An article describing how to safely walk along the north face of Mulhacen on the "Vasar"
Leave the summer crowds heading up Mulhacen behind and instead have a go at the Vasar de Mulhacen which takes an improbable looking horizontal shelf across the seemingly vertical north face of Mulhacén to reach the peak of Puntal de Siete Lagunas. An adrenaline-filled but very straightforward walk to a superb summit with only one short section where the hands need to leave the pockets.
All photos taken on the morning of 13th July
Approaching the start point from the Refugio de la Caldera
We have done this many times during the day but perhaps the most rewarding time is in the early morning with the sun appearing on the peaks of Veleta and Cerro de los Machos. Some 50m before reaching the Refugio de la Caldera cairned paths lead back east rising to the Collado del Ciervo. A spectacular view of the precipitous northern faces of Mulhacén and Alcazaba opens up here with the diminutive Laguna de la Mosca nestling at the base. From this col follow a path just right of the west ridge of Mulhacén passing two small cols to arrive at another col below a large cliff and marked by a large cairn (10min). The way along the Vasar is obvious from here but most people at this stage will be thinking twice about the sense in continuing!
Commencing the Vasar
The Vasar makes use of a narrow, horizontal shelf crossing the face at about 3150m is sandwiched between vertical walls above and below. A helmet is advised for the Gran Vasar. Not because of the risk of falling, but due to the possibility of a rock being dislodged from above by either natural, animal or indeed human means. The path changes each year due to the months spent under snow, ice, avalanche and shifting rocks.
It starts with a steep drop down with a step over a steep drop to the left. Once completed the path winds its way in and out of the twists and turns on the north face. And once started and realisation dawns that all is well and it is indeed quite easy, you will begin to enjoy the incredibly dramatic situations. Surprisingly there is little exposure, although you are always aware of the steep cliffs above and below you. Care is needed with placing the feet in places. This route will not reward the clumsy! And the surprises keep on coming for right in the centre of the face a spring is met (named Fuente del Viejo Lobo) producing cold refreshing water even in the height of summer.
The initial exposed step
Due to its unique location this path is a botanists delight with many endemic plants to be found including the Sierra Nevada Violet (Viola Crassiuscula).
Steep walking in an incredible situation
There is just one short step that requires a steady head for heights. This is a step round a protruding boulder that crosses the path. Those of a nervous disposition may clamber round the back of the boulder instead without much difficulty. It is hardly scrambling.
The path round the back of the exposed block
View of the exposed block from beyond
The gently rising path then reaches the end of the Vasar and meets a zig-zag path coming up the scree from the Laguna de la Mosca to the left (El Corridor de Siete Lagunas). Simple walking leads to the Collado de Siete Lagunas between Mulhacén and Puntal de Siete Lagunas (3244m). The summit of the Puntal is a 5min walk away. This is one of the finest places to be in the Sierra Nevada, surrounded by crags and cliffs.
Light on Veleta, Los Machos and Puntal de la Caldera
Approcahing the end of the Vasar and meeting with the scree path to the pass
Note: if there is any snow remaining on the north face during early summer then the route should be avoided as this seriously ups the scale of exposure and difficulty!
The scree path up to the Collado de Siete Lagunas
Arriving at the Colado de Siete Lagunas
At the Collado de Siete Lagunas. Mulhacen NE face behind
5 minutes walk to the Puntal de Siete Lagunas