Refuge season on the Pyrenees has just started, so we decided to head to Saboredo without a clear plan but with a heck lot of willing to ski.
4.40a.m. alarm rings and we get started. After an hour skinning we reach the top of the Peulla lift (baqueira-beret), enjoy the sunrise while doing the first transition and then ski to the Ruda valley through the forest. Skins on back again and by 10a.m. we reach the Saboredo refuge.
On the way there, we felt like a kid in a candy shop:
-“Have you seen that spur!”
-“Are they routes in that wall?”
-”God it looks like the Brevent!”
-”What about that north face? and that ice fall?”
Once on the refuge we had a quick lunch while studying our options: we had on sight several freeride sectors, obvious couloirs with good access and dominating summits.
The refuge keepers confirm us that everything is in good conditions; snow has not yet transformed and powder is still dry. From here it is hard to not get captivated by the Tuc de Ratera and it’s impressive east white face that crowns the valley. Actually, it is still early, so why not head towards the summit?
The approach is magical and the panoramic of the Amitges massif landscape is just breathtaking.
It’s couloirland! It is just unbelievable the amount and concentration of such esthetic, fierce and perfectly formed lines. We reach the foot of the mountain on good timing, so we relax a bit: beef jerky, granola bars, water, biting off a cheese wedge and heading uphill.
Here is where things got complicated.
This last slab is in a cirque that concentrates all the sunlight and blocks all the wind; we were boiling big time. For the first time it gets hard to stick to the slab, even on ski crampons, and we start to feel the six hours of activity. The sun is just unbearable and we start to feel the first symptoms of weakening that hopefully won’t end up making us hit the wall. We get the skis on the backpacks, the crampons in our feet and we start to gain altitude.
When we reach the last shoulder we start to feel a very comforting breeze that resets all our energy.
It’s summit time!
Surprisingly at an exposed 2860m summit ridge, conditions were extremely friendly. We took it easy, enjoyed our last snacks, got some breathe and headed towards the E face. We found the E face without a single track and on 30cm of dry powder over a stable layer.
We dive on the face charging wide turns while getting this magic gliding feeling that you don’t get soo often. Yeap, today was hero snow.
While we were going uphill, we spot the very attractive NE couloir. We discussed this possibility for a while, but we did not finish to see the entrance clear, so we discarded it. However, Julen simply could not let it go. He didn’t said much, did not make any drama and head straight to the entrance charging with everything, drawing one of the most impressive rides i’ve witnessed in quite a while.
Can’t wait to see his gopro footage…
After a few other happy riding slopes we reached the refuge again with 10h of activity in our backpacks and some of the widest smiles we’ve ever had.
On the refuge we met up with another group of friends, met some other people, talked about our little battles on the mountains, enjoyed a big meal and towards nine o’clock we were already on bed. We woke up to a magical sunrise, a great breakfast and a strong will to head again to the mountain.
We had already donne the homeworks of climbing a big peak, so let’s leave the alpinism home today: This powder is for riding. We chose to go for a few laps on E and NE sectors with wide slopes, cliff drops, couloirs and short approaches.
Time to play! As the refuge keepers claim, this place is Disneyland. It is just such an amazing playground, and the best is that you are pretty much alone out there.
More videos accoming. (Actually the good ones!)