I love outdoor activities. I feel very comfortable, balanced and calm. However, during winter I was only doing running and some bike outings in sporadic dry weekends. In summary, the same activities than the rest of the year. I was missing many possibilities…
So, I decided to give a try to some winter activities. First move was to buy a pair of winter boots. That will allow me from a common snow walk to a winter trekking. I tested the boots one Saturday of early February in Tejedo, from the village to the main fountain of the road that goes to the summit of Puerto de Ancares. I run over the snow, climb a bit over the sides of the road…first impression was good but need to test more and adjust better the laces.
Also, the thought of cross-country ski started to buzz on my mind. During my youth, I went almost every year for a day of alpine ski. However, over the years I dropped the activity due to a lack of confidence on my knees.
Let’s see the highlights of this initiation to winter activities. Global thought is “A bunch of new opportunities to enjoy”.
Cross-country ski in Navafria (February, 18th – 19th 2018)
I had been in Sierra de Madrid in September 2013. That time running with my brother in La Pedriza; other day running solo from Puertos de Cotos up to Peñalara and continuation to Risco de los Claveles and the lagoons with a guy a met that day. It had been very nice a experience and enjoyed the landscape.
For my first approach to cross-country ski I was looking for a place with a initiation course, easy slopes and prepared for this sport. Ski resorts of Cordillera Cantabrica have some tracks prepared for cross-country. But I heard and read that sometimes are used by walkers, sledges,…, other times not well conditioned. A bit risky to go there and find who knows what conditions. Then, the smart option was Navafria. It didn’t disappoint at all. On the contrary, very good course, friendly and nice resort staff, amazing tracks in the middle of a pine forest,…
I spent 2 marvelous days. Had fun the first day with the course in the morning, talking and sharing experiences with the course mates, and maximizing this first day in the afternoon on my own exploring more tracks. On the second day…a Monday, with very few people, trying to focus on technique and enjoying new tracks like Gallinero.
Photo gallery is a bit poor, but the following video shows better the place and my mood
Vegarada weekend (March, 3rd – 4th 2018)
And the day to go to Vegarada arrived. During the Leon all Borders stage 4 I passed through Puerto de Vegarada, coming from Asturias. That day was an epic sterrato climb. But let’s focus on the snow and not in the bike… On the top, there were huge open fields. I now image all covered by snow and the picture is incredible on my mind.
During the week, I called Eusebio, the owner of the ski rental material in Lugueros. He is also renting several nice rural houses/cabins. All pointed that the weekend will have good conditions to enjoy the snow. I checked Vegarada web and the cross-country ski tracks map. The possibilities of the zone were spectacular, and so the tracks. After the initiation in Navafria, what’s better that 2 days of cross-country ski in this place.
I drove from Coruña and arrived about 9:30 to Lugueros. Eusebio confirmed to me that the tracks were not ready for cross-country ski. Besides, it was very cloudy with light snow over Vegarada. Then, he recommended me to take rackets and go for a walk. I said yes without a doubt. And most important, he instructed Coco, one of his dogs, to come with me. That’s was a great experience. We start to walk, first time with rackets by the way, and Coco all time taking a look on me. He was playing, running, jumping,…some tens of meters ahead, but each time I stopped, he stopped and come back close to me. What a loyal dog. I was happy and having fun too. Going up easily around pines, resting, taking some pictures, running with Coco,…
At some point of the walk, a huge steep snowed firewall opened in front of us. I said to Coco: ‘Let’s do it and see what’s on top of it’. Not easy to go through it. Icy sections made me do some side steps. Racket crampons were doing it great. But I was noticing also the limits of their grip. We reached a guardhouse where we got some shelter. Rest, eat a bit and go down following the same route we did for the uphill.
Take a look to the pictures for this racket adventure!
If first day with Coco and the rackets was great, second day in Vegarada would be memorable. Eusebio suggested me to do backcountry ski. Mmmmm…what is that, I thought? Here it is how I discovered it.
That day, tracks were not conditioned for cross-country ski. Let’s remark that Vegarada is a very small resort. Currently, non-profitable… Then, tracks are conditioned when there is some highlighted event (like a competition or a mushing race) or if a big group of people contact in advance. Eusebio showed me the tables. Wider and shorted than the cross-country ones. With squamas to ease the ascent and metallic rims for gaining grip in the curving. The boots seemed comfortable, also with the heel free as in the cross-country. Got it, all clear.
There are about 10 kms to reach Puerto de Vegarada area. I parked in the border of the road (entrance of Casa Vegarada is also another possibility). Wow!! Views were amazing. All was white. Sure there were 2-3 meters. I got ready to start. First small downhill and….chofff! To the ground Ahh yes, the heels are free… To warm up and feel comfortable over the tables, I started progressing like cross-country and mixing with some downhill. Try to break, curve,…Terrain was perfect for it. If you like to do ups and downs, you can do it. If you prefer calm and easy slopes, it is possible. Biggest challenge that day was to go up to a small cabin, which was about 50-60 m of height gradient, and try to do some 8′s during the descent. I felt out many times but started to taking the point of it.
During that day, I met and talked quite a bit with a guy from Oviedo (asturian people always friendly). He was mixing cross-country first and then mountaineering ski. Chatted with several people doing rackets. People walking. It is nice to exchange shared points with people known for the first time: nature, mountains,… Some of them told me that they were visiting Vegarada each year, several times a year and each season has it charm. I think at the end of most of these short talks, we all have in mind the same thought. Please, keep Vegarada like it is, without much popularity. Let’s San Isidro and the alpine ski take the notoriety.
There were plus of 4 hours of pure joy, fun, endurance and peace.
Snow rackets from Tejedo to Puerto de Ancares (March, 31st 2018)
I spent Easter in my home village. I heard that Puerto de Ancares was closed to traffic. This is quite normal since machines can’t open the road in the top section if there are several consecutive snowfalls. So, I decided to go to Tejedo because it would be a good start for a racket trekking.
One option was to follow the route that goes to Miravalles. I checked it few days before in Wikiloc and path seemed easy to be followed. But alone…I discarded it. On the other hand, if the road that goes to Puerto de Ancares is closed to traffic, what a great chance to go for it: I know it from cycling and it will be a great endurance activity.
First part was easy. About 2 km flat. Getting the feedback of the new rackets. They seem good enough for this kind of moderate activities. The amount of snow at this part was 20-30 cm. Once I started to ascend, views were great. I like the contrast of white and dark tones of the trees (below there is a video of this part). In the fountain I stopped to eat a banana and rest a bit. Snow accumulation started to be notable and progression was not so easy as at the beginning. Anyway, I decided to continue. The idea of reaching the top started to take form in my mind.
Once in the final 2 km, the never-ending straight when you cycle, a snow wall bordered all around the right-side of the road. It was huge. Sometimes visibility was not very good but I got oriented thanks to the road border sticks.
I completed a good training a walk of about 14 km (I would say 8 until the uphill and about 6 km for the downhill since I cut the distance by joining several curves) and +600 m of positive gradient. If you like, check some photos I took and the recorded videos from different sections of the climb:
Impressions just starting the uphill
Almost reaching the top, huge snow walls
On the top, sorry for the very bad audio quality