Friday, 26 November 2010

Sierra de Huetor.

The Sierra De Huetor national park which lies to the north of the Sierra Nevada about 15 minutes east of Granada.

To get there take the autovia from Granada toward Almeria and come off at junction 259, clearly signed for the national park. From the junction follow the road on the north side of the autovia and turn right to park at Casa Forestal de Penoncillas. The walk starts on the east side of the access track at an information board and way marker. To be honest for most of the walk a description would be superfluous. The route is well marked and follows a clear path winding and climbing slowly through a ‘Karst’ limestone landscape. Whilst initially we walk though forest the habitat quickly opens up to a more open Mediterranean scrub or maquie. The non native pine forest in the area is slowly being cleared to extend the important native habitat of shrubs and scrubby oaks.

After about an hour the path reaches a magnificent natural mirador and the highest point of the main walk. This spot gives great views north to the rocky summit of Pennon the Mata. Also clear is the fire spotter’s cabin on the summit of Las Minas to the north. The path now re enters a more dense forest before dropping left at a way marker to zig zag down into a shallow valley before reaching a broad forest track. At the track turn left to reach a sign post. To the right Mirador de los Minas is signed and is well worth the short, though steeper detour with its 360 views of the whole of the area.

The main route, signed for Puerto Lobo drops left from the sign post. The next section is a delight as the path drops down through a classic piece of limestone landscape, a dry river valley. The valley is well used by both domestic and wild goats so is a bit muddy in wet weather. The foot of the valley is marked by a rock pinnacle, El Pulpito. Follow the path back through forest and turn left at a junction to soon reach another forest track. Heading down hill though a sided steep valley brings us to Fuente de la Teja, a main source for water used in the Alhambra gardens.

At the next junction continue straight along the main track to begin a final slow climb back up to the finish of the walk.

I did this walk at the end of November on a cloudy damp day, the forest sections gave some shelter and would also provide shade in summer. Whilst the walk is good at any time of year Spring would bring wildflowers and would perhaps be the best time of year to do the route.

12.5 km
5 Hours
Water at Fuente de la Teja (3 hours)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Cerro de Caballo

On a recent trip up Cero de Caballo above Lanjaron I finally managed to locate a small bivvy refuge that I had been told about during last winter. At the time there was to much snow to find it and the recent trip was my first chance to go and have a look.

The shelter is a small stone arch over a pit and could have been constructed as a store for the now ruined Refugio de Lanjaron which lies near by.

The refuge is 100m north of the ruin which is found at the bottom of the south eastern spur of Caballo. From the ruin head approx 50m west along a descending path through an open bowl, at the lowest point of the path follow the shallow gully North to the bivi which is at the base of the cliffs.

Ermita de Cristo de Zapato

This walk is in the Lecrin valley, a lush area to the west of the Motril – Granada motorway. Follow signs for Pinos de Valle from the motorway, the road crosses the dam wall of the Embalse de Beznar and climb up into Pinos, at a T junction at the top of the village turn right for about 100m and park.

The walks climbs from Pinos up to the Ermita de Cristo de Zapato perched high above the village. Struck by lightening about 18 months ago the ermita has since been rebuilt.

From the wash house where there is a nearby spring here for filling your water bottle signs point to Ermita de Cristo de Zapato. The track winds up behind a building near a quarry, after 5min. at a second sign, follow the path as it climbs steeply before levelling out in the forest. Now it’s simply a matter of slowly plodding up the many zig zags to the ermita.

After 10 minutes you pass a building on the right with pipes running to it through the forest. ( Where the pipes leave the path into the forest marks our return path and is marked by a yellow arrow.) Continue uphill to eventually reach the ermita perched on a painted rock outcrop. The ermita is normally open and is worth looking in. Behind is a new lightening conductor and beyond a short rock ridge can be followed for about 500m.

