Friday, 22 July 2011

Summer Walking

The summers high temperatures mean that walking can be arduous if not dangerous. Rather than offer a particular route this month I thought it would be useful to offer some advice to those who will still want to get out walking in the mountains and hills over summer

Obviously the key issues we face it over heating and sunstroke which can easily ruin not just a days walking but can also cause longer term problems. So what can we do to keep cool ?

Even in summer there are cooler days so keep and eye on the forecast and avoid the hottest days whenever possible. Attempt to get out as early in the day as possible, if you can do the bulk of any ascent in the earlier part of the day you can make use of the cooler and perhaps shadier part of the day.

When out walking take plenty of water. I carry a two litre water bladder or
‘’rehydration system’’ to give it its correct name. These tuck away in your rucksack and allow you to sip water whenever you take even the shortest break. I also carry a water bottle so that at longer breaks I can have one or two bigger gulps to refresh myself more fully. It might sound like a lot of weight , a litre of water weighs a kilo, but what you must remember is apart from some food and perhaps a thin jacket this may all be you need to carry and it will get lighter as you go.

After the example of a client I took out some time ago I also leave a flask of cold water in the car for my return. That way I know I can finish the water I am carrying and still have some in reserve at the end of the day.

Choice of clothing clearly affects you temperature. Personally I cover up as much as possible and find it cooler to walk in thin pants and a shirt than T shirt and shorts.
This also helps reduce the need to be constantly applying sun creams and also avoids picking up tics if you are walking through vegetation. My final piece of attire is a sun hat covering up the ever growing bald spot.

Finally route choice is critical. One idea is to get high for example by using the cable car and chair lift from the ski village above Granada which lift you to about 2,800m where you can explore the higher mountains.

Another option is to follow the gorges and streams found in the foothills and lower ranges of the area. Perhaps the most famous route is the Rio Monachil near Granada. Here you follow the rio using suspension bridges and narrow ledges through rocky defiles and natural rock tunnels passing waterfalls and inviting rock pools. Its great fun and offers a cool alternative for those wanting a bit of adventure during the summer heat.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Monachil Gorge , Granada

The Monachil Gorge is a deservedly popular short walk close to Granada. Reputed to have been used in one of the Indiana Jones movies the gorge is a spectacular cleft through high cliffs. Our route uses suspension bridges to cross the stream running through the gorge and a narrow ‘path’ which is followed with the aid of well placed steel staples fixed into the rock. It sounds scary but it is in fact easy enough if you have a reasonable agility and a head for heights.

To get to the start follow signs from the Sierra Nevada motorway east of Granada to Monachil. As you enter the village you follow the one way system and take the first left over the river. Turn right and after about 400m re cross the river, signed, Camino de la Umbria. Turn left to follow a narrow tarmac road uphill for about 1km then left onto a track where a map gives details of the area. Follow the track for about 1km to park at its end near a building used as a mini hydro electric plant.

There are other routes to the start of the gorge itself however this one prepares you by taking in three smaller suspension bridges before you reach the main event. The walk starts up a flight of steps to the right of the building and is a well trodden fenced path, after about 10 minutes you reach the first small bridge, if you can’t manage this then turn back. Once you have crossed all the smaller bridges the path goes up a level to a ruin where you turn right to reach the main 30m bridge which spans the gorge. After this the path narrows as you follow a narrow concrete path about a metre above the stream. A description would not do the route justice so just go and enjoy it.

After about an hour you emerge from the end of the gorge and having passed the final sting in the tail you reach a field ideal for picnics and recovering. There is a bridge here back across the river however our return route continues upstream for about 2km to a second bridge below a number of finger posts. Cross here and follow the path as it climbs the north side of the valley passing through a very rudimentary field gate at an outcrop of rock. The path levels then drops to meet a track just below an acequia. Ignore the finger posts and go directly across the track to rejoin the path as it contours along the valley side passing below a farm. The path gives you great views down into the gorge and the route you have just done. After a final mirador the path drops to two threshing circles. Once you reach them turn left back into the gorge, at the ruin passed earlier turn right back down to the path we followed at the start of the walk.

8km, 3-4 hours, no water en route.

Friday, 18 March 2011

El Torcal, via feratta

Just outside the boundary of the Torcal natural park is the peak of Camorro Alto reached from the ‘’Escaleruela’’ track running in from the north. Low down on the northern flank of the peak about 1 km SW of the trail head is the start of what is a quite strenuous Via Feratta route.

