On a recent trip to Spain, Evelyn and I were staying in the Alpujarras for a week of R&R – part of which was a planned hike up Mulhacén with an overnight stop at Las Siete Lagunas.
We set off from Trevélez (the highest village in Spain), with our alarm clock going off at 6:45am. It’s an hour later before we’re actually up and getting the tent packed away and the rest of our kit sorted. Breakfast is demolished – Alpujarran honey for extra energy.
Trevélez is steep and hard to navigate – this is probably the hardest part! Finally we near the top of the village and pick up our trail for Las Siete Lagunas. Rocky steps and a gentle plod as we wind our way out of the Trevélez valley. We pass small holdings, old shepherds, young shepherds on horseback and a few other fellow hikers. At the meadows (La Campiñela) we search out a very low looking spring, happy to find some water.
The final leg of the winding open trail brings us to the bottom of a steep waterfall. The going is tough and very loose in places – particularly with a large pack on your back.
However, we’re greeted with a magical sight! Las Siete Lagunas (the seven lakes) is a 3000 metre plateau, with one prominent lake feeding the waterfall. On higher, rocky ledges are the smaller lakes. It’s truly a magical place! There’s a chill in the air, but it’s so fresh. Ibex walk through our camp, two males duelling with each other – the clear winner, a hardened looking buck who investigates our camp with interest. We stow our food away, particually the cheese (which was our saviour on the way up)!
Feet are sore and legs ache. A wash in the ice cold spring and a spot of mountain yoga to loosen the legs.
We crawl into the tent early – after tea – to get warm. We’re apprehensive about tomorrow’s climb, but equally apprehensive about how cold it is up here. Will we be warm enough tonight? Ev hopes the Ibex won’t break in!
Why do we want to climb up a mountain?
- So we can feel comfortable when we get down?
- It’s Fun?
- Something new?
As we lie in the tent, slowly warming, I can’t help but notice how quiet it is. Apart from the odd munch of grass (I assume this was the Ibex, not Evelyn) and the odd whistle of the wind over the mountain tops, there are no other sounds. Deathly quiet.
The next morning we are greeted by the sun as it comes into view, its warmth rapidly filling the tent. It was a cold night, we were only just warm enough. It’s hard to gauge what kit you’ll need when the lower valleys are 30ºc. We stay in the tent for awhile, allowing the sun to warm our bones. I grab the down jacket and unzip the tent, the cold air pours in. I take a lung full of fresh mountain air and step out.
The view is stunning, fresh and awe-inspiring. Mulhacén’s peak bears down on us, beckoning.
With the cold night, the springs being dryer than normal and a limited supply of cooking gas, we decide to head down that day. But not without summiting!
Quickly water is put on the boil for tea. Kit is packed and divided into things we don’t need for the top – carefully hidden amongst the rock fields.
A long barren climb gets us to the top at 12:00pm, 3479 metres.
The top is overwhelming, we feel woozy, with a mild sense of anticlimax. The trek up and the over night camp were, in many ways, more of an experience than reaching the summit. Perhaps we prefer being in the mountains, to being on top of them.
It’s a long way down. Just a day earlier we were looking up at these huge mountains. Suddenly we’re looking down on them as if they’re insignificant!
We make a good pace in our descent – 1 hour back to our kit at Las Siete Lagunas. A tricky climb down the water fall (with slightly lighter packs), then a good pace on the open trails (this would be an awesome descent on the mountain bike!). Our spirits start off high and we’re almost skipping down the mountain. Energy fades as we near the end. Legs hurt and we drag ourselves through the streets of Trevélez (again the hardest part of the day).
Straight into the first hostel we find. After a few days camping, even the most basic hostel seems like luxury. Bliss!