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.