The “first snow” in a mountain region, particularly a semi-arid region, is somewhat of a subjective definition. Technically, I saw a few shreds of snow on a hill in Andorra in September (north facing only), and there was also a dusting that remained on Cadí-Moixeró on the vertical north face in early October. There was also a brief blast of snow in late September during a raging thunderstorm, though it was gone in a few hours and only affected the summits. This particular storm in mid-October was a long-period rainfall in the valley, with a distinct snow level on the hills at roughly 8,500 feet, persisting for a number of days. In my definition, it is this event that constitutes the “first” snow, probably because the snow stuck around when it was all over.
As of yet, the southeastern quadrant of La Cerdanya remained unexplored: Puigmal and Pic de l’Infern (“Hell Peak”), largely due to the fact that daily thermal cloud growth had a nasty tendency to obscure this area with certain regularity. There was also the persistent fact that they are big, bad mountains, and some days I am either a wimp or simply uncompelled to get off my rear end and do something magnitudinous.
It turned out to be a flight that mimicked many that I have taken in the western United States: rocky summits with snow at the top layers, blue skies, dry air, and deliciously stunning contrasts. In my opinion, it’s about as good as it gets. When I am flying around peaks like this, I am entranced into “the zone,” aware but not consumed with worry about dramatic emergencies, focusing my energies instead on timing lighting and flight course with upper level winds and their associated interactions with terrain. “Heaven” might be a bit cliche, though at the very least, I am 100% satisfied with life under these circumstances.
Both the French and the Spanish have tantalizing roads like this, allowing you to get within 1 mile of the juicy views, and then they place a “do not enter under penalty of death” sign there, with no gate blocking it, tempting me to drive up anyway and blame it on being American if I get caught.