back at the refugio, everyone changed socks, warmed up, the kids got a  warm Cola Cao (Spanish version of hot chocolate) from the refugio kitchen.
 The next morning, we woke up to several inches of snow outside the refugio,  Here are the kids before starting out the 6.5 K hike back down to the car in the snow.  I didn't get a photo of our bedroom, but there were 24 bunks, 3 vertical rows of 4 beds on each side of the dorm room.  There were several dorm rooms on the second floor and the refugio could hold over 60. Downstairs was the communal room and kitchen -- the dining/communal room was slightly warmed by a wood-pellet stove.  Most supplies were hauled in on donkey-back, though two young men who ran the place had passed us on our way in on Friday and another one appeared sometime on Saturday (the refugio was much fuller on Saturday night than Friday, though still not full).
 Lots of snow with some sun breaks.  Not many views on the way out.
 It was a bit of an upward slog over the ridge because of the weather.  Luckily, on the ridge, there were tons of icicles hanging off rocks and we got a couple of K of kids with energy to check out rocks for icicles to eat,  Yum!  Why were we carrying water?
By the time we got back to the car, most of the snow was gone and Maeve was picking up snow from piles and dumping it in puddles so Silas could throw rocks at it and break up the slush.  Winter weather fun for all!  There were also a few hundred people in inappropriate gear on the last kilometer of trail.  We realized there were 3 groups of people -- folks who wanted to hike and were prepared, and 2 groups of folks who wanted to play in the snow and/or to look for wild mountain goats, none of which were to be seen because of the hordes of people and multiple dogs.  Good end to the adventure.

1 comment:

Kira said...

What an amazing adventure -- had no idea this kind of hiking is available so close to Madrid. Thanks for sharing the photos!