Tuesday, 6 October 2015
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.