Walking in the Sierra Nevada
Spain’s Sierra Nevada is a great destination for mountain walking on account of it’s settled (summer) weather and non technical mountains that don’t require the use of alpine techniques and climbing equipment. All of the main peaks can be reached by competent mountain walkers. The high peaks start to become accessible from the end of June when the snow melts through until October. Even in the height of the Spanish summer it is relatively cool above 2500m and you can expect temps of 15 to 20 degrees on the summits if it is not too windy.
Although there are some 26 named peaks over 3000m, there is one especially nice peak, Trevenque 2079m that should not be missed off anyone’s itinerary. Trevenque is a shapely mountain, sometimes referred to as the Matterhorn of the Sierra’s. Although it may be too hot to climb from mid July until the end of August because of its lower altitude, never the less it proves to be a good warm-up or acclimatisation for its higher neighbours.
Most people visiting the area want to tick off Mulhacen 3482m which is the highest mountain in mainland Spain. In summer this is a fairly straight forward peak, especially if catching one of the National Park busses from either Capileira to the south or Hoya da la Mora to the west. Details of these busses can be found on the Sierra Nevada Guides website. Possibly the best circuit is to book the bus from Capileira but drive up to and catch the bus as it passes “the barrier” at Hoya del Portillo. The bus takes you to Mirador Trevelez 2680m from where it is a 2 hour walk up Mulhacen’s south ridge to the summit. Descend the west ridge to the Caldera Refuge getting views of Mulhacen’s north face, then follow the valley down to the Poqueira Refuge where you can buy a beer before setting off again to Hoya del Portillo. Approx 7 hours from getting off the bus at Mirador Trevelez.
|Flowers at Siete Lagunas, Gentians and "Star of the Snows"|
The big 3 of the Sierra Nevada are Mulhacen 3482m, Veleta 3394m and Alcazaba 3371m. Of these the most difficult but most rewarding day is to ascend Alcazaba. The easiest way to get to Alcazaba is to take the bus up from Capileira to Mirador Trevelez. Follow the path as for Mulhacen to where a path heads off towards Siete Lagunas at approx 3000m (not obvious). From Siete Lagunas it is possible to make a circuit on Alcazaba, ascending a ridge towards Penon del Globo but traversing northwards at around 3150m towards Meseta de las Borregas and onto a ridge that ascends Alcazaba from the south east. Descent to the top of the Siete Lagunas by an improbable path through cliffs and screes and wander down past all 7 lagoons, especially nice with the abundant alpine flowers. From Laguna Hondera follow the same route back to Miradoor Trevelez. 7.5 hours. It is possible to ascend to Siete Laguna’s from the village of Trevelz 1475m but this is a very long day.
|Ascending the ridge to Cerro del Caballo|
A personal favourite of ours is the Cerro del
Caballo 3005m. This is Europe’s most westerly 3000m peak. Although there are several ways of ascending Caballo, our favourite circuit is from the Ventura road head about an hours drive up a rough dirt track from Lanjaron or Lecrin. From the parking spot at the end of the road take the obvious path the leads up to the old ruined Ventura Refuge (20 minutes). Continue up the path for a short distance, it now heads up steeply to cross and acequia channel and continues in gentle ascent crossing 2 streams to the start of a pine forest. Follow the fire break upwards at the side of the forest to its high point and take a diagonal line up to the ridge above you. The ridge is followed more or less to the summit of Caballo. From the summit you can peer down to the north east and see the Caballo Refuge beside a laguna. In descent head north west to a col above the refuge and follow scree (some times snow in early summer) and descend to the refuge. From the Refuge a faint path heads down hill, north east past a lagoon. We normally take a line north eastwards down to the Rio Lanjaron by a prominent waterfall before picking up a path that heads south west along the rio for approx 3 Kms to a dam. Leave the Rio to the right (west side of the dam) ascending for 50m before descending to pick up the acequia which is followed back towards Ventura. 7 hrs.
|Caballo from the Upper Rio Lanjaron|
Like all mountain areas, the Sierra Nevada can be serious and has claimed several lives in recent years (four of them British). The above descriptions are intended as an outline and you will need to be competent, especially at navigation to undertake them. In summer, the most likely hazard you’ll face is intense sun, dehydration and a little breathlessness due to the altitude. However there have been several occasions in summer when we have retreated due to high winds. Keep an eye on the weather too. It is not unknown for afternoon storms to build up around the higher peaks.
There is plenty of information about the area (maps, weather, places to stay, etc.) on the Sierra Nevada Guides website and we are always happy to advise you on routes and conditions.
If in doubt about your ability or you would like a skills refresher, hire a qualified guide from Sierra Nevada Guides.