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.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

24th May Section 15 El Toril- Las Chorreras

Our walk this week straddled  2 Provinces, Granada and Almeria, and again entailed a long drive down the A92, this time turning off at Calahorra, where we stopped for coffee. As we were pushed for time we limited Graham to a Maritoni (an apple biscuit) instead of the usual Tostada. Our plan was to do the complete section 15, from Puerta Ragua, which sits in both the middle of the walk and is also the summit of the only drivable pass that crosses the Sierra Nevada. We split the walk into 2 parts.
The first part set off from the carpark and headed off up hill in Granada province  towards Las Chorreras. Climbing up through a pine forest we were soon out in open countryside with open vistas extending west, and a new range of hill tops that we need to learn the names of and conquer the summits someday. It was while we walking across Morrón de la Cabañuela that we came across something we have not seen before on our Sulayr expeditions, two other walkers. Stopping to pass the time of day we discovered that they were English and out on holiday, sadly they were missing a sense of humour and appeared shocked when Mike said at the speed we were knocking the miles off the walk he might be in a wooden box before we finished the circuit, my offer to carry the box with us for the rest of the walk saw them scurrying off shaking their heads in bewilderment. Picking up the trail again we started the descent to Los Chorreras, this was a delightful path along the side of Morrón del Mediodía. With Mike on point duty, his worry of an early death almost came true when he nearly stood on a snake basking in the sun. Fortunately we all witnessed this poisonous Viper so there will be no repeat of the Pine Marten spectacle. The only thing in doubt was its length which varies between about 25 cm and 125 cm depending how close to death you came. With Mike relinquishing the job of point duty, preferring a middle position in the group, we set off again only to be confronted by a ladder snake, this is a constrictor, and as I was leading I can definitely say it was 2 metres long and as thick as an arm. Arriving at Los Choreras, a shepherds hut, we stopped for lunch before turning around and with some trepidation walking back on the snake infested route.
Arriving back at the carpark we then crossed over into Almeria province to continue our walk to El Toril. We had not progressed more than 100 metres before we had lost our path. The tree loggers had been out chopping trees recently and had obliterated the path and signs. Striking out through the forest we amazed ourselves when we discovered we had only deviated by about 2 metres. On this section we discovered numerous points where the path was poorly signposted and we had a lengthy discussion about who we could write to with our complaints. This came to the forefront again when even the sign board at El Toril, the start of section 15, was missing. Now we really did need to find someone to complain to. Turning around and heading back to the car we had not gone more than 50 metres when around a corner Enrike appeared, complete with a clip board, he was a man on a mission, working for the Medio Ambiente, he was cataloging all the problems with this section of the walk. We now know a man who can, and he said he would be pleased to receive any suggestions we would like to make about the Sulayr path. With section 15 completed in one day we headed off to the bar for a celebratory drink before the drive back home.     
The walkers Mike, Kees, Rene, Graham and myself.
Distance walked on route today, 10.2 km. Total distance today 20.5 km. Height climbed today 629 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 79.1 km. Distance left to do 220.9 km. Total height climbed 5800 metres. Total distance walked 186.5 km.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 13 2011 Section 3 Loma de las Acequias to Tello

