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.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

25 August 2011 Section 18 Peña Partida the steep bit

It’s nearly 6 weeks since we have done a section of the Sulayr walk, instead we have been walking at higher altitudes in order to escape the summer heat.
For our return we chose to go back to the highest part of the walk at section 18 Peña Partida. We had previously attempted to do this section on the 31st May but our plans were thwarted when we had to abandon the car some 6 km short of our destination due to a chain across the road. This time forewarned, we planned to do the section using some newly discovered paths. We drove  from Gúéjar Síerra on the spectacular campo road up Loma Papeles and once again parked where the road is closed. Careful research had revealed a previously unseen path crossing the hillside from the carpark. The path virtually contoured all the way around the valley and in a lot of places it was very well constructed very similar to the miners Vereda Estrella track lower down the valley.
After a couple of hours we met up with the Sulayr path coming down from Peña Partida. Along the route we had discussed a number of possibilities for extending our day out. The original plan was to go out on this path and then climb the 350 metres up to Peña Partida and walk back down the Loma Papeles to the car, but as it was a beautiful day it seemed a shame to head back so soon.
Option A was to follow the Sulayr path down hill to the El Calvario Bivouac, this looked an interesting path, but would have left us with a 600 metre climb at around 2pm, not the best time of the day to be starting a steep climb. Option B won hands down, this involved climbing the 350 metres up to Peña Partida, having lunch and then following the Sulayr path eastwards for about 3km. Our decision was reinforced when we met a young Dutch couple coming down the track, they had already come over the ridge line from the Siete Lagunas and were intending going down to the Estrella before climbing Mulhacen, it made you feel tired just listening to their itinerary.
The climb up the zig zag path took around one hour but we were spurred on by the thought of having lunch in such spectacular scenery. This country never ceases to amaze me, all this on our door step for free, why would anyone want to go to Disney Land? After lunch we set off eastwards towards the Lavaderos de la Reina, last time we were here we had failed miserably  to find any trace of the path until we were returning home. This time we knew the path so we made rapid progress across the unspectacular hillside. We have become blase about what we expect on this walk, any where else it would have been fine, but for Sulayr it was second rate. Our spirits were soon restored when we arrived at the Queens baths, a green valley surrounded by the black peaks of Tajos Negros de Cervatillas. Once again the path became indistinct but it was time to think about heading home, we will sort that out on our next visit.
We walked back to Peña Partida and then picked up a little path that runs along the ridge down the Loma de Papeles. I have never seen a Cowboy, but what did we come across on our way back but a real Cowboy riding his horse with a herd of cattle, in the Sierra Nevada, amazing.
We made our way back to the car and drove down to Gúéjar Sierra where we refreshed ourselves in a local tavern, beer never tastes better than after a days walk in the mountains.

The walkers Mike, Kees, Ray, and myself.

Distance walked on route today, 5 km. Total distance today 17.4 km. Height climbed today 737 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 137 km. Distance left to do 164 km. Total height climbed 10121 metres. Total distance walked 304.8 km.