Knowledge Base & Frequently Asked Questions - Spanish Highs Mountain Guides
Knowledge Base that hopefully will answer queries about our walking, mountaineering and activity holidays in the Sierra Nevada
The Mountains, Routes, Huts & Dangers
Meeting Your Guides
- Meeting your Guides in Lanjaron
Malaga airport arrival
When you collect you baggage follow everybody else, past the car rental desks and into the arrivals hall. Turn right and head outside the main doors. 20m away ahead and just to the right is a red kiosk (see photo below). You will be met here.
Alhambra Palace meeting point
The place for client pick ups and drop off near the Alhambra Palace is shown on the map below. It is situated about 300m above the Alhambra Palace, just above the main car parks.
How do I get to Lanjaron from the nearest aiports or bus stations?
Granada's bus station is at Carretera de Jaen s/n, the continuation of Avenida de Madrid, 3 km north west of the centre. All services operate from here except for a few to nearby destinations such as Fuente Vaqueros, Viznar and the Estacion de Esqui Sierra Nevada. Lockers used for more than 24 hours cost 2 Euros and there's a large cafeteria.
Alsina Graells run buses to Las Alpujarras, Cordoba eight times daily, Seville nine times daily, Seville nine times daily, Malaga fourteen times daily and Jaen, Baeza, Ubeda, Cazorla, Almeria, Almunecar and Nerja several times daily.
You can consult the timetable, fares and destinations at: https://www.alsa.es/en/
Your Trip with Us
Granada has the closest airport to the range being only a 1hr drive from the ski area and is very accessible for the Cumbres Verdes which are on its doorstep. Lanjarón, at the entrance to the Alpujarra, is only 45min away. Capileira in the heart of the Alpujarra is 1hr 45min distant by car.
At the present time few airlines go there, except from Iberia/BA and Vueling. The only direct flights from the UK at the time of writing are from London City Airport (British Airways) and from Manchester and London Gatwick (Easyjet) . These is not daily flights though so you would need to check with the airline direct.
Málaga airport is 1hr 30min drive away with very easy and fast motorway links to Granada and Lanjarón. There is a huge selection of low cost flights all days of the week available from most major European departure airports.
Almeria provides very easy access to Granada via the A-92 motorway in only 1hr 30min. Fewer flights arrive there than Málaga but it is a useful destination if walking in the eastern section of the range.
What facilities does Lanjaron have?
Lanjaron has small but well stocked supermarkets as well as lots of fruit, vegetable, meat and bread shops. Unless you have special dietary requirements we have found most basic foodstuffs can be bought here. There are plenty of bars and restaurants. See our information page for our own personal recommendations.
- What other activities can I do there?
How far away are other attractions?
Beach - nearest beaches are on the Costa Granada about 40 mins drive away at Salobrena. Almunecar is 50 mins and Nerja 1 hr.
Mini Hollywood at Tabernas - Wild West film sets - 2 hrs drive via Granada, A9 Guadix direction Almeria.
Alhambra Palace, Granada - 45 mins via the A44.
Trevelez - highest village in Spain - 1hr.
Do you need Insurance Cover?
Assume the spanish goverment will now charge for rescue services.
See Insurance and Rescue Insurance Services for our recommendations
Make sure you have suitable cover!
How to Prepare for Outdoor Adventure Activities
Southern Spain is perhaps best known for its beaches, which are immensely popular with British sunseekers in the summer months. Relatively few tourists, however, venture inland where a wide variety of outdoor adventure activities are on offer. Andalucia and Murcia are excellent for trekking, walking and mountaineering, and in the winter months the Sierra Nevada provides superb ski and snow sports facilities.
The GR7 footpath forms part of the European Route 4, which covers more than 10,000km. The "Gran Recorrido" or "Long Journey" originates in Tarifa, and takes in many of the highlights of rural Andalucia. Trekking in these areas can be challenging, so some preparation before you leave can be a big help. Try to be as active as possible in the weeks and months before you leave ? you will feel the benefits when trekking, particularly at high altitudes.
