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Canyoning with the three stooges at Salto de Bierge – Spain

Once in a while I find astonishing  places, truly amazing locations.

It’s not easy for me to point one single place in between so many incredible places I know but sometimes there is something I can’t explain that makes location to shine in a different way it get stuck in my maind.

On the case of Salto de Bierge is quite obvious, just look to the pictures, the spot is definitely wonderful and, I can assure you that what you cannot see gives it even a greater interest.

This small dam of the river Alcanadre is located in the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Park, the Spanish Meca of canyoning. For those who don’t know what canyoning is please check this clip.

After a quite windy canyon the river Alcanadre arrives to a wide area where its waters slows down and spreads along a shallow bathing area.

Around here, besides being a pleasant area for a bath, one can jump from the river dam wall. It’s a 9,5m high wall and the falling will end in deeper waters, egnouphly deep to jump safely.

I came here for the first time on vacations with two friends, I was far from imagining that one day I would guide tours here.

At the time we thought it was a good idea to hire a local guide to l
ead us throughout the canyon, a real treat, really vacations time.

We was so excited that we didn’t pay too much attention to the guy saying: the canyon will require many jumps to the water increasingly higher along the way. The point here was that one of the three stooges was afraid to jump from high places.

As you can imagine it was quite an amusing morning until the moment that we arrived to the river dam wall and I realize that is was impossible for my friend to jump.

I never in the world could imagine he could say what he said: I WILL JUMP!!!!

I grabbed my disposable camera … dreadful camera … but the only one I had at the moment and I jumped to be able to capture his jump from a bottom up angle.

I was so excited that I almost lost the camera. Fortunately I was able to retrieve it.

One step to the void and there he was, the guy that refused all the jumps during all the canyon was jumping from the highest one.

The jump was immortalized in a lousy picture and all the crowd was clapping theirs hands … How did they knew? The third stooge had given short a speech before the jump telling everybody present about what was happening and the second stooge had is moment of glory.

What a day 🙂 thank you my friends for such memories.

David Monteiro

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A hard day at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

A hard day at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

The wind was blowing tremendously strong intensifying the wind chill effect and the fog was preventing us to see more than 50m ahead.

I knew the summit Almanzor was not too far from the point where we was standing but we were still missing the most difficult part to climb.

The team was not prepared to overcome such a difficult task and, on top of that there was no point to continue.

I knew everybody was eager to reach the top … we were so close …

“THAT IS IT GUYS … WE HAVE TO RETURN”

It’s hard having to “stop the fun” especially when I knew that everybody had traveled from so far away to climb this mountain but I know today that was the right decision at that time.

(one day earlier)

I can’t say the day before was sunny and with a blue sky, was not. Was kind of foggy day but good enough for a ice climbing introduction and I had the opportunity to explain all the techniques I was supposed to and, at the end was a wonderful working day.

We spent the night at the Refúgio Elola, the local mountain hut and I remember the substantial dinner we had, was something like a goulash in a Spanish way, whatever that is.

The climbing day was supposed to have better weather but Nature has its mysteries and during the night the Gods might had some disagreement in between them.

I slept regularly, in mountain huts I never sleep deeply but the fair amount to rest. Anyway, inside the mountain hut one cannot have the perception of the weather outside.

We left the hut around 5am, just before sunrise. It’s always better to start walking with hard snow.

There was no way to see the clouds and or to assess the weather for the next hours.

Around 8am the weather was already giving us a hard time and we was right before being exposed to the most severe area, we was about to be at the north face of the mountain, the windiest part.

Half an hour later I had all the team tide up to a rock, all prepared to climb the last section but there was when I realized the team couldn’t continue and you know the rest.

I’m joining a picture of the place but with god weather so you can understand where was we 🙂

The mountain is still there so we will try another day.

David Monteiro

 

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Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees – Spain

Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees - Spain

Nothing better like a nice walk to stretch your legs during a long van transfer, even better if is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

After a long flight, there is nothing worse than being seated in a car for 4 hours driving to doesn’t matter where. But that is what can happen when you are traveling to the Pyrenees after landing at the Barcelona Airport if you don’t have a backup plan.

