Describes a lovely summer walk from Pradollano ski station to the Refugio Elorrieta, with it’s magnificent views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Access the walk from Borreguilles, above the Sierra Nevada ski town. In summer months a gondola and chairlift take you to nearly 3000m on the slopes of Veleta. Yesterday though we had another objective. The Refugio Elorrieta sat at nearly 3200m on the southern side of the Tajos de la Virgen ridge.
I was working as a guide for Mamut Sierra Nevada who were running summer “Immersion in English” courses for spanish children. This meant I had to speak english to spanish kids all day. Not as easy as it suggests!
From the top of the Veleta chair a waymarked path winds it’s way down towards the Collado de las Yeguas and hence to the lake of the same name (30 mins). The Embalse de las Yeguas is in fact a reservoir but is still a pleasant place to rest on hot days.
From here a slight rise brings you to the idyllic ”Lagunillas de la Virgen” (1hr). A series of small lakes set in dramatic surroundings. Sitting by a lake and you will start to notice the abundant and resilient flora and fauna that clings to the mountainsides.
From here a traverse below the Tajos de la Virgen ridge follows. It is rough but on a well graded track. Make sure you take the pace slow and steady as you are now above 3000m and the altitude is felt if you progress too rapidly.
The track passes some rough terrain, before taking zig-zags up a sleep slope. Above here, easier going leads to the welcome remains of the Refugio Elorrieta (2+ hours total).
This is one of the best and most expansive viewpoints in all the Sierra Nevada. To the south the 3000+ ridge trails off over the mountains of Cartujo, Tajos Altos and the Cerro de Caballo. To the north Veleta and Cerro de los Machos hold the eye. The highest peak in Spain, Mulhacen, is prominent to the NE. Away to the south, Salobreña on the Costa Tropical can be seen as can the hideous plastic greenhouses towards Almeria.
The Elorrieta hut itself is a sad place. Totally run down and a relic of a past age. Acción Sierra Nevada are actively attempting to restore the hut. They need funds and help from the mountain going public to assist with the work. Please support if you can? The next meeting in on the 14th July 2012. Meet 8am at Hoya de la Mora. Bring spades, shovels, buckets. We are to ascend to the refuge work on the water tank.
As we sat and ate our lunches a small group of ”Alpine Accentors” came to visit. A small and rather undistinguished bird, it is normally only found at the higher altitudes. A speckled reddy brown breast and a line of darker sub feather give the game away. It is a friendly little bird and always nice to see.
Then it was time for the descent back to Borreguilles. We retraced the route to Embalse de las Yeguas before trending left on a good track and dropping down to the ski buildings. Waiting transport took the children back to Hoya de la Mora and town but I prefer to walk down through the empty, deserted ski pistes.
This is a nice day trip to do with the family. Lots of interest and plenty to occupy inquisitive minds!