This week’s highlight and probably this year’s so far, was an overnight photography trip on Mulhacen, the highest mountain in Spain at 3482 metres. It was a long climb, but the descent was far worse. My muscles are still complaining if I try to walk downstairs!
Overnight on Mulhacen, laden with camera, lenses, tripod in addition to camping gear was always going to be a challenge! To put this into context, I once climbed Croagh Patrick in Ireland (764m) with a picnic hamper and three friends. Several years later I climbed a couple of Munros, most likely Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin outside Edinburgh for charity and that’s as far as my mountaineering experience went, until this week.
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We drove to Capileira, the highest village in the Alpujarras and swapped the car for a minibus to Alto de Chorillo at 2700m. This location at the foot of Mulhacen is inside the Sierra Nevada national park and beyond the area where cars are allowed. Bus is the only way to get there. €10 one way.
After disembarking from the minibus, we took the longer and more challenging scenic route on foot, including the awesome Vasar de Mulhacen, a narrow path of about 100m length across the north face of Mulhacen with a drop of maybe 700 feet to the Collado de la Mosca, a lake much used by wildlife; Ibis, Birds and insects. Their lake is fed from a spring in the rock face just below Collado de Siete Lagunas where we refilled our water flasks and approached the last 200m climb to set up camp for the night.
A wind that might be described by an optimist as “freshening” was blowing quite strongly on the plateau and compared to the Lecrin Valley at 40 degrees, it was bitterly cold!
Camping out on Mulhacen was extraordinary, Wrapped up in my sleeping bag I was able to watch the Milky Way in completely clear skies. A majestic experience that I will certainly photograph at some point soon. I eventually fell asleep around 3am and woke to the dawn and the sight of an eagle riding the air currents lit sporadically by the rising sun.
After a photography break when I shot a panorama of the seven lakes on the plateau below, we headed down the south side to Laguna Hondera at 2900m where we had coffee and breakfast before pressing on to the Chorreras Negras waterfall and the Refugio Campanuela at 2400m.
A brief rest to take on some energy bars and water and we set off to Trevelez which took around another two hours. The descent began at around 8am and we were in a bar in Trevelez by 2pm. The vertical descent was around 1500m!
This was a tough hike, make no mistake. I was carrying a 14 kilo bag packed with camera equipment, clothes and food. Much of it was unnecessary. And some things I didn’t bring, I should have.
I could easily have done without –
- Powerpack – there is no phone signal on top of Mulhacen!
- Sunscreen – pack a smaller bottle next time
- Multitool – just too heavy, could have stayed at home, it was only one night.
- 700g nuts, raisins and dried fruit. I barely touched it. Would take around half that much in future.
- 1.5 litres water – I carried 3L, but there are springs to refill on Mulhacen, Water is really heavy!
- 24-70mm lens went unused.
I should have added – more clothes for the night. While it was 40 degrees in the Lecrin Valley, it was around 10 on Mulhacen with a severe wind chill factor. I was very cold indeed and consequently missed the opportunity to take pictures of the Milky Way with no light pollution at all.
The Sierra Nevada National Park
There are some regulations affecting your time in the Sierra Nevada National Park that are enthusiastically enforced.
- No Drones – the air on Mulhacen belongs to the eagles and vultures that you’ll see riding the updrafts. Either would make mincemeat of a drone making a nuisance of itself and in any case its illegal to fly them there.
- Camping – you can only pitch a tent at nightfall and wild camp. Difficult to see this one being enforced at 3000m, but at ground level it certainly is a thing.
Check out my previous post Hiking in the Sierra Nevada for details of a slightly easier day trip. I’ll be adding to the articles over the next few months.
Overnight on Mulhacen
This is a bucket list photography trip. Something everyone should do once. It’s a tough climb but it’s unique and not that well known outside of Spain. You’ll need a guide (human), good boots and proper clothes. The rewards are fabulous views and a once in a lifetime opportunity to grab some really unique pictures.
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