Of course, you can fly to a closer airport like Huesca or Zaragoza. However, there are not many flights to those airports and in the end, it can take more time than getting there by car.

So, what to do to, at least to soften the long car ride? The answer is to stop somewhere nice for a walk and enjoy the place and instead of a long drive you just add an extra interesting day.

I was searching for a walk halfway to the Pyrenees because of the above reasons and this place caught my attention, is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

The Congost de Mont-rebei is the narrowest canyon of the river Noguera Ribagorzana, right in between the provinces of Huesca and Lleida, Spain.

Is located in quite remote hills and until the beginning of the XX century there were no roads to connect some local villages or with the existing roads, it was a very long ride. So, in 1912 a walking trail was built in the canyon to connect Corçà to Alsamora and other tinny little villages.

Later a river dam was also built and the first trail was flooded (you can see that in one of the photos) and was needed to build a new trail again but now in a higher altitude. In 1984 the second walking trail was finished allowing the people to cross from one side to the other.

More recently an iron bridge and some catwalks were added.

Map-Congost-Mont-rebei

The trail (red line) is not too far from Tremp, has 13 Km to each side without relevant elevation gain. Obviously, you can do a shorter distance because the most beautiful part of the trail is the canyon and it goes until the first 8 Km.

Allow me to suggest you take a sandwich or something else to bite, you will find a perfect place to do it, like my colleague in the photo.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Tremp, Spain

 

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The Way of Saint James

The Way of Saint James

What is the Way of Saint James? How did it appear? Why is so important?

What is the Way of Saint James? How did it appear? Why is so important?

More than a pilgrimage is a spiritual journey within us, steps towards to self-knowledge.

The History of the Way of Saint James dates back to the time of the birth of Christianity.

In the middle ages pilgrims came from all over Europe on the road to Santiago de Compostela with the intention to pay a promise or any other religious intent. In this way they contributed to what would later be called the Way of St. James or, as it is known in Spain, “El Camino”.

After an impressive growth over the centuries it felt abruptly to the point of to be counted 40 pilgrims, during the 19th century.

But something happened that made the flame burn again and in 1999 an impressive number of 155,000 pilgrims were counted.

What happened?

This is a long story that I will tell in a few posts.

Keep tuned.

David Monteiro

Originally posted 2013-06-15 09:26:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Lac Negre, Pyrenees – Spain

Lac Negre, Pyrenees - Spain

A landscape can get stuck in your mind for many reasons not just because is astonishing. Sometimes you just don’t know why but you keep remembering the picture you mentally took or maybe you did it with your camera as well.

The Lac Negre, Black Lake in Catalan, is the case for me, it just pops up in my mind once in a while.

I keep going there on tour and, in between the 200 lakes of Aigüestortes National Park, this is the lake I better remember. I just don’t know why … yet.

Anyway, for your information, the Lac Negre is located here. It’s easy to access if you park your car at the Cavallers Dam parking lot here.

You can take the trail at the right side of the dam face upstream and you will find some signs pointing to the mountain hut Ventosa i Calvell. By the way, a mountain hut in Catalan “refugi”.

It will take you around 2h30m walking to the mountain hut and there you will find the lake.

Although I already did this walk a few times, usually I arrive at Ventosa i Calvell coming from another mountain hut while doing a trekking tour called Carros de Foc.

The water of the lack seems black because of some algae, the dark color of the granite and also because it never gets too much direct sunlight.

The best picture of the lake is during sunrise. Although for a photographer can seem obvious is also to say that during sunset the landscape can be quite flat, it loses the sensation of depth.

For several years I crossed this place during the first week of June when the mountain huts were starting their season and the scenery was always different. Sometimes it was all white from the snow/ice and some other years the snow/ice was long gone and everything was green under a deep blue sky.

I’m leaving you with some pictures of the lake, the mountain hut and where you can see also a mountain range on the background called Bessiberri.

Would you like to visit this lake?

