Saturday, 9 February 2008

Beyond the Guadarrama

A change of plans means that instead of heading for Burgos, Mark is now following the N 110 to Soria and from there on to Pamplona. First, however, he had to get over the col in the Sierra de Guadarrama north of last night's terminus at Somosierra.

The image on the right shows how lines of communication often 'jostle' for position as they seek out the low points on a mountain ridge. The col here is the only major gap through the eastern end of the Sierra and is thus an important link between the north of Spain and the Madrid area. Motorway, highway, minor roads and a railway all use this narrow corridor.

Beyond the col, Mark turned north east towards Soria...
The high peaks of the Sierra which he has just crossed are now to his right and if you look at the image above, you will be able to make out the settlement of la Pinilla bottom right. La Pinilla is a ski resort! If you click on the banner above, it will link to the resort website where the live webcam will give you an idea of the conditions. As you can see above, at 13.00h on 9th February it was a beautiful sunny day with, according to the website, sufficient snow to have about half of the uplit facilities open. Below is a bit of video of skiing at La Pinilla. It reminds me of skiing in the Cairngorms - only there's more snow and better weather!

Continuing on past the road to la Pinilla, Mark descended into the well wooded valley in which Riaza is located. The municipal authorities of Riaza have produced rather a nice web site with a clever 'fly in'. On the web site here are some good images which you can access by following Entrar, Fotos, Panoramicos 360.

It was interesting to listen to Mark's interview on radio Scotland this morning (You can access it here . Fast forward 20 minutes into the Sports Weekly programme). At one point Mark was talking about how cold it was in the morning - and that, despite the sunshine evident on the webcam at la Pinilla. Low temperatures are entirely consistent with a) the altitude and b) the high pressure which is set to dominate the weather of western Europe over the next few days. This will be really good news for Mark as he dashes for the tape....The map above is the expected pressure situation for Sunday and there is little change predicted for the next few days. Winds are very light and from the south and the nearest frontal system......well, wouldn't you know it! As a consequence, skies in Spain will be clear, bringing lots of sunshine and temperatures picking up during the day but cold nights as any warmth is lost to the clear skies.

North and east of Riaza Mark has cycled over very undulating terrain towards Soria and beyond. A whole series of river valleys, mainly tributaries of the Duero (Douro)cut into the plateau and between them land rises high enough to catch the frost of high pressure nights in winter and spring as in this image from Google maps.

At 785 km the river Duero is actually the third longest river in the Iberian peninsula and the second largest in terms of its drainage basin..

According to Wikipedia, it flows in its upper course through a region which , "for the most part, is one of semi-arid plains planted with wheat and in some places, wine grapes. Sheep rearing is also still important."

Below are a couple of images of the river Duero in this part of its course. Firstly at San Esteban where Mark crossed the river and where its importance for irrigation is evident...

...and then again at Soria

Mark passed through Soria this afternoon. Here is some promotional footage for Soria courtesy of YouTube... even if you don't understand a word of the Spanish, it gives a pretty good impression of the town and its environment...
East of Soria, there were another couple of climbs to cross the 1400m Sierra del Madero and then down to Agreda where Mark ended the day. The image below shows his location tonight, poised to descend to the Ebro valley and on to Pamplona and the French border tomorrow....

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