The following report, photos and topos, report to the 2nd and 3rd of February, when our Portuguese playground still had a small amount of snow. At the present moment, the conditions are very different than those found during the ascents, as it already snowed a lot.
Covão do Ferro.
This time the "green ice" - recalling the imaginative nickname of a facebook friend - was really iced.
The freezing temperatures turned our world into a small garden of joy. Our ice-tools amused themselves with frozen tufts of moss and grass, and cracks encrusted with ice.
To compare these conditions with those found at the opening of "Legume Soup” would be like comparing white wine to red wine. Both are wines, but they couldn’t be more different.
This time there was a dense fog and the wind was blowing.
Oblivious to these elements and happy with the temperatures in the thermometer, we headed to the upper sector on “Covão do Ferro”. We found the snow really hard, transformed as we rarely have in “Serra da Estrela” (consider it as…our Ben Nevis).
Forming ice on the first day...
... and on the second day!
A smile sketched up in our faces.
The presence of ice here and there, moreover, good quality ice, suggested that we could have a good day for some mixed climbing.
The plan was to climb a new route on the granite on left flank of the forming ice-fall.
The first pitch of "green ice" was in good conditions, it was an upward crossing having good rock placements for the tools, nice frozen tufts of moss and sufficient places to protect. Soon after, a dihedral of more difficult resolution, led us to our first belay.
On the first pitch of “green ice”
In the middle of the first pitch.
At the end of the first pitch...with some ice!!!.
Almost at the first belay.
However, it was the second pitch that revealed itself as the best surprise. Comprising an easy couloir for the most of it, it ended in a curious rocky tunnel, like a "mysterious portal.". These natural details always marvel us!
Beginning the second pitch, before finding out its secret...
Reaching the second belay, after the hole.
Second belay. Bomb proof!
Once at the top, we celebrated the excellent conditions we found in the wall. Effusive, we commented on the strange geological curiosity of the new route we had just climbed.
With such a nice line already bagged, the day was done; still, we had a few hours to sunset.
At the end of the route.
Going against our will to go down to the restaurant in the village and order something hot, we decided to climb something else, something that could make our eyes blink.
The blink came from a small couloir. From its beginning, it looked like a super easy going couloir, but things were not meant to be as expected.
On the first steps of the “easy” couloir.
"Mmmm, looks like there’s one rocky step up there not looking that easy!"
Halfway up, a vertical bottleneck suggested a shot mixed climbing passage that quickly became a relatively difficult and somewhat exposed set of moves. Then, we followed an excellent "goullote" of hard snow until the top.
After the bottleneck..
We found the snow level quite low and this was what turned that couloir interesting.
This time we are not convinced of having made a "first." There is a high probability that someone have already been there before (possibly more than once). However, for the record, here is a nice wintry possibility. Advisable!
Day over. Happy and on the way to some place warm.
The next day the sun showed up and the temperature slightly rose, being, however, very satisfactory.
Again we focused our attention on the granite walls of “Covão do Ferro”.
We spotted what could be a line and of course, off we went!
Not that much “ice” in the beginning of the first pitch.
The first pitch demanded a good deal of a delicate dry-tooling, with some passages of hand jamming (with gloves!) included.
Dry-tooling, with nice hand jamming and perfect rock placements for the ice tools.
Nice going crack.
After that nice pitch, a very easy traverse lead us to a snow ramp that “pushed us” to a diagonal traverse of easy fun mixed climbing, with a "squeezed" final step.
Easy and fun.
The “squeezed” step.
Following the logical way, we ended up on the south face of that granite formation, at the base of one last totally dry crack. On another occasion, we would have changed our mountain boots for climbing shoes. This time we decided, once again, for the dry-tooling ... very very dry, and we climbed the whole pitch using our ice tools on the crack. "It's a part of training!” we said to ourselves thinking of future potential targets.
Bomb proof placement!"
A nice way out... for climbing shoes!
“Practicing” rock placements.
And so we had fun for 2 days with some nice mixed-climbing, a winter climbing style perfectly adapted to the playground of “Serra da Estrela”.
Needless to say that our RAB NeoShell jackets and pants were quite useful on these climbs. They insist on resisting the abrasive granite!
THE HOLE...WINTER PLEASURES