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