Thursday, 22 March 2012

El Torcal, Via ferrata

A well protected via ferrata route in the limestone of El Torcal Parque Nacional. The route has three pitches, the first of which is slightly overhanging and very sustained. The sting in the tail is a tyrolean traverse linking the butress which holds most of the route to the main face.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Sierra de Huetor scrambles

I recently took out some clients who specifically wanted to do some scrambling, which for the uninitiated comes somewhere between steep walking and climbing. It involves getting your hands on rock and getting off whatever beaten path there might be under your feet. In the UK the most famous scrambles are perhaps Striding Edge on Helvellyn and Grib Goch on Snowdon. As ever in Britain there are guide books giving directions and details of the routes and their grades, these are often supported by nice drawings and photos so it’s relatively easy to find routes and have some idea of the difficulties you face. Unfortunately it’s not as easy here. The first problem is finding an area which has potential for routes. The main Sierra Nevada range doesn’t. The rock is friable and often frighteningly loose. There are some high ridges which offer potential but at this time of year these are graded as Alpine climbs as they are covered in ice.

It’s similar in the Axarquia area where what look like great ridges turn out to be made up of fairly crumbly limestone. So where to go? Whilst the Lecrin valley offers some short routes on Giralda and elsewhere, the best area I have discovered locally is the Sierra de Huetor. This is an area of ‘’Parque Naturale’’ which lies north of the Granada – Almeria motorway. Here a series of limestone cliffs and ridges provide a range of routes from easier grade ones to a fairly spectacular grade three. This route which I usually do at the end of a day climbs up the eastern rib of Majalijar (1878m) finishing on its airy summit.

On the run up to the trip I had been out the week before and ‘’discovered’’ a couple of new routes to add to the collection. Whilst doing some exploration along a ridge to the north of the main summit, on a line which proved to be disappointing, I got a bit ,of a scare. Coming over one of a series of small outcrops I nearly stepped onto a sleeping wild boar. Luckily it heard me at the last minute as all I saw was it leaping off the ground and throwing itself down a small gully off the ridge. From what I could see it was about 18’’ high so I presume it was one of last year’s young which had been lying up in a grassy hollow along the ridge where it felt safe. I have always assumed that unless you are unlucky enough to come across a mother and young, that boar, like other wild animals will try to avoid contact and judging from the speed that this one disappeared away from me I may well be right.