Over the last weeks I’ve been completely overfed with great freeride sessions. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t really complain; I love the feeling of ungravity while drifting in powder, but the mountains in winter offer other amazing experiences that I was starting to miss, especially climbing on Ice and ski touring on the big mountains. However, the Val d’Aran decided to throw us again a meter of snow in two days and a half rising the avalanche risk to 4. Of course. I called my friend Carlos, who lives in Sabiñanigo and knows pretty well the mountains of the Tena valley.
Well, not only of Tena, but pretty much he’s been in every committed alpine and rock climbing route of the peninsula…Anyway, he convinced me to head over there for two days of activity.
The Tena valley, is one of the widest valleys in the Pyrenees and gives access to some of its most emblematic mountains. It is one of the valleys with the longest classical alpinism history of this country, but it does not only offer classical routes, as well it is a high end “alpinism laboratory” for futuristic routes.
Even though I learned to ski on those mountains and I even competed in the local ski club, it had been a really long time since I wasn’t around.
I have to admit that it was hard for me to leave behind my beloved Aran, especially with this view. It’s true that I could have gotten a few more powder gluttony days, but with a four risk level, conditions were not good for the high mountain. Meanwhile, over Tena, the mountains were stable, with 30cm of fresh snow, temperatures at -15º and a big sun in the ski.
Time to hit the road. We didn’t really had a settled menu on mind, but we were hoping of doing a day of ice climbing and another day of ski mountaineering.
I got impressed by the physiognomy and distribution of the mountains of Tena. An open valley with powerful ranges of naked mountains of limestone. Not many trees on the mid mountain, but big cliffs, defined ridge lines, wide corridors and giants around: The Anayet, Midi d’Ossau, Peña Telera, Garmo Negro, Punta Escarra, Foratata…
Thursday was going to be sunny, however we were as well going to have fifteen below zero and gale force winds, making it pretty complicated to be in the high mountain.
we woke up at six, loaded everything in the car and went for a coffee with Iban, Alberto and Eder to finish to define the plan for the day.
We ended up heading to the ice falls of Canal Roya, accesibles from the ski resort. From the col, they seemed on shape, slightly buried by the last snowfall, completely on the shadow and well exposed to the wind. The first feeling was not the best, but we still decided to go check them up. At least the view of the Anayet and the Midi D’Ossau couldn’t be any better.
During the approach, somehow Carlos managed to drop his ski to the bottom of the valley, while he was furiously shouting to the god’s, I went down to grab it. At that time he realized how I was gliding on the snow and spraying pow around, so he decided to abort the Ice climbing and take me ski touring. We did a few runs on the valley. It was extremely cold, it’s not very often that I tour uphill on the sun with two base layers, a down jacket and a shell…But with this view of the Anayet in the background, it doesn’t really matter.
Then we decided to head back towards the parking of Anayet for changing valley and try the real objective of the day: Pico Arroyeras and descend through one of it’s north couloirs. As you do most of the ascent through the Culivillas ravine, you are quite protected from the wind.
In this valley, just as in the other, we were as well alone. Peace. When we reached the summit pyramid, the wind was actually brutal. With all those layers the body was ok, but the face felt like freezing fast. Actually at some poin I realized it was not all that easy to move my eyebrows. Very weird feeling. It was wise that we chose a mountain with such a wide summit, at least it didn’t felt dangerous to be on the summit ridge, even though the wind was shaking us. Well, the view couldn’t be any better: Midi d’Ossau, Anayet, Peña Telera, Punta Escarra, Garmo Negro…we could even see the Bisaurín in the distance and most of the three thousand peaks of the Pyrenees.
The entrance of the corridor was completely peeled by the wind and icy on top, and then when it was becoming less steep, you could see big waves of accumulated snow. Tasty…From the uphill we knew the snow was good a bit lower in the mountain, so we decided to go for it anyway. Yeap, it was as bad as it seemed, but as soon, as we passed the first couloir and took a turn on the mountain, we discovered a long corridor, wide, sustained, and loaded of fresh snow. It didn’t took long before I dived on it on wide turns. Considering Carlos satisfaction grin, I believe we did the right route choice. From there on, it was just following the ravine through funny to ride mini corridor sections all the way to the valley. Around four o’clock we were back in the Anayet parking.
Later the five of us we gathered again around a brew and plan the following day. Cold temperatures would remain, but wind should completely disappear: that should mean green light for almost any activity! We started planning ambitiously, but after one too many beers, probably we would have to lower the bar. Of course waking up was a mess and it didn’t took long before we discarded the fourche couloir of the Midi d’Ossau. Carlos decided to take me to the area of the Thermal waters of Panticosa. he knew I was going to like it, because it’s a hidden granite valley, so I would feel like home.
We headed for the Tablato peak. As we were going uphill, the view through the forest full of fresh snow towards the mountain circus was breathtaking.
The snow in this valley had not been worked by the wind. We wanted to ski the diagonal couloir of the Tablato, but when we reached the base of the col, we realized the line was quite icy and worked by the wind. It was in good enough conditions as to tick it from the list, but with such good snow in lower altitudes, it didn’t really made sense to us. Hence we headed towards the Foratulas peak and it’s steep forests of powder that comes back straight to the car. I’m really glad that we decided to go to the Foratulas, not only because of the powder forest, but because that made us discover another incredible valley.
I feel that both activities are a great way to get to know the valley of Tena. The first day we got the full perspective of the Valley and the second day we discovered a really special secret spot with a different character. We did two powerful activities, but both activities could have easily taken a more randonée-easy variation as well as a more hardcore/ski alpinism variation, that means that you should be able to find a proper activity for your level while benefiting of those views and valleys. Moreover, we got quite a deep perspective of the valley, so now we have enough projects as to fill the next two hundred visits.
Again, we celebrated with a few Tensinas, the beer from the Tena Valley, and back home to my beloved Aran.