Monday, 15 July 2013

It’s cool in the mountains! Summer arrives in The Sierra Nevada

It’s cool in the mountains! Summer arrives in The Sierra Nevada

Although summer has been a few weeks late in arriving this year, it has now arrived and is firmly established. Although our Mountain House is at 1300m above sea level, a few days ago I found it hard to sleep as the bedroom was airless and it was too hot to be comfortable inside at 21 degrees C.  As a consequence I got up early and decided to check out the conditions on Veleta 3394m the second highest in Spain’s Sierra Nevada.

The Carrihuela Refuge from Veleta
Leaving home at 6am where it was 21 degrees I drove to Hoya de la Mora (2500m) where it was a cool 13 degrees and felt distinctly cooler with a brisk wind blowing. The ascent of Veleta is one of the easiest of all the mountains in the Sierra Nevada. A gentle ridge and fairly good path for all but the final 200m of ascent where there is a steep zig zag path up through scree and boulders. Reaching Posiciones del Veleta at 3100m a Griffon Vulture soared overhead reminding me that I always see them when on Veleta. By the time I got the camera out and switched on it was too far to make a decent picture.  

Griffon Vulture
In total it took me two hours to reach the summit and although there was snow around, I didn’t have to cross any patches on my ascent. For most of the climb I was just about warm enough in shorts and a t shirt though my hands started to get cold near the summit. Once on the summit and no longer generating heat from the exertion of ascending I needed a windproof fleece hat and gloves. I guess it was around 5 degrees with the windchill. Cool!

"Blue Dreams"
I choose to descend towards the Carrihuela refuge 3205m down by the old track that used to cross the Sierra Nevada from Granada to Capileira on the south side of the range. As usual for this time of year the track was buried in snow for about 1Km beyond the refuge. On the way to the refuge there were a number of alpine plants coming into flower as the snow had recently receded. And I managed to get a few photo’s before the battery in my camera gave up! Notable were the Sierra Nevada Violet (Viola crassiuscula) and “Blue Dreams” (Chaenorrhinum glareosum). It was at this point with the camera out of action that I noticed a group of six Grifon Vultures circling above me!

The Sierra Nevada Violet
At the Carrihuela refuge I met a cyclist who had wanted to take the old road and cross the snow with his bike heading for Capileira.  The snow was still frozen hard and the slope to cross is very steep with a bad run off if you were to slip. Fortunately he had already decided against it though it would be a massive 120Km detour. He said he’d cycled the route a few years ago and I left him considering whether or not to wait until late afternoon when the snow might be safe enough for safe passage without crampons.

Mulhacen from The Carrihuela Refuge

The rest of the descent back to Hoya de la Mora was a pleasant stroll though I could feel it warming up! Soon the gloves came off, the fleece hat was replaced by a buff and eventually the windproof came off too. It was a pleasant 22 degrees back at the car and I headed to the “University Albergue” for a cool beer and tappa.

Veleta from the comfort of Hoya da la Mora
Mountain House Holidays run guided walking holidays in Spain's Sierra Nevada Mountains. Mike and Jane the owners of Mountain House Holidays are both qualified International Mountain Leaders.

They also run Sierra Nevada Guides and undertake guided walks for individuals and groups. There is a lot of useful information for people wanting to visit the Sierra Nevada on the Sierra Nevada Guides website.