Return down the track we climbed until the junction noted during the ascent; here turn right along a narrower but clear path alongside water pipes. The path traverses through the forest passing a large alburca before slightly dropping and turning to the west. Pass a boundary marker and cairn above a small almond grove then re enter the forest. At the next clearing you get stunning views east across the Alpujarra as far as the Sierra de Gador inland of Almeria some 70km away. Cross through a baranco before the path descends to a T junction above a concrete track. At the junction turn left.

The return path levels as it crosses though grassland and scrub before meeting a wider track at a new alburca. Follow the track tacking care as it passes bee hives. The path drops to a cross road, here head down hill to join a tarmac road just left of a small bridge. Turn left for about 10 minutes back into the village.

Even if you have a map of the area don’t expect to see all of this route, like many local paths it simply does not appear even though it’s clearly old and well trodden.
As any regular walker will know in comparison to the UK’s Ordnance Survey maps Spanish maps, even if available leave a lot to be desired. A bit of perseverance and willingness to explore areas has it rewards as you will find if you do manage to do this or other routes in the sierras of the region.

4-5 hours
water at start
Easy route finding , steep ascent.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Fuente Fria / Monachil Gorge

This route extends the normal Monachil Gorge walk of the previous blog and makes what is a great half day route into a fuller much more strenuous days outing.
The key to the extension lies in a path which climbs steeply up the southern side of the valley about 2km from the end of the gorge section of the main valley. At this point a number of paths are signed and there are about half a dozen finger posts directing walkers in various directions, the highest one on the ridge line above and to the south of the path points the way to Fuente Fria.

Initially the path climbs gradually zig zagging in and out of a shallow gully to the right of the main ridge before climbing onto the ridge itself to ascend more steeply to the edge of the forest. Here the path becomes very vague but is marked by occasionally cairns as it climbs through the pine trees. After about 10 minutes of ascent in the trees the path emerges to a more open area marked by felled logs and a path traversing the hillside through the forest. Follow the path west (right ) across the hill side before it climbs below a rock outcrop and becomes more defined. After about 15 of traversing you will reach a path junction with a way marker head south (left) and ascend steeply through the forest until a further finger post is reached. This marks the return route however we continue for another fifteen minutes or so to reach Fuente Fria itself, views here of the Monachil valley and beyond and a great spot for a rest before you return back down hill to follow the route signed to Cortijo Umbria and the return to Monachil.

5-6 hours, 12km, 500m of ascent, Water at Fuente Fria(?)

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Monachil Gorge

The Monachil Gorge walk is one of the gems of the Sierra Nevada. Just on the outskirts of granada itself it offers wire bridges, rock tunnels streams and a load of fun.

To get to the start from the village a there are a couple of routes however to get the most out of the walk I park in Monachil itself head upstream to cross the last bridge across the river turn Left and uphill for about 1km until a track heads left away from the tarmac , a finger post at the end of the track point uphill. Follow the track downhill to a small hydro plant then turn right up a flight of steps to an obvious path. Follw this as it descends to the river and the first small bridge. A description of the gorge itself would not do it justice however if you dont like the small bridges you have to cross the last big one may well be unpassable, beware.

After 2 - 3 km in the gorge itself the valley widens and you can picnic here or anout half an hour updtream at a small building and weir. Retun down stream to return to monachil either via the gorge or on either side of the valley making use of narrow paths that zig zag above the cliffs and river.

4-5 hours giving plenty of time for photos /picnic. easy walking with very narrow sections, no drinking water en route but often plenty of shade.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Puerto Palo, Alpujarra.

Whilst this route has recently been waymarked it is clearly an old route up to Puerto Palo. To get to the start of the route turn off the Orgiva to Pampaneira road as you pass the hermita at Padre Eterna, there are signs here for horse riding and the tibetan monestry. Follow the rough track, tarmac then dirt for about 3km to a point where a pine tree marks a sharp right hand bend and a board gives information about the walk.

