Ascent to Pic de Coma Pedrosa-Avalanche Run-Out Zone on 2014-06-07

Climber: Johann Schelesnak

Others in Party:Ashleigh
Date:Saturday, June 7, 2014
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Bus
Point Reached:Pic de Coma Pedrosa - Avalanche Run-Out Zone
    Elevation:8038 ft / 2449 m
    Remaining Elevation:1624 ft / 495 m (36% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

We woke up early for our full day hike towards the highest point in Andorra, Coma Pedrosa Summit (2940m). After a quick breakfast we headed to the bus that was going up from La Massana to Arinsal (1570m). This is where the Pedrosa trail started. It took us a few minutes to find the starting point since we had to cross an avalanche retaining wall through a tunnel to get to the beginning. A friendly Andorran pointed us in the right direction but not without warning us that the ascent was very steep. So we went up the hill by a beautiful forest trail. It reminded us of Waterton in many ways. We delayered quickly when the sun came out promising a nice day (however the wind forecast was in the 50km/h range). We knew this would change closer to the top. Ashleigh was not in her top shape, she was fighting off either terrible hay fever or some sort of cold but we decided to take our time up since we had all day. The trail went up steep at times but also had some flat parts. After about 2 hrs of hiking and crossing multiple fast running streams we reached the refuge at 2260m. Two ladies and their welcoming dogs came out to say hi. We had a quick break but decided, since we still had a ways to go, that we better move on. The trail leading westward was flat and somewhat downhill at times but many snow patches made the progress rather slow, especially since no other foot prints were visible making the "following" part difficult. So we went on, towards the steep part of the trail. Finally some other people showed up passing us and also giving us some hope that we weren't the only ones out here trying to reach the peak. The steep trail soon ended at the bottom of a large section of snow, with a creek to the right (or perhaps somewhere under the massive snow patch). The British couple ahead made a trail through the soft snow hoping not to hit the snow section above the fast stream. We caught up to them and we were talking about the way up. The guy had been to the top before but snow conditions were a lot better then. It was a crazy winter apparently in Andorra so a lot of snow was still around at these altitudes. They decided to not go further since the snow seemed to be in many spots on the trail and the effort was to great. Ashleigh and I decided to go up a bit further to see if the snow got better. Unfortunately this was not the case. The snow was melting fast and the accumulated snow at the top of the ridge made me nervous, and avalanches were all too common here. After hiking up a bit further but not seeing the end of heavy snow patches around the ridge, I decided to make the call to turn around. The wind was pretty crazy as well and the ascent up required our full attention. So we took our picture at 2450m just 500m short of the summit and started the descent down to the refuge. Ashleigh agreed to turn around and even though we didn't reach Andorra's high point we did get up quite high to enjoy the great views. We had a long and relaxing lunch at the refuge, stretched our legs and went down to Arinsal, with many stops on the way down. We had all day so we enjoyed the nature, saw some lizards and observed how the vegetation changed the lower we got. The trail was very well marked, at least where there was no snow, making it easy to follow. We arrived at the bus stop after a good day of hiking and 10kms later.
We celebrated our hike with some beers and we had brought a bottle of Cava (champagne) from the Barcelona region which we drank as well (even though we didn't summit).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2887 ft / 879 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.2 mi / 10 km
    Route:GR-11 Normal
    Trailhead:Arinsal  5151 ft / 1570 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Weather:Cool, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 

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