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, April 14, 2012

10 April 2012 Section 10 - 11 Barranco Paterna to Barranco Horcajo

El Cerecillo

10 April 2012 Section 10 - 11 Barranco Paterna to Barranco Horcajo

Typically for Spain the weather over the Easter holiday has been wet, no matter what date Easter is, you can guarantee it will rain, or, like last week, snow.
With this in mind we specified wet weather gear for the walk again this week and, as we were making the long drive up the Alpujarras on Tuesday morning, it looked like we would be wearing them before the day was out.
We have a 17 km section, parts of 10 and 11 still left to do, it was far too much to do in one day as it would have involved a round trip of 35 km and some 1600 metres of climbing. I had devised a plan to split it into two parts, one of 20km and the other 15km, with both walks setting off from the same place. I had discovered a driveable track, well I thought I had discovered a drivable track, on Google Earth, which would take us right to our starting point for both sections and we could then make a decision as to which way to go when we got there.
The drive up to Laujar de Andarax was uneventful, we were in two cars, mine and Marks trusty little go anywhere Renault. Sally in the Tomtom was programed to find us the route, and this week, to keep Kees happy, we let him play  with her. She navigated us through Andarax and down to the river which was going to be our route up to our starting point. The track was obviously not well used, which surprised me a little as there appeared to be a lot of Cortijos close to the road. We bounced along over boulders in the river bed or occasionally on what might be described as the road. After a couple of Kms, and with still another five to go, we ran out of road, it had been washed away in a storm. We had two choices we could walk from here adding another 10 km to whichever hard walk we were doing, or we could try and find another access point. When I was the planning the route I had noticed another forest road 5 km away so we turned around and headed back to Andarax. The new road would take us up to El Cerecillo the end of tramo 10 and start of 11. This was a good road, in fact I think it was the best one we have been on up to the Sulayr path, and we made rapid progress as we climbed up to 1700 metres. By the time we arrived the clouds had parted and the sun was shinning.
Setting off from El Cerecillo we headed west on section 10 towards the rio Paterna which we had  walked to on the 27 September 2011. The last time we were there we had seen Golden Eagles up close and we were all looking forward to reacquainting ourselves with these magnificent birds. The path was through pine forest and then across abandoned farm terraces as the path descends 300 metres into the Paterna Barranco. It was a wonderful way down with long range views over to Contraviesa but sadly no sign of the eagles. After a short break for water at the bottom we turned around and headed back up the hill, stopping only once for a couple of minutes. Everyone is keen to get their fitness levels back up to what they were last year. Another couple of walks like this and we'll all be super fit again.
We arrived back at the car with plenty of time to spare, it was a shorter walk than originally planned. So we decided to continue along section 11 for another 3.5 km to the Barranco del Horcajo. This week Mike was the one with the heavy legs, normally he’s at the front of the pack urging everyone on, but we found him languishing at the back a number times complaining his get up and go had gone. In deference to him we stopped before we climbed down into the Barranco knowing we would have climb straight back out again, we will save that pleasure for another day. Turning round we headed back to the cars.
We had hoped to do this 17km section of the walk in two parts but with our plans in disarray, after our off road expedition in the river bed, it now looks like we will have to do it in three bits.
Driving back we took a roundabout route through the pueblos of Paterna del Rio and Bayárcal, the latter looks worth exploring, and on to Cadiar where we stopped for a beer and a bit of tapas before arriving home around 7pm.
The weather was ideal but by the time we got home the wind had got up and the temperature had dropped, signaling a change in the weather once again.
The walkers Mike, Kees, Ray, Graham, Plym, Mark and myself.

Distance walked on route today, 7.8 km. Total distance today 15.7 km. Height climbed today 636 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 254.7 km. Distance left to do 45.3 km. Total height climbed 20227 metres. Total distance walked 586.3 km.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