Follow the obvious track west passing a small building on your left after about 1km you reach a tree nursery/research plantation and the track narrows to a path and begins to climb via a series of zig zags up the valley side through a wonderfull section of native woodland. The route is obvious and after about an hours ascent you reach a wide track , turn left to descend to the Puerto Palo bridge. from here ypou can continue up the track 500m to a picnic area.

To return retrace your steps allong the track passing the point where you joined it. Easy walking downhill takes you past two distinctive fuentes (neither marked as drinkable). About 500m after the second fuente a track joins from the right, you pass this to a second track marked with sign posts for the Sulyar route take the track to the Right and drop steeply passing a ruin, the track is wide but rough and occasionaly overgrown it eventualy brings you back to the track you started out on, here turn left back to the car.

Time 4-5 hours with break, distance 8km, No drinking water en route.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Tello to West ridge Caballo mountain bike route

Just to ahow that there more than just walking in the area i do do occasional bike rides as well. Unfortunately I forgot the camera on this one but have just published the route on my facebook page under Niguelas so have a look if you are interested

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Limerick Climbing Club walking week.

I recently guided fro Mountain House for a weeks long booking made by Limerick Mountaineering Club.

22! memebers of the club turned up in Malaga for five days of activities in the Sierra Nevada. The first day out was a Travenque ascent, all the group got to the top so the summit was slightly overcrowded with 22 clients, 3 guides and a couple of Swedish walkers who were also there.

Day two was the start of a three day trip up Mulhacen with two nights in the Poqueira refuge. The walk in was simple enough with three groups taking various routes in to the hut, day two saw a fairly early start for an ascent via the upper Rio Poqueira and the west ridge. Whilst there was some snow in the valley most was easily avoided with the west ridge proving to be the usual long slog up to the summit. Day three was a return out again on three differing routes.

After a rest day the last full walking day saw an ascent of Cero de Caballo which at 3,011m is the most westerly of the ''Tres Mille''. Suprising;ly this ascent was more tiring than Mulhacen for most , including the guides but aonce again all the group summited in magnificent weather.

The final day allowed for a short half day for some of the group who made an ascent up the the hermita above Pinos de Valle in the Lecrin valley.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Rio Chillar is a great walk for those who are staying in Nerja or allong the Costa Tropical. The full walk starts in the Chillar valley just north of Nerja itself and heads upstream for about 3 hours though you can easily do a half day just by going as far as Los Chohorros , sections of very narrow gorge where you can easily touch both sides at the same time.


The walk starts from a cement works just below the motorway, there is ample parking and if you have a 4x4 you can go some way along the river bed. Wherever you park its an easy route to follow as you simply follow the stream bed as it passes below steep cliffs. After about an hour and a half you meet the first of three narrow sections, here the problem may be one of allowing others to pass rather than route finding, all impressive stuff though and great fun. Once the thrird and final narrow section is passed you have a choice, eithert return to the start or head on upstream for a further hour. About half an hour after you pass through a boulder section marked with blue paint a dry valley comes down to the river from the west and and there is a blue waymarker post on the east bank. Follow the trail, marked by red flashes through vegetation to ascend steeply for about ten minutes before you meet an acequia channel. You will now need a very good head for heights however the fenceing allong the most exposed sections has recently been renewed. Follow the acequia south and you soon pass allong some very exposed section before returning to the easy walking allong the acequia line. After an hour you will reach a wider section marking he end of the water channel, here follow a steep and loose trail down to the river, TAKE CARE as the surface is loose.Once you meet the river simple head back down stream to the cars.

Monday, 31 May 2010

West ridge , Cerro de Caballo.

The west ridge of Cerro de Caballo is perhaps the easiest ascent of the mountain, once youve got to the start that is. Access is along forest or mountain tracks either from Niguelas or Lanjaron and ideally you would need a 4x4. The route starts at a point named Tajo de la cueva where a mirador sits on the end of the ridge , the track here is a part of the long distance Sulyar route which circles the Sierra Nevada.

