It seemed very appropriate that we should be walking towards Alto de San Juan on the weekend of the San Juan fiesta. As we walked through Lanjaron to meet Sharon, there was evidence of the previous days celebrations and water fight still to be cleared from the streets. It was with some slight uncertainty that we walked towards the tourist information office - had we made the arrangements clear enough? Did she really know where we wanted to go? However we need not have worried, she was there waiting for us, complete with her small car, into which we managed to cram our rather large rucksacks. She had sorted out the route, and we agreed to drive north via Granada and take the Almeria motorway to Guadix, then south to La Ragua. This proved a much faster and for us more interesting route, as we had not been through be 'badlands' of Guadix before. We arrived at La Ragua around 12.15. Our hope had been to spend the first night at
the refugio, thinking that on any future trip sleeping at 2000m would offer clients a good opportunity to acclimatise, and give us the chance to explore the eastern peaks without a rucksack. However although I had tried to contact the refuge in the UK, I had had no reply, and I had a suspicion that it might only be open in the winter months. La Ragua is at the highest point on the road between La Calahora to the
north and Laroles to the south, and promotes itself as a venue for cross country skiing. When we had visited earlier in the year there was very little snow, but the pleasant restaurant was open and skis could be hired. Today only the tourist information centre was open, so we decided to set off and take the first day as it came. Our first task was to fill water bottles. Fortunately a stream runs past La Ragua north towards the valley, and in June this was flowing very nicely. With full bottles and bladders (we carried 5 litres of water between us at the start of each day) we set off.
Our route took us through along the stream and skirted the forest before opening out onto the slopes of Moron de la Cabanuela, where we stopped for some lunch before losing the last of the shade.
The afternoon saw us reaching our first summit, with great views of the ridge ahead. we found the mountains at this end of the ridge to be much more grassy than I had expected, and although it should have been easy walking, the 'ups and downs' were in fact really quite tiring. That afternoon we climbed 3 further peaks, Hornillo (2375), Sanjuanero, and Mediodia. From the latter we could see signs of water in the Rio Nechite (marked as a fuente on the 1:50000 map). This was our target for the first nights camp. However the slopes of Collade del Realejo Alto proved much longer than appeared from the distance and it was a very tired pair who found themselves turning left at Puerto del lobo to head down a well marked track. Unfortunately our water source proved somewhat allusive. The first two green strips we had seen in the distance turned out to be dry. We stopped for a short while to watch a herd of goats browsing on the short grass, and after a few minutes were joined by their owner, who asked what we were doing. I asked him about water, and he advised that there was water further down the valley, and would take us. However it seemed that this was going to be another couple of kilometres away, and neither of us were keen on losing that much height. I had found a small spring not far away, and we decided to make the best of this. We will stay here I said to the shepherd; it will be cold was his response! No, we have a tent & sleeping bags, OK, have a good night - he clearly thought we were either very foolish or totally mad!
It turned out to be a quite acceptable camp site, and we soon had the tent up and a bowl of pasta on the boil. Relaxing the end of our first day accompanied by the distant sounds of the goat bells, we mused on the fact that we had seen only 2 people since leaving Ragua - a student looking for Vipers and the goat-herd; this truly was wilderness country!