This time around, we are not going to ski, but want to explore the nature of Andorra. It is a beautiful day, when we walk out of a chaotic rental shop with our snowshoes, it feels like springtime. We tie the shoes to our backpacks, and hike up on an easy trail through the forest. It takes a while before we see the first traces of snow, and it is only when our hiking shoes are digging too deep into the snow that we stop to tie the snowshoes to our shoes. The going is easier now, and the snowy trail through the forest beautiful. We are well on our way to reach our goal: to climb to the summit of Pic de Medecourbe, the three-country point where France, Spain, and Andorra meet. It is also one of the highest peaks of this small landlocked Pyrenees country.
When we reach a flat cirque, we stop for a while to enjoy the amazing landscape around us. We have clearly left the bustle of Andorra behind: there is no one here. Just a few traces of people who have walked here before, some skiers, and some animals - that is all. The mountains look empty, which only makes their beauty more intense. We reach the hut of Pla de l'Estany, where water is dripping from the snow on the roof. There are only tiny icicles left, and they are disappearing fast. The week before, lots of fresh snow was dumped on the mountains here, but it is extremely warm now and that snow is disappearing fast. On all sides on the slopes around us, there are clear traces of avalanches, and I suddenly start to realise that chances of a successful expedition to Pic de Medecourbe look pretty bleak.
We follow the trail on our phone, and cross several small rivers where we hear the sound of running water and see some small waterfalls. From here, the going is steep, and after we make it to the foot of the rocks, we have to zig-zag our way up. This is hard work: I kick my shoe at every step into the heavy, thick snow, and when I feel I have a good hold, it is time for my other leg to make the next kick. Crossing one of the avalanche trails feels tricky, and we realise that falling down here could trigger another avalanche. The plan is to reach what looks like a ridge higher up, and then make our way westward towards the 2914m peak. But then, my companion slips, and does not feel comfortable anymore. We are at around 2250m, and have a long and arduous way to go up - and then still have to go down before nightfall. It is inevitable to decide to abandon plan and head back. Going down turns out to be trickier than we thought. A Spanish couple accompanies us with their playful dog, and when we reach the Arinsal valley again, we have mixed feelings: happy to be back, but at the same time disappointed that we didn't make it to the top. We will have to come back in another season to give it a go.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Pla de l'Estany (Andorra). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Pla de l'Estany. Read more about this site.