Condado La Pernia, the Cooper Cave, La Pernia, Montaña Palentina

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The unknown cave. I had climbed many times to see the cave of Cobre (Coble) in the summer. But that one day...
The unknown cave. I had climbed many times to see the cave of Cobre (Coble) in the summer. But that one day was special. It was not summer. Without skis, crampons, piolets or rackets, I went towards the cave. I had already planned out every detail. I had left myself many hours to climb and to return before it grew dark. I travelled along the same, familiar route until I arrived at the first bifurcation. Here I chose the left trail, which travelled through a forest of oaks that I knew very well. But now I felt as if I was discovering it for the first time because covered everything. Something peculiar, incomprehensible initially, made me stop. Enormous branches were lying on the snow, at times decorating and at other times blocking the trail. The branches still had thick layers of brightly colored, autumnal leaves. There were many; it seemed as if there had been a pitched battle. I had never seen anything like this scene. Because I thought I had plenty of time, I advanced slowly. While I walked, I realized that the branches had fallen because they could not support the weight of the snow nor the strength of the howling wind. I finally arrived at the end of the forest. A group of mares had, with their collective body heat, managed to melt a patch of snow on the ground on which they had slept the night before. But now they were trapped and could not move because they were surrounded by snow. The only place without snow was the tiny island on which they were standing, upright and unmoving. From this point I had only about 500 meters left until the entrance to the cave. I knew it was a zone of escobas (a tree native to Spain), some more than three meters high. But now I could not see any, because all of them were hidden under the snow. It is true that I knew the footpath perfectly well in the summer, but now I could see no sign or familiar trace of the route. I was walking when suddenly I sank to my waist. Beneath some of the escobas were hollow packets of air. These holes acted as traps for people such as myself who were travelling across the snow. I used my hands and struggled to lift the sunken leg. But as I was raising the sunken leg, the snow beneath my other, supporting leg gave way as well. I sank even further. However, I refused to let this accident deter my intention and I did not turn back. My progress was slow but continuous. Even though it was a cloudy day and I was almost completely buried by the snow, I was drenched in sweat. I raised my head and saw a flock of deer. I tried to film them, but the sunlight shone so brightly off the snow, that when I looked through the viewfinder, I could not see anything. I calculated the approximate place where they were, and I filmed to tuntún. Later, back at my house, I viewed the photos and was delighted to see how beautiful the deer looked. After two hours of hiking, I had only advanced 300 meters. I could sense that I was close to the entrance of the cave. I was on the verge of surpassing the zone of escobas and was about to enter the last wooded section. As soon as I reached the pine trees, I realized that I sank less but that I slipped more. Nearby, I saw a completely white cow taking its final breaths. The poor creature had almost no strength and could barely open its eyes. I felt as if it was begging me for help, but I could nothing to help by that point. I knew that it would die in the course of the night because it would not be able to survive the hardships of two consecutive nights outside in the snow. I continued walking and I soon arrived at the final zone of escobas. The tragedy began once again: I would sink down, raise a leg to try to climb out, only to sink even further as the snow beneath that leg gave way as well. It had taken me three hours to cross a distance that I usually could travel in only fifteen minutes. The sun began to set, filling the sky with light and color. Finally, I saw the entrance of the cave that was covered with snow. I knew that nobody had approached the place because there was not a single track or footprint. I could not even imagine the first incipient river crossing. Everything was covered with snow. Slowly, I crested the last hill and was able to see towards the interior of the cave. What appeared before me immediately made me forget my exhaustion and all the turmoil that I had endured. All. This was not the cave that I knew; instead, it was an ice cathedral. I entered, awestruck. Immense icicles hung from the ceiling and I tried to walk without losing sight of them. I knew that if one were to fall on me from above, I would never leave this cave. But I also needed to watch the ground as I walked. It was an ice layer adorned with innumerable ice crystals, capricious and diverse in their texture, transparency, color and size. I enjoyed every millimeter of the place. I could never have imagined such a place. It was impossible for me to absorb so much beauty in such a short time. Everything was covered in ice, except for the place where the waters of the rising Pisuerga River flowed. The snow had managed to penetrate rather far into the cave, and I could see the track of some small animal. I struggled to move around the cave. The whole cave was illuminated by the sun and with each step I saw different colors and hues reflected off the ice forms. I crossed the illuminated part, in all directions. Solitude inside and solitude outside; rumor of water in the interior and total silence outside. I was rejuvenated and filled with strength by this place of such beauty and wonder. Soon, it was time to leave the cave and return home. I knew that I had a long, arduous journey ahead of me, but I carried with me the memories of this enriching experience. I realized that I would not arrive home until night, but I did not care because until then, I could enjoy the magic of this part of the Earth. I did not go alone. Instead, I am accompanied by the memory of a world unexplored, a place as pure, as genuine and as natural as life itself.