For those not in the know via feratta are protected scrambles or easy climbs. large metal staples are fixed up the route for foot and hand holds and a wire hawser runs adjacent for clipping into for protection against a slip or fall. Needless to say you need some climbing experience along with suitable equipment before you attempt this route.

The route starts awkwardly up a steep corner and is very strenuous for the first 20 metres or so as it is slightly overhanging. From the top of the first section an exposed traverse leads to a second corner and a shorter vertical section which is again started awkwardly. At the top of this is a large platform with a short section leading to a narrow and exposed ridge. So far the route has been tough going but as long as you have a good head for heights and some experience simple enough. The next section however transforms the route out of the normal range as it is a short ‘’Tyrolean traverse’’. Put simply you clip into a pulley fixed to a cable spanning a four meter gap between the main cliff face and the outlying pinnacle you have climbed. Once clipped in you swing out into mid air and pull yourself across the gap. The traverse is hairy to say the least and with a problematic start and finish needs care to ensure you get it right.

Once over the traverse a final section of cable leads you to the top.

When I recently did the route with some friends we were accompanied by low flying vultures wheeling above us in the mist which as you can imagine added to the atmosphere a little.

During out return to the car we did a short scramble up a prominent rib to the right of the decent path., this may well have been a first ascent as it seemed to have been unclimbed before we did it. The area looks great for further exploration so I do intend to get back

3-4 hours, 5km, Experience and appropriate climbing equipment essential

Monday, 7 March 2011

‘’Ruta Medieval’’ in the Taha.

The Taha is the area of the Alpujarra east of the Poqueira Gorge and is made up of about a dozen small villages ranging from the largest, Pitres, to Altabetar, a small hamlet of around twenty properties. Linking these villages is a network of pack horse trails and old footpaths. This is just one of a number of circuits possible in the area.

Start in Fondales, one of the smaller villages. From the village entrance follow signs for Ferreirola. The chances are that, like me, you will stumble though each of the villages taking wrong turns here and there but coming across flower-filled corners and blind alleys which give these villages their beauty and charm. Once through however the path is obvious as it is marked with a number of markers. About 10 minutes after passing through a baranco the path emerges in Ferreirola, head to the church and village wash house. Turn left here to a wider track which brings you to a wonderful spring flowing with naturally carbonated water. A couple of minutes later you come to a large ‘’era’’ or threshing circle. This is a great place to stop for a break with views into the dramatic Rio Trevelez valley and the steep path on the far side of the valley which marks our ascent route.

The path begins to climb, crossing a small outcrop. At a waymarker follow the path downhill into the valley to a ruined corn mill which still has some of its original grind stones. Cross the river on a narrow bridge high above the river to begin a steep ascent on the wonderfully constructed path as it zig-zags up the hill side. It’s steep, so take it easy. However after about half an hour you emerge high on the south side of the river with views north to the main Sierra Nevada range. Follow the shallow valley south to a small cluster of houses before turning right along a wider track.

The track cuts across a steep hillside often through pine forest which gives some shade. After about an hour turn right at a finger post marking the route back to Fondales. Follow the track back down toward the river before crossing the ‘’Roman’’ bridge, one of only three river crossing in this section of the valley. The path climbs back to emerge in the village just past a small wash house.

10km, 5-6 hours, Water in villages and at spring en route.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Carazon de la Sandia

The ''heart of the watermelon'' Carazon de la Sandia is one of the main peaks of the Alayos de Dilar the rock ridge running allong the southern side of the Rio Dilar valley. The ridge forms what is perhaps the regions answer to the Cullin Ridge of Skye and forms a dramatic route not to be underestimated.
The start of the walk follows the river east as it passes through a dramatic rock lanscape of the Rio Dilar gorge and criss crosses the river a number of times. After about an hour the path zig zags its way ever upward through the forest to fianaly level out at about 1,600m before it begins a traverse below the main summit itself. The ascent up to the summit itself follows a narrow path which brances off the main route as it contours around the head of Rambla Seca. The ascent path slowly climbs up to a shallow col just south of the summit which is reached by a short scramble up the final outcrop. From this dramatic summit the views of are fantastic not least the breath taking drop north down to the Rio Dilar some 700m below.
The return route follows a narrow ridge south then west off the summit to rejoin our original path below Picacho Alto. A steep descent then follows as views of the aforested ridges of Cero de Montellano open up before you. As the path levels out it turns to follow a dry stream bed to fianlay reach a track back to the car park at the area recreativa.

