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A walk in the Sierra Nevada – 19th September 2017

Reporter: Chris Fildes - (Look out for the next episode in the December Newsletter)!

In September this year, five SCoM members, Paul, Julie, Wendy, Phil & I, went on an excellent holiday to the Sierra Nevada, (organised by Paul).

The main objective was to walk from Trevèlez, (at over 1550m), the highest village in the Alpujarras, to the Siete Lagunas (2900m). A return distance of 17.5km. (plus the Mulhacèn option). Mulhacèn at 3483m is the highest mountain in Spain, (2½ times the height of Ben Nevis)!

Paul’s original plan was ‘shelved’ as Wendy had broken her ankle 4 weeks earlier, and on the morning of the walk Phil felt ‘under the weather’ so kept her company… and then there were 3.

At 7.45am, whilst still dark, we set off on the well marked PR-A 27 trail. Within 20mins, the dawn was breaking as we steadily climbed, leaving the Rio Trevèlez valley far below us. The visibility was good and temperature comfortable. After a while it became apparent that Paul and Julie walked faster than me. And I soon realised that walking at a slower pace at altitude was the remedy for discomfort and shortage of breath!

After 5km or so, Mulhacèn was just visible. I felt guilty about holding my buddies back, so suggested they should go on ahead with the possibility of climbing Mulhacèn if time allowed, and I would walk as far as the Lakes and possible a swim?

From then on, the landscape changed to dramatic and beautiful. After a further 1.5km of ascent I reached La Campeńela, with the Rio Culo Perro (translation - Dog’s Bottom), flowed through it. Cows with bells jingling were happily munching the now green vegetation and two birds of prey circled above me.

The path was becoming indistinct as I climbed steadily upwards keeping to the right of a headwall for a further 1km, (while looking for an optional return route later). I crossed a branch of the river and reached the magnificent Chorreros Negros Waterfall. I made my way up to the right of this eventually reaching my objective, the glacial valley of the Siete Lagunas. A popular bivvy spot for walkers aiming to climb both Mulhacèn and El Alcazaba, but today it was deserted.

There was one lake in view, Laguna Hondera. Where were the other six? There was no time explore further. The lake was a beautiful translucent green, but too cold for a swim, the temperature had dropped considerably. So I sat on some boulders for lunch and take in the mountain view, snow-capped for most of the year, thinking how kind of my buddies to leave me a chunk of almond cake by the rocks where I was perched!

What to do now, it was 1pm? Do I retrace my footsteps? Climb to reach a summit spur and then descend by my optional route? Or attempt to reach the summit of Mulhacèn which was beckoning me? The guide books say 1½ hours from here. Umm... a bit more than that I thought! However I decided to make for the summit anyway, (a little apprehensive as I’d no map or compass). As I continued, the mist started to close in.

At about 2.15pm, with a further 150m or so of ascent to go, deducing I was the same height as Mulhacen II (3363m), over to my left, I guessed I would reach the summit by 3pm. Knowing it would be dusk by 8pm and there would be concern for me, I decided to play safe and descend. The mist had closed in now, enveloping my chosen route down. I initially followed cairns but turned off shortly, realising I was walking too far over to my right. After descending a further 2km, I dropped beneath the mist, and could see the luminous white slopes of Loma de Piedra Vantana in the distance, so knew the Rio Travèlez Valley was now below me. I passed some Ibex en-route. Attractive shy creatures, (Sadly the magnificent males are being hunted, even in a National Park)!

Eventually I spotted Trevèlez village, but chose to stay high for a further 3km or so, which was OK, until the final descent which was steep. I crossed an ancient Moorish aqueduct, skirted around two lovely old Finca’s, and it seemed ages before I reached the upper village, dropping down by some water works, and emerging by the Mirador ‘Era El Fuerte’.

The time was 6.45pm (11 hours after setting off). I wandered around, asking for directions, and presumably looking dishevelled, was shown some old stone troughs, full of wonderful cool mountain water. I remembered passing these when we set off in the morning, so knew our car park was nearby. All I had to do now was ring ‘Rushton Taxi Services’ for a lift back, to save me a further 20 mins walk back to the lower village!

I had assumed that my walking buddies would have arrived back much earlier, and would be enjoying a pint in the pub, but apparently they’d not long since checked in, having turned back also.

Being sure footed on descents. I made good time on this rough and mostly pathless terrain while soaking up the tranquillity of the Sierra Nevada National Park, only suffering two sore toes to boot! (Incidentally, new boots are on top of my Xmas list)

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