Refugio del Poqueira

Trip Start Feb 04, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Spain  , Andalusia,
Sunday, June 26, 2011

Frigiliana's walking group has had an extra trip tacked on to the end of this season's programme. It's advertised as a trip up Mulhacen, which, at 3479m, is the highest mountain on the Spanish mainland. The brief details of the trip say it's going to be 30km and 1550m of ascent, which is a lot in the heat at this time of year. Fortunately, there's also an easier option - a visit to the Refugio del Poqueira, which is situated below Mulhacen, and this is a mere 17km. I think I can cope with the latter!

It's an early start from the village, and by 9.00am, our coach, with a party of about 24 on board, is passing through the village of Capileira, a well-known walking centre, which I've visited before. But until now, I was unaware of the road which zigzags up the hillside beyond the village. This eventually brings us to a parking and picnic spot at Hoya del Portillo. On getting out, my GPS tells me that we're at a height of 2140m - leaving only another 1350 or so to the top of Mulhacen.

This leads briefly to the delusion that I might be able to get to the summit today - an idea which is soon dashed as the rest of the party set off at lightning speed, leaving me and a couple of others trailing in their wake. Some of these people are seriously fit! Antonio, our guide, has run from the village of Trevelez to the top of Mulhacen AND BACK in only 3 hours - and that's a much bigger ascent than the one planned today. Several others have done the Frigiliana - Santa Fe walk, which is 70km of mountain walking, in a single day (normally you'd plan to take 4 days over this). And it looks like they were drinking rocket fuel for breakfast this morning!

So for the next two hours, I'm largely on my own, with only occasional glimpses of other people in the distance. It's a gradual ascent on a good track, with great views across to Veleta and also to Mulhacen itself in front. I only catch up with the main party when we get to the Alto del Chorrillo, a minor bump on the ridge at about 2700m. Some of them look like they've been here for half an hour! Here the party is going to split into the two groups. Most go for the top - I think I could actually make it, but I'd be holding everyone else up to an unacceptable degree and besides, I've already got half a notion to come back in September to do it in cooler weather and at my own pace.

So five of us form a "Group B" and amble gently downwards to the Refugio, which doesn't take long. This is a first-class Alpine-style hut, with dozens of beds and an excellent restaurant. We sit around on the terrace for several hours, eating and chatting, and waiting for the return of the Montaneros. There are regular calls on the walkie-talkie, which tell us how they're doing. When they do get back, it's 4.00pm and it's taken them over 4 hours from the point at which we parted. Some of them are well and truly whacked, but others still look like they've done no more than stroll up the High Street!

The return journey to Hoya del Portillo is a very pleasant one along a route parallel to the outward sprint. Must come back .....
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