Once at the start the route finding is easy as a obvious footpath runs through a small patch of native pine. The first half hour is perhaps the steepest of the day so after an initial slog the ridge begins to level out but provides great walking and fantastice views particularly of Travenque and ridges beyond. Above about 2,800 the track becomes vague however the summit has been obvious all the route so unless you are in cloud or fog then just keep on plodding upwards to the final steepening for the last 100m to the summit itself.

On the day of our ascent there was still snow for the last 200m or so and the Rio Lanjaron valley stretching north from Caballo was still under a deep covering. As ever caballo summit offers panoramic views of the main summits and all around , West we could see the mountains above Malaga whilst closer to hab was Valetta with its snow covered summit and ridges.

Ascent 900m,overall distance 15km,4-5 hours, NO WATER en route.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Half day walk in Axarquia

I have been exploring the mountains just inland of Nerja and Almunecar for some time nad recently descovered a great half day route which shows off some of the best that the range has to offer.

Beware walking here is hot , its onlu a few kilomiters inland and you need to carry plenty of water wear sun screen and sun hat.

The walk starts on the track to the area recreativa signed from the entrance to the famous caves at Nerja. Access is obvious allong a rough byt well used track. After about 3km there is a sign '' sederisimo'' park here. This is the finish of the walk but from here to the area recreativa is up hill and at the end of the walk you will appreciate getting to the car at htis point.

Continue on foot allong the main track passing through the area recreativa heading N. The track descends to cross a stream however follow the stream bed for about 100m then head right into the Barranc de la Higuera. the path is a bit overgrown at first but soon clears beneath some eucalyptus trees. After about 200m there is a track on the Right marked by stone cairns. From here ist uphill for about 45 minutes. keep plodding away however you can hardly miss the stunning views openeing up as you get higher particulalry toward the N W with views of La Peuta or S toward the coast. The track zig zags steadily up hill to fianally reach the crest of the Molinera ridge. Here the path leve;s for a short while and there a re level areas with great veiws for a well earned break.

The descent is obvious as the path head to the left of the ridge itself. take care as there are some loose sections however once again the views are stunning not least to the N as the summit of Alto de Cielo comes into view. Half an hour of descent sees you at a track which heads W back to the car, make the most of the waymarked short cuts across the hairpin bends to save your feet and to getinto some shade through the pine forest.

The area is well worth a vist at any time of the year however in spring there are numerous wild flowers on the limestone of the area.

Monday, 3 May 2010

With snow still down to about 2,800m a walk up Valetta above the ski village in the Sierra Nevada was an ideal introductiion to the high mountains for friends who were with us last week. Valetta is a great looking summit however the route from the west is scarred by tracks particularly in summer which are used to access the summit and ski facilities.

The walk starts as ever in the cafe at Hoya de Mora ,a small developement at 2,500m. From Hoya de Mora the route is abvious as we head east uphill passing the statue of Virgen de las Nieve before we begin to hit patches of snow. In order to keep the route as easy as possible we were able to link clear areas for the bulk of the route until we reached about 3,000m from here we crossed snow fields to the shoulder of the valetta itself where there are stunning views across the north faces of valetta, Mulhacen and Alcazaba the three main peaks of the range as a whole.

With stong winds gusting aver 80km we headed back for a welcoming coffe back at the cafe.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

White villages of the Taha

The Taha is an area of the Alpujarra about 10km east of the Poqueira area. made up of about a dozen small villages tha arera is ideal for easier walking in the area. The history of the area is moorish and the name itself, Taha means settlement in arabic. Our route takes in six of the villages from the smallest Altabeiter to Pitres which is the mane village of the area. Starting in Fondeles we follow a pack horse track up toward Pitres passing through the hamlets of Mecinilla and Mecina en route. Reaching Pitres after about an hour comes as a relief and the plaza makes an ideal spot for a break. Pitres is known as the ''Port of Pitres'' and even though it lies at about 1,200m it has its own fishing boat moored at the entrance to the village. The maritime theme is in response to a past politician who promised the good people of the village anything they wanted if they voted for him, the response a request for two harvest a year and a port. Villagers on the coast ha rd of the request and sent a boat and ships anchor up the mountain to support the cause.

