In the Realms of Glory on Cerro del Trevenque

trevenque 1 trevenque 1ACERRO del Trevenque is a dwarf among giants. It does not feature largely in the history of mountaineering. It probably doesn’t even warrant a footnote. But it is a mountain gem that shines like a badly-cut diamond above the red roofs of one of Europe’s most ancient cities.

Trevenque could be accurately though unfairly described as one of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada – Spain’s highest mountain range and Europe’s second highest outside the Alps. But it possesses more character than the humping great leviathans that loom behind its shoulder and block the morning sun.

Trevenque is 2,079 metres (6,820ft) of spiky Mediterranean scrub, wild lavender, crumbly stone, crunchy sand, twisting paths, rocky ridges and airy towers. It gazes down upon a bewildering labyrinth of narrow valleys that reach towards Granada. It is one of many pleasures in a land that uplifts the soul. Let me tell you about Mary, Joseph, a little black donkey and Trevenque on Christmas Eve . . .

trevenque 2IT’S that cold dark hour before the sun rises. The motorway between Motril and Granada is quiet as I head north over the pass of Suspiro del Moro. I can see snow on the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada away to the east and street lights glimmering in villages. Apparently the churches in this area used to be floodlit at Christmas – but now they turn off the lights and give the money they save to the poor.

On the outskirts of Granada I turn down a sliproad into a strange landscape of business parks, orchards, trading estates and fields of broad beans. Then into La Zubia, a town that has its roots in fertile plain but streets that climb with the mountains, clinging to the shins of the Sierra Nevada as they rise towards the snow. Beyond La Zubia the tarmac roads give way to dirt tracks and piny forests. As I reach a bumpy parking area at Collado Sevilla, the sun lifts itself above a ridge and floods the land. Suddenly it’s Christmas Eve.

trevenque 3Trevenque. There it is above the trees, a thoroughly impressive pyramid of grey rock against the white snow of the high sierra. I’m following Andy Walmsley’s Walking the Sierra Nevada, a Cicerone publication and no-frills guide I’ve used several times over the years. My map is the 1:40,000 Sierra Nevada by Editorial Penibetica, which is also no-frills and has had its seams reinforced at least twice with liberal applications of sticky tape. One day it will fall to pieces and I’ll be chasing bits across blustery mountain tops.

From the parking area there are three routes to the top of Trevenque. The first is a stony path along the crest of Cuerda del Trevenque, the undulating main west-east ridge; the second is an abandoned and deeply-rutted dirt-road that winds beneath the ridge and ends abruptly several hundred metres beneath the summit; the third is a waymarked path that meanders between the two. All converge before the final and incredibly steep scramble to the summit.

I choose the first option because this is Walmsley’s preferred route, but about halfway along the ridge I decide it undulates a little too excessively for comfort in the warming morning and switch to the dirt track. This is much longer but easier on the knees. And it saves enough breath to whistle carols.

trevenque 4 trevenque 5 trevenque 6 trevenque 7The final pull to the top is a killer. I stand at the end of the dirt road, staring up at a towering wall of bright rock. Walmsley says to “aim for the obvious green slope in the middle of the face”. This apparently “leads easily to a gap in the shattered crest of the south-east ridge”.

I can’t fault these instructions except for the word “easily”. It’s a steep slog up crumbly rock. But a good path winds its way in sharp zigzags into what appears from below to be a pretty inhospitable place. Once on the south-east ridge, a short and delightful scramble leads over jumbled boulders to the summit.

trevenque 8 trevenque 9Spain is an enchanting country in which to walk because of the unexpected. Walmsley says of Trevenque: “A long red and white pole with a red flag is sometimes found crowning the top, but sometimes it is absent.” There is no pole today, but on the metal tube that holds the pole someone has created a tiny nativity scene with a plastic Mary, Joseph and little black donkey.

trevenque 10So I sit there in the sunshine, in this not-so-bleak Spanish midwinter, gazing in awe at the snowy peaks of Veleta, Tozal del Cartujo and Cerro del Caballo many hundreds of metres above me, and down upon the magnificent serrated ridges of the surrounding foothills to the distant smudge that is Granada. And in the peace and solitude, as small birds flit among grey boulders and warm winds sigh from the piny forests, I wonder why the little baby Jesus isn’t included in the nativity scene.

trevenque 11 trevenque 12 trevenque 13 trevenque 14 trevenque 15 trevenque 16Then, as I begin my descent from Cerro del Trevenque’s tranquil summit, it occurs to me that it’s only Christmas Eve. The little baby Jesus hasn’t arrived yet.

