News from Sierra Nevada Guides

Latest news from the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Southern Spain

Friday, 13 September 2019

Staying Safe in the Mountains

International Mountain Leaders have to complete Professional Development courses each year.
  This year Mike, Jane and Steve from Sierra Nevada Guides were joined by Tom, another IML to spend 2 days in the high mountains looking at techniques for keeping our clients safe on the sometimes steep and rocky terrain we often find in the Sierra Nevada. Part of our reasoning for choosing the Sierra Nevada was not only the benefits learning in the terrain we regularly use, but also southern Spain’s usually warm sunny weather.

We had agreed with BAIML that Steve as a Mountain Instructor and Course Director for Mountain Leadership and Skills in Ireland, could facilitate the course, and this turned out to be a good decision, as he is a really great tutor.

We used the University Albergue at 2500m as our base and met there on the first evening.  Tom had warned us the previous weekend that the weather forecast was not looking good.  We were a little sceptical of his suggestions that we might be faced with snow, as we had been above 3000m earlier that week walking in light clothes quite happily.  However we were prepared with warm clothes as we read about the ‘gota fría’ heading our way.  This is a cold front which sometimes sits over eastern Spain bringing unusually cold temperatures and often torrential rain.  Steve was driving down from near Murcia and found himself in the rain!

After an enjoyable evening catching up, we had an early start the next morning to plan the day.  We had booked places on the micro-bus which is operated by the National Park to take visitors up to 3000m and provides some interesting facts about the environment on the way.  
Our original plans had been to follow the easy scramble towards the summit of Veleta, talking about safety and route choice on the way. However the wind and cold meant this would have been unwise and unsafe so instead we took our ropes and warm clothes to the Carrihuela bivouac refuge at 3205m and used this as ‘basecamp’.

During the morning, Steve led us through some revision of knots, safe anchors and spotting.  It was good to remind ourselves of how much we already knew from both our Mountain Leader and International Mountain Leader courses as well as learning some new techniques.  For me one of the highlights was a really simple game for moving over steep ground, which involved holding a flat stone on the back of each hand whilst walking over the rocks at the back of the refuge. This meant you had to stand upright and hold you hands flat for balance (otherwise you will drop the stones) and it really worked!

After a break for lunch, we looked at belay techniques and using a rope to support a client who was lacking confidence in the terrain.  We then wandered around the rocky landscape underneath Veleta using both ropes and slings to support each other before returning to the bus.

It had been an excellent few hours, and we had managed to find shelter from the increasingly strong winds and almost freezing temperatures - southern Spain that day was sunny, but certainly not warm!!

During the early evening Tom and Steve spent an hour or so talking about photography. Tom is a really good photographer and Steve had just bought a new camera.  No CPD points for this session (though I am sure we could have made the justification for them), but some stunning photos of the sun setting over an increasingly stormy summit of Veleta were an added bonus.

The second day dawned but rather than sun, the tops were covered with quite a dusting of snow.  We debated our options and decided we more learning would take place by staying around the hostel as traveling any higher - this turned out to be a good move, as the driver of the bus returned after the early run saying there was too much ice and snow to be safe and he would not have taken us!

That morning we spend some time revising abseiling techniques (both the traditional and South African) and debating when each might be used.  

After warming coffee and cake in the hostel bar we made use of some nearby fencing (which is made of wooden poles and wire rope) to talk about keeping clients safe on fixed equipment, and when we might take people over what is called ‘the guides path’ - a short section of chain on a path near the old Sierra Nevada road.

The final hour we had some more practice with ropes and slings on the steep rocky paths behind the hostel.  

We retreated to the warmth of the hostel bar for a final review and debrief before sending Steve off to do battle with the weather (the forecast for Murcia and Alicante was severe and we read the next day of some deaths on the roads due to flooding).

A really great 2 days, lots of learning, sharing and reviewing our practice.  We all agreed it would be good to do something similar the following year.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Using a GPS for Navigation

Using a GPS for Navigation

I consider myself to be a skilled navigator, a bit of a nerd when it comes to map reading and using a compass along with all of the skills and techniques that make up navigation. At Sierra Nevada Guides we are teaching map reading and navigation throughout the year. On almost every course I am asked, ‘do you use a GPS?’  Well the answer is, “yes sometimes.” 

Some of the GPS devices available: SatMap Active 10, Garmin Etrex 10, Garmin 64S and a Garmin Oregon 650.

