We had an eventful, interesting and ultimately fulfilling day on the western slopes of the Cerro de Caballo a couple of days ago. The route is along the Acequia los Hechos and up to the remote and lonely, hidden lake of Laguna Puesta Cura.
It's a route we have enjoyed many times previously in the late spring to see the endemic wild flowers, gushing melt waters and startling greenery of the scenery. Yesterday was a somewhat different experience to the norm.
As we climbed up and away from the acequia the valley colours turned into various shades of brown and white. The year before this valley had been bright green and full of wild flowers. Today it was a martian landscape. It was a surreal experience but strangely beautiful nevertheless.
Sometimes I'm far too enthusiastic. Gives me problems at times. Like yesterday. Saw a nice scene I wanted to photograph, moved far too clumsily and quickly and my camera fell out of the camera bag into the stream. Doh! I am hoping that either the camera and/or the lens can be saved by slow drying and sensor cleaning. If not, it's an expensive error. What a t**t.
We had to take care when crossing snow fields in the Sierra Nevada as the hot sun had sped up the melting process and made snow bridges unstable, especially over streams. We kept away from valley bottoms and stayed as much as possible on the flanks of the valleys to minimise risk.
The descent was delightful for the most part. Instead of trudging down endless slopes of scree, stones and thorny brush we had lovely snow slopes to ease the progress. We made good progress until close to the snowline. Only one more slope to go.
And the ... we met hard snow, just where hard snow shouldn't be! Most of us tiptoed our way careful across and down this, the potential for a slip had increased all of a sudden. The safest way to descend was by being bold. By slamming your heel down into the snow and being definite, committed. Two of our group were, understandably, more timid and as fear and trepidation started to enter their minds they became less definite and committed in their foot placements. They fell, one after another. Fortunately Sean was first on hand to arrest their falls before they hit a small band of rocks below.
Sean had acted quicker than me on the first slip. My mind took away vital seconds analysing the scene, Sean acted instantly. The second fall I was ready for, I jumped to assist but slipped. Again Sean was first to the scene. Well done Sean!
Lessons? As the leader and with the most experience, should I have foreseen this? Crampons on a hot sunny day with only a 10m section of ice to contend with? I think maybe overkill. Two of the party had "mini crampons" that slipped over the boot, so maybe that is the answer. We could have avoided this icy part and I think in future if I encountered similar conditions I would ask the party to come off the snow earlier. I misjudged the ability of the whole party in being able to cope with this. More training required next winter too?