The start of it

For a long time, whilst out walking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we have come across footpath signs to Sulayr but we were never able to connect the signs to any known path, they always seemed to point to somewhere high in the Sierra Nevada. Then in August 2009 whilst on the Mulhacen mountain bus Paco, the guide, explained that it was a 300 km circular path running around the Sierra Nevada National park.
Slowly my interest in this walk was aroused, but it always looked like it would be a ambition never undertaken. The path runs around the Sierras at about 2000 meters, and the thought of taking our poor little Renault Kangoo up all those access tracks to the start of a new section of the walk filled me with dread, it was our only car.
In 2011 the chance came to buy another car, and the thought of walking the Sulayr path gained momentum. What was needed were some good buddies to share the experience. My wife has always classed the “The A Team” of the Lecrin Valley Limpers as something out of “The Last of the Summer Wine”. A group of old men who go out in to the mountains for the day and come home raggy arsed, tired and dirty. After careful consultation with fellow team members who jumped at the chance of expeditions into the high Sierras I decided to buy a small 4X4.
This is the story as it unfolds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 26th Section 9 Fuente del Espino

Our big adventure this week was 105 km away in the Alpujarra, in an area unknown to any of us. The path was part of Section 9 from Fuente del Espino to Mirador, high above the villages of Mairena and Júbar. The guide book talks of this section having been a hideout for the Mudéjar bandits and thieves, leftover from when the Christians cleared the Moors out of the Alpujarras in the 16th century.
We set off early for the drive, but by the time we got to Mairena one and half hour later, Kees was desperate for a coffee and Graham for another breakfast. Now normally their requests for bar stops are ignored, but the walk was not a long one and there was still a 10 km off road section to drive before we reached our starting point. So feeling magnanimous we decided to stop and refresh ourselves, on sale in the bar were a large selection of knives of various sizes and prices which reminded me of this weeks invitation email in which I mentioned the need to bring weapons to ward off bandit attacks. Rene’s weapon of choice was a spoon, yes, a dessert spoon, what on earth was she going to do with a sodding spoon!
The drive up to the Mirador, our starting point for the walk, was true 4X4 country, we were tossed and bounced about like James Bond’s Vodka Martini (shaken not stirred) as we made the journey up to the 1900 metre line. The weather was perfect with blue sky and temperatures just right for a serious walk. The sign post and the guide book had the distance to Fuente del Espino listed as 10.5km and we set off at a cracking pace on what was a very easy path through Holme oak and Pine forest. Now Graham claims to have spotted Pine Marten and Hares on the path, I saw just one tail, so the sightings go uncorroborated.
We made the Fuente in double quick time, but then, checking the GPS, we discovered we had only covered 8.7km but we were definitely there, the sign board said so. The only thing missing was the Fuente, a bit of plastic pipe in my opinion does not constitute a Fuente. The weather was slowly deteriorating and the clouds were closing in as we stopped for a quick lunch.
Which reminds me, Graham suggested, while we were walking, that we ought to change the format, that we should go out for 5 day stretches and stay up on the 2000 metre line overnight. When we pointed to the sheer impracticality of carrying all the food he said he could survive on a tin of Sardines a day! Have you seen how much he consumes? He would need a pack horse and then he would eat that after 5 days.
We had only just started on the return journey when the rain came. and by the time we arrived back at the car we were well and truly soaked and in need of refreshment, so following a different track back we stopped in Valor for a drink. A very enjoyable day out and I will look forward to doing another section in this area.

The walkers Mike, Kees, Rene, Graham and myself.
Distance walked on route today 8.7 km. Total distance today 17.4 km. Height climbed today 108 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 56.7 km. Distance left to do 243.3 km. Total height climbed 4019 metres. Total distance walked 138.2 km.  Today’s record breaking speed was 5 km per hour.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 19th Tevélez to Hoya Herrere

Whilst he has not been able to join us on a walk since we started our grand adventure Graham was one of the original five daft enough to want to walk the 300 km path, so we had to choose a section that would impress him.
Our chosen route was a 10 km section starting in Trevélez and going on to Hoya Herrera where we had previously set off from. The weather forecast was not brilliant and by the time we set off for the drive to Trevélez it was misty and raining, but we were confident that things would improve. Trevélez claims to be the highest inhabited pueblo in Spain and by the time we arrived we had driven out of the poor weather and things were looking good.
The walk starts at the edge of the village and heads uphill on an unmarked path which it shares with the GR7, you would think that together the paths would warrant a marker, but nothing, when you have climbed 50 metres, there are plenty of markers. There must be logic there somewhere, but so far it escapes me.
After 4km of easy climbing, following the GR7, the path branches off and starts gaining height seriously. Arriving at the 2000 metre line we came across a number of bulls and cows. We positioned Mike in his red jumper at the back to protect our rear flank, and Graham with his knife at the front, mind we all felt a lot safer when we realised that his knife was in his rucksack.
The weather was starting to close in on us as we started our descent towards Hoya Herrera, our turn around point today. This was slightly discouraging as not only could we not admire the vistas we had been promised of the coast and Africa but also we knew every metre of descent was a further metre of ascent on our way back.
Stopping for lunch at Hoya Herrera the clouds suddenly parted reveling previously unseen views. The last time we were here we were also enveloped in cloud. I am glad this bit is finished because it is the only place we have had bad weather so far. On the way back we alternated between wearing waterproofs because of the short April showers, and stripping off because we were too hot.
Arriving back in Trevélez we took advantage of the fact we were parked outside a bar, as expected the tapas was Jamon. Fearing for my life I felt it better not to ask for a vegetarian alternative.
The walkers Mike, Kees, Rene, Graham and myself.
Distance walked on route today 9.75km. Total distance today 19.5km. Height climbed today 882 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 48.0 km. Distance left to do 252 km. Total height climbed 3911 metres. Total distance walked 102.8km

