Not great news I’m afraid. We have some very dangerous mountain conditions above 2700m where there are extensive areas of hard ice on all slopes. Strangely, below 2700m, under thaw conditions then there are also some avalanche dangers.
We have been waiting for the warm sun to soften things up for some time now. A few days ago we were up on Cerro de Caballo and found that nothing has really changed in the past month. The main culprit seems to be the high temperatures, overnight freezing, lack of regular fresh snowfall and the almost constant strong winds at altitude scouring the slopes.
Why is this dangerous? On the face of it this should be a good thing for mountaineering shouldn’t it? The problem lies with the fact that there is just so much hard ice on the access to climbs that it will be difficult if not impossible to arrest any slip with an ice axe. If a strong gust of wind catches you off balance and you slip, to stop will be difficult. Indeed, there have been serious accidents occurring every week throughout winter 2014.
The accidents are not only happening to the inexperienced. Even experienced alpinists are getting caught out. These references from the past couple of weeks illustrate this.
MOUNTAINEERS ON NORTH FACE MULHACEN
MOUNTAINEER EASY ROUTE MULHACEN
The local spanish forums also show that the majority of hardened local mountaineers are not venturing out into the high mountains at all. Neither for ski touring nor for mountain routes.
What does this mean for your spring visit to the Sierra Nevada? You will have to carefully access what is and what is not possible. Do not take risks or play russian roulette! Take into account the exceptional circumstances this winter and act accordingly.
There should still be plenty of things available, but sights will necessarily have to be lowered and you should be prepared to be as flexible as possible.
Ourselves? We shall be running
- Ski touring – Caballo, Cartujo, Veleta
- Ascents of Mulhacen
- Basic Alpine courses
- Lower level trekking