News from Sierra Nevada Guides

Latest news from the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Southern Spain

Friday, 5 February 2016

Undiscovered Routes

One of the great things about walking in this area is that not many other people do it. Routes are not massive erosion scars as in the popular areas of the UK and you can walk without crowds of people. It also means that routes are still out there to be found and whilst it might not be the first time they are walked often it is clear that they are little used. This happened to me recently when I ‘’discovered ‘’ a new route following the line of an acequia in the Rio Trevelez valley. I first spotted the line of what I though at the time might make a great walk during last summer. I was a passenger in a coach full of clients returning from a days walking near Trevelez. Returning back down the valley I saw a clear straight line running across the cliff face on the mountain side which creates the south side of this rugged valley. Later in the year when I was this time driving down the road I managed to stop and inspect the line using a pair of binoculars , even from a distance it looked like a dramatic line but it was still not clear that is would ‘’go’’ . I finally got around to going out to actually having a look last week and finally discovered that the line I had seen threading its way through steep cliffs and scrub was in fact an acequia and that it could indeed be walked. I set off along what was at first a fairly wide concrete channel crossing open hillside. On turning the first corner it became clear that the line was going to be more than a normal acequias walk. The channel has been cut through steep cliffs, passes below overhangs, is in places pinned to vertical rock sections and includes a couple of natural rock archways. The second of these is so tight that it required removing my rucksack and a squirming along the bottom of the acequias in order to continue the route. For some , my wife included it sounds like the worst possible sort of walk but if you have a head for heights the km or so of channel makes a wonderful walk. The dramatic section of what turns out to be the Acequia Almegijar comes to an end on a waymarked path running through the area called the ‘’Ruta Medieval’’. This trail links the white villages through the Taha area of the Alpujarra valley and is worth seeking out in its own right.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Lucero and the Axarquia

A couple of weeks ago I returned to the coastal mountains of the Axarquia to once again climb Lucero. This is a dramatic peak lying inland of Nerja , with a distinctive pyramid shape it sits proud on the skyline above the coast. Also known as the ‘’Raspones de Moriscos’’ the walk is one of the most breathtaking in the area and whilst not as high as some inland route has the feel of being on a much bigger mountain. The summit sits at 1,779m and offers some wonderful views both across the Mediterranean or inland to the distant Sierra Nevada. The rock in the area is limestone which creates its own distinctive karst landscape with pinnacle like summits with dramatic cliff faces and steep drops into the forested valleys below. The final section of the walk is along a waymarked trail from a forest track accessed from a forest track which comes through the resin forests south of Arenas del Ray. The path itself is well marked and takes you steeply through some weirdly shaped naturally eroded limestone outcrops and bypasses a number of lesser summits en route. Some of these offer what look to be great opportunities for exploration either as additional walking routes or for scrambles up good clean limestone. En route to the summit I did spy one such route and went ‘’off piste‘’ for a section to scramble to the rocky summit of Cerro de Venta Panaderos before the final steep plod up zig zags to the distinctive summit of Lucero itself. The summit is marked by a small ruin. Now only one section of wall remains of what was apparently a lookout for the Guardia Civil both during the civil war and later as the area was used by rebels still hiding from the authoraties. These mountain ranges as a whole are criss crossed with old drovers routes and mule tracks used to take livestock and good between the coastal areas and the inland towns and villages. There are two key points where these routes converged, the Puertas Frigliani and Competa. These low cols allowed slightly easier access through the range. Many of these routes had ‘’ventas’’ or bars along them to provide drinks for the men who walked or rode through the mountains. The ruins of these can often be seen particularly at key point on the walks such as the top of steep climbs or the junction of routes. This area is best walked in winter and spring as over summer the high temperatures mean that walking here can be dangerous or on occasion the park is shut due to high fire risk.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Guides Training in Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountains

Guides Training in Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountains

All mountain guides and International Mountain Leaders have to undertake “C.P.D.” (Continuous Professional Development) annually to maintain their registration as a guide. For British International Mountain Leaders this is a minimum of two days per year (not including 1st aid).

Looking at the North Faces of Alcazaba and Mulhacen from near Veleta

Sierra Nevada Guides are pleased to announce that we have been accredited  to run a CPD event in the Sierra Nevada during 2016 which will provide 2 CPD events for those attending.

The Parnassius apolo butterfly feeding on Thyme 3000m asl.

This will be a “showcase” event demonstrating the uniqueness and very best that the Sierra Nevada has to offer as well as climbing the four highest mountains including Mulhacen which at 3482m is the highest mountain in mainland Spain. The specific details of the event are:

Sierra Nevada CPD Event - 3rd to 8th July, 2016

Climb Mainland Spain’s Highest Mountain whilst exploring the Flora and Fauna of the Sierra Nevada National Park.

