The National Park bus (book ahead) drops people off at around 2,600 metres leaving just over 800 metres to the summit of Mulhacen the highest point in mainland Spain. The walk is through moorland like scenery and is not particularly steep at any point; it’s just a bit of a slog on occasions that zigzags through the grass and scree that litter the slopes. There are cairns marking the way, but it’s best just to head for the highest point on the horizon, two of which are false. It was misty at the top (3482 metres) and the only clear views were of the rapidly shrinking glacial lakes in the cirques below. The peak of the second highest point, Pico Veleta, could be seen to the west and that of Alcazaba, the third highest, is just to the north-west connected to Mulhacen by a crumbling ridge that should not be attempted. This crumbling rock makes rock climbing a non-starter here – Pico Veleta is far better – but when it snows and the ice pinnacles form, the ice-climbing is supposed to be excellent.
Mulhacen should be treated with respect in the autumn and winter months. In 2006 and 2007 people had died on its slopes; avalanches are not uncommon as can be witnessed by some of the inclines. There are exposed ridges too and the winds have blown climbers to their deaths. Conversely, the snow that does fall here can make descending to the seven glacial lakes from the peak simpler than it is in summer. As if to illustrate the changing nature of the area, as we descended in bright sunshine with just a light breeze for company, high nimbus clouds were forming over Alcazaba, a portent of rain. That night the thunderstorms knocked out the power in our village.
Julian has written articles on Middle Eastern and European architecture for the US magazine Skipping Stones. He has written travel articles that were published in The Toronto Globe and Mail, Fate Magazine, National Catholic Register, and Northwest Travel. Julian has also written articles for the In The Know Traveler, Go Nomad, InTravelmag, and Go World Travel websites. He has also taken many photographs that have appeared in travel guides by National Geographic, Thomas Cook and The Rough Guides. Examples of his work can be found at http://www.photographersdirect.com/sellers/details.asp?portfolio=13734