David Monteiro

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Walking and photographing in Picos da Europa – Spain

Walking and photographing in Picos da Europa - Spain

It truly pleases me to write about walks that are usually not mentioned in travel books or magazines. It’s like sharing a small world I found.

Mentions about the walk from Bulnes until Sotres are rare and those I find once in a while do not say much.

This is a walk for photographers. It gives us three opportunities of getting impressive pictures and also be there at the perfect hours of the day … well … the weather conditions are a different matter, please be aware that this happens in a mountain environment so the weather can be a challenge to take into account.

About photography, one thing is to have the opportunity for a shot something else is to actually turn it into reality. For me is still a work in progress, fortunately, some of my guests were able to capture amazing pictures.

The trail goes from “Bulnes la villa” until Sotres, has 9,5 Km with a gain of 850 m in altitude and a 450 m of descent. Not too difficult, moderate level, perfect for photographers.

1st photograph – Overnight in Bulnes to captures the lights of the villages when they are turned on in the evening. You will have sunlight while having the lights of the villages. Be quick because the sunlight will go away quite fast due to the high mountains surrounding the village.

2nd photograph – At the end of the ascending part of the trail, you will see the majestic Naranjo de Bulnes at your right … can’t miss it, it’s huge … an impressive limestone massif with 2519 m high. The light is usually at it’s best around midday due to the mountain “verticality”.

3rd photograph – Just before starting the steep descent towards Sotres you will see a valley with quite a few constructions that you will understand that they are not for humans. In fact, they were built to protect the cattle during bad weather moments. The place is called Moyeyeres, is an “invernadero”. The best view is from far … but that is just my point of view.

I leave you with my suggestions and I will keep looking for the right moment … not too easy because I’m usually here with guests (not my moment) but I will have come here just to capture the moments.

Have fun, I know I will 🙂

David Monteiro

Location: Bulnes, Spain

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A hiking adventure at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

At 110 Km Norwest from Madrid you will find the landscape of the book “For whom the bell tolls” from Ernest Hemingway and a perfect location for a hiking adventure.

If I remember well, I read the book “For whom the bell tolls” when I was 18 years old or something like that. At that age I was far from imagining that one day I was going to lead tours there or even to climb to its summit, the Almanzor.

When I read the book I was fascinated by the description of how the earth shacked when we made love with Maria, I admired the strength of Pilar and I could only imagine the mountains landscape in my dreams. One have to realize that back then there was no internet where I could go browse about Gredos, the closest thing I had was the local public library and there was not many books about such a place.

Anyway, this mountain range is like a mini Alpes, it really looks like it but in a much smaller scale. With its snowed granitic needles and its “U” valley one have the sensation of being in much higher mountain.

The highest summit is the Almanzor with 2,592 m (8,504 ft). If you want to know more about the origin of the name Almanzor, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almanzor

Sierra de Gredos is a lovely place to go for a walk, both during the winter or summer time.

Although during the winter is usually completely covered with snow, the walk from the parking area called Plataforma until the mountain hut Elola is well marked and there is always quite a lot of people doing it, especially during weekends.

But if you want to climb to the Almanzor summit or similar, you better know what your doing or hire a mountain guide. I can’t remember how many time I climbed this summit with clients and quite often we find people in trouble during the way up without proper guidance … please don’t do that.

Just the walk until the mountain hut is already a wonderful memory and in the mountain hut you will find something very important: beer 🙂

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Hoyos del Espino, Spain

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River Ébron canyon – Spain

I love to think that there are trails that have a different objective than the walk itself and this one is a perfect example.

The river Ebron it’s an interesting case of a river that starts and finishes in the same river. It’s a tributary of the river Turia and in the same river has its mouth.

In its short path, the river Ebron crosses a canyon that was named “Estrechos del Ébron” (the Ébron strait)  and it was built here some funny iron infrastructures that allows people to walk in the canyon without wetting their feet.

Exactly, you will be able to walk almost on the water. The maximum height is about 1,5m high.

Funny isn’t it?

To access to the canyon area the trail was equipped with some iron structures that helps you “climbing” some rocks … very easy.

In the way in will find some places where you won’t resist having a bath in crystal clear waters.

