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YEAH IT’S WINTER!!!!

During the week we followed several weather sites anxious to find negative temperatures on the highest altitudes of Portugal. When we found out that together with the low temperatures there would be some snow, we sharpened our tools and decided to have a look in Serra da Estrela (our highest mountain...1998m!)

Saturday morning, while we approached by car, we really couldn’t figure out if the conditions where good or not. Although the walls where covered in white, there was only a few centimeters of snow resulting of the previous night.

We decided to have a look to those places where the possibilities to find ice are normally good.

To our disappointment the ice was there but…anorexic! Still, in all directions we looked, there was a thin layer of snow covering the walls…simply beautiful!

Looks like winter!!!

After half a day of walking we were determined to do something! So we headed for a nice looking wall, covered in white and chose what seemed to be a climbable system of cracks. Mixed climbing was the choice to open the winter season.

A couple of hours later we managed to be 35m away from the ground, one pitch was done. For me with some difficulty…but done.

Paulo on the first moves of winter.

Paulo on the first pitch of “Remember remember the first of December”

On the first pitch of “Remember remember the first of December”

Final moves!

Paulo began the second pitch just when the light started to fade. It was easy to see that it was going to be a hard one, and since we decided to leave the headlamps on the ground, we just had to resigns and leave that line as a future project. Still it was nice to find out that the grass was in good frozen conditions, perfect for the ice-axes. We were so happy to use our ice tools that we decided to name this future line as “Remember remember the first of December”. We were acclimatized for the next day!

As we checked the conditions were perfect for some mixed climbing, for Sunday we decided to complete an old project that we left behind two years ago.

At the time, we came down on the third pitch, after a hard move, and under an enormous heat…for winter climbing, +9ºC!

So Sunday morning we tried our luck on the west face of Cântaro Magro, and around 10:00 a.m. we started the climb.

The first pitch went much more smoothly than the last time. The rock dihedral that constituted the greatest difficulties of this pitch was surpassed more easily. Yes, the frozen herbs at the end of the dihedral were for sure a big help!

 

In the beginning…

There he goes!! Starting the dihedral.

My turn!

At the end of the dihedral of the first pitch

After 2 more pitches of easy terrain came the hard part, the one where we were forced to abandon 2 years ago.

 

Easy going on the third pith

 

This time Paulo’s mind was a lot more confident, and elegantly he managed to do all the moves to surpass the difficulties. First a small overhang (where I had to hang!!!) with lack of good placements for the ice-axes and after some delicate moves with bad support for the crampons and nothing close to perfect for the ice-axes! After a dozen of meters of difficult moves we were sure we would finish the line.

The crux, a small overhang to surpass. No good  placements for the tools!!!

 

…and it’s done!

I’m going!!!!

…and going!!!!

Still we had 2 pitches to go, the first one of easy going terrain, and the second one reserving us a surprise right on the last exit meters! When your brain is already not expecting anything else than a soft ending, the last 2 hard meters take longer than expected.

THE 2 meters for the finish line!

Happy?

 

Summit pic…as always!!!

Anyway, we still finished with daylight, and after a truly wonderful opening of the winter season we decided to name the line “Unfinished Business”.

As I’m writing this, I know all the snow is already gone, and spring temperatures are ruling again…we hope not for long!!!

 

GEAR: this time we were forced to “test” the Neo Shell Jacket and pants, scrubbing on the rough, abrasive granite and our Neoshells keep looking like new pieces! Well…a bit dirty, but that even makes them look better, as they show what mixed climbing really is: NO RULES!!!