23-Apr-2004 -- When we started thinking about where to go on our spring vacation, one of the places high up on the list was the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. We also like to hike and kayak, both excellent pastimes in northern Spain. And since we have discovered the fun of visiting confluences, we thought we would like to visit one in Spain. Imagine our delight in learning that there was not only one, but TWO incomplete confluences in northern Spain (43N 002W and 43N 004W – the last two remaining onshore in Spain), with Bilbao sandwiched almost exactly between them! That settled the vacation question.
The first confluence we attempted in Spain was 43N 002W, located northwest of Pamplona in the rugged Sierra de Aralar, a region of wild limestone mountains, deep chasms, and dense oak forest. The posted unsuccessful attempt was very helpful. Even with a much more detailed map, it was clear that the road he had chosen – to the tiny village of Inza – was the best way to get close to the point. The end of the road in the village comes to 1.03 miles of the confluence; we knew that we would have to walk from there. Photo #2 shows the general area of our hike; we had just parked our rental car and were walking down the cart path in the foreground, then we set out over the really wet fields off to the right, heading almost due south. The going was sloppy, but only mildly uphill and over a couple of sheep fences – until we got to the .34 mile mark, the edge of the forested zone.
Topo maps seemed to indicate a more gradual slope going up the west side of the wall, and in any event, when we arrived at the site, a mountain stream in full spring rush (not visible behind the trees in the center of the photo) appeared to block access to the confluence point from the east. The next tenth of a mile took us up steeply thru scrubby trees and undergrowth, the ground littered with slippery lichen-covered rocks (did I mention it was wet?).
At the .24 mi. mark, we came out above the main tree cover. The rock face that had stopped the previous visitor was to our left (it is the gray and white cliff just to the right of center in the photo). We worked our way upward, using goat paths to traverse back and forth on an increasingly steep slope. Our first try ended at .19 mi. We were still at least 100 feet from the summit, and with the slippery and near-vertical conditions, it wasn’t possible to continue. (photo #8)
So we backed-tracked to .22 miles, and Bill pulled our celebration feast out of his pocket (since we knew we were going to be climbing, it only amounted to a couple of pastries and a bottle of water) and sat down on a ledge at the top of the rock wall.
Disappointed at the thought of giving up and yet unwilling to risk serious injury for the sake of sport, I wandered along the ledge to the east. What had appeared, at first glance, to be a sheer grassy face turned out to have a broad (relatively speaking, of course) path. I followed it around the corner and the views disappeared. I called out to Bill – and we were off again! The path led to an isolated fold between several peaks. It didn’t exactly get EASY at this point, but it certainly became POSSIBLE. We followed the GPS across a steeply inclined ridge, dominated by brambles and sheep droppings – it led us back to a second fold in the mountains and up a steep grassy meadow. And there, on a fat newborn fern, lay the confluence point. The zeroes came up perfectly while the GPS stayed in my hand, but the second I put it down on the 45 degree slope, the numbers changed. Looking west is further up the hill; north and south show the slant of the mountainside; east is the open view across to the next peak eastward. (This shows on photo #2 as the peak on the left side.)
I can imagine that we might have been the first bipeds to reach this place. Obscured by the glare on the GPS screen is the altitude, 2370 ft. The entire trip up took 2 hours; down took 1 ½ -- for a total horizontal journey of just over 2 miles as the crows flies.