3 Jan 10 – 1740 Local
Location: Huesca Bus Station/Bus from Huesca to Sabinanigo
Holy Jeez! The past few days have been ridiculous. I thought about breaking this post up into several, but then figured it was worth it to show how much has happened since I last wrote.
SPANISH NEW YEAR – 31 DEC 09
After an unsuccessful attempt on Aneto, Dan and I took a long nap, in order to prepare ourselves for midnight New Year festivities. There was a big party scheduled at Reugio la Renclusa and people had been arriving throughout the day – there were nearly twenty of us in attendance. We spent the evening talking, eating, drinking, playing games and generally enjoying the fact that we had made it back to a refuge so full of great people. The food was delicious; the refuge staffs put on chocolate and other snacks for everyone, and even free champagne. In Spain, for the twelve seconds before midnight, a gong is rung every second and you are supposed to eat a grape. We did this and at midnight everyone shook hands and kissed. As the party died down, it became just us and the refuge staff. We had been talking with one of the staff who spoke perfect English (she had an American mother) and it had become very late. We all started drinking Spanish liquor together (I wish I could remember what it was), until early the next morning. It was a great way to celebrate the New Year and a good way to unwind after our experience on Aneto. We were very glad that the next day was a rest day.
REST DAY – 1 JAN 10
Today was quite uneventful. Basically, we spent the whole day drying gear, eating and drinking. In the afternoon, we tried to make a toboggan out of our packs and shovels, but it wasn’t as much fun as we had hoped. Late in the afternoon, Inaki and Javier arrived. They were both planning to climb Aneto alone, but decided to link up. We all planned to wake up at 4:30 the next morning.
ANETO ATTEMPT #2 – 2 JAN 10
We woke up this morning at 4:30 to utterly perfect weather. It was cold, windless, there was a full moon and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We quickly boiled up our water and had a little food. As we were boiling water and eating, we were gearing up to go. Soon, around 5:15, we were on our way. Inaki and Javier headed straight up the valley. We chose to take a slightly more technical approach and ride the ridgeline to the Portillon. Objectively, it was slightly riskier, but we thought it would be faster, plus we had gone up the valley on the previous attempt. The climb was utterly beautiful. The full moon illuminated the snow and the rock was pure black. It seemed as though we were climbing through a black and white calendar. Eventually, after several hours, we arrived at the Portillon Superieur. We were happy to find the correct gap in the ridge so quickly. We stopped, took a snack break, roped up for glacier travel and began descending towards the glacier. As we began moving out of the gap, Javier and Inaki caught up to us. We continued down and across the glacier, now in near white out conditions. Soon, we realised that we were just breaking trail for the Spanish, so we waited for them to catch up and the four of us began taking turns breaking trail.
After about an hour of slogging up the glacier, the weather broke. Again, it was epically beautiful. Walking along the edge of the giant crevasse that had formed where the glacier didn’t quite meet the mountains, it seemed as though all the dreams I had dreamt as a fourteen year old boy were coming true. I had been training for serious alpine climbs for a long time and was finally making my way towards a high summit! As we approached the summit ridge, we began cutting switchbacks into the side in order to ascend. Soon, we were at the top and only had one more obstacle between us and the summit – the Paso de Mohamet. Mohammed’s Pass is a blocky ridge, approximately 45 metres long, with vertical drops on either side of well over 600 feet. Dan lead the way across, while I belayed him off my axe jammed under a rock. We fixed the line and the two Spanish mountaineers followed. I brought up the rear and was the last on to reach the summit. We quickly took some pictures, shook hands and were generally jubilant. Soon, it grew cold and we started back.
It was a long haul back, but the faster we went the warmer it was. We arrived at the Portillon and were happy to be so close to the refuge. Dan and I took out our shovels and prepared to slide down the valley. When Inaki and Javier saw the first gully we were planning to slide down they decided to walk. We continued sliding/running down hill and made it to the refuge about half an hour after leaving the Portillon. The other two arrived about 45 minutes later, as we were already cooking. We celebrated the ascent with leftover wine and some Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai from the night before. Dan and I quickly packed our gear and we all began the 15km walk out. Javier offered us a ride back to Benasque and we couldn’t refuse. So, we booked it out with them with three or four times the weight on our backs.
After a quick 15km, we crammed into Javier’s tiny Fiat and headed into town. Along the way, Inaki offered us a free floor to sleep on in his hostel room. We immediately accepted – WARM SHOWER! Eventually, we found a parking spot in Benasque. We headed to a restaurant and had some beer and food together. Javier was driving back to Madrid that night, so we went back to the car, recovered our gear and said goodbye. Inaki, Dan and I headed to the “hostel”. Inaki went in to get the key and then took us to the room. It turned out that all the regular rooms were taken, so we had a two bedroom apartment, which included a washing machine – awesome. We got cleaned up and put our clothes in the wash. Since all our clothes were in the machine, Dan and I wore Gore-tex only to dinner. We all ate a great dinner and were soon back in the room for some much needed sleep.
TRAVEL – 3 JAN 10
This morning, we packed up, grabbed some breakfast and checked out Barrabe’s (the mountain shop) one last time. We also paid for some internet usage and sent some reports home. We said goodbye, thanked Inaki for everything and took off. By “took off” I mean we went to the outskirts of town and tried to hitch a ride. Eventually (an hour later), some one stopped and took us 15km down the road. We tried to get another ride, but weren’t having any luck. So, we moved down the road and tried again. Then, we got ridiculously lucky. A camper van, with a pirate flag in the window, stopped and a guy stuck his head out the side yelling “come on!”. So, we ran to them, he opened the back and the van was full of climbing/mountaineering/skiing gear. We tossed our packs in the back and hopped in. The driver threw down a map and asked where we were going. We replied “Ainsa”. “Oh…Ainsa” he said “we go to road here”, pointing to the road that lead to Ainsa. “OK, where are you going?” we asked. He pointed to a city past Huesca. So, we told them we could go there instead of Ainsa. They readily agreed and we started on the three hour journey to Huesca. Huesca is a larger city than Ainsa, but slightly more out of the mountains. We knew we could get a bus somewhere from there, though. They didn’t speak much English, but they pointed out all the great crags along the way.
They dropped us off in downtown Huesca. We found the bus station and the next bus to Sabinanigo was at 1825hrs, 3 hours away. So, we grabbed a burger and started wandering the city. We went to the “Plaza del Toros” (I really wanted to see a bull fight, but there weren’t any going on) and the local cathedral, which was built around 1302, it was gorgeous. We then made our way back to the bus station and waited. Now, we are on our way to Sabinanigo. We may make it to Torla tonight, we aren’t sure.