Erigeron frigidus an extremely rare endemic species

Mulhacen at 3482m is the highest mountain in mainland Spain. Situated in Spain’s largest national park, The Sierra Nevada is surrounded by a natural park. Together they have some wonderful scenery, early summer flowers and fascinating geology. It was declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1986, in recognition of its exceptionally diverse plant, bird and animal species with over 100 endemic species.

An Iberian Ibex near the summit of Mulhacen

An easy (grade 1) scramble on slabs to ascend Veleta

In addition to the natural history of the area we will be aiming to ascend the four highest mountains in the Sierra Nevada: Mulhacen 3482m, Pico del Veleta 3394m, Alcazaba 3371m and Cerro de Los Machos 3329m. 




The itinerary will include some easy scrambling and crossing a short exposed section of chain. Participants will need to bring suitable slings to safeguard themselves. Aspirants will be equipped and coached by the three qualified IML’s from Sierra Nevada Guides who will be leading this event. Four days in the mountains with three nights will be spent in mountain Refugio’s. The cost not including travel or accommodation is £200 per person.  

Full details of the event are here.


The Sierra Nevada Camomile, Artemisia granatensis another very rare plant.


Whilst this event is designed to provide CPD for IML’s it would also provide good experience for Aspirant IML’s and Mountain Leaders considering becoming IML's.


Crossing a section of chain at 3200m near Veleta
Learning Outcomes
To see how plants adapt to the varying climatic zones as we ascend into the mountains.

To observe the uniqueness of the flora and fauna of the area.

To observe the impact man has made through the ages within the National and Natural Park.

To learn how the National Park Authorities have acted to lessen the impact of man on the environment.

Understand the range of maps available for this area and the difficulties of navigation with maps of less reliability than O.S. maps.

Crossing exposed fixed equipment.

Crossing snow patches.

The ''pitfalls'' of running a guiding company either from the UK or from abroad.


Mulhacen 3482m from the Caldera bivouac Refuge.


This course is being led by qualified International Mountain Leaders from Sierra Nevada Guides: Michael Hunt, Jane Livingstone and Martin Riley. Both Jane and Michael are members of BAIML whilst Martin is the first British member of AEGM, the Spanish Guides Association.

Jane, Michael and Martin
Sierra Nevada Guides








Saturday, 19 December 2015

Training Mountain Leaders in Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountains

Training Mountain Leaders in Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountains


Jane scrambling on Veleta 3396m 2nd highest peak in the Sierra Nevada
All International Mountain leaders have to complete a minimum of 2 cpd training days a year, and we are privileged here in the Sierra Nevada to be a provider of such training. Though the course is primarily aimed at qualified International Mountain leaders, it is also suitable for Aspirant IML’s already undertaking training to qualify or qualified British Mountain Leaders considering applying to be accepted on the IML training courses.


Sierra Nevada CPD Event - 3rd to 8th July, 2016

Climb Mainland Spain’s Highest Mountain whilst exploring the Flora and Fauna of the Sierra Nevada National Park.

Mulhacen 3482m from the Caldera Bivi Refuge 3080m
Mulhacen at 3482m is the highest mountain in mainland Spain. Situated in Spain’s largest national park, The Sierra Nevada is surrounded by a natural park. Together they have some wonderful scenery, early summer flowers and fascinating geology. It was declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1986, in recognition of its exceptionally diverse plant, bird and animal species. There are over 100 endemic species recorded including 63 different endemic plants.





Alpine Accentor
In addition to the natural history of the area we will be aiming to ascend the four highest mountains in the Sierra Nevada: Mulhacen 3482m, Pico del Veleta 3394m, Alcazaba 3371m and Cerro de Los Machos 3329m. The day we ascend Mulhacen will be enroute to overnight in the Refugio Poqueira. The ascent on this day will be approx 1500m and taking around 4.5 hours.  This will be a good opportunity for aspirants to experience a “fitness test.”



The itinerary will include some easy scrambling and crossing a short exposed section of chain and probably patches of snow. Participants will need to bring suitable slings to safeguard themselves. Aspirants will be equipped and coached by the three qualified IML’s from Sierra Nevada Guides who will be leading this event.

Whilst this event is designed to provide CPD for IML’s it would also provide good experience for Aspirant IML’s and Mountain Leaders considering becoming an IML.

Papaver lapeyrousianum an endemic species

Jane negotiating a section of "fixed gear"
Learning Outcomes
To see how plants adapt to the varying climatic zones as we ascend into the mountains.

To observe the uniqueness of the flora and fauna of the area.

To observe the impact man has made through the ages within the National and Natural Park.

To learn how the National Park Authorities have acted to lessen the impact of man on the environment.

Understand the range of maps available for this area and the difficulties of navigation with maps of less reliability than O.S. maps.

