Spain’s oldest guard recounts his experience: from when he had no telephone or electricity, to the present day, with energy efficiency and Instagram.
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When they arrived at the Ventosa i Calwell refuge 40 years ago, in the Pyrenees of Lleida, there was no electricity or telephone, it was just a cabin. Climbers who wanted to reserve a spot had to place a money order to leave the deposit by sending a letter to a post office box in Vielha. He then added radio, later telephone, solar panels, etc. to Wi-Fi, with which he currently manages the web and even an Instagram account. The shelter today, after the final renovation was completed, is a hot spot without the need to use heating for its energy efficiency. but if you ask Michael Sanchez, the most experienced shelter guard in Spain, for the most decisive transformation he has experienced in his four decades in the mountains, no doubt. In a telephone conversation with EL Mundo, he replies, “The thing that has changed the most is the people.”
- The kind of people who come now has nothing to do with it. When I started going to the shelter, only skiers and climbers arrived. Now climbers continue to come, but so are tourists. City people who are already here dare to go upstairs and enjoy it. And I am happy. I’m crazy about this place, this atmosphere, and I love that everyone knows it. Although sometimes you have to explain what a mountain refuge is and why it works this way.
And Sanchez remembers that every time they ask him for a Wi-Fi password—which only he has the ability to use—that there are some people who ask about the menu at lunchtime or recently some hikers. Asked him for some extra stoves, as if they were in a hotel in nearby Bakira Beret. Like the rest of the mountain, in Ventosa, at an altitude of 2,200 m, in the center of Egestortes National Park, electricity is limited and what is available is consumed. However, over time, Sánchez has adapted cooking menus for celiacs or vegetarians, with food arriving by helicopter once a week—about 850kg—and the nearest store is in Baruera, an hour’s walk and 20km away. minutes away. more than car
He now details his experience as a refugee guard, and many other curiosities, in the book ‘El Gardi de l’Estany Negre’, edited in Catalan by Cosetanía and written by the journalist. Rosa M.Bosch,
- What causes a young man from Barcelona to become a refugee guard in the Pyrenees with a permanent job at an advertising agency in Eixample?
- That I came here and felt like home. When I was little in Barcelona I always wondered what my future would be like, what would I do, if I had money to live, but when I came here I stopped being overwhelmed. I was already starting the campaign and in 1982, when I returned from Manaslu, it was clear to me that I would never go to an office again, that I would live in the mountains.
one of the pioneers
Sánchez was part of a group of Spanish pioneers who in the 1980s opened the doors of Himalayas to those who would come later. In 1983 he had already traveled to Everest and in 1985, although he did not reach the top, he took part in the second Spanish expedition to the summit, with Scar Cadiach, Antoine Sours and Carles Valls, On the other hand, his love was always in Africa, especially in Mali, the country he visited on several occasions to climb and where he met his current partner more than 20 years ago, Bethlehem, From there, in fact both of them have a daughter, nico, Now all three of them stay in shelter for a good part of the summer season – from June to October – although Sánchez only goes up in the winter season – from February to April.
Despite the fact that most of the mountain refuges in Spain are publicly owned and that their operations must go out to tender, Ventosa is private, from the Center Excernista de Catalunya (CEC), so Sánchez is there for as long as he wants. can continue to work. ,
They have never run out of customers after the construction of the Carros de Foc route, which connects the 11 refuges of Aegstortes National Park and the ‘boom’ of outdoor sports, so …
- Do you ever think about leaving?
- What’s going on, what’s going on, right now all I’m thinking is how to celebrate 40 years this June. Let’s see which group I can invite to play because not everyone wants to be here. Maybe there are people who think I’m already an idiot, but I don’t see myself retiring. I love work, I love being here. If I had to leave it because of a back or knee problem, I would have a really hard time.
And Sanchez says goodbye, admitting, with some embarrassment, that he can still climb from Cavalars Reservoir—about six kilometers with a level difference of 500—in 40 minutes and there are still days when he Climbs with a lot of weight. Gone are the days when I competed with some shelter workers to see who could get the most weight in the form of a 27kg butane cylinder backpack. Gone are the days when they were helped by mules or climbing or skiing companions who only asked for a good lunch in return for the effort. Now everything, communications, services, buildings and above all, customers have turned to the Ventosa i Calwell refuge, in the Pyrenees of Lleida. All in all, except for one thing: “The landscape is still spectacular.”
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Reference from www.elmundo.es