Safety is an important consideration, particularly in more isolated areas. Keep well hydrated, and take on as much water as possible in the mornings before leaving camp. You should always keep someone informed of the route you plan to take, as mobile phones may not work in all regions. Outside the main cities, it may be tricky to buy trekking supplies. Light and breathable fabrics will offer versatility, and are best purchased before you leave. A warm fleece, and wind and rainproof jacket will usually suffice, with Merrell and Berghaus providing high quality solutions. Light trekking boots are a must, and perhaps most importantly, some protection from the sun in the form of a high factor suncream and hat or cap.
A medium sized backpack and 2/3 season sleeping bag will usually be sufficient. A tent which won`t break your back on longer walks is a must, and this doesn`t have to break the bank. The Vango range in particular offers a variety of tents for any type of trek.
Southern Spain also offers some phenomenal mountaineering, including mainland Spain`s highest mountain, Mulhacen. For more technical ascents, good quality crampons and an iceaxe are a must ? it can snow for six months of the year at this altitude. Snow sports are also popular in the south of the country. The season in Pradollano, in the Sierra Nevada, runs from December to April. Pradollano is the most southerly ski resort in Europe, so offers much milder skiing temperatures than many other destinations. Snowboarding and other sports are also available.
Whilst resorts usually offer a hire service, equipment is worth investing in, even for the occasional skier. Well-fitting kit makes a huge difference on the slopes. The combination of sun, snow and wind chill mean a variety of solutions are required. The benefits of choosing the right kit ? what sleeping bags and tents best serve your requirements for example ? cannot be overstated. Whatever your activity of choice, your comfort and safety are important above all.
Can we hire mountain gear from yourselves?
Dont be weight penalised by the airlines! We have a fully stocked rental facility here in Lanjaron in the heart of the Sierra Nevada. Winter or summer we have a large stock available at reasonable hire rates.
Visit the Gear Rental page
N.B Our own courses and holidays include the rental of equipment.
- What equipment do I need to bring?
Whats the best map to use in the Sierra Nevada?
Don’t expect the accuracy in the mapping here that exists for instance in the UK with the Ordnance Survey maps. There are a variety of maps that reflect accuracy to a greater or lesser extent though you should be on the lookout for possible errors, especially with regard to access dirt roads. In addition some peaks have different names and altitudes depending on which map it is that you are using.
The best map by far is the following:
Parque National de Sierra Nevada
Downloadable maps (IGN series)
The Instituto Geográfico Nacional de España (IGN) maps are free for personal use. You must register first at www.ign.es and agree license terms (change language at top right).
Click ‘Download’ to reach the Download Centre. Then using ‘Search in Viewer’ identify the area you wish to download. Choose either the MTN25 ráster (1:25000) or MTN50 ráster (1:50000) product and a list of available map ‘tile’ downloads will be shown. These can be downloaded in TIFF form as a zip file.
Open Cycle Map
Mention must be made of the Open Source mapping software, Open Cycle Map www.opencyclemap.org. This is an on line global map based on data from the OpenStreetMap project. With the onset of mobile apps to navigate your way round the world the standard and accuracy of mapping has improved in the last few years. These maps provide a useful resource to download and use on your phone, tablet, computer or indeed GPS.
When does the first snow arrive and how long does it last?
In normal seasons the first major snows arrive in November, but there are exceptions. In 2008 the first snows fell on 8th October and the mountains were white until end May with up to 5m snow depth in places!
Expect some heavy snow in November. The ski centre opens reliably between 23rd and 30th November and closes end of April in normal years.
Snows last until end May for ski touring, snowshoeing and mountaineering. In April and May though the hard ice of early mornings can be replaced by soft slushy snow lower down
Are there problems with foxes whilst wild camping?
Yes. The incidence of tents being damaged by foxes in search of food is increasing. Reports from the trekkers suggest that attacks are becoming incresingly co-ordinated. Strange this, as foxes are by nature solitary animals.
Keep food away from tents or deep inside a rucksack. Keep objects away from the inside of tent walls as this can encourage the fox to try to enter. You may also try a homemade pepper spray which has had some success. Apart from that, take a dog!
