If you believe that the most ephemeral things are precious, then winter snow in Serra da Estrela is one of the most valuable things on the planet!
Taking into account that on the winter season 2019/2020 we didn’t get a single day of snow to use our ice gear (yes, not a single day!), two winter climbing days this December look like a present from the gods! Anyway, the gods decided that the given present would not be so perfect…but it would be good enough to remove the rust from our ice axes and crampons.
It all started with a prediction of snow for about seven days, starting on the night of the 3rd of December.
I’ve been looking forward for quite a while now to test my new Gravitas jacket under the rain, but when I woke up on the 4th December, I could see snow falling right from the window of my bedroom. It was nice and cozy in bed, but the chance to go running with snowflakes cherishing my face was an opportunity not to lose. So at around 9a.m. I was out of the house, with a beautiful landscape already painted in white all around me. The day started PERFECTLY, with an awesome 1 hour run, 1 hour smiling, 1 hour feeling the luckiest runner on earth. The Gravitas jacket had its first experience and it behaved…PERFECTLY!
Although we were feeling eager to go climb on the ice, we had to wait until the 6th to be able to go out of our village – as the roads were covered with snow/ice.
Finally our day came…or so we thought! On the 6th, although the weather was far from perfect, we decided to try our luck. We managed to go out of our village, but the only road to the central massive of Serra da Estrela (our only mountain where one can enjoy alpinism) was closed. Anyway, we were kind of already expecting this. So, we took the car as far as we could, and decided to walk until we reached a gully starting almost immediately from the road. A gully that we could only attempt…with the road closed!
The aim was to do something easy, to “heat up the engines”, because since October 2019 (while on expedition) nature gave us no chance to grab our axes.
After an easy first pitch, there were some…”Arrrgghhh! Sh**! F**K! I did it!!!!”. Looking from below that M7 second pitch looked…easy! And that made our day, a new small but intense mixed climbing route. We ended our first day quite early, but in that spot there was really not much more we could do with the cars already going up and down the central massive.
We had to wait until the 10th to have a second chance. The weather went on wild, very wild, some snow, low temperatures, but the strong wind prevented us from moving.
On the 10th, the only feasible day, we were up there again, this time in a much better playground. As expected there was ice, lots of ice…too much ice for only one day! It was far from a perfect day - the wind kept blowing hard and cold, the moist was a damn lot… and I forgot my inner gloves!!! Anyway, this could not work as an excuse, so we started with a two pitch ice/mixed route, me, already with cold hands. Happy to get to the top, already quite soaked (gloves totally soaked!) and with freezing hands as expected, we decided to go on and choose from many routes looking good, one that rarely is in conditions to be climbed. Well, this time the ice was thin, making it hard to protect, but climbable…maybe that’s why it’s called “Adrenaline”?!
I used my second pair of outer gloves and it worked quite nice under the circumstances…because I forced myself to be fast! Almost getting to the top I still thought that I could go for another route, and we still talked about it. BUT, a gust of strong chilled, moisty wind, hit our faces hard, so…”let’s go to our cozy fireplace back home. It’s enough for today”.
Anyway, it was a nice beginning of the winter climbing season…I truly hope this is just the beginning, and not the beginning and end!!!!
The next day the rain came and the ice and snow are now simply gone (as usual in Serra da Estrela)! We did all we could do…and enjoyed it a LOT!