3 April 2012 Sierra del Morrón back to Barranco Riachuelo

Enjoying the snow

3 April 2012

The weather has taken a turn for the worse this week, and the forecast for our Tuesday walk was not looking too good. Rain and thunderstorms for the lower slopes, and snow on the tops.
We had 3 plans, Plan A was to continue where we had left off on the Sulayr path last week.
Plan B was to continue along the GR142 on the lower slopes of the Alpujarras. Plan C was to roll over and go back to sleep because it was raining.
It looked like there could be 8 for the walk so we organised 2 cars, Graham has always been keen to test his car on the forest roads of the Sierra Nevadas. We had found this easy way up last week and passed it suitable for Graham’s Audi. In the end we only had 6 for the walk with Rene still not firing on all cylinders after her recent cough, cold and snivels and Mark was suffering from jet lag having only arrived back at 1.30 in the morning, Plym had got back at the same time but was still up for it.
We set off in 2 cars still unsure of our final destination, we would make our decision in Cadiar. After a quick conference in Cadiar we decided that we would head up the mountains and finish section 8 of the Sulayr path, to lighten the load in Graham’s low slung Audi Kees joined us in the 4X4. He was a bit upset when he saw Ray playing with Sally, Kees would also like to,play with Sally but we smack his hands if he tries to touch her, you never know where you are going to end up when he starts messing with her.
When we arrived at the start of the walk, the good weather had passed over and the clouds were starting to build up, another quick conference was held and we decided to press on with our chosen route. We could always turn around if the weather deteriorated and I had estimated that we had only about 9.5 km to walk to Barranco Riachuelo.
The start of the Sulayr path was 1.8 km away up a easily climbed slope, a lot better than last week when we busted our guts getting up there. Finally on the path we set off on a well marked path that led downhill and through a pine forest.  Following an acequia we walked into the barranco of the Rio Mecina which we crossed by way of a bridge, well the bridge was not exactly across the river having been washed downstream sometime ago. Resuming our trail we climbed up to an old shepherd's hut, and, whilst not 5 star, it was waterproof if we needed shelter on our return. The hard part of the walking was now over, the path was level and we made rapid progress for the next 4 km and the turnaround point for today's walk. A slight miscalculation of the estimated distance, the GPS showed we had walked 11 km.
Graham was keen to eat his sandwiches and so lunch was declared, we had no sooner started eating when the weather deteriorated and it started to snow, so donning waterproofs, hats and gloves we ate a quick lunch and set off back for the car. Passing the shepherds up we decided to press on, the thought of a beer in Cadiar was a bigger pull than a night in the hut. I was having trouble seeing where we were going as my glasses were covered in snow, I decided to walk “an naturale”, this was OK, except I could not see the marker posts and Mike had to point them out in the distance. We managed it fine until we got to the river where with with my limited vision I misjudged the stones and slipped. Fortunately I was across before my boots had time to fill up. We were near to the perimeter road and chose this as an easier way back to car, we were all fighting fit after our illnesses and set off up the hill for a racing finish at 5 kmph..
Whilst the views were restricted by the low clouds and we had spent half our time walking in snow we had achieved our objective and had had a good day out, all that was left was the beer and tapas in Cadiar.
If you are wondering about Sally it’s our name for the girl in the Tomtom who sometimes helps us to our destination.
The walkers Mike, Kees, Ray, Graham, Plym and myself.

Distance walked on route today, 8.8 km. Total distance today 22 km. Height climbed today 658 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 246.9 km. Distance left to do 53.1 km. Total height climbed 19591 metres. Total distance walked 570.6 km.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

29 March 2012 Section 8 Sierra del Morrón

Sierra del Morrón

29 March 2012

We have not been on a Sulayr walk since the 10th January. Kees went to visit his daughter in America and came back full of bugs which he proceeded to pass on to everyone else, well you have to blame somebody for all the coughs, colds and snivels that are going around. The weather turned cold, and the snow came down below 2000 metres, and then there were holidays, birthdays, and work to fit in. So this week was the first time we felt confident enough to go back up into the high Sierras.
We decided to head back to where we had finished off last time, on Section 8, and do the last 13 km to Fuente del Espino. This tramo needs a 4X4 because the access road is difficult, and as there were only 4 of us we only needed one car. Over the next few days all the migratory Limpers start reappearing after overwintering in their centrally heated houses and more vehicles will be required if we are all going to turn out.
With another early start we set off on the lower Alpujarra road towards Valor, the access point for the off road bit. I had set the Tomtom to take us to the start of the walk and was a bit surprised  when we got to Valor and she suggested a different route for the off road bit. Last time we had come down the track it was a bit rough so we thought perhaps there was an easier way. Big mistake, I should have known better than to listen to a woman giving directions. Even a donkey would have had difficulty on this track, 180 degree bends, the car pointing skywards ready for a moon launch and the track 2mm wider than the car. Fortunately we were soon on the proper track and we bounced our way up the rutted, boulder strewn road for the next 10 km.
The plan was to park where the Sulayr track joined the forest road, walk the 2 km to Fuente del Espino (last visited 24 April 2011) without our packs, then return to the car, collect our bags and set off in the opposite direction and do the 11 km to Barranco Riachuelo. This would give us a full days, 26 km, walk and get us back into the serious walking again.
We parked where the path set off across country but the track soon became indistinct and we had to navigate across country using the Garmin GPS. On the other sections we have been on the downloaded GPS tracks have been very accurate but on this occasion the guy who had done the track also did not know where he was going. After a 1 km detour we picked up the correct route and soon found ourselves at the fuente where a note on the sign explained that the path was closed for works. This may explain the poor state of the signs and the path. We were able to return to the car, more or less on the right path.
Loading up with our packs we set off again on the next part of the walk. We followed the forest road for 1 km until we came across another sign indicating that we should head uphill across country. The GPS indicated that we should take a different route, we decided to ignore it. At least the Garmin does not nag you by repeatedly saying “turn around”. Remarkably, whilst climbing the hillside, we came across a path marker but with no further sign of the path we continued uphill, heading for the ridge where we hoped to get our bearings. Whilst we had felt recovered from our coughs and colds at lower altitudes up at 2000 metres the strenuous climb was taking its toll. There was no way we were going to complete our route and get back in daylight, and the thought of sleeping rough on the fells with Kees held no appeal.
A new plan was hatched. We would find the Sulayr path markers, have lunch, and then head back to the car, drive to Cadiar for some much needed beer and tapas. It did not take long to pick up the correct path again so we found a comfortable spot, sheltered from a cooling wind that had suddenly sprung up, and had our lunch. We followed the path back towards the car and even though we now knew the layout of the hillside it was difficult to follow. This section certainly does need a lot of work on it.
Whilst we had not completed the original plan we had had a pleasurable day out and we still had time to head for the bar in Cadiar.     

The walkers Mike, Kees, Ray, and myself.

Distance walked on route today, 5 km. Total distance today 11.5 km. Height climbed today 594 metres. Total distance walked on the Sulayr path 238.1 km. Distance left to do 61.9 km. Total height climbed 18933 metres. Total distance walked 548.6 km.