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Monday, 12 February 2007

The Hidden Costa Blanca

Dotted around the hills of the Costa Blanca are some remarkable relics of a time gone by. Before the age of industrial refrigeration the only way to enjoy the luxury of ice throughout the year was throught th euse of huge snow pits, Neveras dug into the ground and filled up throughout the winter. These were not "quick fixes" but major constructions that must have taken vast amounts of labour to complete. The best examples are beautifully built, often situated in natural hollows high on the mountains where snow would drift in the colder winters of the 16th to 19th centuries. The snow holes are up to 20 metres deep with amazing domed roofs (most roofs have fallen in but a few remain).

Of course even when full of snow (which would compress and turn to ice) it was a major job to dig out the frozen blocks and carry these down to the villages and towns on mules and donkeys at night. The snow was layered between straw to aid insualtion, and if you look at the floow in some snow holes you will see drainage channels to take away any melt water. The re contructed Nevera "Pou Cerde" between Torre Manzannes and Jijona has an example of the winding gear that must have been used to haul out the heavy frozen blocks. Some like the fine example at Bocairent are even built cleverly into cliff faces so that access to the bottom is possible via a tunnel. This one is also unusual in that it is built on the edge of the town. I wonder if they ever got enough snow to fill it? It's worth a visit as it has now got a staircase all the way from the floor to the top exit.

The arrival of industrial refrigeration at the end of the 19th century brought an end to this unusal industry and gradually the snow wells are falling into a sad state of decay.

More pictures here

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Monday, 5 February 2007

A Grand Day Out (in the Lakes)

A good forecast and dry condtions prompted a trip to Napes crag in the Lakes to do a classic rock route. All snow had disappeared from the fells so with reasonably light weight packs an approach from Langdale s was chosen rather than driving around to Borrowdale. A rough calculation was start at 10 - 2 hours walk - climb and summit by 3pm - back to Langdale by 5pm (20km approx) . It's a long slog up from Langdale along thee valley and up Rossett Gill. The cold frosty valley was left behind and the hard work soon started.

Thankfully Jules who was setting a storming pace had a new camera and stopped a few times to take pictures!

We sped past Angle Tarn over Esk Hause where Great Gable came into view at last. Then full speed ahead to Sty Head and the climbers path to Napes. The weather was holding with clear blue skies and rock actually warm to the touch as we passed Kern Knotts and Tophet Wall. We had time for a quick rest below Napes Needle and decided on doing Eagles Nest Ridge Direct as our original objective of Napes Ridge was busy with at least two groups of climbers. I won (lost?) the find a stone challenge set by Jules to see who should lead the climb and we were soon in position at the bottom of the arete of this classic mild VS.

The climbing was dleightful. There were enough gear placements to make it feel safe, but in places it is quite delicate and commiting for a mild VS, and having a rucksack on makes the grade feel a bit harder when things get steep. Passign the small ledges on the Eagles Nest and Crows Nest the large ledge below the crux was reached. here a great wire placement makes this a very safe move even though the holds are a bit polished. A full 50 metres leads to a large belay area below easier ground. Jules and Jez followed up and we then tackled the remaining section (diff?) of Eagles Nest Ridge with some VERY exposed moves onto polished ledges it is pretty good value!

Eagles Nest Ridge

Packing away the gear I dropped my helmet and down in rolled out of sight towards a big gully. From the continual sounds of stone fall it was obvious it had gone a long way. So Jules and Jez continued over Gable whilst I went to try and retrieve the helmet. Srambling down steep ground and back around to the bottom of the gully I could see a tiny white spec high up, it had hardly come down any distance at all! At least it was reasonably accessible and also had the extra benefit of getting to a really good viewing point of Sphinx Rock

I met up with Jules and Jez back at Styhead, then it was just flat out again back to Langdale, retracing our steps past Great End (completely snowless) and to big descent back down Rossett Gill with the the Langdale Pikes holding onto sunlight long after the valley was in shadow.

A grand day out it was indeed!

Winter skies near Great End

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