Crossing exposed fixed equipment.

Crossing snow patches (probably).

The ''pitfalls'' of running a guiding company either from the UK or from abroad. Martin Riley of Sierra Nevada Guides is the first British member of the Spanish Mountain Guides Association (AEGM).

Estrella de las Nieves (Star of the Snows) an endemic species with Trumpet Gentians.

Programme
The Caldera from Mulhacen
Day 1
Make own way either to Capileira or to Lanjaron (see note on travel or accommodation options).

Day 2
Breakfast in Capileira. We depart the mountain village of Capileira at around 8.30am, driving up to a high road head at Hoya del Portillo 2100m, where we commence our walk up Mulhacen 3482m. Our descent to the Refugio Poqueira 2500m is via the Caldera and the Rio Mulhacen.  Spend night at the Refugio Poqueira.

Day 3
An ascent of Alcazaba 3371m the most remote of the “big 4” is via Siete Lagunas, returning to the Refugio Poqueira.

Day 4
Departing the Refugio, we ascend Pico de los Machos 3329m and down to the University Albergue at Hoya de la Mora 2500m via an interesting easy scramble into the San Juan valley.

Day 5
Taking the National Park bus back up to 3000m we a scramble up Pico del Veleta 3394m and return back to the Refugio Poqueira via a section of fixed chain and back to our starting point at Hoya del Portillo for around 5pm. Spend night in either Capileira or Lanjaron (see accommodation options as before).

Day 6
Depart

The Iberian Ibex, common throughout the Sierra Nevada

Cost
Sierra Nevada Guides are not charging for their time running this event.  All the costs below are options and reflect prices locally. The charge we are making for this CPD event covers our travel expenses and hut fees.
£200 per person towards Sierra Nevada Guides.

You pay your own accommodation fees locally.

You will need your own travel, medical and rescue insurance.

"Blue Deeams" Chaenorrhinum glareosum an endemic species
Accommodation Options
For those wanting to keep costs down there is an option of camping at Jane and Mike’s mountain farm situated at 1305m above the spa town of Lanjaron. This is a bit remote and not the sort of place where you can just nip out for a beer! Jane and Mike will provide a BBQ evening meal with plenty of beer and wine along with breakfast on the day of departure. 20 Euro’s per night

For those wanting superior accommodation we recommend a hotel in Capileira (where we will meet for breakfast before heading into the high mountains) or Lanjaron a spa town with plenty of hotels close to our base. You will need to book your own hotel but we can help with this. Allow 50 to 70 Euro’s per night for this option.

Whilst in the mountains we will spend 2 nights at the Refugio Poqueira and 1 night at the University Albergue. Bed, breakfast, evening meal and a packed lunch costs about 55 Euro’s per night. Drinks are extra! Costs at the Refugio Poqueira are approx 10 Euro’s per night lower if you have a UIAA membership (Austrian Alpine Club, etc).

Looking at the north faces of Alcazaba and Mulhacen from near Veleta

Travel
The easiest option is flying into Malaga as there are cheap flights there from most U.K. regional airports. 

Car hire is cheap and could be the cheapest option if there was a group of 3 or 4 sharing. From Malaga Airport there is a direct bus to Granada where you can change for Lanjaron and Capileira. https://www.alsa.es/en/home

If you choose to stay / camp with us we will meet you / pick you up from Lanjaron.

We are prepared to do airport pick ups for 100 Euro’s per trip but this would need a group of 3 or 4 splitting the cost to be worth while.

Insurance
You will need adequate medical and rescue insurance.

Contact details:
Michael Hunt and Jane Livingstone

email:  info@sierranevadaguides.co.uk

tel:  01433  639  368

This training event is only open to BAIML members and to MTA members who hold ML (Summer) who are considering enrolling to become International Mountain Leaders.

Book a place on this event.




Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Mountain Weather

With the end of summer we have experienced some dramatic weather. The usual end of season thunder storm struck in mid September causing flooding and mayhem across the region. On the day of the storm I had a large group out and was due to lead them from the hostal at Hoya de la Mora across to the Poqueira Refuge crossing the Sierra Nevada at about 3,000m. As I drove up the mountain in the early morning it was clear that a storm was brewing with thunder and flashes of lightning around the area. The group was the first of two from the Territorial Army reservists out on an adventure training exercise. I met them and after a bit of discussion we decided that we would set off on the trip. So with most of the group wearing full waterproofs we headed out in heavy rain which surprisingly began to ease up as we climbed. By the time we reached the Carahuela refuge, a small bivouac hut below Veleta we were able to take gear off and dry out as the sun began to break through. It wasn’t until I returned home the next day I realised how big the storm had been. Lanjaron had been flooded out and suffered some damage. Other villages however had suffered much worse and further a field the storm had even caused a couple of deaths. At first it seemed strange that we had managed to do any walking at all however I realised that by being at height in the mountains meant that we had in effect been above the worst of the storm. At 3,000m, our highest point of the day there was about 2km of stormy weather between us and the villages below. This was wasn’t the first time this affect has happened to me. Much earlier in the year having left my car above Capileira I was at the Poqueira Refuge with a small group. We woke to a covering of a couple of inches of fresh snow. Even though the snow stopped falling by the time we got back down it was a couple of feet deep, meaning my car was effectively snowed in. Lesson learned. The weather over the coming season dramatically alters the nature of the Sierra Nevada and other mountain ranges in the area. Over summer, settled conditions mean that you can feel fairly safe going into the high mountains without too much worry. Winter weather conditions can turn fairly benign mountain trips into serious alpine outings where you need to be prepared for extreme conditions. Spanish forecasting has improved in the past few years so before you go out you can get a good idea of what to expect. Personally I use http://www.aemet.es for general forecasts and http://www.mountain-forecast.com for the higher peaks. Both are well worth a look.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Crowded mountains

With the heat of summer I have done quite a few trips around Veleta in the past few weeks. This peak is second highest in the Sierra Nevada and with its proximity to the Granada ski village and an area called Hoya de la Mora it is a relatively easy summit to ascend and so is perhaps the most climbed peak in the range. This was brought home to me last week when I arrived at the summit last weekend with a couple of clients. The summit of the mountain is marked by a concrete pillar and on this occasion it was crowded with a group of about fifty walkers. It was almost like getting to the summit of Snowdon. As we lunched the numbers grew as more and more walkers and cyclists arrived at the summit. It does seem that the popularity of walking in the mountains is growing. Other mid week visits have been much quieter affairs with the whole mountain empty of walkers. On those visits it is quite common to come across quite large numbers of Cabra de Montana. In late July for the first time ever I came across a young cabra kid suckling off its mother. I had never seen this before so it was great to see. A week later with a group of friends we watched as a fox circled a group of three or four cabra before they finally decided that enough was enough and they chased the fox off down the mountainside. Cabra do seem to becoming more used to walkers and in some areas particularly will allow you to get quite close before they run off. Descending Mulhacens south ridge in early August I walked within about three meters of a group of four large males who casually watched as I approached before finally getting up and sauntering off. They didn’t seem in the least worried by my presence seemingly accepting the fact that I was there in their territory. Near the Poqueira refuge cabra quite often approach the building even if you are sat out on the terrace. They seem to like licking the side of the building presumably getting essential salts to supplement their diet. Other wildlife sightings in recent trips included a couple of juvenile Golden eagles soaring above us on a trip to Pico de Jerez near Gaudix. Nearer to home we recently spotted a common genet (Genetta genetta) crossing the track below our finca as we drove up from the village one night. These animals are also known as ‘’civit cats’’ and look like a cross between a domestic cat and a large ferret.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Cool summer walking

With low level temperatures hitting the high 30's it is still possible to get some cooler walks in in the main Sierra Nevada range by taking the cable car up the southern side of Veleta. The cable car runs out of the Pradollano ski village which sits at 2,000m above Granada Initially travelling in an enclosed gondola or cable car you arrive at the Borreguiles half way station where you change on to an open chair lift for the final stretch up to 2,9000m. The ride is spectacular in its own right as it carries you over the now dry ski runs. In the past couple of years the lifts have been adapted to accommodate mountain bikes and there are now a number of down hill runs also starting from the end of the chair lifts. The lifts end at a fairly bleak area on the mountain side however a couple of great walks start from here. Most walkers head north east to follow a track uphill to los posiciones de Veleta at 3,000m. From this spot you get one of the best views in the whole of the Sierra Nevada range as you look east across the dramatic north faces of Veleta, Mulhacen and Alcazaba. From here some more confident walkers may venture down into the corall de Veleta though most will continue south along the track to the refugio de carahuela before ascending to the summit. For those who don’t want to climb as much there is also another path which starts from the end of the chair lit. Head south west after leaving the cable car and the walking is equally spectacular if perhaps a little easier. After a few minutes waymarkers bring you to the head of a path which head down through quite rugged terrain to the Embalse de las Yeguas a small man made lake used to supply water for snow machines in the ski season. From here you can head south east to explore the lagunillas de la virgin, small natural tarns where you may well find snow till quite late in the season. Returning to the embalse you can retrace your path up hill or head north west to cross a small coll below the obvious observatory building to then head down to Borreguiles. Even in high summer it will be cooler at these altitudes so it’s worth remembering that you may well need additional clothing and a waterproof jacket. The cable cars do not run when there are high wind speeds and as ever when you are venturing out you need to check the weather forecast before you head out.