Summer in The Sierra Nevada – It’s cool at altitude!
Although summer has been a few weeks late in arriving this year, it has now arrived and is firmly established. Temperatures in the villages have been around 34 degrees C in the afternoons and barely dropping below 20 degrees at night. Two days ago I found it hard to sleep as the bedroom was airless and it was too hot to be comfortable so I decided to check out the conditions on Veleta 3394m the second highest in Spain’s Sierra Nevada.
|The Sierra Nevada Violet (Viola crassiuscula)|
Leaving home at 6am where it was 21 degrees I drove to Hoya de la Mora (2500m) where it was a cool 13 degrees and felt distinctly cooler with a brisk wind blowing. The ascent of Veleta is one of the easiest of all the mountains in the Sierra Nevada. A gentle ridge and fairly good path for all but the final 200m of ascent where there is a steep zig zag path up through scree and boulders. Reaching Posiciones del Veleta at 3100m a Griffon Vulture soared overhead reminding me that I always see them when on Veleta. By the time I got the camera out and switched on it was too far to make a decent picture. In total it took me two hours to reach the summit and although there was snow around, I didn’t have to cross any patches on my ascent. For most of the climb I was just about warm enough in shorts and a t shirt though my hands started to get cold near the summit. Once on the summit and no longer generating heat from the exertion of ascending I needed a windproof fleece hat and gloves. I guess it was around 5 degrees with the windchill. Cool!
|“Blue Dreams” (Chaenorrhinum glareosum).|
I choose to descend towards the Carrihuela refuge 3205m down by the old track that used to cross the Sierra Nevada from Granada to Capileira on the south side of the range. As usual for this time of year the track was buried in snow for about 1Km beyond the refuge. On the way to the refuge there were a number of alpine plants coming into flower as the snow had recently receded. And I managed to get a few photo’s before the battery in my camera gave up! Notable were the Sierra Nevada Violet (Viola crassiuscula) and “Blue Dreams” (Chaenorrhinum glareosum). It was at this point with the camera out of action that I noticed a group of six Grifon Vultures circling above me!
At the Carrihuela refuge I met a cyclist who had wanted to take the old road and cross the snow with his bike heading for Capileira. The snow was still frozen hard and the slope to cross is very steep with a bad run off if you were to slip. Fortunately he had already decided against it though it would be a massive 120Km detour. He said he’d cycled the route a few years ago and I left him considering whether or not to wait until late afternoon when the snow might be safe enough for safe passage without crampons.
|Mulhacen from the Carrihuela Refuge|
The rest of the descent back to Hoya de la Mora was a pleasant stroll though I could feel it warming up! Soon the gloves came off, the fleece hat was replaced by a buff and eventually the windproof came off too. It was a pleasant 22 degrees back at the car and I headed to the “University Albergue” for a cool beer and tappa.
Sierra Nevada Guides are the only qualified British Guides working in Spain's Sierra Nevada Mountains. We are always happy to answer your questions about the area.
|Veleta from Hoya de la Mora|