A crashing noise through the undergrowth breaks the serene silence. This is followed by barking further behind. The noise continues and rises like a crescendo until a Roe Deer bursts through the barrier of scrub and bush 5 metres in front of me and hurtles on down the face of the valley. It is swiftly followed by a small, yapping dog. The dog stops and looks at me, as if to ask me which way its ‘prey’ went. I point in the opposite direction. The dog isn’t buying it. It speeds off down, following the deer’s tracks with me in hot pursuit.
It’s a glorious, sunny day. The kind you dream of when you think of winter. The snow is pure white and gleams bright in the winter sun. We are in La Pedriza; one of the largest granite outcrops in Europe and a haven for rock climbers, trekkers and nature lovers alike. At its highest point lies El Yelmo; a vast granite slab that rises high into the sky resembling, from its southern face, a medieval helmet – hence the name.
Eagles and vultures circle the peak, framed beautifully (even from far away) against the deep blue sky. Down below rivers and streams are shaped by ice, wind and snow into bizarre, abstract works of art. I climb a high granite wall, careful to choose the side free of ice and warmed by the sun. On a ledge I find a perfect set of squirrel prints, remarkably human-like in form. Here they will lie preserved until the next snowfall, the mystery of what happened to the squirrel we’ll never know. I hope the eagle decided to skip lunch.