Digital mapping of The Sierra Nevada on my lap top
I liken it to having a.b.s. or powered steering in my car. I wouldn’t drive a car without if I had the choice. For me, owning and being able to use a GPS device is another item in my toolbox of navigation techniques. If I am working in remote places, big mountains or going out in poor conditions then I’ll put my GPS in the top of my rucksack.  It goes further than that though.  I like to plan all of my walks in advance using a map.  Often I’ll use online or digital mapping to plan my route. That way I can see the detail of the map clearly (the computer screen is well lit) and I can use a mapping programme that measures the distance of my route, tells me how much ascent there is and just how long it might take me to walk the route! Once out on the walk I’ll be using my map and compass.

The View Ranger App with Gran Canaria mapping on my iPad
Last year I visited Gran Canaria for a walking holiday.  Having downloaded the details of some walks from the local walking guru “Rambling Roger” I was able to install his routes onto the mapping I had on my ipad and use the ipad as my map! 

The other nice thing about using a GPS is that you can make a track of where you have been. This means that once you have finished your route you can see how far you have walked and where you have been on the computer screen.

There have been some memorable moments where I have resorted to using a GPS from my map.

Leaving the Refugio, no need for a GPS.
I remember as part of a two day trip here in Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, we had left the Poqueira Refuge on day 2 and ascended to a ridge that we could use to snowshoe along back to the valley. We left the hut at 2500m in beautiful sunshine and spent an hour ascending gently to the ridge at 2700m. However as we reached the ridge, the mist was swirling in from the far side, and it wasn’t long before the visibility was down to around 20m. Knowing exactly where I was it would have been possible to use a compass bearing and a combination of pacing and timing to keep track of our location along the ridge. But as we were guiding two people it was much easier to get the GPS to do the work for us and so we could snowshoe where the snow was best rather than go in a straight line following a compass. With the GPS doing the work we had a great day playing in the snow!

An hour later, time for the GPS!
Having and using a GPS doesn’t detract from being able to navigate.  Going walking in the hills and mountains using a GPS still requires you to have good map reading and navigation skills. The GPS might tell you the direction but it will not tell you that you are about to walk over a cliff.  A map will describe the terrain and your knowledge and experience will enable you to plan a route safely and how long it will take you. In October 2016, the British military were training in the North West Highlands of Scotland and were using devices to block the satellite signals rendering GPS navigation devices useless. Recently a friend of mine was on Ben Nevis, it was so cold that the batteries of his GPS froze and wouldn’t work. It would be dangerous to have a total reliance on a gadget!

Another question I am frequently asked is what type of GPS should I get? Well that’s the content of another blog. However I’ve been using a GPS for over 10 years. In those days they didn’t come with very good mapping. Even when they did and although we have several with mapping I hung onto my basic old Garmin Etrex as all I wanted from it was a grid reference of where I was. It’s only been in the last 12 months that I have changed my opinion. Most devices now have the ability to install mapping onto them and they have generally got a lot easier to use. I no longer want to spend 5 minutes typing a grid reference into my old ETrex as I now have the choice of touching the place on the map (with a touch screen device) that I want to go to then pressing a button to navigate. 2 presses of a finger taking only 2 or 3 seconds! It’s a similar process with the new button press devices, move the cursor using the joystick to where you want to go to then 2 presses of the button and you are navigating. Slick.

Electronic devices may let you down so keep up to speed with your map and compass navigation skills.

Garmin 64S a good device
Of course it is essential that you have your device set up correctly and know how to use it. We meet lots of people who are not using their device correctly. 

Garmin 650 a good device

Sierra Nevada Guides – Getting to Grips with your GPS
•    What is GPS and how does it work
•    What the buttons do and the menus are for…..
•    Setting up your GPS correctly
•    Finding out where I am and relating it to the map.
•    Creating waypoints and making a route.
•    Making a track of where I am walking.
•    Getting information about where I have walked and plotting it on your P.C.
•    Using online programmes to plan a route and transfer it to your GPS.
•    Downloading routes from the internet onto you GPS and following them.
•    What is geocaching and how do I do it?

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Tour of Mulhacen

“The best and most varied multi day trek in Spain’s Sierra Nevada”

Mulhacen is 3482m high and is the highest mountain in mainland Spain and indeed the Iberian Peninsular.  It is situated in The Sierra Nevada National Park near the city of Granada around two hours drive from Malaga.

Early season, the route from Mulhacen's South Ridge to the Refugio Poqueira.

There are several long distance trails passing through or around the Sierra Nevada but none that combine the villages, the highest peaks and pass through the different and varied climatic / wildlife zones in a way that can be enjoyed without camping or bivouacking.

