Mar 8, 2015

The Bad Step Hill - El Turó del Mal Pas

Xavis on Turó del Mal Pas (interesting shadows)
And again a bike trip to "The Bad Step Hill", or as it's known here in our regional language: El Turó del Mal Pas. This time, Xavi was so nice to join me and he even brought his telephone with him, on which he runs an application called Wikiloc, able to generate a fancy track of GPS-waypoints, it neatly places into GoogleMaps or similar. 

Wikiloc Track featuring an altitude-over-distance-graph (with minor flaws)
The purpose of the tour not only was to familiarize my dear friend Xavi with The Bad Step Hill, but also to show him the one or other nice place I was able to discover throughout my last explorations. Finally, we pretty much repeated my previous tour to the same spot, but added some interesting exploration to it.
Division Dam at Torre del Breny
Church spire
At around 8 o'clock Xavi appeared at my place, and as far as I remember, we didn't lose much time gearing ourselves up.  

Hole in the roof
I guess it was well before half past 8 that we started cycling, obviously not without Xavi hitting the Wikiloc START-button. Our first sightseeing-stop, as I call it, wasn't far away though, for it was at the division dam, a little downstream of the confluence of Rivers Llobregat and Cardener, where we snapped our first pictures. Since it was a cool morning and we still weren't warm, we made it a rather short break. 

By the time we arrived at our second touristy stop, we not only weren't cold any longer, but actually welcomed a break to cool down a bit. It was at a point just short of El Farell Estate, where I wanted to show my buddy the famous, little Romanesque chapel of Santa Creu de Palou, which features a partly collapsed nave and sports a church spire one can ascend by means of a staircase on one of its buttresses.
Nice place for a breakfast
Right on top of the dam of a small artificial lake, we had a breakfast of energy bars, hands full of dry fruit and chocolate in order to prepare for the climb that was about to follow. Instead of taking the main forest road,that passes by El Farrell, I decided to take a less known path, so that Xavi would get to see the remains of El Putxet estate. 
Zoom at Montserrat
When we finished that uphill section, we didn't feel as shattered as expected and still were able to enjoy the view of Montserrat. With every meter of altitude we had gained, the view of it had gotten better and better as it had risen up from behind of the "Thunder Ridge" (Serrat dels Trons). 

Our schedule wasn't exactly tight and we had been keeping a reasonable pace, so that there would have been plenty of time left either to explore more thoroughly "Masia Puigdoure", Puigdoure summit or the rock over the estate known as Matarodona, I had visited on my the last trip into that area. But instead we decided to directly go for The Bad Step Hill and save our extra time for some later exploring. After some cycling on a particularly nice path through the forest of Holm Oaks (Quercus Ilex), we finally arrived at the smoothly inclined South Face of the Bad Step Hill. There, we temporarily abandoned our bikes and a short while later stood on top of El turó del Mal Pas.
On Turó del Mal Pas
During our second breakfast on our lookout point we eagerly discussed some of the various places we could observe, and instantly planned for numerous future hikes and rides. Astonishingly, we were the only people around. Only one lonely runner could be made out following his business on a ridge of hills in the distance. As a matter of fact, we only had encountered two people during the whole day - two motorists back at Santa Creu de Palou who had asked us for some indications.

Looks at my map, and the one Xavi had on his phone revealed, that the continuation of the path that had brought us here looked promising. Not only would we pass by closely to an interesting, albeit small, rock spire we had made out during our approach, but with some luck we'd also find a cave.

Agulla del Mal Pas
Posing at Agulla del Mal Pas

The spire was easy to find. Though it didn't look difficult to climb, we didn't feel confident enough to give it a serious try without adequate gear. Any drop down another side than the one we were facing, certainly would have had some nasty consequence. After some playing around we decided to have a look at the cave. 
Cova del Mal Pas upon inspection
The cavern was rather easy to find, because it's located in the very vicinity of the rock spire. What we encountered was a small shelter in the rock, maybe 2 metres high, 1 metre wide and 3 in depth, that suddenly tightened, only to give way to a narrow tunnel which continued for at least a couple of metres. Even though my headlamp would brightly lit the first section of the hollow, it was impossible for us to know what lay behind. 

Being a former wannabe-caver, I somehow feel ashamed I didn't dare to jump into the squeeze right away, but it really seemed there couldn't be anything interesting to be found in there, other than hungry, fat spiders waiting in there sticky webs.

Xavi too didn't like what he saw and although I promised him the most beautiful speleothems to be found in there - he wouldn't enter what by now had turned into our personal little hell. For sheer survival reasons, we effortlessly convinced ourselves it was utterly imprudent to enter such a hole without even the faintest idea of what to encounter.  We decided to initiate our way back home instead.

Note: My old fashioned paper map of the Natural Park of St Llorenç del Munt comes with a booklet, which includes a catalogue of the caves to be found there. According to it, la Cova del Mal Pas covers a horizontal extension of 60m! As for now, however, I still don't know anything about details such as crossections.
According to Wikiloc, the steep, narrow and overgrown path we were on, would lead us to a major forest road within less than a kilometre. And so it did, but not without forcing us to shoulder our vehicles for a while, while taking care of not getting entangled far too much in the thorny vegetation. I don't know why, but Xavi and me always do end up in places, normal people would try to avoid eagerly.

As soon as we got to the aforementioned forest road, progress got faster, and in no time we arrived at Matarodona. Later, when we passed by El Farrel, we decided to stop for another tourist tour, which consisted of a closer inspection of that abandoned stately home. Just before we finished our hike around it, we saw there was a hole in one of the iron fences that are meant to prevent the all too curious or those with dubious intentions from entering into the basement.  
At El Farrell
Our intentions weren't dubious for sure, but I have to admit we indeed were a little curious. A part from the basement and an inner patio, however, there wasn't much to be explored, because a solidly welded iron door still kept us outside the building. I was positively surprised by the fact that El Farell has undergone a major maintenance since my last visit. Important parts of the different facades as well as the roof seem to be in reasonable good condition.

For the last 12km, we could follow the same route which had brought us there in the morning. Once home, our tour had covered a total distance of 42.7km, as well as a positive altitude difference of 1480m, according to Wikiloc. A look at the diagram in the lower right area of the second picture of this post, however, reveals a spike on top of the last of the three main hills. As the third hill is the same as thee first, only in opposite direction, that spike clearly is a flaw. I therefore suppose the total difference of altitude to be lesser by about 100 m.

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