And it was wonderful!
The mountains are awesome, everything from easy trails to full-on ridge scrambling (or harder!).
You may think that the slowly disintegrating road linking the two highest summits mean this area’s an easy day trippers stroll – just at high altitude – but don’t be fooled. Yes, there are some easy trails, but there is also some serious full-on wilderness scrambling and lots in between! (The road used to be the highest in Europe, but was closed in early 1990’s when the area became a national park, and now (mostly) makes a good off-road cycling trail.)
The best map of the region is the Editorial Penbetica – available in many tourist locations from information offices to campsites to souvenir shops. But be warned, Spanish maps aren’t up to OS standard, and this can can lead to an “epic” if you don’t understand the differences! The biggest difference is that areas that we’d assume are open moorland if looking at a UK Ordnance Survey map, are quite likely to have crags, cliffs or major impassable ravines – they’re just not shown! Often also there are more paths than the map shows, but there’s a few that are marked which really don’t exist – some of the terrain is just far too steep and crumbly! (If the rock was stable enough, there’s a path marked off Alcazabar which would be a good – and hard – climb, but that particular “path” is sadly little more than a very steep craggy choss heap!)
The snow this year has been fantastic over the winter – so there’s still large amounts in small pockets on the alta montagna (the 3000m peaks). Mostly this is fine without crampons and ice axe (its fairly slushy on top) but there are some parts where its quite dangerous – the route over what I now know is locally called “Scary Ridge!” is certainly decidely dangerous at the moment. This is one of the paths that’s “not really a path” – certainly not for pure walkers, as it requires a good degree of scrambling. Its current problem is that snow cover obscures where the route crosses the ridge line, and failing to follow the correct route can lead to head-first slides at speed down 45degree snow slopes – and that’s really not recommeded!