Sunday, 8 December 2013

On the top of (inland) Spain

As the end of our stay in Granada slowly crept upon us we realised that if we wanted to conquer the Sierra Nevada then it’s now or never. On Thursday evening we quickly hired a car for the weekend and found a hotel. There was no turning back. It was happening. We were about to climb (inland) Spain’s highest summit: Mulhacén.

We ‘cheated’ as we didn’t start from the bottom of the mountain but drove up to Capileira which is one of the ‘pueblos blancos’, those gorgeous little white villages in The Alpujarra. To be honest you have the option to drive a bit further and leave your car at the car park on 2000m but that means there’s a 9 hour climb ahead of you. You cannot drive any higher as the top of the mountain is a National Park and only designated vehicles can gain access. We chose the bus that you can catch in front of the Capileira Tourist Information and it took us up to 2700m. The return ticket cost 10 euro.

When we woke up that day we were happy to see a blue sky with not a single cloud in sight. It looked like the perfect day to hike. Interestingly we only realised when we got to the Tourist Information that that day (1st of November) was the last day of the season and our bus is the very last bus that takes tourists up to the Alto del Chorrillo this year! Looked like luck was on our side that day.

The bus took an hour to get up but it went quickly, not only because of the breath taking view but also because our impromptu tour guide, Paco, introduced us to the Sierra Nevada. He was incredibly funny and as our Spanish wasn’t very good he translated everything for us to English. He told us the history of the mountain and talked about the unique flora and fauna that can be found here. We also stopped at the Mirador de Trevélez, where we all got out and took photos (you can check them out in my previous blog).

Then we arrived to our drop-off point, Alto del Chorrillo. 

There was nothing else left to do but do the climb. The sun was nice and warm and everybody took off their jackets and jumpers. The Spanish passion for red hiking tops was once again proven, the red coloured dots were invading my vision in front of me and behind me.

Up at this height there were no trees or bushes, only these little, igloo-shaped plants. Their shape ensures that they keep as much water inside them as possible. Instead of leaves they have tiny little needles that are actually quite prickly. The ground looked like it’s full of sleeping green hedgehogs.

As we walked forward on the gently ascending path the landscape slowly changed from green hedgehogs to grey stones. Suddenly it felt like we were in a completely different planet.
Let me show you the rest of the walk in pictures.

The ‘fake’ top. Some American students had great fun taking photos of each other realising only after about 10minutes that everybody else keeps going forward and that’s not the actual summit.

All around the top there were shelters built from the stones. They must have been covered as well but by now most of them have collapsed. The wind was blowing strongly by now and we could easily see the advantages of having a shelter on a stormy day. 

On top of Mulhacén.

Spain at our feet.

Instead of walking back the same way we walked down the side of the mountain to have a look at the lake. The going was slow as the path was very steep and hard to spot but there were plenty of cairns to show us the way.

A refuge next to the lake.

We even spotted some mountain goats. They were actually quite tame.

They left us 5 hours to do the walk but we could’ve done it in 3.45. As we didn’t have to rush back we had lunch at the lake and slowly walked back enjoying the warmth of the sun after the wind.

There are many blogs and articles about climbing Mulhacén. I found this website particularly useful. Even though the climb is easy make sure that you gather as much info as you can about the trip. If you want to take the bus like we did, make sure that you book your place as this walk is understandably very popular. You can find the phone number on the already mentioned website.

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