This has been a generally poor ski touring year in the Sierra Nevada but yesterday we did the west flank of Cerro de Caballo, above Nigüelas. A superb ski day!
Winter 2014 has been beset by a lack of snowfall and high winds. The snow level has been higher than normal and the constant scouring of the slopes by the winds has led to huge great tracts of ice, particularly on west facing slopes. Ski touring has been, in a word, tough! With the onset of spring the conditions have relaxed and the skiing is more amenable.
For day trips the most accessible area is at Pradollano where good tours can be done to the Tozal de Cartujo or Veleta. At the moment skiing from the car is possible. Outside this area be prepared for at least an hours walk to reach the snows.
Yesterday, after a late start to allow the snow to soften, we made the hour long journey by 4wd vehicle up the track to Fuente Fria above the village of Nigüelas. The track is in very poor condition and certainly 4wd territory.
At Fuente Fria a short walk leads to the stream crossing. Above here another 30 minutes should see you reach the lower snow levels.
Skis, skins and boots on. Then the slow glide uphill passing left of the prominent prow seen above you. Then a long climb left, then right to avoid the steeper and icier slopes. Up to 2700m the snow was hard snow/ice, requiring ski crampons for safe adhesion.
Above 2700m as we turned E towards the summit the cold winds hit us. The snow/ice turned to sheet ice. We put on our duvet jackets. Hard to believe that this was southern Spain at the end of April!
We reached the Collado del Caballo where a fine vista opened up over the Lanjarón valley and the distant 3000m giants of Veleta, Alcazaba and Mulhacén. Closer to hand Tajos Altos looked spectacular with large cornices overhanging its eastern face.
We avoided the actual summit which comprised of wind blown snow, anticipating the descent to come. We retraced our steps, walking the first section with crampons on ski boots. Skiing sheet ice is no real fun.
At 2700m we put on our skis and began the eagerly awaited ski descent. The snow had had time to soften by now and the conditions were superb. Big wide snow bowls and narrowing gullies. Perfect snow and nobody but us around as we made first swooping tracks and turns down the mountain.
Of course this is what the sport is all about. The hard effort to the mountain summit followed by the exhilaration of the descent.
So what of conditions for the month of May? Well, the snow levels will recede further uphill as the spring advances into summer. Expect a longer walk in to the snow anywhere outside of the Pradollano area. At Pradollano the old ski pistes should still be able to be utilised towards the end of May and the higher peaks will still have skiable snows.
I expect the Cerro de Caballo area above 2700m will have better skiing conditions than present but below this level things will be much worse. Suggest an early start and begin the descent just as the snow is beginning to soften. I have lived here 12 years and without doubt this winter has been the worst for ski touring. Lets hope that next year things return to normal.
If you want to join us for ski touring either in May this year or in winter 2014/2015 contact us. More information, photos, videos etc