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, September 29, 2011

27 September Section10 A337 to Rio Paterna

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.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

22 September 2011 Section 12 La Polarda

La Polarda

With one day to go before the Autumnal equinox the available day light is getting shorter, we are losing about 15 minutes a week at the moment. We thought it best to try and get some of the sections in Almeria Provence done as these involve a considerable amount of driving time to get to the start of the walk.
Section 12 is at the far end of the Sierra Nevada range and, at 150 km it is one of the longest drives, fortunately there is only a short off road bit to do. We met at 7am at the Cozvijar petrol station, the attendant looked incredulously at us when we said we were going off walking, it was  pitch black, the sun would not be up for another hour.
We had arranged to meet Mark at an obscure motorway junction near Guadix as he lives that side of Granada, but luckily we caught him up on the motorway. So proceeding in two cars we made our way to Abla, our gateway village up into the Sierra Nevada. The off road section to the start of the walks is often  long, and sometimes over difficult terrain, but this weeks forest track was short and in excellent condition.
Plan A was to start in the middle of section 12 and walk to the start of it, at La Polarda, a distance of only 7.5 km, but involving a climb of around 600 metres. Both Rene and myself had had funny turns whilst walking the previous Sunday and so we did not want to push it. We had put it down to not eating enough for breakfast, with this in mind we started the walk by eating muesli bars and setting an easy pace.
The path starts in a pine forest and climbs quite steeply on a good track which eventually leads into an oak forest with extensive views in all directions. The guide book says the area was mined up until the 1940s but nowadays there is little evidence of the workings, just a few abandoned cortijos scattered about the hillsides.
We soon arrived at our destination of La Polarda, a lofty perch some 2000 metres up. Our new diet obviously worked well, we were fit and eager to continue the walk.
We had to show Graham we had not lapsed into Micky Mouse walkers in his absence, so we opted to put our second plan into operation. Plan B was to extend the walk by continuing a further 4.5 km along section 11, it would have been a shame to turn around because the conditions were perfect and the going was easy.
The path slowly descended down into the delightful Barranco de Ohanes with its rock pools. Rene suggested we could go swimming but as she did not have her swim suit she declined to lead the way. The path then climbs up to Collado de los Huertecillos, our terminus and lunch stop for the day, our chosen spot was on rocks in the shade of some pine trees.
Our return was back along our outbound route. It was a delightful path in stunning country side which takes the Sulayr path out of the Alpujarras and into the Guadix plain. We did not see one other person all day, what a shame this area is so under utilized.
Arriving back at the cars our thoughts turned to a cool beer. Returning to the Publeo of Abla we eventually found a Bar after several U turns in the middle of the road.
Now the last time we had been in this area we had trouble ordering drinks as they did not understand our brand of Spanish. We thought it best to try a new linguist not tainted with a Durcal accent. We sent Graham off with our order because he is more wildly travelled than the rest of us Hillbillies and surprisingly he came back with the correct order but without tapas, but we were in Almeria provence.
We arrived back in the valley 12 hours after setting off, an excellent day out.   

The walkers Mike, Kees, Rene, Graham, Mark and myself.

Distance walked on route today, 11.9 km. Total distance today 23.8 km. Height climbed today 991 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 165.7 km. Distance left to do 134.3 km. Total height climbed 12173 metres. Total distance walked 369.9 km.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 8 2011 Section 1 San Jerónimo

