When we dropped our trainee guide , Clive Fenn, off at a high trailhead at 9 in the morning we didn’t expect him back for 2 or 3 days. Certainly didn’t expect him to stagger, totally spent, into our house at 11pm that same night, after a mega tough 14 hour walking day in the Sierras, including about 2000m of ascent and 3000m of descent!
To get him acquainted with the mountains and ridges encircling the Lanjaron valley in the southern Sierra Nevada we devised a 2 or 3 day excursion for him. Dropping him off at Puente Palo (1700m) above Cañar in the Alpujarras at 9am was the start. His 60l sack was filled to capacity with enough gear to withstand whatever the weather threw at him, including crampons, ice axe and high mountain tent and equipment.
By 12.30pm he had crossed the river and bypassed the Cebollar hut to reach to the col between Las Alegas and Tajos de los Machos. Here the rapid ascent to altitude took it’s toll as he labored up the ridge to the reigning peak of Tajos de los Machos (3085m), which he reached at 1.30pm.
Easier going ensued along the ridge towards the Elorietta hut. Crampons were needed here and a cold wind blew in from the west. The hut was reached at 3pm. Instead of staying here for the night he decided to make progress along the western arm of the Lanjaron valley.
The ridge to the Pico del Cartujo (3152m) was trickier than normal and care had to be taken negotiating rocks along the crest. Some steep icy slopes we met on the way to it’s summit.
Then it was rapid progress, necessitating crampons all the way, along the ridge via Tajos Altos to the col before the Cerro de Caballo (3009m). In desperate need of a drink he dropped down to the Laguna de Caballo. Here the idea of coming all the way back down to Lanjaron came to mind. It was only 6pm. Surely he could be back before 10, just after sunset?
Like many others that have gone before him though, he misjudged the length and distance that the Caballo is from the town of Lanjaron. For a start there is the drop of some 2400m, almost like coming down Ben Nevis twice! Then there is the complexity of paths that if not previously acquainted with can be a bit misleading.
To his credit, as the light faded and the sore spots on the feet turned to blisters, he kept going through the interminable descent. By the time he reached the outskirts of the town it was pitch black. Tired and weary he made his way back to our house by 11pm to be welcomed by our excited leonberger and husky dogs. Within a few minutes he was relaxing with some well earned beers and riojas! Good effort!
Spanish Highs Mountain Guides run guided day and multi day treks in the Sierra Nevada for walkers of all standards.