Flight: Spain, France: Mediterranean Coast, Pic d’Canigou

Narration for this flight is provided on my monthly AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) blog post, though in keeping with tradition, I am including a large amount of photos not tendered on the AOPA post.

Additionally, I skipped a few weeks ahead with this post, as I had entered into a period of flying repeatedly in the local area, capturing relatively amazing photography of Cadí-Moixeró and Pedraforca over and over again in the winter, with varying cloud formations. While interesting, it is a bit repetitive AND… I decided that capitalism and book sales can shove it. I am so madly in love with Cadí-Moixeró that I am going to do an entire book of photography on the park, even if nobody buys a book. The last time I said that, the book in question was one of my better sellers for that season, so I give up on that front. Readership can be a collective fickle mistress.

La Masella – I was tempted to ski down this valley last month (out of bounds) and decided against it.
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This clump of rock stands between me and Barcelona Approach.
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Foothill of Serra Cavallera
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Serra Cavallera.
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Haze far worse than expected based on observations.
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Rocks below are the border. France on the other side. Pic d’Canigou with snow on it.
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Some sort of old military installation at the border.
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Geologic terminus of the Pyrenees at the Mediterranean. Haze is actually a precursor to a Saharan dust storm.
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France left, Spain right.
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France
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Banyuls sur Mer, France
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Port Vendres, France. I was wondering what on earth a train terminal was doing here, until I found out its a deep water freight and cruise port.
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Pic d’Canigou, from the Mediterranean.
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Platja Grifeu, Spain
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Punta Blanca
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Looking back the other way.
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Same place, with Pic d’Canigou. France, Spain, the Mediterranean and snow-capped Pyrenees….all in one image!
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The last time I kayaked, my kayak sprung a leak and sank in the middle of a 40 F (4 C) lake.
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Underwater textures.
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Near Cadaques.
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Near Roses, Spain
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Old military installation near Roses, Spain. I am beginning to think the star pattern is not for looks….
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An interesting take on haze in Catalunya.
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Pic d’Canigou, France.
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French Pyrenees
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Spain is technically the foreground.
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Flight: France, Andorra, Spain: Winter Pyrenees

There is a little section of mountains, akin to a “range” though lacking in distinct identity as the name implies in America, that scares the crap out of me. Its just so…harsh, and there is no good way to get out in the event of an emergency. As such, I have only nibbled at the edge, and so far hadn’t really gone over it. It is a bit to the west of Pic Carlit in France, with an altitude of 9,583 feet, which isn’t enough to impress me by the numbers. As you’ll see in the pictures, it was rugged enough. Waiting until the mountains were as unforgiving as possible with deep snow and cold temperatures, I decided to fly over it.

For some reason, despite the deep snow, penetrating cold, and harsh nature of the mountains when they are prone to avalanche, I find the entire experience peaceful and pleasant, almost a Zenist moment in the airplane, which lasts until I can’t feel my face, hands, and feet, then I head home. I don’t get the same peace flying over the same terrain in other seasons.

Ascending into the Pyrenees….Spain
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Andorra
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France
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Snow drifts….blowing up the side of the mountain against gravity.
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Looking into the Midi-Pyrenees region of France.
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Rugged section I have been reluctant to fly over. Here we go….
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Back in Andorra. This image is practically pornographic.
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Crossing the border back into Spain.
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People seriously tear up the Pyrenees with backcountry skiing. I cannot believe the places people climb to. No matter how remote….there are usually some tracks going down it.
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Descending into La Cerdanya.
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Where I descended from.
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Flight: Spain, Andorra: Pyrenees Sunset

I have this strange issue where I won’t fly unless I come up with some sort of stated goal. Yes, I know, I am flying a Piper Cub, and for some reason I need a purpose that is more than just going flying. On this particular day, I had an itch to go up, though I didn’t want to go far, yet I wanted to look at something I hadn’t look at already….

I hatched a brilliant scheme, falling back on my days flying in Wyoming: why not go up at sunset? The Pyrenees would have soft, yellow light cast on them, and absolutely everything in the area would look different under those conditions. The plan worked quite well, with a fantastic surprise toward the end of the flight, as I discovered a glorious overcast inversion on the other side of the Cadí ridge, set against the harsh, dry, beautiful clear air that was on the Cerdanya side. This flight ranks as a classic ten out of ten, as imagery was fantastic, and it was just plain fun to wander around without having to think too hard.

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Looking into Andorra…
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I would say “that damn inversion,” except its pretty this time!
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Looking toward La Cerdanya from Andorra border.
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La Cerdanya, including airport, from directly overhead.
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Cadí ridge, with overcast.
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Montserrat. I feel like the thing is always watching….
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Sunset, with Pedraforca to the right.
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Flight: Spain: Masella, Pedraforca, Cadí-Moixeró After Snowstorm

After crawling out of my self-reflective philosophical aviation hole last December, I started to expand my horizons and creep out of La Cerdanya, venturing a bit farther into unfamiliar terrain. This concept worked as early winter weather is rather stable in Spain, so the general condition of the world around me stayed the same. Under those circumstances, my instinct is to start finding new things to look at.

That all changes when the seasons change.

As noted in a prior post, I thought our one winter blast was largely it. Sure, I expected some more snow, but how was I to know if any potential future storm would be as good as the present? I learned through experience that an entire month can go by where above-timberline peaks receive zero snow at all. Could this be the last good storm for the year?

Nope. It was really just getting started.

We got slammed again down in the valley, and logically the storm was measurably more severe at altitude, dumping prolific amounts of snow on the Pre-Pyrenees. Everything I had previously been photographing now looked entirely different. Instead of “some” snow on Cadí-Moixeró and the rest of the area, it was coated from top to bottom. That meant that my focus shifted to revisiting the more interesting of local places, to get them in an entirely different perspective.

There was that, and the fact that normal instability endemic to mid and late winter had arrived. That meant pleasant days with interesting moisture meandering around the mountains, which has a correlative relationship to moist winter storms anywhere else on earth I have flown. The more water or snow that falls out of the sky, the more likely the sky does interesting things with weather phenomenon.

On this particular day, there were cap clouds over various terrain features, with a few cloud layers here and there in some valleys, but not others. It was all set against an incoming disturbance in the atmosphere, which made a nice complement to my imagery, offering a more monochromatic look than the typical sunny day perspective.

La Cerdanya, covered in snow.
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La Masella, with Cadí-Moixeró sneaking in the background.
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Summit of Tosa d’Alp, hiding in a cloud, barely distinguishable from clouds in the background. Ideal flying weather!
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Tosa d’Alp from a distance.
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Tosa d’Alp, closeup, with cap cloud.
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Fair amount of snow cover. Puigllançada.
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Cadí
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El Pedraforca
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North slope of El Pedraforca, with Cadí-Moixeró to the rear right. Note incoming weather.
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Gósol, from El Pedraforca.
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Pedraforca again. I so badly wanted to fly in the saddle between the cloud and the snow. I have a peculiar desire to stay alive and keep my pilot’s license.
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Cadí-Moixeró, with weather rolling in.
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Bor. I have this enigmatic displeasure with looking up place names. I will gladly fly to them, take a picture, post them on the Internet, and identify them on my sprawling complex of maps, though I find the act of labeling them to be tedious and uncompelling. 
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