Thursday, 18 July 2013

Mulhacen, Magnificent!

Mulhacen, Magnificent!

It’s normal for us at Mountain House Holidays to be guiding people up Mulhacen which at 3482m is the highest mountain in The Sierra Nevada and the whole of mainland Spain. However yesterday, having a day off we decided to climb Mulhacen ourselves for the sheer enjoyment of it. Legend has it that Mully Hasan the deposed and penultimate Arab King of Al Andalus is buried on the mountain.

Mulhacen Summit
Most people tackling Mulhacen take the National Park bus from Capileira up to Alto del Chorrillo at 2700m and ascend and descend Mulhacen’s South Ridge. It’s fine to use the bus and the South Ridge as part of the excursion but to only do a “there and back from the bus” is a short day and will leave you thinking it’s not been a proper day out!

Setting out early in summer is the best tactic. This allows you to get the climbing done before the heat of the day starts to sap your energy. We started from Hoya del Portillo 2160m at 7.30am. It was cold, 10 degrees C and for the first 20 minutes we were in the forest so no sun. Still the motto is: start cold and warm up walking up hill! By the time we had reached the view point of Puerto Molino 2380m (30 minutes) we were warm! Our route continued along the ridge of Prado Llano 2577m to 2622m before joining the old road along to Alto del Chorrillo arriving there for a breakfast break at 9.15am.

Dense Flowering Sandwort
The actual ascent of Mulhacen along the south ridge is pleasant, and in summer a well defined path with cairns marking the way through the screes just below the subsidiary summit of Mulhacen II at 3361m. Even though we stopped to take photo’s of plants and beetles, we reached the summit at 11.20am a total time of 3 hours and 50 minutes. A distance of 11.4Km with a total height gained of 1412m. An hour and 20 minutes ahead of Naismith (The rule for calculating the time to walk up mountains – allow 4Km per hour and add a minute for every 10m of ascent).

We were ahead of the crowd from the bus so the summit was fairly quiet. There was a small group of “Cabra” the Iberian Ibex mooching around not particularly afraid of us, the usual Alpine Accentor and a large squadron of Swifts giving a good display of aerobatics.

Iberian Ibex
After a short break on the summit, it was time to head downwards before the crowds from the bus arrived. There is a zig zag path down the screes of Mulhacen’s West flank which we took heading to the Collado de la Mosca which gives great views of both Mulhacen’s and Alcazaba’s 3371m North Faces. A further 10 minutes and you are down to the Caldera Hut, an unmanned “bivouac” hut with bunks, tables and chairs. From here there is an impressive view back up to Mulhacen’s summit. A spot of lunch was called for at The Caldera!

With clients if we had caught the bus we would continue down to the Poqueira Refuge 2500m to make a circuit back to Hoya del Portillo. However as we had not walked the old road back to Alto del Chorrillo for a few years we though we’d re-acquaint ourselves with this option. It proved as boring as we remembered it though a useful way out if the weather turns nasty. From Alto del Chorrillo we then returned the way we had ascended finally arriving back to Hoya del Portillo at 3.30pm.

Mulhacen's West Flank from the Caldera Refuge

All that remained was to drive back to a bar in Capileira for the customary drink and plan for the next outing!

The Sierra Nevada Guides website has a lot of useful information for people wanting to visit the area, especially for walkers and climbers.

We are always happy to respond to emails answering questions about the area.