7-8 hours , steep ascent /descent,18km, no water

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Cruz de Viznar, Sierra de Huetor

This walk marks the return to the Sierra de Huetor Parque Natural north of Granada. I’ve been walking and scrambling to the east of the area for a few years however I was recently given a map of the area and so have begun to explore more of the forest trails. The walking is fairly gentle following good paths through pine forest and open scrub.

Start from the information centre at Puerto Lobo above the village of Viznar. The centre is found by following brown direction signs from junction 252 off the A 92 autovia running east from Granada. A number of information boards mark the start of various trails, ours is marked Cruz de Viznar and is on the north side of the car parking near the entrance to a forestry building.

The path is clear as is climbs for about 30 minutes to finally zigzag up to a col about 5 minutes after passing a strangely phallic shaped rock. From the col our path heads North West following a sign for Cueva del Agua. Before we head off however the slight detour east up to the outcrop topped by the Cruz de Viznar is worth the effort. A sign warns of the dangers of ascending the last few meters of the outcrop to the cross itself. A direct ascent would indeed be dangerous however if you follow a small path along the north of the rocks an easier ascent can be found at its eastern end.

Returning to the col continue along a forest path which winds along a broad ridge before dropping to an odd two storey building at a path junction. Turn right to the Cueva del Agua and its view point. This is roughly the half way point of the walk so makes a good lunch stop. The cave entrance is gated, though accessible to dogs as we found out so take care if you have one with you.

Return past the building and continue along the now rockier path as it descends through the forest. After about 30 minutes pass a sign for La Alfaguara however stay on the level broad path to reach a forest track, turn right. This track takes us easily back to the start of the walk. If however if you still feel fit you can extend the walk slightly. Follow the main track as it descends past Mirador de Viznar into an area of forest. At a large bend on the track a sign post marks a narrower path up through the forest to return to the col we left a couple of hours before. From here descend to the car park.

I did this walk with some friends on a sunny but cool day in mid January. With the amount of shade it would make a good walk at any time of year. Spring would be ideal as I suspect that there would be a few more wild flowers out then when we did it.

4-5 hours, 10km, NO WATER

Friday, 7 January 2011


This walk comes highly recommended by my Spanish neighbour who at this time of year goes to work on skis. Lucky man, he works at the observatory above the Granada.

Lucero is the majestic pyramid shaped summit best seen as you drive from Malaga east toward Nerja.

Starting from the North of the mountain the drive is as good as the walk itself. From the road between Fornes and Arenas del Rey follow the clearly signed track to the Resinera Information Centre. About 150m after the centre the track forks, turn right uphill (Vivero de la Resinera to the left). The track climbs to cross an open area of pine forest before a wonderful switchback section traversing a steep hillside. After 11km the track drops to cross the river bed on a large concrete pad, 500m after a narrow track forks left. Marked by a Zona de Reserva and a Prohibited Traffic sign this marks our return route so park nearby.

We now walk west for about 2km along the track which becomes quite rough, then climbs to reach the start of the waymarked trail to Lucero. It’s an obvious route climbing to reach a large col where we get our first real view of Lucero’s summit and its ruined Guardia Civil watch post. The route becomes rockier from this point as it traverses the flank of Lucerillo before final steep and somewhat exposed zig zags to the summit. Once you get to the summit it’s clear to see why it was used as a view point by the Guardia during the civil war as the views from the top over the nearer ranges as well as across the Med. to the Rif Mountains of Morocco and North East to the Sierra Nevada are stunning.

Once you have had your fill of the summit return to the large open col below Lucerillo. Whilst you can return the way you came there is a better if far less used route back to the car. A boundary stone here, marked MP, marks a feint path running North. Take this path which is marked by a large stone arrow then by cairns and later red paint. Follow the path though open forest, cross a couple of dry stream beds then after about 15 minutes zig zag down to a further stream bed. Turn right to a cairn to rejoin the path as it now levels to join a wider track at a waymarker. Turn left to follow the track down hill then left again at a T junction as the track levels out at a rocky stream bed. This soon takes you back to the track where you left the car some four or five hours ago.

Lucero is obviously a popular summit, I saw seven! other people on the day I did the ascent, not quite Snowdon on a Bank Holiday but busy by local standards.

10km , 4-5 hours , No water en route, steep ascent