We were shivering from the cold, huddled together under one of the sleeping bags we had brought and looking down hundreds of feet at the rocky landscape from our little ledge at the peak of El Veleta. The sun was a slice of watermelon in the distance. As it crested over the mountains, it looked like someone was beaming a red laser at a spot just above the peaks. We were a already a bit tired, hungry, freezing, and only about a quarter of the way to our final destination…
Flash back to a few weeks prior: dear José PAR (crazy man!) talked me into climbing up the two tallest peaks of Spain, El Veleta and the Mulhacén in the Sierra Nevada right outside of Granada. I traveled to Spain with only a (large) backpack for the 2 months I was going to be there, and in the packing process I had not included provisions for hiking a mountain, much less for temperatures bordering freezing. I mean, it’s the middle of summer in southern Spain; why would I need anything other than shorts, sandals, swimsuits and dresses? ☺ Luckily, this sweet man packed me all the things I needed to not suffer too much, at least from the cold.
José and his crew, Biciaventura, left Brenes (a town north of Sevilla) at around midnight on Friday, swung by Granada at 2:30am to pick me up at an intersection, and onward we continued to a ski station. At 4am Saturday we were running (at least that’s how it seemed to me!) by moonlight up the face of a steep mountain to reach our destination for the sunrise. After 3 hours of grueling hiking, we finally made it!
And. It. Was. MAGICAL! Absolutely one of the most rewarding moments: watching the sunrise over snow-capped peaks in the middle of July in Spain after a long hike. That will be ingrained in my memory forever.
We “rested” for a bit, then began the trek down to have breakfast and start the second leg of our excursion. This is where it got tricky- there were still snow patches hanging around on the ledges, and many times we had to walk on the slippery, melting snow that was covering the paths. It was a bit unnerving, I must say… Not to mention the fact that somewhere along the first part of the hike I had injured a little muscle at the top of my left leg which disabled me from lifting it past my right leg to climb… It became quite unbearable after a while, and although my mind was strong and determined, I could not make my leg function like I wanted it to. Frustration quickly set in, and I doubted whether I was going to be able to make it to our destination.
I was so lucky to be in the company of such a friend as José, who was patient and supportive the whole way. We made it to the refugio where we rested only for a bit before the others were ready to hike the tallest beast, the Mulhacen. I wanted to go with all my heart, but wasn’t sure it was the best idea given the status of my leg. I decided to tag along and if it became too painful, to turn back. It can’t hurt to try, right?
Well, on the way up, José had lots of little tricks up his sleeve to help me when the going got tough. We tried tying a rope around my waist and his, and him tugging me. We tried him pushing me. Me holding on to his backpack. But the best method was just using little hiking poles to support my weight. Oh the pain, though! But as I said, I was quite determined and did not want to give in.
And ohhh! Am I glad I didn’t! After about 1.5/2 hours of climbing, we finally reached the top of the Mulhacén. It was a breathtaking view! One of the most incredible feelings was standing on that peak considering how difficult it had been for me to get up there- it was an amazing accomplishment for me. The best part- one of my favorite signs- was the hundreds of butterflies fluttering around the peak, in and out of the crevices, riding the wind. I have no idea why there were so many butterflies there, but it was spectacular! Another amazing thing was doing this side by side with one of my favorite people in the world.
We went back down the Mulhacén, having conquered the monstrous mountain, ate lunch and took a mega-nap. After 10 hours of hiking we deserved it! Later, as I didn’t want to have a lot of soreness in my muscles, I walked down to a little lagoon/pond that was the most beautiful blue, still water. The melting snow creates them in the summer. I knew it was going to be cold, but again, I was determined to gut through it and try to recuperate my muscles. I waded in a few times, and the last time, some Guardia Civil (the national police of Spain) were walking by and yelled at me (!!). They said I was going to ruin the aquatic environment with my humanness! HA! I understand that we track things that are foreign to those environments, but geez.. you don’t have to be a jerk about it.
The rest of the day was spent just hanging around and resting. Oh, and doing yoga at the foot of the tallest mountain with yours truly as the leader of the Biciaventura crew!
After spending the night in the refugio with about 15 other people, among them a snorer and a cell phone alarm that went off every 5 minutes around 5:00am, we packed up our things and started the trek back to the car, feeling proud and at peace in such company as the majestic Sierra Nevada of southern Spain, and feeling closer to each other. I love experiences that bring people together, and even more so when they include nature 🙂