Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Day 4 Vacares - Siete Lagunas

We woke early, the snow had frozen hard overnight, making melting it for morning drinks quite a chore. While waiting for the water to boil, we watched the sun gradually rising over the peaks, quite spectacular. From our campsite, a small path led through a boulder field then climbed steeply onto the ridge, stepping into the warming sunshine as we reached the col. From here numerous paths climb the slope towards the summit of the Puntal de Vacares. (3,066 m). We more or less followed the edge of the ridge, the path, though narrow and loose at times, was as we made for the rocky summit. We stopped to rest and get our bearings on a broad rock ledge just below the top, and leaving the sacs, made our summit bid! The route westward from the summit of the Vacares is probably the most complicated of the trip, and is often obscured by snow patches (as in our case). We descended through the boulder field for a short way, then made for a Pinnacle 50m east of the summit of the Puntal de El Goterón, which seemed an obvious landmark. This was eventually reached, and led us to another rock ledge and then back onto the ridge for a pleasant descent to the col below Alcazaba. Here we had our usual mid morning snack, gazing longingly at the rocky route on the steep north side of Alcazaba. There were still significant snow patches covering the path, and neither of us wanted to take any chances with big packs and no ice-axes, so we decided on the southern route, of the beautiful valley of the Rio Goterón.
Wandering down the Tajos del Goterón, with it's laguna, we picked our way round the majestic waterfall to the stream, past patches of gentian and other early flowers, to the stream, which was to be our lunch spot. After an enjoyable break, we headed off towards the Loma de la Alcazaba and Siete Lagunas. The path out of the valley, though steep, again proved much easier than we had remembered, and we followed it towards the junction with the Alcazaba ascent route. As we did so, the afternoon mist was once again drawing in and we soon found our view both below and onward completely obscured. We found ourselves following horse tracks, hoping they were going in the right direction, until crossing a rocky section, they disappeared. We got map and compass out and took a bearing. Using the directions for adjusting magnetic variation on the Spanish map (using 1950's map datum) seemed straight forward until we found the bearing taking us downhill; we were convinced we should still be ascending! Jane got out her GPS - she had so far been using it occasionally to mark significant way-points, but had expected to need it for anything else. Having established we knew where we were, the compass was still way off (around 30 degrees), we asked the GPS to take us towards Siete Lagunas, and it very obligingly did so! Of course there were a few deviations on the way, but we managed to pick up the horse trail again and crossed the wonderful borreguiles above Prado Llano before eventually rounding the Loma de Culo Perro and Siete Lagunas, our camp for the night.

A jusifiably popular camp site, the ground around Siete Lagunas was carpeted with gentian and Esterella de las Nieves (star of the snow). We spent a relaxing hour before supper, taking photo's and enjoying the beauty of the surroundings. Still amazed that our fellow campers were the first people we had encountered for over 48 hours.