Guest writer Ian Tupman describes a walk into the western side of the Poqueira valley, above Capileira
Last week I made a short trip back to Salobreña on the Costa Tropical. I had some business appointments during the week but I hoped to spend at least one day walking in the mountains. It rained heavily on the Friday night with more rain on the Saturday but the forecast for the Sunday was good.
I woke on Sunday morning to clear blue skies and a layer of fresh snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was going to be a lovely day. But how to avoid the groups of chattering ‘domingueros’ which would almost certainly be plodding the popular routes? And which trailhead could I reach in my hire car without damaging it? I consulted the map over an early breakfast and decided on a circular walk in the Poquiera valley with a possible extension to the Poquiera refuge.
On reaching the deserted village of La Cebadilla above Capileira, I was surprised to see only three or four cars parked there but it was only ten o’clock and the Spanish are not known for their early starts! The path climbs steeply away from the valley bottom and very soon I was enjoying the fresh morning air and sunshine . The browns, yellows and greens of the trees and bushes put on a wonderful autumn show and the only sound was birdsong warning of my presence….or were the birds just enjoying themselves as well?
After twenty minutes or so I cut left off the main path and took the zig-zig path which climbs beside the HEP pipeline. The top of the pipe is at 2,100m, an ascent of 600m from La Cebadilla. From there I followed the redundant Acequia de Sabinar which contours the west side of the valley. After the initial steep climb, this is easy walking with views of Pico del Tajo de los Machos to the west and Mulhacén straight ahead. Eventually, the acequia passes through a tunnel below a spur and it is necessary to climb steeply up and over the spur and rejoin the route on the other side.
The route crosses a small river, passes through a stand of poplar trees and then turns north. After a short while the acequia passes under an overhanging rock face. Although the ground at the side has fallen away in places, it is not dangerous in itself but a substantial timber handrail and steps have been provided to offer security to those of a nervous disposition.
Continuing across the Río Veleta, the route reaches Cortijo Las Tomas and rejoins the main path from the valley bottom. At this point, the peace and quiet were shattered by two separate Spanish groups who seemed to be competing for the title ‘Loudest Talkers’ whilst eating their lunch. Thankfully they were both on their way back down to La Cebadilla and, rejoicing at this news, I made the steep climb to the Poquiera refuge at 2,500m. I ate my sandwiches on the sunny terrace and watched as several groups returned from early morning ascents of Mulhacén, smiling faces and a few aching limbs amongst them. I noticed that hardly anyone was heading back to La Cebadilla. Instead they were walking up the track from the refuge towards Alto del Chorrillo, presumably to catch the national park bus back to Capileira. I later found out that the bus now runs until the road is blocked by snow but it’s probably best to check if you are planning on using it. Rested and refreshed, I set off on the descent to Las Tomas and La Cebadilla. Turning a corner, I found myself only a few meters away from the most handsome male cabra montes who seemed to be surveying his terrain and was completely oblivious to my presence. Such moments are the reward for making the effort to get into the mountains.
The sunshine and the autumn colours warmed my soul as I made my way down the valley and just under two hours after leaving the refuge, I was back at the car at La Cebadilla.
Did I find my ‘Sunday Solitude’? Well, yes I did. The route along the west side of the Poquiera valley is not well-known and there is every chance you that you will not meet anyone else, with the bonus that, in good weather, it also provides better views than from the valley bottom.