Mulhacen Climb Spain February 2012
Mulhacen, 4th -5th February 2012
6 men flew out from Dublin to Malaga on Friday the 3rd February, to spend the weekend in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, attempting to make the summit of Mulhacen, the highest peak in Europeoutside the Caucasus Mountains and the Alps It is also the third most topographically prominent peak in Western Europe, after Mont Blanc and Mount Etna, and is ranked 64th in the world by prominence. We drove from Malaga to Motril and stayed in Motril on Friday night, and Saturday morning we drove to the village of Capileira located at about 1400m on the southern slopes of the SIerra Nevada’s. From Capileira we drove a short distance down a dirt track to an Electric Power Station which is where the trail-head starts. The weather was good, cold but clear blue skies and sunshine. We followed the track from the Power Station all the way to the Pocqueira Hut at 2500m elevation, about 5.9km away. This is a fantastic mountain hut, with great facilities, good food, good beds and a great atmosphere. Spain was in the middle of one of the coldest weather periods on record, as part of the early 2012 European cold snap that had badly affected Europe. We arrived at the hut around 4pm. It was already very cold, and the clouds were closing in. We played cards in the hut and chatted until dinner which is served at the hut around 7.30pm. Dinner was 3 courses of soup, pasta, and then chicken with mushrooms! Most of the people staying are either coming down from Mulhacen or on their way up and as such most is in bed between 10 and 11pm to prepare for an early start. The rooms were very cold, due to the freezing weather outside, and we wore our full clothes as well as sleeping bags and blankets.
We woke at 6.45am on Sunday morning, and breakfast was available at 7am, consisting of cereals, bread, pastries, tea/coffee/juice etc. We were the first group out on the trail for the summit at 7.45am, as the sun was rising. There has been some snow overnight, which made for beautiful scenery. We followed the track which leads west from the hut, before turning northwards up through the valley following the river towards ascending towards the west ridge. There was steep snowy slope which was more direct towards the summit and we decided to take this route to avoid the nigh winds on the western ridge. This climb was steep, requiring the axes for stability in places. The climb to the Mulhacen North summit (3483m or 11,425 feet) took approximately 5 hours, with crampons going on about halfway up, to navigate through the compressed snow and ice. At the summit, the temperatures dropped dramatically, so much so, that stopping for any more than 5 minutes was not an option. The wind-chill was a major factor, and visibility was only a few feet as a white-out enveloped the summit. We had a quick bite to eat, took on some water, took some photographs and got moving again, descending southwards towards the Mulhacen South Summit (3360m or 11,023 feet), and from here taking a SE bearing along the long gradual south ridge. When we reached the 4x4 track, then turned and followed a westerly bearing towards the hut. Visibility remained extremely poor all the way to the Hut but with map, compass, and GPS, navigation was good. It snowed continuously on the descent, with high winds, spin drift, and freezing cold temperatures continuing all around us. The round trip took 8 hours form the hut to the summit and back to the hut. At the hut the group split as two of us were flying back to Ireland the following day, while the 4 other lads were staying on another night. So after a quick break, and after paying our tab at the hut, 2 of us began descending further towards the Electric Station, which we did at a fast pace despite our tiredness, as it was beginning to get dark, and the weather was deteriorating further. We reached the car at around 7pm, more than 11 hours after we had set off from the hut that morning. Exhausted but delighted, we drove easy towards the small town of Lanjaron where we had a hotel booked. A hot shower, a good meal, and a well-earned few beers topped off a fantastic weekend in Spain!
The GPS file has day 2 starting before Day 1 for some reason, so be aware of that if downloading. Great video record of our trip here.
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