30th May 2011 A storm in the Pyrenees

I took my daily post breakfast walk, this time to check on the car in the long stay car park. On my way I noticed a helicopter trailing a long line towards a cliff side. After retrieving my monocle from the Hotel, I could see what seemed to be 2 climbers on a porta-ledge waiting for recue climbers to ascend from bellow. It looked like an emergency, but could equally have been a training exercise. (hard to see but near the middle in the picture left)

The Weather forecast for today wasn’t too good. But I set off in good weather for the 2,658m Tossa del Braibal anyway. It was about a ¾ hour run / walk through the busy escalades high street before I started to ascend a winding road then eventually a track. I had previously plotted a convoluted route that spent less time on winding mountain roads. So I did some long sweeping out and back before closing In on Coll Jovell (1,179M), as I did I heard the unmistakable sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. As it was distant I decided to carry on. But by the time I had ascended to about 2,100M, it suddenly became much louder.

After 2 hours effort I took a breather and decided that I did not know enough about how these steep sided slopes would react in bad weather. Landslips are always a threat. Ultimately it was my own risk assessment that turned me back. On my own, on almost deserted hills, with probably an hour to get to the top and back to where I was, with a storm closing in and just starting to rain, on unfamiliar hills was enough to make me go back down. A little disappointed as this was a much better mountain to take on at speed, the trails were much nicer and less steep. As I descended I saw a lightning strike on a radio mast near the mountain I was on, on Saturday. I have never turned back before but I have never taken on a 2,600M peak before either. If that weather was in the English hills I would have carried on.

As it turned out the bark of this storm was worse that it’s bite. But still a lot of life is about self-preservation, and based on this alone I know it was the correct decision.

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