We leave from the eastern end of the village and follow GR 142/E4 signs to pass by a hostal and drop into a river bed here again is evodence of recent landslips and flooding . Continuing along the path we reach Altabeiter, a small hamlet of about 30properties which is worth the five minutes it will take to expplore the village. After the village we continue east(ignore the paths off this route) and reach an old watermill perched between two small streams. The path then climbs to run between an unusually formal garden set amongst the almond groves. Continueing east we finally reacj a track heading south down in to the valley follow this for about 5 minutes to a waymarker pointing back west along the valley side.

This section of the route adds mountain drama to what has so far been a much more pasoral scenery.The south side of the Rio Travelez valley is made up of dramatic cliffs and peaks with steep zig zaging paths climbing up the vally side. The path is well waymarked as you slowly descend passing a well maintained era or threashing circles soon followed by a magnificent spring with naturally carbonated water coming out. Soon we enter Feriaroles, at the old wash house in the cente of the village turn left then right at the bottom of the short street to soon return back to a small path which takes us back to Fondales an the start of the walk.

duration 4-5 hours
approx 10km
water at springs in villages

Friday, 23 April 2010

Poqueira Gorge walk

Monday of this week I took a client out on a walk in the middle section of the Poqueira Gorge. The gorge is famous for the three white villages of Pampaneira, Bubion and Capileira which are all tourist traps for most of the year but beautiful non the less. The general scenery of this section of the gorge is one of steep sided valleys with terraces of almonds and cherries interspersed with woodland and scrub.

Our walk headed up hill out of Bubion to Capileira then ascended to follow one of the many water channels or acequias which feed water throughout not only this valley but across the whole of the region. The walking was tough enough as the terrain of the area doesn't allow for much easy strolling. There are however viwes of Mulhacen and the upper ridges of the Sierra nevada so the views are magnificent. Once we reached the head of the valley at the now deserted village built to service the building of a small hydro electric plant we lunched . Here at the confluence of the Rios Nuerte and Toril is was clear that there had been a major slip higher up the Rio Toril as the water in that river was black with silt unlike the Nuerte which was crystal clear snow melt.

The route back to capileirra follows old mule paths along he western side of the vally passing numerour cortijos many of which have old eras or threashing circles outside. Whilst the route is simple enough there have been numerous small landslips allong the paths which lead to a few tricky moments crossing stream beds. In the end we had to cut short the walk as the route directly back to Bubion allong the vally was missing due to a large er slip than we had previously seen so hence a return to capileira and back via the road.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Rio Durcal

This walk is one of many contrsts from desert like dry river valley, mountain scrub through to oak woodland and mountain valley. All this in the space of five hours walking.

One of the dificulties of many of these walks is getting to the start , this walk is no differetn however from the Durcal bypass follow signs from the via servicio northward to ''Durcal Central'', a small hydro electric station which lies at the foot of the Barranco de la Rambla. This is a dry river bed which runs N.E. into the mountains and as you follow it make sure you take in all the rock sceneryas you pass through a ''wild west '' landscape. After about 45 minutes you come to the will see the second of two low dams , keep an eye out for a cairn on the right and then follow a more defined path on the S. side of the valley. The path brings you to a fuente , however do not expect this to be running, beyond the path zig zags steeply for about 20 minutes to finally reach a track running S - N.

You are now in the heart of the mountains and the views around are fantastic. To the west, close at hand is Butreras and to the north you can easily see the ridge line of the Alayas de Dilar and Travenque beyond. Our route heads N along the track for 15minutes where it crosses a barranco you then follow a vague but waymarked path right up to an acequia line which runs all the way to the head of the valley at La Toma where the water is taken to feed much of the valley below you.