Mulhacen from The Caldera
Our aim with The Tour of Mulhacen is to combine all of the best aspects that make the Sierra Nevada National and Natural Parks a special pace to enjoy into a week long holiday. This includes ascents of the two highest mountains in the Sierra Nevada: Veleta 3396m and Mulhacen 3482m.

The Sierra Nevada is Spain’s largest National Park. It’s uniqueness stems from the large number of endemic species (over 100 with 63 species of endemic plants). During the Tour of Mulhacen we hope you will be able to spend time appreciating the unique and special landscapes that you are passing through.

The Sierra Nevada with its proximity to Granada was part of the old Arab Kingdom of Al Andalus. In fact the name Mulhacén is derived from Muley Hasan, the penultimate Arab king, who legend states is buried on the mountain. The southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada are known as the Alpujarra and are characterised by pretty white villages in the Moorish style. Capileira, where this walk starts and finishes is perhaps the prettiest.

The route is a journey through some high and remote places. In summer the weather is generally good with little rain in June and usually none at all in July and August. September is mainly fine but there are usually a couple of stormy days which can result in snow high up. In any month there can be high winds making the higher parts of the route difficult, also it can be misty with low cloud.

Apart from the (2 days) sections walking along the GR240, there is no signposting to be relied on. Good map reading skills, a compass and knowing how to use them is essential.

The Tour of Mulhacen, near Trevelez.

Day 1           
Capileira to Trevelez.
A route following the GR240 between the two highest villages in mainland Spain.
6 to 7 hours walking with about 800m of ascent.

The endemic, "Star of the Snows"
Capileira 1436m is a very pretty mountain village with lots of bars and hotels. The information centre is situated beside the bus stop almost opposite the Bar Moirama. Here it is possible to buy maps.

The Spanish are not known for their early starts, however for the first two days, starting from a lowly height of around 1400m to 1500m it is advisable to make an early (ish) start to avoid the heat of summer.

Today’s walk follows the GR240 to Trevelez, The first two hours being uphill to Hoya del Portillo 2100m. Fortunately a lot of this climb is in forest that provides shade. Once above Hoya del Portillo the mountainside opens out and we leave the forest. This is a fairly arid hillside but where there is water look out for some spectacular plants. Crossing this hillside in the afternoon regularly give sights of both eagles and vultures circling above.

Trevelez 1476m is the highest village in mainland Spain. As such it is famous and it is also a centre for curing hams in the dry mountain air. Perhaps not so pretty as Capileira but still a very nice picturesque village.

Day 2           
Trevelez to The Postero Alto Refuge.
Ascending the Rio Trevelez to Puerto Trevelez before descending to the Postero Alto Refuge. About 8 hours walking with 1500m of ascent.

Refugio Postero Alto
Today’s walk is probably the hardest day of the Tour of Mulhacen. This is due to reaching the steep slopes of El Horcaio in the heat of the day. However it is a great and varied days walking.

We head out of the village to the north following joining and following the Rio Trevelez. This is a verdant valley, very green, even in the height of summer. As we climb we pass through summer farms where the farmers still use horse to access their high farms.

Once we have scaled the slopes of El Horcaio, the mountain path is more gentle beside a nice mountain stream that we follow to today’s high point of Puerto Trevelez 2800m where we cross the main east / west ridge of the Sierra Nevada and descend down to the Refugio Postero Alto 1880m.

The Refugio PosteroAlto is a unique building sometimes described as “The Hobbit House” with its many adjoining extensions.

Day 3            Postero Alto Refuge to The Pena Partida Refugio (shelter).
An easier day with a chance to pass the spectacular waterfalls of Los Lavaderos de la Reina. About 6 hours walking with about 650m of ascent.

Iberian Ibex, a common sight
Today we will follow the GR240 path past the Lavaderos de la Reina, spectacular waterfalls in the early summer due to the vast amount of  melting snow on the high peaks. A chance to follow some spectacular “acequia’s” which are old water channels originally constructed by the Arabs to share the water around the mountain sides brining more farmland into use.

The Pena PartidaRefuge 2451m is just a stone shelter with a wooden sleeping platform. For this night you will need to carry a sleeping mat, sleeping bag and any spare clothes you need. This is the only night on The Tour without a manned refuge or hotel. If undertaking this trip with Mountain Walking Holidays, there is a certain amount of support available so a meal will be prepared for you!

Day 4           
Pena Partida to The University Albergue at Hoya de la Mora
16.5Km with 1400m of ascent. About 8 hours walking.