Will some unknown person make the arduous ascent tomorrow morning with a little plastic baby Jesus? Should I return bearing a plastic lamb or some plastic frankincense, and perhaps some Brussels sprouts and parsnips as a gesture of peace and international goodwill? There’s only one way to find out.

trevenque 17ADDENDUM:

AS it happens I didn’t return on Christmas Day. The weather was foul, with low cloud shrouding the mountains and 40mm of rain falling, much of this settling as snow on the Sierra Nevada. Also, our hosts in Orgiva invited us round for a splendid Christmas dinner. But remaining unshaken, I have every faith that a plastic Angel Gabriel and heavenly host descended from on high, and a little plastic baby Jesus was laid in a manger.

What I can tell you, and the importance of this cannot be overstated – especially for those contemplating spending Christmas in Spain – is that Spanish farmers have responded to the pleas of wandering Britons and are now producing sprouts and parsnips. Didn’t see a Terry’s chocolate orange or a bottle of Mackeson anywhere, mind.

FOR HIGH-RES VERSIONS OF THE PICTURES, CLICK AN IMAGE:

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About McEff

Alen McFadzean. Journalist (recently made redundant from The Northern Echo when my job and the jobs of my colleagues were transferred to Wales to be done by people on lower wages), former shipyard electrician, former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still.
This entry was posted in Climbing, Environment, Footpaths, Hiking, Mountains, Walking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to In the Realms of Glory on Cerro del Trevenque

  1. Hanna says:

    In one way or another, I was thrilled to find out if someone had made ​​the ascent to bring order to the religious tableau. It’s funny how the little things can capture your mind:-)
    All the best!
    Hanna

    • McEff says:

      Hej Hanna. If I’m over there next Christmas, which I very well might be, I shall climb Trevenque from the other side and follow the brightest star to the summit.
      Cheers, Alen

  2. rthepotter says:

    Fantastic way to spend Christmas Eve – and thanks for posting it.

  3. Jo Woolf says:

    Your stories are always fascinating! Did you know about the nativity ‘sculpture’ at the top of Trevenque before you climbed it on Christmas Eve, or is that a truly divine coincidence? It seems strange to see hills so dry – not a blade of spagnum moss in sight. Wishing you a Happy New Year!

    • McEff says:

      Hi Jo. No, I had no idea it was up there. And they were only made of light plastic so a wind of any sort would have knocked them over. So perhaps there was a divine hand at work somewhere. Everywhere is dry over there – even the rivers are low. But the land in the valleys is a vibrant green – much, much greener than in summer. It’s very pleasant.
      Happy New Year to you too.

  4. That would have been an amusing and lovely summit surprise! Looks a bit hard of access that peak though…
    Carol.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Carol. It looks a bit daunting from below, but in reality it was just a stiff climb with a bit of easy hands-on stuff near the top. The worst bit, which I haven’t mentioned in the piece, was coming down. I took the wrong route by mistake and nearly got into difficulties, having to retrace my steps somewhat gingerly. All good fun though.
      Cheers, Alen

  5. Tracey says:

    Those views look stunning. It does look a little bit warm and dry though, not what us Brits are used toat all. But I would love to visit and climb some of them mountains myself one day.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Tracey. It’s very dry, but the temperatures are what I’d call “fine autumn day in England”. It’s very easy to get used to.
      Cheers, Alen

  6. David says:

    Fantastic views, what wonderful way to spend Christmas Eve.

    • McEff says:

      And not only that David, there was sherry and mince pies afterwards. The down side is that, working on a daily newspaper, it was the first Christmas break I’ve had for 21 years and probably the last. Hey ho.
      Cheers, Alen

  7. geoff says:

    That looks an interesting place to walk.

    • McEff says:

      It’s great, Geoff. I’ve been to the area four times now and it gets more interesting the more familiar I become with it. I expect we’ll be back sometime later this year.
      Cheers, Alen

  8. Another one added to my list :)

    • McEff says:

      Hi Alex. Back from the honeypots of Madeira I see. Yes, Trevenque is a little beauty. A pleasant stroll, not too arduous, with a rocky twist at the end. Perfect for a day when you have to be back early.
      Cheers, Alen

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