November is a tricky time to backpack in the northern Iberia ranges: weather can be anything in a wide range of scenarios. One of them is very harsh, including cold, wet, fog, snow or the whole bunch.

The Cantabrian Ranges

I’ll be out for a whole week. It is not to be expected that the weather holds for one full week. Not in November.

The tricky part is not to actually backpack but to choose the route. The wildest ones tend to be up high and very exposed: not the place to be in harsh weather. Low level routes can be nice but far from a challenge if the weather keeps gentle. Far from a challenge anyway.

The Cantabrian High Route is inherently challenging. It goes beyond the plain hiking and into the non-technical mountaineering: it takes on the Cantabrian watershed, often over the very crest, on rough tracks or plain trackless, little travelled terrain where escape routes are not always obvious or available at all.

That’s where the tricky character takes a meaning.

There’s something welcoming that’s beyond the physical in the shelter of a rock wall or a mountain slope, not to mention a forest, in those times when the weather gets angry. Facing a long, crest traverse over challenging ground in low visibility and heavy wind is among the most intimidating of prospects.

The Cantabrian range is high and rugged: limestone tends to get vertical. The funniest part is its location, parallel to and just a stone-throw from the mighty Atlantic: the mountains either get the weather or create their own. You just can’t expect settled weather for one full week. Not in mid November. Choosing the High Route would definitely take me off my comfort zone but how much off?

Picture this: a craggy ridge disappearing into thick clouds leading to a now invisible peak. The ridge itself appears on the map as the only thing walkable, too steep anywhere else. A dimming tread leads uphill but it’s so faint it might disappear anytime. It’s desolate and it may stay like this for days.

I’m doomed whatever I do. Keeping on feels out of the question, not doing so is a battle lost to my own demons, a defeat in my inner game.

Limestone crest, rugged trail

Every time I picture this, a lower level trip seems like a good idea. Maybe I should just stop picturing anything.

I’ll be monitoring the forecasts during the following week. I’ll choose on the go.