Autumn and Unfound Paths

THAT feeling has returned – the yearning that has its roots in the depths of the stomach and rises in a flood of warmth and expectation. All I did was raise my eyes towards the hills and behold streams of grey mist hanging from crags like lines of last week’s washing. And a voice inside said: it’s autumn and it’s time to seek out new places. There are strange scents in the air; you must stir; there are places to explore and unfound paths to tread . . .

So I pull a blue book from a suitcase – Andy Walmsley’s Walking in the Sierra Nevada – and digest every word between its covers. I’ve read it before, and bits of it many times, but now I read it again and trace its routes on a ragged map, because now I am living here – HERE, in the Sierra Nevada – and a more diligent and intimate approach to climbing mountains is required.

It is no longer enough to head for the high peaks, the 3,000m beasts which crowd the skyline between Granada and the coast. There are valleys where few feet tread; gorges and chasms; alpine meadows where flowers dance on spring winds; a network of mule paths and ancient irrigation channels; ruined farmsteads and tumbled mine buildings; airy ridges and expansive forests; and uninterrupted views to the sierras of the north, and, to the south, the distant coast and Rif mountains of Morocco.










I climbed Veleta, the second-highest peak in the Sierra Nevada, back in 2009, and the highest peak, Mulhacen (which is also the highest mountain in mainland Spain), the following year. Both are fantastic and challenging excursions.

But there is more to climbing mountains than visiting a cairn and ticking a name off a list. If this place is to become a home I need to wipe its dust from aching legs; shake its grit from my socks; squint into level rays of a setting sun; feel the sting of thrashing rain and the bite of hail; delve into oblique corners; watch constellations revolve from the darkness of its high meadows and awake in its dawns. I need to do all this and more. Much more.

And it all begins here. Here and now. Cooler winds are blowing. Clouds gather on dark ridges. There is a freshness in the air and the first snows have already fallen on the high peaks.

Time to dig out the boots, give them a good clean, and assemble some gear. Home is where the heights are – and they are all around.

A GUIDE TO THE SIERRA NEVADA
wammyMY first walks in the Sierra Nevada, Spain’s highest mountain range, were based on routes from Andy Walmsley’s guidebook Walking in the Sierra Nevada (Cicerone, second edition 2006). It’s a great book and I can’t recommend it highly enough, and not just because Andy is a Lancashire lad like myself.

Besides the walking and mountain-biking routes, Andy delves in great detail into a range of topics including topography, flora and fauna, climate, access, food and drink, suggested bases and mountain refuges. And, like all good guidebooks, Walking in the Sierra Nevada is an entertaining read.

For anyone contemplating a walking holiday in southern Spain, this book is a must. It is available on Amazon, in print and Kindle versions, here.

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About McFadzean

Alen McFadzean, journalist, formerly of the Northern Echo, in Darlington, and the North-West Evening Mail, Barrow. 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. Now lives in Orgiva, Spain.
This entry was posted in Climbing, Cycling, Footpaths, Hiking, Mountains, Ruins, Walking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Autumn and Unfound Paths

  1. Wow, what wonderful scenery! 🙂

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    • McEff says:

      Yes, and it varies from dry arid moonscape to green mountain pastures. Everything is very green at the moment because there has been some heavy rain.
      Cheers, Alen

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  2. Spectacular scenery, especially image five. The rock looks very dark, what kind is it? I’m waiting to see how long it takes you to find tumbled mine workings.

    However, there is something puzzling about images four and twelve. You look different without the bandana and in image twelve there is hair sticking out of the bottom of your hat. Is it one of those joke hats like people wear at Scotland and Ireland rugby matches?

    Liked by 1 person

    • McEff says:

      Yes, it’s a joke hat that’s lost its tartan bobble and the red hair has faded somewhat. That’s my explanation anyway. Others might point out that the pictures were taken three years apart and my hair had grown in the interim. But that’s not half so funny. On some walks I wear one of those ostrich suits that makes you look like your sitting on the ostrich but really your legs are the ostrich’s legs. Not easy to get your waterproofs on in a hurry, mind.
      I shall look into the geology because I’m not sure. Based on evidence gathered from the inside of our electric kettle, I’d say the lower slopes, at least, contain a lot of limestone. The upper, craggy bits appear to be more complex. Hmmmm . . . I’ll leave it at that for now.
      All the best, and thanks for the laugh, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hanna says:

    Hi Allan.
    It is encouraging reading and lovely pictures. The biggest challenge in the Spanish mountains may be the weather. The winds are different with influence of a shorter distance to the sea, and perhaps the change in the weather is quicker than you’re used to. I do not know!! The change is probably fast in England too 🙂
    As you say the first snow already cover the tops. There might be a big difference in temperature – the high mountains and the warm Mediterranean.
    What about the type of rock too? In Norway one quickly learn to spot slippery stones and so on. Anyway I know you have great experience in the mountains so do enjoy your new mountains.
    All the best,
    Hanna
    PS Short hair is cool hair – figuratively and literally 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • McEff says:

      Hi Hanna. Thanks for the tips. I’d get my hair cut but I don’t know how to ask for a short-back-and-sides in Spanish. These things come with time and experience, and having your hair cut isn’t something you want to make a mistake with.
      The weather can change suddenly and dramatically here. Yesterday was hot and dry, then last night a thunderstorm rolled out of nowhere and deposited several centimetres of rain. It might have fallen as snow on the high peaks – I don’t know yet.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Alen, what an wonderful post…I have caved in Spain many years ago but never climbed the peaks, they look magnificent! Autumn is a good time for hiking, apart from the obvious beauty, the cool breeze is certainly refreshing. I really look forward to reading of your adventures in your new home 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mbc1955 says:

    Ah, you lucky dog…

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  6. One of my friends was married to a Spaniard and they were going to lead mountain walks/holidays in those mountains. They look pretty spectacular! I can imagine it’s nicer to let the really hot summer go first though before you start tackling the mountains.

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  7. Jo Woolf says:

    Fantastic, Alen – all part of the process of putting down real roots. You explain it all so brilliantly, and I don’t doubt that you’ll be doing it, very soon. Those photos are stunning – what a spectacular landscape! Where was the second-to-last one taken – is that looking across to Morocco?

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Jo. Yes, that picture is taken from the summit of Ceilo, above the town of Nerja. If the sky had been clear, then the Rif mountains of Morocco would have been on the horizon. So far, I have only seen Morocco from a campervan window and not a mountain top. And I can’t see anything at the moment because the mist is right down – it’s just like Scotland.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  8. andywham says:

    Great read as always Alen, and great pictures, as many have said!

    Thanks for the kind comments on my book; when I look at it now I see a few things I could do to update but it will have to wait for the next reprint and perhaps my own move to Andalucía.

    Having said that, I’ve just returned from Asturias and the Picos de Europa. A fantastic place – spectacular in a completely different way to the Sierra Nevada. I’d really like to buy a house in the south AND the north but they’d both need to be small and very cheap… 🙂

    Cheers and keep the stories coming, they are great inspiration.

    Andy W

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Andy. Good to hear from you. We visited Asturias nine years ago but the weather was bad so I didn’t get chance to do any walking in the Picos. They certainly look spectacular, though. Hopefully, when we get settled and sorted we’ll have a run up there.
      Two houses sounds like a good idea but a lot of stress. We have discovered that nothing is straightforward when you attempt to buy a house in Spain!
      All the best, Alen

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  9. Beautiful landscapes Alen, and yet another area of Spain I need to explore! I just realised I’d not been following your exploits on the new blog. Rectified that now and it seems like life in Spain is going well.
    All the best, Paul

    Liked by 1 person

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