The Virgin of the Snows,
Hoya de la Mora
We continue along the GR240 descending to cross the Rio Genil and to a path know as the “Vereda de la Estrella” or “Path of the Stars.”  From here we start our ascent on little used paths to the Valley of San Juan which we cross to the old observatory and to The University Albergue atHoya de La Mora 2500m where we will spend the night in relative comfort.

Day 5           
Hoya de la Mora to the Refugio Poqueira via the high peaks 
of Veleta (3394m) and Mulhacen (3482m).
Not as hard as you might think!  We take the National Park bus 
from the Albergue to 3000m before the ascent of Veleta. 
Between Veleta and Mulhacen it is mainly easy walking apart 
from the final 400m climb. Our descent off Mulhacen is down 
the gentle South Ridge to the Refugio Poqueira. We end the
day with a celebration in the Refugio Poqueira 2500m
16.8Km with around 950m of ascent.

Refugio Poqueira with Veleta 3396m in the background

Day 6            Refugio Poqueira to Capileira
A descent of the delightful Rio Poqueira back to Capileira. 4 to 5 hours.

When to do this route
Enjoying the Summit of Mulhacen 3482m.
This route really needs to be done after the snow has melted making it a safer undertaking. Most years The Tour will be in condition from mid June through until mid October. The Alpine flowers are especially good at the beginning of July.  That said there are some areas of concern:

i.          The Refugio Postero Alto is only open throughout the week in July, August and September. Other months it is only open at weekends.

ii.         Snow often lies across the route near the Carrihuela Refuge (Day 5) until mid July. This re-freezes overnight and can be difficult to cross especially early in the day without crampons.

Accommodation and Campsites
There is plenty of hotel accommodation in both Capileira and Trevelez. In Capileira we have used several Hotels but the cheapest is the Hostal Moirma which we found perfectly adequate. If you need an early breakfast, best buy provisions in and have it in your room as you are unlikely to get anything before 8am. The Bar Meson Poqueira does a good tostada from 7.30am.

In Trevelez The Refugio Alpujarra Alta is good basic accommodation, though there are plenty of hotels.  Both Capileira and Trevelez have mini supermarkets.

A beer at the Refugio Poqueira.
The Refugio Postero Alto and  Refugio Poqueira need to be booked in advance. They provide good wholesome meals, have a bar and limited shop where you can buy basic items such as chocolate and biscuit bars.  The Refugio Poqueira has hot showers available and you can rent a towel.  For both refugio’s you will need a sheet sleeping bag.

The refugio Pena Partida is a basic bothy with table and chairs and a sleeping platform.

The University Albergue at Hoya de la Mora is a very basic hotel. They serve reasonable meals and will make you a packed lunch. If you are intending to use the National Park bus to gain height from here, this can be booked when you make the Alberge booking.

There are Official Campsites at Trevelez and Pitres (20 minutes drive from Capileira).

It is possible to wild camp in the National Park though there are some rules to follow (available either direct from the National Park or in leaflet form in English from the Information Centres). However this route as described does not require “wild camping” in the traditional sense and would be difficult within the rules dictated by the National Park.

Maps and Guidebooks
The Editorial Penibetica 1:40k Map, “Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada, La Alpujarra, Marquesada del Zenete” is perfectly adequate for the route and comes with a guidebook (in English) to the Area. It is available from Stanfords and we recommend that you get it laminated prior to your trip as it is very flimsy.

It is also available from the Information Centre in Capileira and some shops and bars.

Other multi day treks in the Sierra Nevada
There are several other long distance routes that pass by or through the Sierra Nevada and Alpujarra. 

The GR240 is Spain’s longest circular long distance footpath that circumnavigates The Sierra Nevada in 19 stages. The only villages it passes through are Capileira and Trevelez so stocking up with provisions is difficult if doing it in one complete outing.

The GR7 crosses the western edge of the Sierra Nevada near Lanjaron and continues through the Alpujarra.

The “Integral” is a traverse of all the 3000m peaks of the Sierra Nevada, usually from east to west.  There are some variations on the route and most people spend 3 or 4 nights wild camping along the route.

The Tour of Mulhacen as a Supported Trek:

Our sister company, MountainWalking Holidays offer this itinerary as a supported trek.

The route to Mulhacen as seen from the Carrihuela Refuge near Veleta.

Sierra Nevada Guides are the only Qualified British Guides living and working in Spain's Sierra Nevada.

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.

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

The Iberian Ibex, common throughout the Sierra Nevada

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

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.

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.

You will need adequate medical and rescue insurance.

Contact details:
Michael Hunt and Jane Livingstone


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.