This past weekend, tired of the bustle and grind of the city as well as seeking a reprieve from the beginning of school, my roommate Miles and I took a trip to the mountains. Granted, the expedition came at the behest of some tireless convincing on my part, but in the end we departed early Saturday for Las Alpujarras to climb Mulhacen, the highest peak on the Iberian Peninsula. Our backpacks filled with nothing but a few sandwiches and rain jackets, we caught a bus up into the Sierras. The trip took us on a winding road that climbed higher and higher through the magnificent landscape, passing by picturesque whitewashed villages that sparkled with rural Andalusian charm. After almost three hours we arrived in Capilleira, a small town set on a hillside that was very quaint and reserved in the mid-September heat. Following a quick lunch, we set off on our hike.
The trail quickly took us up above treeline as we followed the valley of the Mulhacen River up towards the peak. The massive Sierras loomed before us, and it was a great hike on a very hot day. We walked past herds of sheep grazing on the hillside and walked alongside an ancient Arab aqueduct system that is still in use today, funneling the alpine water down the valley to Capilleira. Miles, a city boy from Los Angeles, had the time of his life in the high mountains, completely awed by concepts of nature. After a steep final section of the hike we arrived at our lodging for the evening, the Refugio de Poqueira, a small hiker’s hut on the southwest face of Mulhacen. Spain’s highest peaks are accessible from the hut, open year-round, and it provided a comfortable, crowded stay to say the least. There was a good mix of Spaniards and foreign climbers at the hut, and it exuded an intimate charm reminiscent of the Slovakian lodges in the Tatras. Exhausted, Miles and I bunked down in a huge dorm, ready to tackle Mulhacen the following day.
We set off at daybreak on Sunday, catching the sunrise as we wound up the valley of the upper portion of the Mulhacen River. The ascent was quite steep, and Miles impressed me with his hiking capacity, having never previously experienced a high mountain ascent. Mulhacen stands at nearly 10,500 feet, and we gained nearly 3,000 feet of elevation on the route from the Refugio. We passed by some Iberian Ibexes on the way up, way cooler than Colorado deer because of their massive horns. Unfortunately Morocco was not visible from the top on a slightly cloudy day, but the vistas were great nonetheless. We descended back down to the Refugio, had a quick lunch, and then headed back to Capilleira. The trails were not marked incredibly well, and although we only got a little lost once, the wrong turn saw us scrambling along a hillside through a herd of wild sheep. Exhausted, we eventually made our way back to Capilleira in time to catch the last bus back to Granada for the weekend. Upon our return we had tortilla and stuffed eggplant waiting for us at home, and all was well in the world.
Following a difficult transition to a new life, new culture, and new customs, the trip to the Sierras was just what I needed to straighten out my mind. Yom Kippur fell on the first day of the hike, and while I did not fast (I rescheduled for Monday) I had an entire day outdoors to reflect on the tumultuous year that has just passed. The weekend was spent in a beautiful place, full of fresh air and natural splendor, and the roomie bonding experience Miles and I had was awesome. We started from the bottom and then were on top of Mulhacen, and I am extremely grateful and will keep the trip as a reminder to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the prettier aspects of Spain.