Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Mulhacén and back 4: descent

Thu 19 Jun
Mulhacén, Sierra Nevada

Descent: album

Coming down was harder than going up, largely because by that time my legs already had the going up in them. Fernando took us down via the incredibly steep Loma del Mulhacén. I hobbled down the first bit, doing my best to concentrate on admiring the view.

Admiring the view

However halfway down my legs gave up completely, stiff with cramp. Everyone gathered round and I was offered all sorts of physical treatment from stretching, which helped but not enough, to massage, which was tempting and which perhaps I should have accepted.

Fernando gave me some salt tablets, which I think was the key; you are conscious of being thirsty and needing to take on water, but you don’t realise how much you are perspiring, and as the sweat evaporates, with it of course goes your body’s salt supply.

One of the Explorers kindly lent me one of her walking sticks - she insisted she didn’t need two, though I was sure she had been using both of them on the way down. The stick was a tremendous help on the rest of the steep descent, enabling me to get to the bottom of the slope without cramping up again (well, almost).

Part way down we paused to look at the North Face from below, at close quarters. Most impressive. Surely people don’t climb that for fun? 

North Face of Mulhacén

Below it is a small lake, La Laguna de la Mosca (Lagoon of the Fly), which I imagine feeds one or other of the rivers that flow through the city of Granada.

Laguna de la Mosca

Strange to think that, on this northern side, the snow melt we were looking down on would eventually make its way across southern Spain - via the river Guadalquivir - to drain into the Atlantic, whilst the little lagoons we were heading down towards on the southern slope were making a beeline for the Mediterranean.

Southern lagoons

Once we got down to the lagoons we were on a track that more or less followed the contours back to the bus, and my legs began to feel as though they belonged to me again.

I am eternally grateful to Nevadensis - especially Fernando - for enabling me to do this walk, and to the people on the Explore trip and their guide Conal for accepting me into their group for the day, and helping me get through it. I’ve been wanting to do it for over 40 years, and if I were to leave it for another two or three years I probably wouldn’t be able to make it at all.

Although I do have some unfinished business up there - there’s all those flowers I didn’t manage to snap, and that final top rock I didn’t get up to . . .

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