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, July 20, 2011

July 13 2011 Section 4 from Tello

After the heat of last weeks walk we decided that we were putting on hold our Sulayr walks until the temperature had fallen back a bit. We aren’t going soft or anything, we were going to introduce our summer walking program, visiting as many Lagunas as we could find in the cooler, higher parts of the Sierra Nevada. We had already visited the  Laguna de Caballo a few weeks back, and on a Sunday walk the group went up to Laguna Yeguas on Veleta, it was so windy we could hardly stand up.
This week we had planned to visit Laguna Cura, but at 7.30 am in the carpark in Nigúelas the wind was already bending the trees and the lake is 2000 metres higher. After a quick consultation with the team it was decided to do another section of the Sulayr path above Lanjaron. Lanjaron has a unique weather system because when it is windy in the valley you can drive the 15 km into the Alpujarras and there will not be a breath of wind.
We had done a very short bit of section 4, well in actual fact we had done 1.7 km of it on our first day out in February. The start of section 4 is at a place called Tello which is a semi abandoned building by the side of the Rio Lanjaron, I say semi abandoned because there are signs that it is used sometimes, as there are kitchens, bathrooms and bunk beds.
We drove up to the Sulayr path and walked down the 3 km to the very picturesque bridge spanning the Rio Lanjaron and then up to Tello. Then, retracing our steps we climbed out of the valley back up to the car. Kees was on point duty as once again he was eager to attain his path finder badge (part 1), after only 50 metres he had taken a wrong turning. He was sent to the back again for further training.
We then continued on a level track towards Puente Palo. The last time we were up here in February the path was deep in snow and we had struggled to walk 5km uphill to get to this point. This time snow was not a problem, this time we were looking for shade.
Arriving at our destination Mike was a little disappointed when I suggested we stop here, have lunch and then return to the car, it was only 11.30 and he was expecting a full days walking but, I had a cunning plan. We were directly above Cáñar and we are coming here with the group on Sunday and, as I had promised them we would end up in a pub, we needed to find the best bar in the village. Mike soon cottoned on to the idea that testing the beer and tapas in various bars might be a pleasant way of spending the afternoon. So after lunch we walked back to the car  and then drove to Cáñar. I nearly wrote the Suzuki off when I hit a hidden tree stump and the car bounced into the air, fortunately no damage was sustained.
We only found two bars open, so after a drink and tapas in both of them we decided to go back to Nigúelas and Miguels bar on the carpark.
One walk and three bars, what an excellent day out!

The walkers Mike, Kees, Ray, and myself.

Distance walked on route today, 7.1 km. Total distance today 14.2 km. Height climbed today 460 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 132 km. Distance left to do 169 km. Total height climbed 9384 metres. Total distance walked 287.4 km.  

Saturday, July 9, 2011

8th July 2011 Section 17 Postero Alto

Our destination this week was Postero Alto and the start of section 17.
The access point for this section is from Jérez del Marquesado and as we were approaching the pueblo at 8.30 in the morning we were stopped by the Guardia on a routine document inspection, with everything in order he bade us farewell, and then reprimanded me for setting off with my seat belt unfastened.
From the pueblo it is a 12km drive on a forest road that slowly gets worse the higher you drive, and terminates with a 2km drive up a fire break to the manned Refugio at Postero Alto. I think this is the weirdest building I have ever come across, I was expecting to see a family of Hobbits at any moment.
Leaving the car in the car park we picked up the Sulayr path as it descended through a thick pine forest and across a fast flowing river. The path was a complete change from other sections as it climbed through forest and rich pasture land, with docile bulls and cows along with horses and goats all roaming around the hillside with no constraints, it was a delight.
After 2 hours we left the forest behind us as we climbed up Piedras de Vicente. This is an open hillside with extensive views over the plain of Guadix. With no set destination in mind we set a limit to our exploration on the outward journey of 3 hours, this would give us a round trip of around 6 hours, sufficient in the high July temperatures.
When we stopped for lunch Kees announced that he had lost his sun glasses, as we were retracing our footsteps back to the Refugio we expected to find them along the path. We had not gone far when we came across one man and his dog walking the trail, stopping to talk with him he explained he was the advance party with his other 4 colleagues following on somewhere behind him. The dog was well kitted out with his own rucksack with 3 days supplies of food, he had not seen Kees glasses. Meeting up with the rest of the group a few minutes later we discovered another two Dutch men, one who had done the complete Sulayr route with this section the final one for him. What was surprising was that he was incredulous that we had a Dutchman with us, knowing all the trouble and strive that they cause and no, they had not seen the glasses. Mind their group was two English, two Dutch, one Spanish and a dog so what trouble they all get into I have no idea.
It was now starting to get hot, and we made rapid progress as we raced to get back into the relative cool of the forest, but, more important we thought we might be able to get a cold beer at the Refugio. With no sign of Kees’s glasses along the route, and all the time expecting to hear the sound of breaking glass under foot, we arrived at the Hobbit building and to our great delight we found it open and serving cold beers, Heaven can’t be better than this. All that was left now was the 1½ hours drive home.
One interesting item, Mount Everest is 8840 metres high so with today’s walk we have climbed the equivalent of the worlds highest mountain on our Sulayr trek.
This is probably the last section we are going to do for a few weeks as we seek cooler conditions higher up in the Sierras. For our summer excursions we are going to try and visit all the Lagunas in the Sierra Nevada range. I did suggest that we had to swim in each one but I think we have settled on a paddle instead.
The walkers Mike, Kees, Ray, and myself.
Distance walked on route today, 8 km. Total distance today 16 km. Height climbed today 554 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 124.9 km. Distance left to do 176.1 km. Total height climbed 8924 metres. Total distance walked 273.2 km.