Since reading Driving Over Lemons by author Chris Stewart many years ago I always wanted to visit and stay in one of the High Alpujarras’ whitewashed villages, on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Range (75km from west to east), and soak in the very special atmosphere that was outlined in the book.
With flights, hotel, village house and car hire all booked over the internet we left Manchester on Friday 23rd April 2010 and arrived 10 minutes early with Ryanair at Malaga.
We were staying at the Hotel Guadalmiar for two nights and this turned out to be an excellent hotel. The ambiance of the City was enjoyable during the day and at night time. Malaga is one of the most atmospheric and historic cities of Spain.
On Saturday morning we did a leisurely four hour bike tour around the City with Malaga Bike Tours – www.malagabiketours.eu – and this was ever so enjoyable, hearing about the City’s history and culture as well as lively local anecdotes. On a bench in the Plaza de la Merced we sat beside a metal sculpture of Pablo Picasso, the world’s most famous artist.
On Saturday evening we enjoyed a lovely meal at the restaurant – Comepizza
On Sunday morning we were away to the airport to pick up our hired car for our journey to the Las Alpujarras and our village House in Capilerilla, a hamlet Nr. Pitres, a whitewashed village at 4,450ft above sea level.
Jane Garbutt the owner of the house had given us excellent directions and we arrived at 2pm, unpacked and then went for a walk up the mountainside to the rear of the cottage. In the evening after some beers and tapas we ate at La Oveja Verde. We wisely took our head torches to light up our way home. The house is 500+ years old and is delightful and well equipped inside and outside on the flower-filled terrace you can saver the beauty of this lovely part of the world. Particulars can be found on -
Our main holiday activity was walking with the target being to get to the top of Mulhacén at 3,478 metres (11,411 ft) the highest point of continental Spain and in the Iberian Peninsula. The mountain has two tops with Mulhacen 11 being 3,362 metres. While not of exceptional height by European standards, Mulhacén is the highest peak in Europe outside the Caucasus Mountains and the Alps. It is also the third most topographically prominent peak in Western Europe, after Mont Blanc and Mount Etna, and is ranked 64th in the world by prominence. The south flank of the mountain is gentle, and presents no technical challenge, as is the case for the long west ridge. The shorter, somewhat steeper north east ridge is slightly more technical. The north face of the mountain, however, is much steeper, and offers several routes involving moderately steep climbing on snow and ice (up to French grade AD) in the winter.
After some shopping on Monday morning for groceries we were walking on the GR-7 and reaching the snow line and were able to look down on the villages of Pampaneira, Bubion and Capileira (Poqueira Villages). The European long distant footpath E-4 begins in Athens and ends in Algeciras. The GR-7 long distance runs the length of Spain from Andorra in the north to Tarifa in the south and is part of the E-4. Way marking is not the best we found. However being at the 2,000 metres line was good acclimation preparation for the higher reaches of Mulhacen.
On Tuesday we launched our first attempt on Mulhacén parking our car at Capileira but with rivers in flood from melting snow, this did prevent us from crossing above the Hydro Station so we had to turn back and take a higher route with another difficult river crossing before reaching Las Thomas (2,100 metres) at 3pm. Even though a lovely sunny and hot day it was too late in the afternoon to tackle the steep and snow covered slopes that took you firstly to mountain refuge at Refugio Poqueira (which is open all year round but book in advance tel: 958 24 33 49) and then up to the top of the mountain. After eight hours of hard walking we were back at our car. We had made the right decision.
Wednesday was another lovely hot morning so we firstly went to Pampaneira to do some gift shopping and we also called in at the Information Centre for the National Park of the Sierra Nevada and we took advice as to the best route to get to the top of Mulhacén. It was then back home as we were to undertake “The Seven Villages” circular walk of 8km which was ever so enjoyable and relaxing in hot sunshine. We discovered “Alhambra Reserva 1925” beer at the Café Bar Aljibe in Mecina. At 7.30pm we took Jane out for dinner in Mecina.
Thursday we were up early to discover a duller day and by 9.30am we had parked the car high up at Hoya del Portillo on the snow line. At 1.50pm we reached the top of Mulhacen 11 in deep snow and at 2.18pm we reached the top. It was a wonderful vista with snow covered mountains as far as the eye could see. On the way back we did a further two mountains:
· Alto del Chorrillo – 2,727 metres
· Prado Llanc – 2,578 metres.
At 6.30pm we were back to the car after nine hours of hard walking much of it in deep snow. We saw some six people all day but singing sky larks accompanied us all day.
I dedicated the walk to Kathleen sister of Caroline Macdonald (a friend of mine) who had died after a long battle against cancer.
In the evening we enjoyed drinks and tapas at Jane’s home having our meal out in the garden.
Alas on Friday 30th April it was a road journey back to the airport and then a pleasant flight back to Liverpool.
We had a great week in this spectacular part of Spain.