[alert style=”success” close=”false”]We spent an extremely cold November night in a refuge in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Hard to believe that this was in fact southern Spain![/alert]
In the Sierra Nevada mountains of southern Spain we can expect some bad weather in November. This is normally the month when the major snows fall. We had a three day crossing of the mountain range booked for four clients in the last week of the month. Up to then we had “endured” endless days of blue skies and sunshine.
Sod’s law then, that we started off, from the Hoya de la Mora on the northern slopes of Veleta above the Sierra Nevada ski area, just as the grey skies turned darker and the mists started to descend.
Fortunately this area is well known to us, as we have been up here in bad weather many times since we arrived in the Sierras in 2002. The lay of the land becomes more familiar with every passing. We slowly ascended through the deserted ski pistes and onto the open slopes above.
Now it became full-on white out conditions with a bitterly cold northerly wind biting and tugging at our clothing. No part of the face or hands could be exposed for long. As we neared the first goad of the high ski road near Los Posiciones on the northern shoulder of Veleta at 3100m, the altitude also begins to take a toll. And this is supposed to be “fun”!
With conditions deteriorating we shuffled along the high ski road. Although being of simple gradient we had knee deep snow drifts to impede our progress. Waterproof jackets and pants began to turn white as the ice stuck to the fabrics.
Rounding a corner we arrived at the Collado de Carihuela at nearly 3200m. A few metres above the col stands the Refugio de Carihuela, perched in a magnificent location astride the ridge. But of course, our views that day were just a sea of dark grey mist intermingled with the odd rock poking out from the accumulating snows.
We ran into the relative peace and calm of the refuge. For the initial ten minutes we almost basked in the relative warmth and dryness of the refuge. Gradually though the all encompassing cold began to creep into our bones!
We got the pans out and started to melt snow for water. Well that was the excuse. I suspect the real reason was to warm the iced up finger ends! Soon we had all cookers blasting out condensation into the air, which of course immediately froze back onto our clothing!
My god it was cold! Temperatures overnight at Borreguiles (2500m) dropped to -14 degrees centigrade. Up at 3200m it may well have been -16. After a rushed evening meal at 8pm, we did the only sensible thing and got into our sleeping bags, fully clothed. Quick. Somebody pinch me. Surely this isn’t southern Spain?
I have to say that once in the sleeping bag my feet and hands slowly started to come back to life, but I spent a restless night listening to either the howling of the wind outside or the grunts and snores of my fellow compatriots.
I woke prompt at 7am. I could still hear the wind. Were the mountains still under a blanket of grayness? I slowly opened the refuge door and was greeted by the views below. Wow! Everything suddenly became worthwhile. The world had changed from black and white to colour. I had travelled from Kansas to Oz!
More photos from that day