A day in the Sierra Nevada doesn't have to reach a summit!

Its not all about reaching the summit, the overall experience matters!

A day in the Sierra Nevada doesn't have to reach a summit!
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People are driven to reach summits. It's in their nature. But in the constant drive to get to the top, much of the surrounding beauty can also be missed or ignored.

This is good news though for those who prefer to forgo the crowded mountain peaks and trails and disappear into their own world. A world of quiet, peace, tranquillity and superb natural scenery few others will get to see. One such day, we were privileged to enjoy yesterday.

Trip report from 12th August 2016

We caught the early National park bus from Capileira (08:30) to the Alto de Chorrillo at 2700m. It was crowded. Immediately every passenger alighting from the bus started up the long south ridge of Mulhacén (3482m) intent on reaching the highest point in mainland Spain.

Map showing route (opens in new tab)

Walking along the road to Caldera and Collado del Ciervo

Walking along the road to Caldera and Collado del Ciervo

The four of us continued on the old road towards the Caldera. Just us, no-one else. There was a cooling breeze, the air was very clear and the views far reaching. A nice easy introduction.

Alcazaba, Laguna de la Mosca. The Gran Vasar de Alcazaba is highlighted in the sun

Alcazaba, Laguna de la Mosca. The Gran Vasar de Alcazaba is highlighted in the sun

At the Collado de Ciervo we took in the magnificent vista of the huge vertical north-western faces of Alcazaba and Mulhacén. Our next target was the diminutive Laguna de la Mosca nestling in the valley far below. Easily reached on a steep zig-zag track.

Laguna de la Mosca and Alcazaba

Laguna de la Mosca and Alcazaba

The tranquil Laguna de la Mosca

The tranquil Laguna de la Mosca

The dramatic scenery contrast, Laguna de la Mosca

The dramatic scenery contrast, Laguna de la Mosca

The wildlife is much less timid around Laguna de la Mosca

The wildlife is much less timid around Laguna de la Mosca

The laguna is a botanists delight and full of colour and surrounded by stark mountain cliffs. Then we started on a flat shelf crossing the cliffs of Alcazaba. This is the Gran Vasar de Alcazaba. Although between two cliff faces the shelf is wide and there is no exposure on the route.

On the Gran Vasar. The platform for the Espolón in the distance

On the Gran Vasar. The platform for the Espolón in the distance

View from the Espolón platform

View from the Espolón platform

We left Felipe and Kiersten at a large platform. They were intent on climbing the Espolon de Alcazaba rearing above. Victoria and myself wanted to recce a route up through the crags on the northern side. We continued along the Gran Vasar to reach the pass between Puntal de las Calderetas and Tajos de Goterón.

Kiersten starts the Espolón de Alcazaba

Kiersten starts the Espolón de Alcazaba

The Gran Vasar looking north to Puntal de Vacares

The Gran Vasar looking north to Puntal de Vacares

The pass north of the Goterón

The pass north of the Goterón

Crossing the scree we hugged the base of the rock wall as we headed east, cutting through a couple of narrow rock walls along the way. At one point we stood in a very welcome shower of water pouring from the black rocks above. There is a lot of broken, loose ground and care should be taken. At last a cairned track is met which leads directly up to the start of the Paso de las Zetas. The key to the route.

Under the Tajos de Goterón

Under the Tajos de Goterón

Traversing towards the Paso de las Zetas

Traversing towards the Paso de las Zetas

Under the overhanging cliffs of the Tajos de Goterón

Under the overhanging cliffs of the Tajos de Goterón

Again there is no scrambling and by rough walking up a shelf slanting from bottom left to top right you emerge at a large cairn on the eastern shoulder of Alcazaba at 3100m. The passage from the pass below Tajos de Goterón and Paso de las Zetas took us 1 hour and 30 minutes. This is with light packs although we did spend plenty of time looking at our awe inspiring surroundings!

The cairn marking the top of the Paso de las Zetas

The cairn marking the top of the Paso de las Zetas

The alternative non scrambling route to Alcazaba summit would normally involve a long passage east via Piedra del Yunque. If you were to be doing Los Tres Miles Integral, the 4-5 day traverse of all the main summits of the Sierra Nevada then I believe over 2 hours (and much descent and re-ascent) may be saved by taking the Paso de las Zetas.

We met up with Felipe and Kiersten who had thoroughly enjoyed their adrenaline filled scramble and continued to the relaxing greenery of Siete Lagunas. A brief rest then along the eastern traverse to join the south ridge of Mulhacén and back to catch the last bus at 18:40.

A day of multiple valleys, lakes, contrasting scenery, endemic plants, vultures, eagles and above all ..... peace! Who need a mountain summit?

Welcome clouds on the way back to the bus

Welcome clouds on the way back to the bus