A night ascent of Mulhacen, highest mountain in mainland Spain

Our guide, James Jackson took a client and Spanish Highs faithful hound, Max, on a night ascent of Mulhacen, the highest mountain in Spain. Normally this is a glorious trip seeing in the new day. But, rather than seeing the spectacular morning sunrise they had hoped for, they were met with a full on snow blizzard above 3000m. Nothing like we reported in our article “Brilliant sunrise following night ascent of Mulhacen” some time ago. Some you win, some you lose! James takes up the story………….

Not stars unfortunately, snow flakes!

Not stars unfortunately, snow flakes!

We left Lanjaron at midnight in order to be on (or near) the summit for sunrise at approximately 6.50am. We intended to use the day-route rather than the more scenic two-day route. The day route starts at the recreational area of Hoya del Portillo, high above Capileira with the first half hour of walking taking you through a forest. It’s well known that most forested areas in the Sierra Nevada are home to many wild boar but I hadn’t really given much thought as to how many would be out and about in the middle of the night given that there would be no humans around. However, I was given a quick reality check as we drove round the final corner before parking the car when a huge wild boar the size of a hatch back ran in front of the car followed by three baby boar.

The nerves really hit me as we entered the forest and I immediately saw dozens of pairs of eyes reflecting off our head torches so I gave the client two sticks to keep beating together whilst I shouted “Piggy!!” at the top of my (trembling) voice whilst keeping a firm grip on new mountain guide Max (the dog). I knew that as long as they heard us coming, the boar would get out of our way but if we surprised them with the babies we would be in real trouble. Anyway we made it through the forest un-gored and very relieved and picked up the access road to the Poquiera Hut and followed this as far as the Mirador de Trevelez which took about two hours.

Dawn breaking. S ridge Mulhacen

Dawn breaking. S ridge Mulhacen

We had a quick break at the mirador and as we looked south toward the Mediterranean I saw a huge lightning storm and my first instinct was to turn back immediately. But it was along way out at sea and we had plenty of time to make a later a judgement on whether to turn back as the sky above Mulhacen was completely clear with amazing star-scapes . In the end, no thunderstorm made its way towards the Sierra Nevada.

From the mirador we picked up the feint path that takes you up the south ridge of Mulhacen. Sticking to the path was quite tricky with just head torches and no natural light due to no visible moon. The occasional cairn reassured us we were on track but I always had the silhouette of the South summit in the distance to navigate off. We hit a few residual snow patches left over from winter but nothing that really required crampons and Max had a great time playing with and eating the snow, I’m not sure if he’s ever experienced it before.

View towards the east

View towards the east

It was very unfortunate for us that at exactly 6.45am, five minutes before sunrise we got engulfed in quite a fierce blizzard with high winds that only lasted for about 30 minutes but by the time it cleared, sunrise was over and it was already daylight. At the this point we were just below the South summit and the client decided that she had had enough of the wind which would only get worse once we hit the main ridge line toward the North summit so we turned back.

As can often be the case in the mountains, by the time we got back to the mirador there was clear blue skies on the summit but at least it meant we would have nice views across the Trevelez and Poquiera valleys to the east and west on our walk back along the ridge. The return journey was much less uneventful than the ascent with no threat of lightning or maternal wild boar. Max got a bit of excitement from a group of large Ibex (mountain goats) which he was desperate to run after, but I had securely got him on the lead. We returned to Lanjaron for a well earned beer for breakfast after a great experience and my first night ascent. Looking back, the close encounters with the wild boar were really more exciting than scary but I think in future we will take a slight detour to avoid the forested area at night.

Make a night ascent of Mulhacen

James and Max. James is the taller!

James and Max. James is the taller!

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2 Comments

  1. Neal June 12, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Did you need crampons, an ice axe, or a helmet to do this climb?

    • admin June 13, 2011 at 7:12 am #

      Not via the south ridge at the moment. Via the west flank you will need axe and crampons

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