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Trail > Holiday Rides | Mountain Biking in the Snow

Holiday Rides | Mountain Biking in the Snow

basqueMTB snow mountain biking
Snowy mountain biking in Navarra. It´s not often in Spain that we get properly cold on a ride!

Holiday Mountain Biking in the Navarran Tundra

It was a comfortable 13 degrees in the Basque Country, with pretty blue skies and dry trails. Why then did we drive an hour south, deep into the frozen tundra of Navarra, where there were cloudy skies and cold winds forecast? Why were we pulling on thermals and filling flasks of coffee when we could be donning t-shirts and finishing our ride with beer on the beach? The answer can only be because we are a special kind of stupid. Sometimes though, the good adventures follow stupidity.

There is singletrack under there but today we have to make our own!

Antonio is a guide, a silver-haired singletrack guru to basqueMTB if you will. He has lived in the Pyrenees his whole life, has been searching singletrack since the early eighties and his knowledge is impressive. Today we were riding in an area which Antonio had often told me about so it was a special day for me to finally be able to ride these trails. The day was even more special for me because it was my first ride with this group of friends since our new baby was born at the end of the mountain bike holiday season. It would also be my first ride in a few months to last much longer than two hours and I don’t mind admitting I was a bit nervous!

The trail we rode was old school, from a time when we used or bikes or make a journey through beautiful places, rather than seeking out adrenaline in the form of perfect singletrack. We often followed the geography rather than well-worn trails, climbing up grassy valleys and skirting cliff edges. One particular descent blasted through grassy tussocks which wound between limestone sink holes, it is something I would actively avoid nowadays but I had forgotten how much fun it can be to ride freely through the terrain rather than having your moves dictated to you by the tightly defined trail ahead. We made our own singletrack in the snow on several climbs, leaving our marks on the pristine white blanket as we winched to the summit, taking turns to lead. Finally we reached the summit, where there was a hut which Antonio had promised would be open, warm and probably have a fire burning in the corner. It was closed, whipped with a viciously bitter wind and bordered with virgin snow. It was beyond cold.

Cold. Properly Cold!

It has been a long time since I have been properly cold. Not just the sort of cold you get when you head out without your jacket but the sort of cold that takes hours to build up and leaves you unable to use your hands and shivering uncontrollably. It isn´t a good thing and is a sign of a lack of preparation. It turns out that I broke one of my main rules for going into the mountains, always carry at least one thing that you aren´t planning to wear. As Antonio´s promises of fire faded and the realities of snow and wind sank in I was definitely properly cold and looking around I wasn´t the only one. We huddled together in the lee of the capricious cabin and shared out coffee and chocolate until the cold faded at least a little bit. Setting off through the drifting snow we quickly arrived at the final descent and it couldn´t have been more different to the rest of the route. Starting off on slabby rocks, made treacherous by the covering of snow, we quickly picked up a south-facing singletrack which gave dry, drifty descending as it picked its way down through the cliff faces to the village below. The 500m descent was technical in places and flowing in others, with big views and lots of variety and ranks up there with any trail I have ever ridden. Unfortunately I didn´t have time to stop for photos because I had already held the group back a bit here with several punctures. I blame my Specialized 2bliss tyres which boast sidewalls which are too thin to stand up to any sort of abuse. Don´t worry though, this year Santa brought Maxxis!

This isn´t a trail that we will use on our holidays, unless specially requested. It is quite different from what we try to offer but that doesn´t make it any less special and maybe I enjoyed it even more knowing that I wouldn´t be returning often. Thanks to Antonio for guiding and to the rest of the guys for making it fun!

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