Be sure to came here during a hot summer day because is the best time.

The canyon walls will provide the necessary shade and the water will be refreshing.

This is what I call a walk with a hidden agenda 🙂

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Tórmon, Spain

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Mudejar Architecture in Teruel, Spain

Mudejar Architecture in Teruel, Spain.

In 711 AD Moorish troops crossed the Strait that today we know by the name of Strait of Gibraltar and in less than 20 years they conquered almost all the Iberic Peninsula with the exception of some Christian strongholds like the case of Covadonga up north in the Picos da Europa mountain range.

Obviously this occupation brought profound changes to the local Christian Visigothic civilisation. In terms of the architecture, nowadays we can visit some magnificent monuments left by this Muslim people like the Alhambra or the Cordoba Mosque.

This occupation last for around 700 years, if we count the time between the Guadalepe Battle in July 711 AD and the War of Granada that took place from 1482 until 1492 where the Moorish definitely defeated.

Immediately after the Moorish invasion the Christian started a process called “Reconquista”, reconquest that had the objective of regaining their lost territory. Apparently it started with a rebellion lead by Pelayo in 722 AD.

Well, from 722 until 1492 is the period of the Reconquista, around 700 years of a slow transition returning to a Christian society and is during this time and this process that a new architectural style emerges, the Mudejar style. It includes both gothic and Moorish architectural elements.

I truly love History and the period of the Moorish occupation is one of my favorite times in the Spanish History so is not too difficult to imagine how much I love Mudejar style.

Teruel is a city located halfway from Madrid and Barcelona, in the province of Aragon, and an extraordinary example of Mudejar architecture. I love to walk here and imagine how life was back then.

It worth to travel here … oooh yes it does. The Mudejar architectural style is classified as World Heritage by UNESCO (please check http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/378) and Teruel an extraordinary example.

There are plenty of monuments to visit in Teruel and there no need for me to list them here because the information is widely available. However there are three monuments that are my favorits:

The Lovers of Teruel – http://www.teruelversionoriginal.es/Turismo/home_eng.nsf/documento/los_amantes_de_teruel

The Historical Archive of Teruel . http://www.patrimonioculturaldearagon.es/archivo-historico-provincial-de-teruel

Torre de San Martin – http://www.patrimonioculturaldearagon.es/bienes-culturales/torre-de-san-martin-teruel

In future posts I will write about walking trails not too far from Teruel.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Teruel, Spain

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Climbing “via ferrata” a wonderful adventure

A via ferrata (iron way) is a climbing route where you will find metallic structures installed on the rock walls.

According to some sources, this kind of climbing routes had their origin in Italy, where the alpine guides of Madonna di Campiglios (Dolomites) started to place some support metallic structures to facilitated their tours with customers.

This idea was than very well received by the Italian army that came to develop the concept between 1915 and 1918 allowing their soldiers to progress on apparently inaccessible mountain terrain and getting some advantage towards the enemy that couldn’t imagine such structures.

After the world wars, from a military use the “via ferratas” started to have only a touristic use and to be spread out to other countries.

More recently there was a great effort by the Spanish authorities in the direction of installing many “via ferratas” of excellent quality that allow an excellent sensation of adventure tothose that are more experienced climbers as well to those that are not so experienced.

In the area of the Spanish Pyrenees there are has a dispersed set of excellent examples of “via ferratas” and that gives the possibility of fantastic vacations.

Although the “via ferratas” allow an easier progression than climbing on the plain rock, the use of these structures respect a set of security rules that, in case you are not familiarized such techniques is preferable to use the services of a guide.

The via ferratas are graded in many ways. There are some difficulty level grading that can go from an easy level of 1, also referred as A, or an extremely difficult level or 5, also referred as E. You can find other kinds of grading that involve other criterias suchs as a psychological factor of the “via ferrata”.

During the tours I promote to climb via ferratas, concerning the lodging terms I opt to present possibilities of reasonable economic lodging but with the basic comforts as privative bath. However, is always possible to find lodgings in accordance with one needs and pocket..

A memorable adventure.

David Monteiro