Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Day 3 Rio Trevelez - Vacares

By morning, the horses had moved away, and we were able to enjoy our breakfast undisturbed. I was conscious that we had now completed what I had originally (though in hindsight wrongly) thought would be the easier part of the walk, and the next section potentially had some of the more technical stretches of the ridge. On previous occasions, we had found the walk up to Los Ladrones (2,900m) quite hard work. Puerto de Trevelez is a crossing point for old mountain trails and often visited by walkers, however again we saw no-one, and found the early morning walk (taking less than an hour) surprisingly pleasant - are we getting fitter?

After a photo break we headed on towards Puntal de Juntillas, our first 3000m peak. From here there are really good views of Mulhacen and much of the ridge we would walk that day. Beneath us and to the north, 2 walkers were decending from Picon de Jerez, the only people we saw all day. We wondered where they had started to have arrived there so early?

From here we decended a short way before tackling the horseshoe of Puntal de los Cuartos and Pico de la Justicia. Although it required a little more concentration, overall the route was not difficult. From the summit of Juntillas, we picked a way onto Cerro Pelao (3,181 m). From here we had great views down into the bowl of the Laguna de Juntillas, where we had camped the previous year. This was followed by the rocky environment of the Tajos Negros to reach the high point of Puntal de Los Cuartos (3,158m). Unfortunately the route absorbed my concentration, and I found I hadn't taken any photo's. Other intrepid 'integrallers' have however helped me out.

We descended to the collado de las Buiteras for lunch, by which time for the first time on the trip, the cloud was beginning to pile in. We wondered whether this was going to herald a storm, and debated sitting it out on the col (not the wisest place to be in stormy weather, but better then a summit), however in the end, decided to press on. The path to Pico del Cuervo (3,144 m) takes you through quite a complicated boulder field, and proved difficult to follow from the col. However it has a large cairn at the summit and once again great views, despite the cool cloudy weather. On our previous trip, we had found the descent towards Vacares quite difficult, so decided to stay on the northern side of the ridge. This proved to be a little easier, but not without it's route finding difficulties, again involving some steep rocky steps and a boulder field. However by 4pm we had made it down to our campsite underneath the northern slopes of the Collado de Vacares. There was no running water here, but still big snow patches, so snow melting was the order of the day. We filled our pan and kettle with snow and set to to make drinks and enough water for the evening meal. We shared the camp with 6 sheep and amazingly a young lamb; some had bells, and I had visions of another disturbed night, however they proved entertaining companions and eventually left us, presumably for a less exposed setting.

This was our highest campsite yet, and just beneath the snow, it soon turned cold. As we watched the sun going down behind the hills, we tried to pick out landmarks in the Rio Genil far below. We turned in before dark, a shame in many ways, and one of the drawbacks of having a tent, it just felt too cold to be out, but would have been a great night for watching the stars - maybe next time we should just bivi?