Six years has passed since Ben and I went on our first proper walk. This was prior to him going to university and since then we have had four week long trips to Scotland.
The plan was for us to have a week walking before meeting up with Debbie and a week staying in a villa near Orgiva. The idea was to start on the North side of the Sierra and walk over and around the main peaks, staying at Refugios or hotels, until we came out on the South side. The plan was thus:-
Fly into Malaga from the UK
Bus to Granada
Taxi from Granada to Pradallano ski resort
From Pradollano to Refugio de Poqueria via Pico del Valeta and Mulhacien (approximately 13 Km)
Refugio de Poqueria to Trevelez (approximately 7 Km)
From Trevelez to Pitres via the GR7 (GR 240) – 14 Km
A day in the hills South of Pitres & Busquistar – Sierra del Mecina – 13 Km
From Pitres to Capileira using the GR7 – 11 Km
Capileria to Sopotujar on the GR 7 – 11Km
Villa near Cueva de Sortes/Bayacas
This report is pieced together from photographs, satellite views and the Trek sierra Nevada website upon which we based some of the routes. Some of it remains vivid and some a complete blank to me (apparently we stayed at the holiday Inn express at Malaga – I cannot recall a single detail of that no doubt magnificent establishment – some things are best not held onto).
Days 2 & 3 Pradollano to Refugio Poqueria to Trevelez - 20Km - 17th & 18th July 2015
We arrived at Malaga airport on the evening of the 15th July. Walked to the Holiday Inn Express, had an event free stay, took the airport train to Malaga town centre and caught the excellent ALSA bus service to Granada at 8;30; arriving at 11;00. We had half a day wandering round Granada with our backpacks and strolled across to the Alhambra Palace Hotel (Tourist tip – it’s the best locations to take photographs of Granada from because they won’t have the hotel in them). We had ordered a taxi to go to the mountain report of Pradollano at 16;00 because the bus service didn’t go late in the day and we didn’t want to spend the day in Pradollano when we could spend it in Granada.
Most ski resort in Summer can be hideous, this one was no exception, not only was the landscape barren but the resort was stuffed with poor quality buildings and there was nothing to do, most of the eateries were closed. We had pre-booked the Hotel Apt. Treveneque. It was clean and tidy, the staff friendly but it almost devoid of guests and with an air of the Overlook Hotel from the Shining. We quickly got out and went to look for dinner. In a town of 397 hotels and places to stay (thanks Wikipedia) there were two eating places open. We chose the one with a menu. I mistakenly ordered the chicken Cesar salad, eagerly anticipating the succulent pieces of fresh grilled chicken. I got chicken nuggets – I think this was the first time I had taken a photo of my food – I wanted to record it for posterity.
The next morning, we had a lie in, we could have walked the 1000m or so up to the first peak, La Valeta, but waited for the ski lift to open at 10;00. In our defense the route up is not the most picturesque (partly because of the ski lifts and road) and the views only open up near the top. It’s a matter of a few hundred meters to the summit from the lift, on the way we were passed by a runner and a cyclist (who later told us he’d come from Granada (not in a taxi – showing off if you ask me!). There was a group of Spanish walkers at the peak, who we were later to meet at the Refugio, having a great time, chatting and eating breakfast. We had a look around, posed for a few pictures and watched a pair of eagles gliding around to the South. As I was ‘composing’ a photo of the drop to the valley to the North a black shadow swept across my camera viewer and off around the escarpment; it seemed to fill the entire viewer but I was too slow to react. Ben said the eagle had been about 30m away, gliding around the peak and across our field of view; it never came back, but circled ominously in anticipation for the rest of the morning.
After our unearned rest we set off down the hill towards the Refugio Carihuela on the arete; the unmanned refugios are more like bunkers, designed to withstand the winter snows and no doubt difficult to find when buried. We eased our way down to the main ATV access track between Pradollano and Capileria, this is an excellent path and cycleway but blocked to motor vehicles, it’s wide and reasonably level in the part we walked. Heading East on the South side of Valeta we passed a small bank of snow, desperately hanging on – South facing in July – apparently this is all that remains of Europe’s most Southerly glacier. Old photos indicate that this was a substantial body of snow/ice at one time.