Logistics this week dictated that we change our walk day from Tuesday to Friday, a change that in retrospect worked out well for us as the weather on Friday was better for walking, we had high cloud which kept the temperatures down.
The walk starts at the 1600 metre line high above Lanjaron and follows a path that slowly descends towards the Rio Lanjaron, we have enjoyed walking  on the other side of this valley in the past ,but today’s walk high up on the opposite bank surrounded by wild flowers with views of the snow covered  Cerro del Caballo and  Veleta was truly magnificent, one of my favorite sections of a walk ever.
The initial destination, Tello, is a point imprinted in the mind of anyone who has walked in the hills around Lanjaron. For miles around there are signs pointing to Tello, you begin to think it must be a place of great importance, in fact it is a derelict old building not worth a second look.
From here we left the Sulayr path and started a long ascent to a high level route heading back to Nigúelas. The path was excellent and we soon crossed out of the Alpujarras and into the Lecrin Valley, and then down to meet up with the Sulayr path heading back to our starting point.
It was on this section that the conversation once again returned to the bloody Pine Marten. You may recall that a few weeks back Graham claimed to have seen two of them on the walk. As Graham was the only one who knew what a Pine Marten was,( I myself thought it was a bird, Mike thought he saw a fox with short legs or a big Rabbit, Rene remained aloof not wanting to get into a serious discussion, Kees thought it was a Orchid, I don’t know what Kees is smoking these days but it is good stuff), anyway Graham has been a bit upset that I would not credit this sighting of the Pine Martens to him. Mike tried to smooth things over by now saying he also saw the Pine Martens, how someone who saw a big Rabbit can now claim to have seen Pine thingies I have no idea. So things remain unresolved except for the fact that Graham showed me a picture of one last week. So for the sake of harmony, and the fact that the old git is now 65 and I don’t want to upset him anymore, we will credit him with seeing 2 Pine Martens.
The walk continued with the views changing back once again to the Alpujarras. Arriving back at our starting point we drove back to Talara where we stopped for light refreshment in a local bar.
The walkers Mike, Kees, Rene, Graham and myself.
Distance walked on route today 7.7 km. Total distance today 18.3 km. Height climbed today 690 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 68.9 km. Distance left to do 231.1 km. Total height climbed 5171 metres. Total distance walked 166 km.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

3rd May 2011 Section 14 Piedra Negra

The weather in Spain at the moment is abysmal, it appears never to stop raining. In an effort to try and keep below the snow line, and to find some dry conditions, we had decided to head back to Almeria Province, after all they are always complaining about the shortage of water over there. The weather forecast for our walk to Piedra Negra from Loma de la Cuesta de la Alpujarra (section 14) was for heavy rain up until 10.00 am and then dry conditions to follow. Leaving home at 8 am in the rain and low cloud one has to question the sanity of the group. We must all be certifiable because nobody asked why we were doing this!
The route up was the fast way along the A92 as far as Huéneja where we had hoped to get a coffee and wait for 10am when the rain would miraculously disappear. The Pueblo is a one horse town and the horse had left many years ago, not a bar in sight. This left us with no option but to drive the 20 km up to the start of our trail, mind Kees could not complain because I had already dragged him out of a bar before we had set off from Talara.
The higher we climbed the worse the conditions became, not only was it raining but we were also enveloped in cloud and the road had the appearance of a river bed. Reality slowly dawned on us that doing a 20 km walk in these conditions was not going to be fun. A new plan was quickly put together, we would drive another 5 km along the forest track and do a shorter section up to Piedra Negra.
It was now around 10.30 and the rain had stopped, but the cloud had not disappeared, we still had no view of the surrounding mountains. The guide book mentions that the path crosses numerous mountain streams, after all the rain they had turned into raging torrents necessitating some fancy foot work to keep the feet dry.
The path was not as well marked as previous sections and there were times when, without the GPS to point us in the right direction, I think we would have turned around. Pressing on we finally arrived at our destination of Piedra Negra, a point we had visited on the 12th April. After stopping in the mist for a quick lunch we made our way back to the car and finally, the clouds rolled back, and we were rewarded with views of the wonderful countryside we had been walking in.
Last week I mentioned that I was unable to verify Grahams sighting of Pine Martens, I unreservedly offer my apologies if this innocent remark ruffled his feathers but, as we all know, all the important published papers must have verifiable facts. We can’t have people just making any old thing up, nobody would take us seriously!!!   

The walkers Mike, Kees, Rene, Graham and myself.
Distance walked on route today 4.5 km. Total distance today 9.55 km. Height climbed today 462 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 61.2 km. Distance left to do 238.8 km. Total height climbed 4481 metres. Total distance walked 147.7 km.