Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Tajos de la Virgen

In order to avoid the worst of the blistering heat that most of us experienced over early August I recently used the cable car and chair lift on the western flank of Veleta (3396m) above Granada’s ski village. The lift carries you from about 2,000m up to 3,000m and is a great way to access the high mountains. I had planned to avoid the summit of Veleta and just head for the Tajos de la Virgen ridge which runs south from the main peak. Once off the lift however the route to the top looked inviting and I headed off and within about an hour was sat at the top chatting to a fellow walker who was in training for a trip up Kilimanjaro. Apparently I had met up with him on his third ascent that week. He was based in Granada and using the mountain for some altitude training. Having summited I headed back to the planned route along the rugged ridge which runs from the Carihuela refuge below Veleta south to the Elioreta refuge. After the initial section of rocky walking the way up to the ridge proper is a short but fairly exposed scramble. Since I had last done this section small white arrows have been painted on the route to assist route finding. It was clear though as I watched a fellow walker descend away from the correct line that the arrows only work in ascent. What was also clear was that he was quite poorly equipped with a bottle of water in one hand and a carrier bag and wooden staff in the other. I know that some of us, myself included, tend to take a bit to much gear particularly in summer but the amount he was carrying did seem a bit extreme. Once on the ridge proper the route becomes clearer for some way before passing below a distinctive pinnacle of rock on the very crest of the ridge. This is El Fraile (The Friar) and can often be seen from miles away as it stands in profile on the ridge. Beyond El Fraille the ridge has a section of large boulders which are quite difficult to navigate before the ridge finally opens out at the Elioreta. Formally used by TB patients to aid recovery the refuge still has tiles on some of its rock floors and two rooms which are reasonably weather proof. From here the return to the cable car is an easy descent on an old mule track to some small lagoons from where a small path leads back up (a bit to steeply at that point in the day) to the chair lift and a very relaxing descent without any chance of damage to my knees.