News from Sierra Nevada Guides

Latest news from the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Southern Spain

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Mountain Skills Training Course

Mountain Skills Courses
Sierra Nevada Guides are keen to promote mountain safety and enable people to enjoy the mountains safely. Our mountain skills training course is available both for those new to mountaineering and as a "refresher" for the more experienced.
The courses includes:
Mountain Safety, Weather and Equipment; Navigation, using a map and compass, route choice and using a GPS;  Scrambling and using a rope.
This 7 day course is both valley based and hut based (1 or 2 nights) and includes ascents of Mulhacen and Alcazaba. Cost from £550 depending on your choice of accommodation and includes your pick up from malaga Airport and final drop off.  Further details can be found on our website

Sierra Nevada Guides are qualified International Mountain Leaders.  We also run 4 day "Hill skills" training courses in The Peak District. with Peak Navigation Courses.

If you are planning a trip to Spain's Sierra Nevada or Alpujarra check out our website for information and walking itineraries.  Sierra Nevada Guides are always happy for you to contact us and to answer your questions.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Which GPS?

Which GPS?
A friend recently asked me this question as someone involved in organising GPS training courses that can be trusted to give an unbiased view. However, even being objective and unbiased I could only provide an answer within my experience (being confined to Garmin, SatMap and ViewRanger).

The Smart Phone / View Ranger.
I’ve had View Ranger on my Phone and smart phone for 5 years and though I find its functions as good or better than any proper GPS device (easier to use and better functions) I’d never rely on it for when the chips are down. Phones have poor battery life and don’t run View Ranger for more than 8 hours. Phone’s are not usually shock proof, dust proof or water resistant. Great in good conditions.  Keep your phone in tact with the batteries fully charged in case you need to summon help!

GPS Devices.
You need to make a choice: firstly do you want one that has OS mapping installed or one with out? Secondly if you have chosen to opt for one with OS mapping, do you want one that is touch screen or one that you work by pressing buttons?

If you are a competent navigator perhaps you only need a device in your rucksack for emergencies. If this is the case and you only want a grid reference to confirm where you are and the ability to do a “take me to” function then you only need to go for a bottom of the range model.  For this choice I’d go for the new Garmin Etrex10. A fantastic device at entry level and so much better than the EtrexH that it replaced.

If you want a device with OS mapping, you now need to decide whether you want a touch screen model or one that requires you to press buttons to make it work. I can definitely use the whole Garmin range using winter gloves though it takes a bit of getting used to so don’t be put off using a touch screen for this reason.

For me the there is no real difference in what either the Garmin Oregon touch screen can do over the cheaper Etrex 20. At the time of writing the Oregon 450 with full UK OS mapping at 1:50 is retailing on Amazon at £350 whilst the Etrex 20 with the same mapping is around £320.

The Oregon has a bigger screen, 50% bigger than the ETrex.
The Etrex battery life is 25 hours whilst the Oregon is 15 hours.

The Etrex weighs 140 grams whilst the Oregon weighs 190 grams.

The Garmin 62 is a button controlled model with a screen roughly the same size as the Oregon but this is a big clumpy machine (I have one).

The Garmin Montanna is a bigger touch screen model than the Oregon.  Big and Clumpy.

In the non Garmin range, the SatMap 10 has a great reputation though I find the logic difficult to get to grips with after the Garmin. It is also rather big. Jane (of Peak Navigation) uses this by choice. The SatMap has a bigger screen than the Oregon.
                                    Etrex 10                      Etrex 20                 Oregon 450            SatMap10           

Overall Size                  5.4 x 10.3 x             5.4 x 10.3 x            5.8 x 11.4 x             7.5 x 13.0 x
3.3 cm                      3.3 cm                     3.5 cm                      3.5 cm

Screen Size                   3.6 x 4.3 cm            3.5 x 4.4 cm            3.8 x 6.3 cm            5.3 x 7.1 cm

Battery Life                     25 hours                  25 hours                16 hours            approx 20 hours

With batteries               141.7 g                     141.7 g                    192.7 g                  175 g

OS Mapping                        No                        Yes                             Yes                        Yes

Cost  of Unit                   £109.99                  £179.99                    £329.99               £299.00

Cost of full U.K.               N/A                        £175.00                    £175.00               £200.00
OS Mapping 1:50k

Total Cost                        £109.99                  £354.99                    £404.99            £499.00
These are manufacturers RRP’s you will always find them cheaper online!

From left to right: Garmin Etrex 10,  Garmin Oregon 450,  SatMap Active 10.

In the end it’s a matter of personal choice.  Any of these models will do the job. Read the manufacturers specifications, which are available online. Once you have decided whether you want mapping or not, either come on one of our courses to try them out or go to a reputable retailer and try them out.  Don’t be swayed by pushy sales staff expressing an opinion, go for the one that you find easy or straightforward to use.

My Choice                 Etrex 10
Jane’s Choice            SatMap

Written by Michael Hunt of  Peak Navigation Courses and Sierra Nevada Guides
Both Sierra Nevada Guides and Peak Navigation courses run training in traditional and GPS navigation.

Wildlife in Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountains

Spring Birds and Wildlife in Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountains

We have just returned from a three week break at our mountain smallholding high on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Although we had several forays out mountaineering, rock climbing and walking, much of the time was spent working on the land. Which inevitably brings you close to nature.  Spring in this part of Spain sees the return or just passing of many birds returning to Europe from Africa where they spent the winter and this trip was to reward us with sightings of several birds including the Wheatear visiting our garden daily and an Egyptian Vulture circling overhead on several occasions.

The other daily sight is the local goatherd passing beside our land as they forage and browse their way around the mountainside.  It’s always been obvious to us that when we are not around the farmer is not so careful about keeping them off our land because of the nibbled trees and plants. Whilst we are there the farmer tends to keep the goats in order by shouting at them and throwing rocks towards them (his dogs being useless at rounding them up). 

The one in the picture here has snuck around the back of our house where there are new almonds growing. Proof if it were needed that goats will do there own thing and without fencing we will always loose a proportion of our plants.

Mind you, it’s not just the goats causing damage.  On our land we have rabbits, wild boar and “Cabra de Monte” (Iberian Ibex).  Because we have plenty of water running through a barranco that borders our land and we have let a fair portion of this land go over to briar and willow, we have a great habitat not just for birds but somewhere safe for the cabra and boar to hold up during the day.  

On this last trip we were visited each evening by a young fox. The water channels that we have dug across the land distributing our excess water attract frogs and toads and we saw the fox stalking them on several occasions.

International Mountain Leaders are trained not only to lead and keep you safe in the mountains, but also in environmental interpretation. The guides at Sierra Nevada Guides are all qualified International Mountain Leaders.  Never book with a guide who claims to be "experienced" make sure they are fully qualified, your life may depend on it!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Tajo de los Cuchillos ridge

In the north of the Sierra de Huetor range this limestone ridge offers great potential for scrambles and airy ridge walks.