Monday, 19 January 2009

Best Snow Ever!

Just finished a week guiding, back country skiing, snow shoeing and winter mountaineering with a lovely journalist from Wyoming. We had the best snow ever and great weather except a blizzard high on the Col de Foraton which made things interesting on Tuesday afternoon.
The snow is deep powder and back country skiing in the valleys is pure bliss!

In the picture skiing along the cross country track at Linza in the Ansó Valley. The mini Matterhorn in the background is called Txamantxoia. The border between Aragón and Navarra is just on the ridge.
The ski circuit is being run by a new company - Talon Libre (free heel)- who keep the pistes perfectly groomed and rent out high quality equipment. The day we went there were only two other skiers but I hope they get more clientele as the word gets round that Linza is one of the best XC ski circuits in Alto Aragón.

Las Esquilas de San Antón

The Evening before San Antón (17 Jan). The men of Ansó turn out in force each with a big goat bell - called an esquila- and process around the narrow streets of Ansó banging/ringing the bells. The effect of 30 plus bells clanging in unison is surprisingly moving and it feels like a pagan ceremony - in fact people say that the tradition goes back to pre Christian times. Perhaps it was seen as a defiance of deepest winter and a call for the days to get longer.
In the photo (no flash so a bit blurry) are Jose Amezua and Antonio of the wonderful Mendiara bakers ringing their bells.
We´re having a hard winter - very cold but with the best snow there has been in my 15 years in the valleys.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Lammergeier - Bone breaker of the Pyrenees

Out ski touring up towards the French border on Saturday when this majestic Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) circled above us on its regular patrol around these hills in the Hecho Valley.

This bird and its mate nest around the Acherito Valley and can nearly always be seen here if we are out walking or skiing. They have a massive 2.6 metre wingspan. Their main food is bones from dead animals which they break by dropping them on rocks from a height and then eating the pieces. Their Spanish name - Quebrantahuesos means bone breaker.

As you can see from the picture we had a magnificent day. No cloud and freezing temperatures. Snow is predicted for the next few days. So far it´s being one of the best winter seasons ever.