I take my hat off to any landscape or adventure photographer who can keep up with any athletes in the mountains, guys like Chris Burkard, Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk, Corey Rich etc – there is a reason why those guys are all as big and sought after as they are and I can only hope to be half the photographer as they are.
I recently had the opportunity, although I didn’t go with “athletes” to Picos De Europa, I did go with 3 mountain goats! The leader runs a great company called Far & Wild and practically lives on the mountains, another guy runs his own adventure tour company called Namaste Nomad and annually does treks to Everest Base Camp & also the Annapurna Circuit AND who also was a Sherpa to EBC and Base Camp 1! The other guy is a well travelled guy again with many many years of experience of walking, biking across Africa etc Then there was me, although I would consider myself to be quite active and I do train a lot, the kind of fitness the mountains require is completely different to the type of fitness I have.
Unfortunately for me I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to continue on so I ended my trip after only 1 day of trekking in the Picos De Europa. I’m absolutely disappointed with myself but I felt like I was a liability to the other 3, and it just wasn’t fair to spoil their adventure because of me.
I can admit that my fitness is probably the main reason I ended my trip early, but I’d also say that going with the 3 mountain goats, walking roughly 12 miles, a 25/30 kg pack, snow waist & knee deep which could only be described as doing 3 hours of lunges and walking through absolute hell… with a further 10 miles to be walked after and barely getting any actual rest time – all of this took its toll on me and my body which just caused me to feel seriously ill. Along with having a swollen left hand and swollen left ankle and aches and pains I’ve never even experienced before!
It honestly took every single ounce of whatever energy I had left to make the final 5km climb up to our refuge last night at Refuge Teranosa. It pushed me beyond what I even thought I was capable of, I had destroyed any energy resources I had left, I was running on complete empty, and to make things even worse, on the final stretch, I ran out of water at the bottom of the valley so you can imagine how I felt.
When I was heading back down this morning to catch a lift to Las Arenas, I honestly don’t remember parts when I was walking up the previous evening.
At roughly 2500ft the Picos De Europa are 3 times higher than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. For next time, I now know what to expect, and what I can take away from this absolutely amazing experience is that my fitness needs to be drastically improved, I need to improve my cardio fitness, my strength training routine needs to be revamped, I need to get some lighter gear and finally if I put my mind to it, I can do absolutely anything – yesterday proved that to me!
Although all of this does sound like I hated it, put the pain aside, I absolutely loved it and I’m now determined to get back there as soon as I possibly can but as that saying goes… You have to crawl before you can walk!