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 12th 2011 Section 13 La Rosa - Piedra Negra

For our challenge this week we wanted to try a new area but, after inspecting the northern aspect of the Sierra Nevada, from afar, it looked like the 2000 metre line was still covered in snow. Now I like the look of snow but it does make walking difficult.
A careful look at our guide book revealed a section at the far end of the Sierra Nevada in Almeria Provence that was below 2000 metres and only 11.2km long. The only problem was that it is 149 kms away, but, we have to do them and everyone was up for it. The section sounded interesting with forests and abundant wild life.
With an 8am start we were up and away, and then stuck in a traffic jam in Granada, this delayed us by 10 minutes but then we had a clear run to our access point through a village called Abrucena. None of us had been to this end of the Sierras before so we did not know what to expect.
The terrain is very rugged, with near vertical 2500 metre mountains rising up from the valley. Access to the start of the walk was excellent, a good road that the Tom tom knew about and without any delay we were kitted up and off.
From past experience of walking this route I did not hold out much of a chance of us reaching our goal of Piedra Negra 11.2km away.
For the first 6.7 km the track is along forest road that rises some 235 metres, we made rapid progress along this road and soon arrived at a point where the path headed into the forest, it was looking good that we could complete the full section. The forest was huge and for the next 1.5 hours we zig zagged back and forth, and crossed a few mountain streams as we continued to climb up to Piedra Negro. We arrived at our destination after 3 hours, a magnificent achievement, but the high peaks we had glimpsed through the forest were bathed in cloud and there was a cool wind blowing. So a quick lunch break and photo stop and we were off again.
We chose a slightly different route back, sticking to the forest road with more open views.
We had been promised an array of wild life in the guide book but all we found was one dead mouse by the side of the road.
A great days walking covering a distance 22.7 km and we finished off with a cool beer at a bar in Abrucena, where they appear to speak a different language from the one taught in our valley.
All that was left was the 149km drive back, but that soon passed and our trip to the end of the Sierras could be classed as a great success.
The walkers Mike, Kees, Rene and myself.
Distance walked on route 11.2, total Sulayr 38.2 km, height climbed 652 metres,                              total height 3029 metres

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 7th 2011 Section 5 Capileira

With Holidays and sickness interfering with our walking schedule we have not been out since the beginning of March. So it was with mounting excitement that we planned our day out on the Sulayr path.
We decided to complete the Puente Palo to Capileira section as we only had 4.1 km left to do on it. With an 8.30 start from Lecrin we were in Capileira before the morning sun had touched the village. Kees was eager for a coffee to start the day, but he was out voted by the simple action of walking past all the bars.
We had not travelled far before we came across the first delight of the day. A local farmer was turning over a narrow strip of land using a pair of Mules and a plough. The path follows a track down the steep sided Poqueira gorge and across the river on a bridge that has seen better days. The problem with dropping down into the gorge is that you need to climb up the opposite bank but we were all fighting fit after our months lay off. The path follows an old mule track and is well waymarked and Kees seemed eager to earn his path finder badge (grade 1), so he was promoted to lead man, I myself taking up the position of back marker. We had not travelled more than 50 metres before we were following a cow path across open pasture, Cees was sent to the back of the group for further training and we returned to the waymarked mule track. Our progress up the hillside became slower and slower the higher we climbed and it was a relief to finally reached a level section.
15 minutes of walking along the road took us back to where we had finished off last time, wow, it had only taken us 2 hours to do a 4.5 km section. Being the boys from the A team it was never the intention to do just this little section of the walk, we were going to make it into a full days expedition. The map showed a little track continuing up the hillside back along the road where we had joined it, so keeping a close eye out for any sign of a path along the way we retraced our steps. True to form there was no sign of a path so we decided to continue along the road in the hope a route up the hillside would become obvious. After a little while we came across a farmer working in a field who kindly informed us that there was no way up from this road but, if we returned back along the road we could go into one of his fields and make our way up to the acequia we wanted. With the acequia about another 100 meters higher this meant some more climbing, now normally this would not be a problem but for some reason the boys were suffering. The GPS was showing that progress had slowed to a shameful 1km per hour,  Rene was the only one not working up a sweat, remaining cool and stress free throughout the tortuous ascent. Finally arriving at the acequia Nueva we were rewarded for our efforts with a delightful babbling brook that we followed as it slowly gained height. Along the way we encounted numerous frogs making frog spawn, as frogs do at this time of the year. What was a little unusual was the spawn appeared to be in tubes, not something I have ever seen before.
After a few kms of walking on this wonderful track we came across a problem, the hillside had slipped away taking our path with it, this left a precipitous section to cross and a couple of years back would have been the turn around point for Mike and Kees but with gritted teeth and nerves of steel they successfully navigated their way across. Our intention was to walk the acequia until we came across a track heading down hill toward the hydro station at La Cebadilla and then following the path back to Capileira on the other side of the gorge. Coming across a marked path that appeared to heading in the right direction we set off to follow it downhill. It soon became apparent that we would not end up at the hydro but on the path this side of the gorge which was no problem because it also ended up after crossing the river in Capileira. The only downside was the last time we had walked this path the bridge was in danger of falling into the river, but, what the heck, we have forded mountain rivers before. I am pleased to say the National parks have restored the bridge to its former glory and all that was left now was the walk back up into the village. I was completely knackered when we got back and fell into the nearest bar for some much needed resuscitation. A great days walking in some fine countryside.
On the walk today Mike, Kees, Rene and myself
Km today total 14.1, the Sulayr section 4.3 km, Total Sulayr 27km,                                                           left to do 273 km, ascent today 772 metres, total ascent 2377 metres