Just had a 2 day ascent of Mulhacen. We began at the best start point in winter which is the Cebadilla Electric plant in the Poqueira gorge. The ascent to the Poqueira Hut took 4 hours and we encountered tiring soft snow above Cortijo Tomas at 2100m. Fortunately, overnight the temperatures plumeted to well below zero, so by morning the snow was quite icy.
Donning crampons at the hut we easily ascended via the Rio Mulhacen on crisp snow. If you kept to the track made by others, we found good hard snow, but if you ventured away from the track then a plunge into metre deep powder was the result.
As the sun lit up the snows around us the snow slowly became softer and the going harder. We reached the Collado de Ciervo in 3 hours (in nomal conditions 2 hours). The going became even slower as we climbed up the western ridge, the altitude taking its customary toll. The great north face of the mountain yawned close by on the left.
Some respite was found at half height up the face as we encountered perfect neve and progress was easier. Thereafter we linked icy patches which provided easier going until we reached the summit. The ascent had taken 5 hours (normally 3.5). We were the only ones on the mountain at that time. The cold made for spectacular and clear views across to Almeria and to the African coastline.
As we were being picked up at the Cebedilla we had to retrace our steps back down the west flank. Below the icy patches, at about 3250m, we donned snowshoes and began an exhilerating and fast descent downhill. The sun was, by now very warm, the deep snow soft and mushy. By taking a direct and adventurous downhill lines we rapidly reached the base of the Rio Mulhacen track, where it joins the Poqueira hut traverse path.
Instead of traversing to the hut at this point the good snow encouraged us to continue downwards alongside the river. Lower down we traversed leftwards and regained the acequia leading to Cortijo Tomas. From here it was an easy but tiring return on tired legs to the start point at Cebadilla. The whole descent from the summit of Mulhacen to La Cebadilla had only taken 4 hours, a tribute to the value of snowshoes if those conditions.