Friday, 29 June 2007

Day 6 Carihuela - Caballo and home!

We were up at first light; I had not had the best nights sleep - the Cabra de Montes which were particularly friendly had been walking over the stone roof of the refuge, keeping me awake. Fortunately the cloud had cleared, and we were soon packed and ready to leave.
Our route took us past the upper reaches of the ski resort, to the Lagunilles de la Virgen, to fill water bottles and then followed a well made path through the Tajos de la Virgen towards the head of the Rio Lanjaron. We had really enjoyed walking this path the previous year, it has been constructed through the boulders and steep slopes below the ridge, and can be followed almost all the way to Lanjaron.

After just over an hour, we reached the col below the Elorrieta refuge. We had decided to stay on high ground, and follow the ridge path towards the summit of Caballo. Our first challenge was to reach the summit of Tosal del Cartujo (3,152 m). This looked relatively straight forward, and we had already walked the route in reverse, however the path was not obvious, and our way involved quite a bit of scrambling (and scrabbling on my part!) to gain the high ground. We were rewarded with great views back toward Veleta and enjoyed a short break before once again becoming concerned at the encroaching dark cloud. The ridge path proved to be much more challenging than the Verea cortá, which winds its way very enjoyably beneath the summit ridge. However our task was to stay up high, and we managed to negotiate the rough ground, loss of path and inevitable boulders to reach the col beneath Caballo (3,005, 7, 9 or 11 metres depending on which map you look at!) just after mid-day. Here we debated where to go next. Our plan had been to leave our packs, climb to the summit of Caballo, then drop down to the refuge for a leisurely afternoon. However the cloud was looking more and more menacing, and neither of us could see the attraction of sitting at the hut engulfed in cold and mist, so we decided to press on.

We reached the summit to enjoy the last of the sun, then made a hasty retreat to a more sheltered spot for lunch.
Home seemed so near, yet so far. Our finca is at 1,300m on the slopes of Caballo - 1700m of descent! Following the familiar ridge path was easy enough; we have done it lots of times before and enjoyed the wild flowers and changes of vegetation. The route we have perfected takes us down a fire-break rather than the long and tedious mountain road, but is particularly hard on the knees. After the first half hour, I was really finding the pounding difficult, even with the use of poles. However we did marvel at the way the vegetation was beginning to regenerate after the fire 2 years earlier, the hillside had turned yellow, with an amazing variety of plants, and the fire-break itself was becoming overgrown with pine saplings - all very good news. We made it to our house by the early evening - very tired, relieved to have got back safely and already re-living the experiences. A very welcome cold beer was waiting in the fridge and showers made us feel at least half human again.