We passed and chatted to two women from New Zealand who were coming to the end of their trek through the sierra. We bypassed a loop in the track following a well-defined path over a shallow ridge and down into the Caldera, at the bottom of which was a meltwater pool, a few goats and The Refugio La caldera. There were a few walkers around including three students from Canterbury. After a chat and a snack we headed off towards the peak of Mulhacen, keeping to the edge of the escarpment for the views. The next hour was the hardest I had in the hills owing to the fact that I was carrying a 15Kg pack and we had 1100’ of ascent; if there weren’t so many people around we would have left our packs. Ben seemed to be struggling less with his pack and made it to the summit well ahead of me.
The summit of Mulhacen is at the North end of a large inclined ridge at the edge of a cliff that drops down to a chaos of shattered slopes and eroded valleys forming a depression; the other major peaks of Valeta and La Alcazaba continue the massive escarpment. At the summit there is a small shrine and an enclosure, a rock slab overhangs the edge of the cliff. We settled down in the enclosure out of the wind for a snack. One of the students, noticing we had a map asked us where we were and if this was the summit. I replied yes and asked how did they get here and what map they used; it turns
out they based their entire walk on a screenshot from Google Earth, quiet impressive but a little alarming. I went over our map with them and gave them a photocopy extract I carried as back up.
It was getting towards four and we had a couple of hours walking ahead of us; the numbers on the peak were thinning out, when we left all that remained was the three students. We surmised that they intended stay on the summit overnight as they showed no intention of moving. Even in the middle of summer I suspect they were in for a cold night. There is actually a no camping rule for the park area but I doubt if the park rangers would be up there to enforce it.
The path off the mountain was straightforward, back down to the caldera and along the beautiful, gently sloping valley of the Rio Mulhacen to the Refugio Poqueria. As we descended the valley got greener and we passed a couple who we met earlier, setting up camp in a perfect sheltered spot. The Refugio look somewhat incongruous in this setting, being the only building within view and set in the barren emptiness of the mountains. It was crowded with walkers and climbers. The bunk room we were allocated had 4 bunks/platforms, enough for about 30 people. Just after us a Canadian couple, whom we had been chatting to on the peak, arrived and moved into our dorm. They looked somewhat out of place, both looking perfectly groomed with the most expensive clothing, they looked like catalogue models. What they made of the nights ‘rest’ in the hot sweaty dorm with about twenty men farting and belching all night I can only guess. Both the dinner and breakfast were excellent and we left the next morning in a mass exodus. The walkers fanning out across the landscape from the Refugio, most appeared to be heading for Mulhacen 2. We were heading for Trevelez.
When planning this trip I was conscious of our inexperience and the fact that we were in the middle of the Spanish Summer so I kept the individual days distances small. I assumed that we would struggle the day after ascending the hills so planning the second walk to be fairly easy and mostly downhill. In retrospect I think this was a mistake and believe we should have taken a more circuitous route to Trevelez via the Siete Lagunas, although this would have been more effort it would have been more scenic and a less steep descent.
The drop down from Canada de la Iglesia to Trevelez a some 1300m in one continuous slope; it seemed to go on ages, the village never getting any nearer, the descent getting more uncomfortable as the morning wore on. Gradually the greenery increased and there were old abandoned buildings and fields, then farmed fields and orchards and we came out onto a small track which wound down into the village. The villages of the Alpujarras are so different to our own, they are beautiful, chaotic and very, very white, almost all roofs are flat, balconies and overhangs are common and they fit into every available space on the hills. The villages are very densely built up but small gardens abound crammed with fruit and vegetable plants, the soil seems particularly fertile as crops seem to grow all year round. At Trevelez the main road snakes round the end of the valley, through the village and out the other side towards the South, the Rio Trevelez cut a deep notch in the valley floor.
We stopped at a café on the main road, overlooking the river, and had lunch on the rear terrace, surrounded by the local cats. About two o’clock we made our way to the hotel La Fragua, chosen because it had a pool. In the afternoon we sunbathed and swam.
This board helps you to share your walking route experiences in England and Wales... or overseas.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.