Monday, 18 November 2013

Sierra de Lujar, Alpujarra.

Whilst reaching a height of 1,850m the Sierra de Lujar range to the south of the Sierra Nevada is generally overlooked by walkers visiting the area. Perhaps the reason is that with its whale bacl appearance and lack of rocky peaks it just does not appeal. There are routes here however with one of the better ascents forming a hard day out with about 1,200m of ascent. The route starts in the Baranco de Castilejo a steep sided valley due south of Orgiva. The baranco , which holds some single pitch climbs on outcrops , provides an easy route in as there is a mine access track running up it from the main road. The track splits at about 700m with the main branch doubling back to climb the western side of the valley to the mine workings above. Our route climbs the eastern side on a less well used track before reaching a fire break/track which runs south along the crest of a narrow ridge that climbs steeply upward. The track provides a clear route until about 1.000m where it reverts to a path running up the middle of the fire break which still follows the crest. The route now steepens and at 1250m begins to develop a more rocky nature with a number of limestone outcrops along the crest. The first three are by passed to the right (west) though provide short scrambles. After a further 300m of ascent the ridge fades into the main bulk of the mountain. From here you will see the masts at the summit, head due south to and these. Just before the first of the masts you will reach a narrow tarmac road, follow this past the first of the masts to bear right just before the second group to follow a stone path bearing right before the third group of masts. The path now narrows and heads west to cross the head of the Baranco de Castilejo and reaches a minor peak. Now narrower the path crosses open plateau to reach the edge of a one forest. From here head right (north) through the forest. As you emerge cross a distinctive limestone ridge to enter a second narrower band of older pine trees. Leave the second band of trees and head to a clear track still heading north across the hillside. As the track turns west continue north across virgin hillside to reach the head of a broad firebreak which creates the start of the descent route. Cross a number of narrow tracks until at about 1,250m you reach a well used track. There are some large caves off to the left (west).This now heads east to pass the ruins of some mine buildings before zigzagging down the mountainside back to the start of the route.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Chill out in the Chillar

The Rio Chillar runs down from the Sierra Almijara range inland of Nerja and is a popular walk especially in the summer when the pools and falls are full of people cooling off. Most head off from the car park in the valley north of Nerja and walk upstream dipping in the numerous pools en route. The most popular area is near a ‘cascada’ created where the river comes over large boulders lodged in the river bed. The walk here is not to be underestimated as it’s at least an hour and a half upstream from the start. A better option which makes more of the area is to include the rio as the return section of a circuit taking in the ridge west of the river. This is accessed by following the concrete track up from the ford near the start. The concrete links a number of cortijos before becoming a rough stone track following the border of the Parque Natural. Once on the ridge itself the route is fairly obvious and leads eventually to a clear path, the Linman trail. The trail is an old packhorse route running east from Frigiliana to the El Pinarillo picnic area. I did the walk in August when the heat on the first half was intense with only an occasional light breeze and little shade to be found on the main trail. Needless to say thoughts of the cool rio kept us going and it was with great relief that we eventually descended steep ground to meet the river. Here after a bite to eat and a change of footwear we headed down stream. The crystal clear water was never more than knee deep in the river itself and was just about cool enough to refresh as we waded through the lush gorge with steep rock sides topped with trees and shrubs. Initially we had the gorge to ourselves however after about thirty minutes we began to meet people walking up and once we got to the ‘cascada’ it was almost like being on one of Nerja’s beaches. The scenery in the gorge is always magnificent but at its best at ‘’la cahorros’’ where it passes through a very narrow section of gorge. Here the rock has been worn smooth by winter floods and you can easily touch both sides at the same time. Unfortunately marred by graffiti, this is a spectacular section of the walk. From the end of la cahorros the gorge begins to widen out before the river finally deposits you back at the car park. This walk should NOT be attempted after heavy rain or if there is a chance of a thunder storm when flood water in the valley would make the route treacherous.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Navachica a Medditeranean summit

In early June before it got too hot to do much I climbed Navachica. At 1834m it is the highest summit in the Sierra Almijara area of the Axarquia ranges and sits inland of Nerja. Starting from the El Pinarillo picnic area inland from the famous Nejra caves the route follows a number of dry barancos;- los Cazadores, la Charca and del Rey. The route follows an old mule trail which served a number of mines in the area, passing mine entrances at the track side. In its heyday this area must have been a hive of activity with a clear track running the length of the valley. Now with the route having been recently re way-marked we follow a less well maintained rocky path with the occasional short scramble up rock steps in the river bed. From the head of the baranco del Rey, the climb makes a tortuous ascent to meet a slightly easier line to the final summit. The guide book gives an ascent of 1,300m which makes this one of the biggest routes in the region and not to be undertaken lightly. Whilst my book described a return using the ascent, it also hinted at a number of more ‘’interesting’’ ways off. I chose to head due south from the summit along a route that I had spied during the climb. Heading toward the Med I descended toward El Puerta. What path there was limited to very vague lines through vegetation across easy ground. The route led to the top of a steep section of rock which I had noted during the ascent and had thought would be the crux. I had presumed it could be by passed on the far side, no such luck. There was a small cairn marking a vague descent line down through loose and quite steep ground and with a bit of shuffling around and backtracking occasionally the route did ‘go’ and reverted back to a reasonably clear trail. From here the path ran along a narrow ridge with some huge drops to the west into the upper section of the Rio Chillar valley. The north ridge of an unnamed 1,440m summit just north of la Puerta offered an exhilarating scramble before I returned to the normal route and a long descent back to the car. A great route for cooler days at the end of the year.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Spring Dangers !