More info: check out our news site for related "fox" posts.
Are there regulations regarding wild camping in the Sierra Nevada?
The Consejeria de Medio Ambiente of Andalucia states the following with regard to wild camping in the Sierra Nevada National Park.
- It is permitted to bivouac or wild camp overnight anywhere in the park
- You cannot spend more than 1 night in the same location
- Tents should be erected only after the sun has set and taken down before the sun rises
- Groups of more than 3 tents and/or 15 persons must seek prior permission from the park authorities
- Not permitted to camp within 500m of guarded huts, tarmac roads or forest roads
- Not permitted to camp within 50m of lagunas (lakes) or borreguiles (high wet lands)
- Not permitted to camp within the Centursa ski boundary
- Not permitted to camp in forest zones in periods of high fire risk 1st June to 15th October
Centro Administrativo del Parque Nacional y Parque Natural Sierra Nevada
Ctra. Antigua de Sierra Nevada km7
18191 Pinos Genil (Granada)
Emergency telephone numbers 112
Guardia Civil 062
Weather in the Sierra Nevada at http://www.spanishhighs.co.uk/weather-sierra-nevada.php
When is Los Tres Miles 300m peak ridge traverse possible for non mountaineers?
You can normally complete this and bypass any remaining snow between June and October inclusive. In most years it can be done in May and November but this does depends on late season and early season snowfall.
Up to April and from December onwards the ridge is best left to experienced mountaineers when the full traverse is a full on winter mountaineering challenge.
What are the risks of avalanches?
As we are in the hills most days during the winter and are consistently in a position to evaluate the danger, this safety information will be made available to all interested parties through our Snow, Avalanche and Mountain Conditions forum and also regularly post mountain conditions and trip reports on our News Site. This service is in operation from mid-December each year and will be updated as and when conditions materially change. We welcome any comments or remarks about the conditions.
Read more about the Avalanche risks
Most winters and after fresh snowfall there are avalanches all over the Sierra Nevada, but they are normally small and localised. The exception was in February 2011 when a massive slide nearly 1km wide in the Barranco de San Juan killed one person and injured two others.
There are four major black spots that regularly avalanche. They have become scenes of accidents because they cross normal walking or hiking trails that people use.
- North west of the Tajos de la Virgen ridge line on the track between Lagunillas de la Virgin and the Refugio de Elorrieta. This path crosses steep and dangerous avalanche terrain. The proximity to the ski centre increases human traffic in this area. For experienced mountaineers the ridge of the Tajos de la Virgen is safer or the whole can be avoided by an easy, safer but longer snow ascent up the Tozal de Cartujo via the bowl west of the north west ridge of the Cartujo
- Paso de los Franceses on the south west slopes of Mulhacén above the normal walking track up the Río Mulhacén. In particular the old road above this area can be very dangerous. Give this a wide berth westwards on the approach to the west flank route of Mulhacén or the Col de Ciervo. In 1989 an accident here cost the lives of six French mountaineers
- Paso de los Machos on the south side of Cerro de Los Machos where the old road cuts through a small pass. This area is normally heavily loaded with snow in winter. This path is used as a quick and easy approach from the Carihuela to Mulhacén or the Poqueira/Caldera areas. If heading for the Refugio Poqueira a safer descent is via Loma Pua, Pico de Sabinar and cut through the Terreras Azules below the Pico del Púlpito
- Barranco de San Juan – close to Hoya de la Mora and low altitude increase risk to mountain goers. Usually full of wind-blown snow after major snowfalls. Lots of small localised dangers but a massive avalanche in February 2011 has increased awareness of the potential for large scale slides here
Are there altitude related problems in the Sierra Nevada?
We have, in reality, had very few instances where AMS has resulted in having to bring somebody down to a lower level. When that has been the case, they have recovered immediately on getting to lower ground and have had no further problems.