At the visitor centre

This week we had a large turnout for our Sulayr walk, along with the usual suspects Mark and Graham have returned to Spain after their vacation in the UK, and Graham’s son Danny was out for a holiday as well.
This necessitated a rethink to our usual off road expeditions, we needed somewhere where a main road crossed the path and was not too far from home because Kees had to be home early to pack for his holidays. We had driven along the 6.9 km track that is used as the path for section 1 back in June but we can’t count that towards our grand total. Mind you if we are still plodding away at this walk for a few more years we might be all reduced to driving along the tracks in order to complete it.   
Now foolishly I expected that as we were doing a circular walk the start and finish point would be the same, well that makes sense to me. I knew where the walk ended, it was at the Dornajo Visitors centre on the A 395 Sierra Nevada road, so we all met there. I thought this would be a good place to take a photo of our expanded group, in front of the sign proclaiming the start of the longest circular footpath in Spain. There is no sign, nada, nunca, nothing. You could be in Siberia for all the information that is available, what a lost opportunity to inspire folk to walk the path. When we had driven the route we had come out by the Hotel Don José 100 metres down the road so we set off for this point, there were still no signs. Walking behind a small hill, hidden from the road and facing the wrong way, we came across a sign board for the walk. No wonder we have never seen anyone else doing the walk!
The path is along an easy forest track that heads down to the Rio Monachil from where we had done the second part of section 1 in June. We made rapid progress to the river stopping to do a bit of blackberry and apple scrumping along the way. I knew this was going to be a short section, but if we had turned around as usual when we reached the river we would have been back at the cars by 12 am. Obviously this was not acceptable, we had not even raised a sweat.
The map was showing a path that needed to be explored up the barranco Dehesilla so we set off to extend our day out. The path turned out to be a delight, in a hidden valley forested with a large variety of trees. We will have to come back sometime and explore it further. After a suitable extension, and with the temperature starting to climb, we made our way back to the Rio Monachil.
Dan decided to stop for a quick swim in the river whilst the rest of us started the 300 metre, 6km climb  to get back to the cars. As we were passing the Don José we decided to stop for a beer, this turned out to be very expensive, it will definitely not be on the list of bars to call at again.

The walkers Mike, Kees, Ray, Rene, Graham, Danny, Mark and myself.

Distance walked on route today, 6.9 km. Total distance today 18.3 km. Height climbed today 349 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 153.8 km. Distance left to do 146.2 km. Total height climbed 11182 metres. Total distance walked 346.1 km.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

2 September 2011 Section 16 Las Chorreras

The five at Las Chorreras

We were joined on our walk this week by Rene who has been chilling out in the UK for the past couple of months while the rest of us have had to stay here with the blue sky and sun all summer.
All week the weather forecast had been predicting a poor Friday, but it was the only day we were all free. By Thursday evening we were told to expect rain, snow and thunderstorms, good grief it is only the beginning of September. Friday morning we awoke to a short shower but then the clouds cleared away.
We had an early, 7.30 am, start for the 130 km drive to the start of our walk above the pueblo of Lanteira. Unfortunately, the further we drove the lower the clouds became, and by the time we had reached our destination on Peñon de Herrero we were shrouded in cloud.
We had driven as far as we could get but the track was deteriorating so we left the car and walked the 2km to the start of the walk.
We had not gone far when we came across a dog walking down the track. He looked happy but his ribs were showing so Rene took pity on him and offered him a sweet, one sniff and he carried on with his exploring, mind, it was a kids fried egg jelly sweet so you can’t blame him. A little further on we came across his mate who had been left in charge of the herd of goats . Picking up the Sulayr path we set off across the loma El Púlpito,  we could have been anywhere, we could not see anything. The path, whilst never climbing steeply, wandered in and out of various barrancos. The streams were still running  from last winter's snows.
Hearing a noise behind us we were rewarded with the sight of a wild boar and her youngsters making their way across the hillside, add to this two foxes we saw on the drive up through the forest, Buzzards and Bee eaters and it was turning into a wildlife extravaganza. Some walks you have fantastic views and no wild life, but with today’s cloud our views were restricted to our immediate vicinity and there was plenty to see.
Eventually we arrived at our destination of Las Chorreras, a Shepherds hut that we had walked to on the 24th May. Stopping here for lunch, we watched as the clouds slowly rolled back revealing the hills and valleys we had traveled through. We walked back the way we had come but it was a totally new experience having the benefit of distant vistas. We were plagued with a few light showers on the way back, but nothing like the prediction.The walk never appeared hard, but we were all pretty tired when we got back to the car and we looked a right bunch of old crocks when we staggered into the bar in Jézez del Marquesado thirty minutes later.
The drive back was notable for the fact that for the second time in this area we were pulled over by the Guardia, this time I was breathalysed, I am pleased to report that the sin Cerveza beer I had did not register on the meter.
The walkers Mike, Kees, Ray, Rene and myself.

Distance walked on route today, 9.3 km. Total distance today 23 km. Height climbed today 712 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 146.3 km. Distance left to do 154.7 km. Total height climbed 10833 metres. Total distance walked 327.8 km.