December 2010 – Blizzards, snowdrifts, gales, frostbite, snow blindness, buried tents, floods, hardship, cold, sleepless nights. It must be summer then in deepest Patagonia.
This memory was one of the toughest two days of my mountain life. But, it was an experience I wouldn't have wanted to miss!
“One gains nothing worth having on mountains without paying for it; beyond the snowline minor hardships will always be met in a small tent and, the sooner a man is trained to rise above them the better” (W.H Murray, Mountaineering in Scotland)
When things start to go wrong in the mountains, it starts with small, minor things. Like when I had packed my big down gloves in my main rucksack, instead of close to hand. My rucksack was not very accessible as it had a pulk/sledge tied to it. When I wanted to warm my hands up I was faced with a problem. Stop and fiddle around for five minutes whilst everybody else froze, or keep going? I borrowed Kiersten's spare gloves and kept going, it wasn't ideal as my fingers still solidified.
Well, that day was different. A first visit for me to the Via Ferrata paradise that is found at John Hogbin, Zafarraya. Lots of steep ladders (some decidedly more wobbly than others), Tyrolean Traverses, rungs, zip wires and cable bridges to negotiate. All good, clean and exposed fun in the sun!
There were also a couple of pendulums thrown in for good measure. On one of these Kiersten got her rope snagged and was left dangling out in space, until we figured it out.
If you plan to do this then it's vitally important you have all the correct Via Ferrata equipment and also a pulley for the zip lines. The knowledge of how to use them is absolutely essential. Despite the danger implied by the photos and the video we were at all times securely fixed to cables and anchor points. Best option that I recommend, if in any sort of doubt or you haven't tried this exhilarating activity before, is, as we did, to take a Guide along with you.
We dropped lucky. The night before the walk was planned we had the first real snows of the winter in the mountains. The temperatures were low as the resilient group of Nomads congregated at the trailhead at the base of the Barranco de San Juan, close to the town of Guejar Sierra. All around us were brightly coloured forests, the tops lit by the early morning sun.
It was too cold to hang about so off we went along the start of the Vereda de la Estrella path that leads into the mountains. Just short of a kilometer later we cut off to the rights and ascended easy slopes to the Casas de la Hortichuela.
The mountain path now steepened through forests, the golden autumnal colours highlighted by the low winter sun.
It was a cold, clear morning as a large band of Nomads congregated at the car park at the town of Pantano de Bermejales. Today was a first for all of us, a trip down the river gorge of the Tajos de Bermejales, northwards towards the town of Cacin.
The initial few kilometres provided a gentle introduction to the rigours to come. Ahead the gorge just hinted at it's magnificence rather than laid all it's wares to view.
Unexpectedly, we arrived at a series of rungs and a ladder climbing a near vertical rock. What? I had expected simple wide paths as this walk is frequented by many people, especially at weekends. Nevertheless, the Nomads gritted their ageing teeth and climbed the impasse with much aplomb.
The Nomads stayed overnight in Alhama de Granada and had a pleasant but somewhat noisy evening in the town's only bar that was open.
Next morning was bright and clear, not as cold as we had anticipated. We drove to La Robledal where we commenced our ascent. We knew this would be a tough day with over 1000m ascent. The initial forest tracks were easy enough, but shortly we left these behind and took to an ever steepening mountain track.
This section had numerous “Miradors” on the crest of the ridge that provided an excuse for a welcome break, photos and water replenishment. The track continued to get rougher as we climbed.
A short video showing you one of the main reasons why I so love it here.
Driving uphill on dirt tracks from my house I quickly reach some really beautiful and natural mountain environments. I enjoy a short ski tour with my dog, Rita, my first ski since injuring a knee a few years back. As you can see, she's very enthusiastic, bless her!
A shallow valley (Prado Quinto) was almost complete with good snow from top to bottom. Saw no one, apart from a couple of Golden Eagles gliding effortlessly overhead. And, we were back home for midday!
A nice 12km walk on a cloudy day through the lush forests along the Cañada del Sereno in the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Huetor.
Not the most inspirational of walks given the overcast conditions and general lack of photographic opportunities, but interesting nevertheless. Of special interest were the autumnal colours and variety of trees. Not only pines but many varieties including the rare Maple and Weeping Willow around the Fuente de Teja.
The highlight on a dry day would be to try to ascend the spire of El Pulpito but in the dampish conditions the limestone rock was slippy and we didn't fancy the challenge. Another day perhaps?
My grandfather's pocket watch probably dated around 1900. Today, after not touching it for 20 years, I set the time, wound it up and it works! Just like clockwork 😂😂😂. Maybe Apple and Co who knowingly produce built in obsolescence should take note?