These mountains have much high ground over 3000m, but provided that the advice above is followed, ie go slow, then the altitude effects are lessened considerably. On countless occasions we have parked the car at 2500m (having driven up in 1hr from 650m!) and someone has gone off too quick. It is very tempting! Take it very easy, a snails pace, especially for the first 30 minutes after leaving the car.
We find that in that time our body adjusts better and we can then continue a little more rapidly. However, we live and train here in these mountains. Those coming straight in from sea level will find it harder.
Read more about Altitude related problems in the Sierra Nevada
Guarded - The Refugio Poqueira
Grid reference 712 982
Tel +34 958 34 33 49 or +34 958 06 41 11
An excellent guarded refuge with 84 beds open all year. Lies on a small plateau at 2500m just south east of the Río Mulhacén. Beds, duvets and blankets in dormitory style accommodation. Excellent meal service. Affiliated to the Federación Andaluza de Montañismo. Has reciprocal rights with the major European alpine clubs. Essential to reserve well in advance.
Normal winter access is recommended from Capileira (Cebadilla Eléctrica) and via the more sheltered Barranco de Poqueira. Early or late season access in calm conditions can also be made from the acequias (irrigation channel) route or from the Hoya del Portillo.
The Refugio Poqueira website gives a very useful weekly report on the status of the unguarded Refugio Vivac La Caldera and Refugio Villavientos along with important information about the current snow and mountain conditions.
Guarded - The Postero Alto
Grid reference 819 100
Tel +34 616 50 60 83 or +34 958 06 61 10
January to June - Wednesday 1530 to Sunday 1700
July and August - open all the time
September to December – weekends, holidays and festivals
The Refugio Postero Alto makes a very convenient start point and is ideally placed to access the first northerly 3000m+ peaks of the Sierra Nevada. It lies at the foot of the Picón de Jérez at 1900m altitude and is good for accessing the Barranco del Alhorí, northern Sierra Nevada and indeed the ‘Los Tres Miles’ Integral.
Guarded refuge open at weekends and fiesta holidays (Easter, Christmas, New Year). Otherwise there is a winter quarters always open and available. Has beds for 65 persons in 7 dormitories. Canteen, bar, hot water, blankets, heating in all rooms. Free WiFi connection.
It is affiliated to the Federación Andaluza de Montañismo which has reciprocal rights with the major European alpine clubs (see above). Essential to reserve in advance, which can be done on line.
Is booking in advance necessary for the Poqueira hut?
Absolutely. Even more so now than in the past. The hut seems to be getting busier and pre booking in advance is essential to reserve beds and meals. In busy times (ie easter, christmas, new year) you may even be allocated a place on the floor therefore you will need a sleeping mat and sleeping bag as well.
Guardians: Rafael Quintero y Ansi Mosiero
Telephone: +34 958 34 33 49
Mobile: +34 659 55 42 24
What Alpine Clubs have reciprocal rights with the Poqueira Refugio?
To the best of our knowledge the following have reciprocal rights for reduced Poqueira Refugio hut and meal fees:
- Federacion Andaluza de Montanismo
- Austrian Alpine Club
- Deutscher Alpenverein
- Club Alpin Francais
- Italian Alpine Club
- Club Alpin Swiss
The affiliations normally run from January to December each year and are very good value. Rather surprisingly, the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) does not have these reciprocal rights with Andalucian huts.
By showing your affiliated card the price of a nights stay at the Poqueira hut drops from about 11 to 5 euros and a similar drop is experienced in meal costs (2008 prics).
If only climbing or trekking in Andalucia I would recommend the Federacion Andaluza de Montanismo. As we climb throughout the world we use the Austrian Alpine Club.
What guarded or unguarded huts and refuges are there?
We maintain a full list of both guarded and ungearded refuges, huts and shelters in the Sierra Nevada.
Weather & Climate
Climate & Conditions
Many misjudgments of the weather are due to the changing of the seasons and the related mountain risks that brings. Traditionally, the autumn and spring are the most unpredictable, as it may be t-shirt and shorts weather on the Costa Tropical, yet people could well be fighting blizzard conditions at 3000m. A fine day on the coast can lead unprepared and ill-equipped people into the mountains.