The acequia line is simple to follw and needs little discription. As you follow its very gentle traversing line you pass from dry scrub , through almond groves to finally reach oak woodland as you pass in to the Parque Nacional. Beyond you cross a frighteningly narrow steel bridge. From here the trail becomes less defined however as long as you keep the acequia line in sight you will soon reach the head of the valley and the Rio Durcal.

Unfortunaetly this is a linear walk however the retun is easy and the final walk down the dry river bed is easy on the feet.

Total distance 18km
Time 7-8 hours
Medium with little navigation problem.
No spring water enroute, however you cross a number of streams.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Snow Shoeing Puerta la Ragua

Last month I went on a quick trip around the north of the range to Puerta la Ragua.
This is the only road that runs across the Sierra Nevada from La Calahorra on the north to Laroles on the south reaching a height of of 2,000m at Puerta la Ragua itself. The area has an established X country ski network but is in sharp contrast to the ski village above Granada.

With good weather the snow shoeing was excellent, fairly deep soft snow within the forest either side of the pass meant that the snow shoes where essentila as soon as we steped off the x country pistes. The route we took followed a line west slowly climbing to 2,375m at a minor peak , Morron de Hornillo, much of the ascent was along a ridge line so the snow had thinned a bit however as ever deep patches meant that the snow shoes where still essential even here.
As the cloud dropped for the return we took a more direct line back east to the pass passing through forest and decending deep and steep snow, great fun.

A well earned coffe at the pass's so;e cafe rounded off the day nicely.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


For most walkers getting to a summit is the main aim of their trip. At 2083m Travenque is big by UK standards but dwarfed by others in the range. It is however a fine mountain standing alone, it looks as if its been designed by a young child , steep cliffs leading to a rocky point of a summit which once you arrive you will realise is surrounded on all sides by steep drops.

I hope I haven’t made it sound to intimidating, it is a moderately difficult ascent with a steep path section below the top however if you have sure footing and don’t mind using hands on rock occasionally you will have no problems.

To start head to La Zubia about 5km South West of Granada, go through the village and then follow signs for Cumbra Verdes a further 2km south, from the end of the tarmac follow a dirt track for 2km to a car park and at Cerro de Sevilla. A number of walks and trails start from here so it’s well worth a visit.

From the car park ascend east to reach a broad track and follow this crossing through a strange lunar landscape of white shales. There are fine views south across the Rio Dilar toward the ridge line of the Alayas de Dilar, which looks more like the Black Cullin of Skye than a Spanish ridge.

After about 2km the track reaches a broad sandy col, here the final summit can easily be seen together with the grassy gully that the final section of the route follows. Drop east off the col on a path before turning left up a dry river bed. After 2km you reach a sign directing walkers around the back of the main summit via a gap in the ridge to your right however this is the point we begin our ascent so head left toward the summit on a narrow path which begins from this point. After passing the end of a track which marks our return route continue steeply to reach a magnificent view point on the ridge leading to the summit. Hands on rock from here as we follow the zig zags up through the grassy gully to a small rock step bout 10m below the summit. Cross the step, turn left and then follow a path around a rock outcrop to a final short easy scramble to the summit itself.

The views from the rocky summit are stunning. Looking east are some of Sierra Nevadas 3,000m + summits such as Valeta (3299m) and Cero de Caballo (3011m), west is Granada and the Alhambra whilst all around your feet is open space as you look down onto pine forest and dry desert valleys.

To return head back to the rock step and follow the ascent back down until you reach the end of the track we passed on the way up. Follow this as is slowly descends to the col From here you can either follow our ascent route all the way or take a smaller way marked path that heading west from the col.

Route details
Length 10km, ascent 700m, no water enroute, approximate time 5 hours.