Monday, 15 July 2013

Urbion myth - a tale of the unexpected

Laguna Larga
Urbion/Pico de Urbion/Muela de Urbion was not what I expected - actually all I knew was that it is
2238m high, with prominence P1005, 32nd most prominent in Iberian peninsula and the highest point of the Sierra de Urbion. And that there was a laguna/lake nearby.
Note the one-way system
I started from the Paso de la Serra carpark N41.99832 W2.82614 (1596m) where you have to pay 4 Euros – you are not allowed to drive any further, there is a regular shuttle bus to Laguna Negra N41.99867 W2.84383 (1750m)  a couple of kilometres away. I can never stand still at a bus stop and inevitably a bus passes me between stops – as it did here, in both directions.
Lagune Negra is a textbook ex-glacial lake. Like the ones you were taught about at school but never actually see for real – well here it is. 

Laguna Negra
It only gets a very brief mention in the Dorling Kindersley guide – however, it is obviously popular enough to warrant a one way system for people walking along the viewpoint gangway.
For the next part of the walk the Spanish equivalent of the HSE have clearly made their contribution. Nobody could argue that they were not warned how peligroso (dangerous) it is, especially for ninos (children). It is a little steep and badly worn. 

Laguna Negra
Above Laguna Negra
At the top of the corrie wall N41.99598 W2.85045 (1870m) the gradient eases off and there is a pleasant walk through a lengthy grass and flower filled alpine meadow.

Alpine meadow
Unexpected view
The surprise for me came at the end of this meadow at Llanos de la Sierra N42.00495 W2.86152 (1994m) when I got my first view of Urbion itself. Not a tree covered bump then. 
Llanos de la Sierra
The path continues at an easy angle, passing the Laguna Larga on its north-easterly shore and then rises a bit more steeply along the side of Urbion’s south-east ridge. 
After Laguna Larga
As I reached the snow line I was very much surprised to meet two young Spanish women wearing nothing more than bikinis and trainers. When I reached the collado N42.00961 W2.87635 (2140m) I was equally surprised to find a flock of sheep being guarded by a shepherd, who had somehow driven up there in a car.
The final section is a mild scramble to the summit at N42.01141 W2.87843 which is marked by a cross.

Urbion man
Urbion from the lower summit
I also visited the two metre lower summit at N4201172 W2.87804 as an insurance job.
Despite the now almost continuous rolls of thunder to the north I did not feel particularly worried that I was going to get caught in a storm. 
Urbion from pt 2183
I varied the return route by keeping to the top of the south-east ridge, over the 2183m top at N42.00421 W2.87379 before dropping down from N42.00104 W2.86807 (2120m) to Laguna Helada at N41.99464 W2.85891 (2007m). The path follows a ridge before dropping steeply to meet the uphill route at N41.99598 W2.85045 (1870m). I followed the ascent route back – except for complying with the one-way system at the Laguna Negra.
Alpine meadow from above
Laguna Negra
So, why an Urbion myth? When I was driving towards Urbion all I could see was a big tree covered bump. I had not expected to find a classic glacial lake, such fine views and an interesting rocky summit, I  had not expected to meet women in bikinis, I had not expected to get back before the thunder storms broke, I had not expected a Spanish inquisition from the Civil Guards who stopped me as I was driving away from the Sierra (although it was nothing more than a routine check rather than aimed at me personally) and I had not expected to drive into Rioja province and not see any wine grapes.
14.09km, 956m total ascent

Overnight by the side of Embalse de Gonzalez lake (987m), Rioja
Where's the grapes?

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