Strangely enough, the winter is more predictable. Most mountain goers seem to recognise that there is severe weather potential and at a bare minimum it will be very cold and windy. The Sierra Nevada does provide some reliable snow cover in the mountains from December to May.
Summer generally offers fine weather for high level walking and trekking- travelling light save for clothing required for the odd afternoon thunderstorm or cooling breezes.
One of the major benefits the Sierra Nevada brings is the stability of it's climate. Big high pressure systems sit over the area for months at a time in the case of summer and for long periods during the winter months. The downhill ski resort is said to be the sunniest ski resort in the world. Winter is the most unsettled and wettest period though and when bad weather does come in expect it to be generally heavy, violent and short-lived.
There are huge temperature differences between the various seasons. At 3000m in January and February the air temperature without wind chill can frequently dip below -10ºC. In July and August a normal daytime temperature at 3000m would be 15-20ºC.
And of course this huge variability between not only the seasons, but also the tremendous altitude differences between the high mountains and the costas is part of the attraction of the place!
- Weather Station & Webcams
Dehydration & the power of the sun
Here more than anywhere it is so important to keep hydrated. The intense sun and the high altitudes combine to suck the water out of the body. The reason most visitors have headaches or related problems here is down to dehydration.
Don’t forget that the sun and altitude are still working to drain your body of fluid, even if there is a seemingly cooling breeze and you are feeling fine. In summer make sure you take a minimum of three litres of water with you and make sure you drink it on a regular basis.
At all times of the year sun and lip cream are necessary. In the summer months a suitable sun hat covering the back of the neck is recommended. Many people prefer to walk the high hills in summer wearing t-shirt and shorts. Due to the prickly nature of the vegetation, the sharp loose rock and the propensity to burn the uncovered parts of the body, the advice is to cover up with long trousers.
The Natural World
116 of the 2100 catalogued plants are threatened and 80 of these are endemic and can only be found in the Sierra Nevada massif.
Artemisia granatensis (Sierra Chamomile) is endemic and is on the critical list due to years of being over collected for it's reported healing properties. Another endangered species is the Papaver lapeyrousianum (Sierra Nevada Poppy) which can only be found in certain areas close to the summit of Mulhacén (3482m).
One of the most fragile and unique ecosystems in the mountain range are the borreguiles and are home to many of the endemic species. 35% of the plant species that grow here are not found anywhere else in the world. During the spring you will find a beautiful carpet of alpine flowers and the only carnivorous plant that grows in the Sierra Nevada.
The only carnivorous plant in the Sierra Nevada is the Pinguicula nevadensis (Sierra Nevada Tirana) which grows in the wettest areas above 2500m where, depending on snow melt, it blooms in July and catches insects with it's sticky leaves.
Probably the most emblematic plant of the Sierra Nevada is the Estrella de las Nieves (Plantago nivalis - Star of the Snows) that has a legend of being the flower of eternal love.
According to the latest information over 60 species of bird live in the Sierra Nevada.
Birds of prey often seen include the Golden Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Short-toed and Booted Eagles. Many smaller species of birds of prey such as Kestrels, Peregrine Falcons and Goshawks are frequently spotted.
Griffon Vultures are common and seemingly dominate the skies during the late spring to autumn. The vulture is nature’s natural dustbin cleaner and does a superb job of clearing the land of unwanted carcasses. The successful re-introduction of the Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture), in a nearby mountain range means there is a chance that you will see one of these beautiful rare vultures visiting the Sierra Nevada.
The friendly Alpine Accentor is found above 2000m but seems to like the Mulhacén summit area in particular in summer. It is mainly resident but winters more widely at lower latitudes.
Skylark, Red-billed Chough, Wheatear and Rock Thrush are some of the few non raptors that can be seen. An winter visitor is the Ring Ouzel.
Mammals to be found include the Spanish Ibex, Fox, Wild Cat, Martens, Snow Vole and Wild Boar. There is a thriving population of Spanish Ibex (Cabra Montés) but they are now facing threats from illegal hunting and the fatal disease of sarcoptic mange.