Friday, 11 July 2014

Despite the high temperatures of early July I thought I might get away with a walk along the verada de Estrella path on the north side of the Sierra Nevada. This route follows the line of an old mine access track as it follows the Rio Genil valley to the now disused workings. The walking starts after a dramatic drive east from the village of Guajar Sierra along a single track road through tunnels and cuttings along the route of a disused single track railway. The walking itself is fairly gentle through outcrops and crossing terraces as you traverse the valley side. The path eventually reaches the ruins of the mina de Estrella This is one of many mine workings in the area, in the 1940’s nine families lived at and worked this particular mine which was finally abandoned in 1957. The miners extracted metal ores including pyrite, fools gold as well as copper and iron ores. Quite often when walking there are moments when a breathtaking vista opens up as you crest a hillside or reach a particular spot. The Estrella path has one of those. The first part of the route runs east as it follows the river valley; whilst this is dramatic enough it is after about an hour when the valley turn south that the drama really begins. As the path passes through a rock cutting a spectacular view of the north faces of the 3,000m plus peaks of Alcazaba and Mulhacen towering nearly two kilometres above the valley is suddenly revealed. Even in July these mountain faces were flecked with snow. The first part of the walk was quite cool as it passed through patches of shade. At one point I thought I heard ibex moving across a scree slope on the opposite bank of the river however it turned out to be a family of three foxes working their way across the steep hillside before finally darting into a shallow cave. Once in the main valley the amount of shade reduced quite dramatically and the heat began to build. Luckily the path crosses a number of small river tributaries before reaching a path junction at Cueva Secreta a small natural shelter used as a bivouac spot by those going in to the higher mountains. I stopped for lunch at one of the many stream crossings and dipped my feet in the river in an effort to cool off. The temperature had now risen and according to the thermometer on my watch peaked at 45.1 degrees centigrade. Needless to say I beat as hasty retreat as possible to avoid the rest to the day’s heat. Mad dogs and Englishmen…….!!!