Toward to the Heart of the Mountain
The alarm went off at 6AM, time to wake up and prepare everything for the long and difficult journey that was waiting me till the heart of our beloved Star.
The night had been pretty calm in my modest Mazda 2, usually turned into motorhome to these adventures!
Outside, reigned darkness and a magnificent starry sky that you can only appreciate on the cold winter nights!
Fortunately, I needn`t wait to long for the friends which would accompany with me on this adventure through the central massif.
The mountain trail had as its starting point the Covão D'Ametade (1450m), an emblematic site and of obligatory stop for those who want a little more of Serra da Estrela beyond the famous Tower.
Situated at the foot of "Cântaro Magro", granite outcrop that reaches 1928m altitude, here you can see the first steps of the Zêzere river and the lovely beeches that in the autumn give that touch of warm colors to this place.
Due to its outstanding beauty, this is one of the favorite spots for photographers of natural landscape, deserved to be photographed at any time of year! Here, the nature is everywhere!
However, my photographic goals were different for that morning!
Was roughly 6:30 AM when we started to walk towards the Covão Cimeiro (1630m).
The first part of the trail coincides with the route of central massif (pink) as had already been done by me in mid-August last year!
Is considered by many the most dangerous and difficult path of Serra da Estrela, so, try to imagine now what is do it with snow, ice and STRONG wind gusts!!!
Once the sunrise scheduled for 7:44 AM, we had just more than 1h in order to achieve the desired scene in time to register all its charm in the golden hour!
The first part of the walk, as expected, at least by me, it would be one of the most complicated.
An extremely steep and winding climb among rocks, snow and ice, it was necessary to take special care not to twist a foot or take a mighty fall!
The first part of the trail was made even by night and so that it was needed the use of artificial lighting by "headlamps".
Due to all these adversities, our progress was slower than originally we had imagined, having spent about 50 minutes to reach the place where I decided to take this first shot (Photo 1).
While we were climbing the mountain, behind us began to appear the first signs of light which, in tune with these clouds on the horizon, gave way to a show and a view to fill the eye to anyone!
It wasn't my goal to stop walking, but actually, our delay turned impossible to achieve such place in time to register it with the warm colors.
In fact, these warm colors were there, right in front of us and it was time to surrender myself and enjoy the moment!
So it was that, under strong wind gusts able to push me to the ground, I grabbed on the tripod and the camera as I depended on it to live and took this photo!
I hadn't much time or ability to do so, and because of the wide dynamic range of tones present in the scene, I had to choose to make multiple exposures of the same composition to later edit them in photoshop and create a HDR photo (High Dynamic Range ).
As a rule, is not a technique that I like very much to use, I prefer to use graduated ND filters, but daring myself to take them out under all that WIND, it would be definitely to see them fly!
Photo captured and it was time to continue slowly climbing the icy slopes of the "Cântaro Magro", making steps with the boots on ice in order to make the path a bit easier to the person which was behind!
Finally, we had reached the Covão Cimeiro, where we spend a few minutes to recharge our batteries!
The fatigue was evident in the face of everyone, but having gotten till there, it was impossible to think to turning back! After all, the worst was over ... or not !!!
Geographically, we were not far away from the location, but it still lacked to climba hundred meters to reach the edge of the "Cântaro Gordo" (1875m).
Once we got there, I heard the following question: "There is still a lot to get that place where you want to photograph?"
In that moment, down there, we saw what pushed us to move till there!
In the foot of "Cântaro Gordo" was possible to see a lagoon with its partially frozen surface, the "Lagoa dos Cântaros"!
Located at 1650m above sea level, this is one of the most beautiful and inaccessible lagoons of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park which is only available to the most daring!
Initially the descent to the lagoon seemed easy! "It's just snow, what's the problem ?!"
However, the "mariolas", reference points of hiking trails, were difficult to see in the midst of so much snow, having difficulted our descent to the lagoon.
The snow had more than 1m high, making it impossible to predict where our feet would step! A danger for sprains and fractures!!
Initially, it seemed quite funny get stuck in snow up to the waist in each step we took, but this "fun", which led to a hefty amount of laughter, quickly turned into anger and frustration!
I am not overstate when I say that it was needed 5 minutes to walk 20 meters in the snow!!
After about 1 hour, finally we had just reached the lagoon banks that had seemed to be relatively close!
All of us were in a deplorable state and extremely exhausted, difficult to transcribe words.
While some took the opportunity to rest and eat anything near some rocks, I had to continue to fight against that snow and wind, in search of a minimally favorable spot for a good composition!
It was not easy, and honestly I am not very happy with the final result, but after all the mishaps, it was the best I got.
I confess that my main concern was no longer to bring home a good photo of the place, but avoid falling into the water with all photographic gear, every time the wind blew harder!
The forecast said that it would be bad weather for the afternoon, with rain and possibility of snowfall above 1800m.
The proof of that, was the rather heavy clouds that quickly approached and which are well reflected in the image that I leave here (Photo 2).
It was time to go back!
The storm was approaching quickly and the wind intensified even more! It was well established among us that was unthinkable back by the same path that we had come!
That was not, certainly, the best time to be "lost" on the top of the mountain.
Now, more than ever, we had to be strong and make an effort to find the way back to the "Covão D'Ametade" even more when lacked the forces to walk and fight against that wind and snow, with the aggravating circumstance of having the feet completely soaked with cold water!
Using the GPS, and after a few laps lost on the mountain, we found again the "mariolas" and the way back to the cars! Were 11AM when, already under some raindrops, we arrived safe and sound to Covão's car park.
We were feeling very tired, but also with a great happiness and a sense of satisfaction and pride for having overcome all difficulties of that morning!
It certainly was not the best day or the best time of year to know the magnificent "Lagoa dos Cântaros", but is pushing ourselves to out of our confort zone which sometimes we can give a certain value to life and enjoy the beauty of the spaces that surround us in all its fullness!!