Hopefully, with the onset of Spring, we will begin to get some great walking days again. As I write this I’m sheltering from the fourth day of rain, having to run a generator to use the computer. Oh the joys of solar power! I know we need the rain and snow. How else would I fill my alberca, but after a couple of days we do get a bit stir crazy. For those who do get out in the next couple of weeks there is a potential danger to look out for, the Pine Processionary Moth caterpillars (Thaumetopoea pityocampa). The adult moths lay eggs inside a distinctive silky nest in pine trees where the eggs and later caterpillars will over-winter. Once hatched and outside the nest the caterpillars are fascinating to see as they often create a trail of up to a meter long as they follow each other nose to tail, crossing your path or descending a tree. The caterpillar is covered in fine hairs which can be a severe irritant if touched and in later stages of the caterpillar’s development can be released into the air. If breathed in, the hairs can cause severe allergic reaction in susceptible people. They are also a problem for dogs or cats. If they sniff or lick the trails of caterpillars they can have a severe reaction, problems with breathing and possibly be killed. As the name suggests they are predominantly found in pine woodlands so at this time of year beware if you walking in an area of pine trees. If, like me you have a pine tree on your land you may have more of a problem. Having cut out branches infested with nests for a few years, my pine tree was beginning to look a bit bald. I asked Manolo, my neighbour, how to deal with the nests and was told, quite seriously, to use a shotgun. Apparently the idea was to break open the nest before winter to expose the inside to frost and hence kill off the eggs and larvae. Not possessing a shotgun I initially used an air rifle borrowed from another neighbour. However, though we hit the nests, the pellet didn’t break them open. The answer was to get a fisherman’s catapult suitably equipped with a bait cup. This, when filled with gravel, did a great job of bursting the nests and hence allowing the frost do its job. We tried this the winter before last and had no nests at all this winter. Just beware, don’t do it once the caterpillars are hatched as they will rain down on you. Also if you or your neighbours have solar panels, greenhouses, expensive patio doors etc anywhere near, you might get a few complaints if you start firing stones around willy nilly!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Cero de Caballo winter ascent

Last week I had walked up the mountain above us to open up a compuerta (sluice gate) on our acequia when I met the young goat farmer who works the mountain side above He was on his way back from his daily outing with his herd when they graze the hillside. Nothing unusual in that but he had with him his pet pig!!. ( I know it sounds like a story from Driving Over Lemons but its true) he seemed a bit upset when I asked him if it was for eating, which is wasn’t. The pig, a small black pot bellied example seemed friendly enough and trained enough to follow him along with the goats and various dogs. This week I climbed Cero de Caballo ( Hill of the Horseman) 3,011m which lays claim to be Europe’s most westerly 3,000m peak. My finca is on the south ridge of the mountain at 1,000m and in theory I could go straight from my back door to do the peak. I didn’t though, and made the most of the drivable tracks above Lanjaron which take you up to about 2,000m on the mountain side. In the past you could drive to a point below an old mountain refuge, The Ventura, however now a cable has now been strung across the track stopping access along the last 3 km of track. It’s likely to have been done by the Parque Nacional to stop traffic getting into what has to be said is a fantastic and remote high mountain valley and thereby protecting the habitat of the area. Unfortunately it now means that there is an extra 6 or 7 km of walking involved in any routes in the valley. The ‘new’ route up the south ridge of Caballo now follows the line of a steep fire break before hitting the ridge proper where there is an old track along the crest which after about 4km reverts to a footpath traversing the western flank of the ridge. With some snow on the ground covering the path I stuck to the clearer rocky crest and was able to get to within about 2km of the summit before donning snowshoes for the final ascent. Needles to say with blue skies above the views of the main ridges and snow covered summit of the range was magnificent. Leaving the summit I kept my snowshoes on and was able to make quite a quick descent and by linking up snow patches kept them on until I was about half way back to the car.

Friday, 18 January 2013

La Maroma, Axarquia

Whilst still waiting for the snow to arrive I took advantage of the good weather to do a mountain that has been on my list for a long time. La Maroma ( The Rope) is the large limestone mountain that lies NE of Velez Malaga. At a 2,068m it offers a great open ridge walk with views down to and across the med. to the south or back toward the Sierra Nevada and other ranges inland. There are a number of popular ascent routes up this mountain. Two come up from the from the western end above Lake Vineula however the route which is easiest to access form Lanjaron is the one from La Robledal (the oak grove) which lies to the North East of the range itself. El Robladal , is an area of mixed forest with native oaks and pine, there is a camp site here and picnic areas. Higher up the route are yew trees which are quite rare with young specimens being protected by fencing on the upper slopes of the mountain. The car park at El Robladal can be accessed from Alhama de Granada or from Arenas de Rey both routes requiring some driving along tracks. The ascent route itself is well way marked and starts easily enough as it follows forest tracks to eventually revert to a small path through the tress as the more serious ascent begins. The route eventually emerges form the forest and climbs more broken ground which leads to a very pleasant and rocky traversing section below the final slopes at a area called Salto de Caballo ( horseman’s leap). Once through this rocky traverse the route opens up as you crest the ridge to get views south to the coast. Here a very steep path comes up from the countryside above Sedella just to join our route. There is then a a quite exposed section with a steep drop to our left as the route crosses a narrow spine of rock at Cortados de Maroma. From here cairns mark the final ascent across an open expanse of limestone blocks. The summit marker is an obvious 3m high stone spire with rungs up the front to allow you to get even higher. I must say from where I sat and had lunch I’m sure it isn’t actually on the highest point which seemed to me to be at the eastern end of the ridge. The summit was quite crowded when I got there with walkers coming up from both ends of the ridge. A full traverse of the mountain seems feasible if you can arrange cars for pick ups and would make a good walk into a great one as unfortunately I had to return the way I came.