Foot bridge Barranco del Riachuelo
Another week another walk, with the weather conditions absolutely perfect for mountain walking. Once again a 7am start was called for, to gain maximum day light. Our walk this week was on section 10 in the Alpujarras, but the quickest way there was the Northern route around Guadix. We had arranged to meet Mark in a bar in La Calahorra for coffee before driving another 30 km to the start of our walk.
The first part of the walk was a 2.5 km section on tramo 9, we had failed to complete this part due to a threatening thunder storm back on the 21 st June. Access is very easy because the path crosses the A337, which is the only drivable route over the Sierra Nevada from La Calahorra to Laroles. Not that you know where the path is, another unique opportunity lost to promote this path. No signs by the side of the road, you even have to climb over the crash barrier at the side of the road to access the path, you then discover the footpath sign down the hillside, hidden from the road.
When planning the walks I try and arrange for all the steep climbing to be done in the morning, much preferring these sections to be done whilst we are still fresh. The lay of the land forbid this on this occasion. We were going to have to climb about 450 metres in the morning and some 650 on the way back plus walk about 25 km. It was going to be a long day in the saddle, unfortunately we only had shanks´s pony.
The path heads down to the Rio Palancón and across a well constructed footbridge, and then heads up to the Bayárcol road. It was while we were going up this path that a commotion broke out behind me, stopping to investigate we found Mark hopping about proclaiming loudly that he had been stung on the leg by a wasp. After receiving first aid we set off again only for Rene to succumb to these blessed things. There must be a new breed of aggressive wasps about this year, a lot of people are getting stung.
After passing through an old Holm oak forrest we arrived at the start of Section 10. The path follows a campo road to start with before heading down into the Barranco del Riachuelo. The river crossing is made on an old pack horse bridge beautifully constructed, but with an unusual lean, we could not work out if it had been built this way or over time its foundations had shifted. We now had a stiff climb up a hillside and into a pine forest, fortunately it was still cool and the vistas opened up the higher we climbed. No sooner had we reached our maximum altitude of 1845m than we started the long descent down to the Rio Paterna. The path is in a pine forest for much of the way, and whilst the temperature was starting to rise it was remaining cool in the forest, this would be handy on the way back. There is evidence all around that the area was once extensively farmed but nowadays most of the farms appeared to be abandoned, what a shame, but who can blame anyone from moving on from what must have been a very difficult life.
As we were descending down into Barranco Paterna we were rewarded with a magnificent flying display from a pair of Golden Eagles, what a wonderful sight and it was the icing on the cake on what was turning out to be one of the best Sulayr walks we had done.
The Rio Paterna was our turn around point for the walk, We all look forward to a return visit when we do the next part of this section, it is a wonderful isolated valley. Usually we stop for lunch around the halfway point but with a 490 metre, 6 km climb out of the valley I suggested we waited until we had reached the summit, knowing how lethargic I get after food. The tactic worked well, we were up the hillside in double quick time and we stopped for lunch in the shade over looking the Alpujarras.
With the hard part of the walk over, we only had 148 metres left to climb, we were able to enjoy our walk back to the car. The only difficulty would be the area around those pesky wasps. Graham and Kees were given the short straws because they were wearing long trousers, so less of an area to get stung on, they went at the back. We ran down the track, passing the wasp nest by the side of the path on the way. We must have disturbed their early morning slumbers on the way out, no wonder they were bad tempered.
With the walk over our thoughts once again returned to the important subject of cold beer. The nearest bar was back in La Calahorra at our morning coffee stop. Such was the hurry to get there Mark forgot he had put his walking poles on the car roof, they came off at the first of the many corners on this twisting road.
This was a great day out, even if it was nearly dark when we got back, Mike suggests we return in 10 years time to see if we can still do it as quick, by then there might be All Terrain Zimmer frames available.
The walkers Mike, Kees, Rene, Graham, Mark and myself.
Distance walked on route today, 12.6 km. Total distance today 25.37 km. Height climbed today 1052 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 178.3 km. Distance left to do 121.7 km. Total height climbed 13,225 metres. Total distance walked 395.3 km.