Ingeborg climbed Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountains reaching the top of Mulhacen, the highest inland peak, Sietske Meerloo shares the adventure story.
I am a 53 year old Dutch woman and I feel a bit nervous because I don’t really know what to expect of the trip I am about to embark on. I became an avid hiker three years ago and my most challenging adventure to-date was 110 kilometres through Swedish Lapland.
My dream is to reach the top of Kilimanjaro and so I thought climbing some peaks in the Spanish Sierras would be a good test.
I travelled from Holland to Malaga, Spain, rented a car and drove to the village of Lanjaron in the Alpujarras. There I meet my co-walkers and our guide.
After we said our hellos we are driven up by 4-wheel drive and dropped off at 2250m. My backpack seems bigger compared to what the others seem to carry and I worry I’ve taken too much stuff. We start our climb at noon and hope to reach an old hut, a ‘refugio’, at 2400m. The forecast isn’t promising with a possibility of rain and thunderstorms.
We don’t ascend a lot and mostly walk along the flank of the mountain. Safe and dry we reach the refugio. The guide decides we will stay the night here. Wonderful! We leave our heavy luggage behind and before the sun sets, we set off with hats, gloves and rainproof clothing to visit waterfalls that are beautiful, crisp and clean. It is June in Southern Spain and on our walk back it snows.
When I wake early the next morning, I am mesmerised by the slow appearance of the sun from behind the mountains. It is a stunning morning with clear blue skies.
While walking, I need to rest regularly to catch my breath. I am not used to the altitude and walking these mountains is tough. Especially the descents are a strain on my knees.
The terrains that we walk through are covered with wild thyme and rosemary. As you brush a plant, the scent is released into the air leaving a wonderful perfume trail. The terrain changes all the time and the number of rocks increases steadily as we climb.
Then an unfortunate thing happens: I twist my knee! I can’t believe it, I was so careful and now I sit here motionless wondering what to do. The guide, Felipe, decides to carry my backpack and I struggle to walk. As we’re having a break and I find myself in the most beautiful surroundings, I decide that I haven’t come this far only to go back by helicopter! I strengthen my resolve and continue walking. Once I get into a gentle rhythm, my knee begins to feel better.
The team decides to ease me of the burden of my backpack. What a wonderful gesture and it makes a big difference for me. A few hours later we arrive at a crisp and still lake where we make camp. This long day has come to an end and the pain is less.
The night is cold and our tents are covered in frost. But in the morning the sun is up and soon warms the air. We dry our tents while we’re having breakfast. My knee feels much better and we decide to walk straight to our next campsite. The rest of the group will climb the peak of Alcazaba (3305m) while I will get some more rest.
Today’s campsite is in an even more beautiful spot, next to another high mountain lake that is like an infinity pool. The group leaves for their afternoon walk and I find a good spot in the sun to relax and enjoy being there, on top of this powerful mountain, just me…. just being.
The agile mountain goats walk past, wondering who I am, and then continue in an unbelievably nimble and agile way over rocks and stones.
At night, the wind wakes me up and I take the opportunity to check out the stars…. there are millions of stars in the clear sky and they take my breath away. You should camp just once in your life on top of a mountain to get to see starry skies like these.
The last day… In just over two hours we complete the final stretch to the top of Mulhacen, the highest mountain of the Iberian Peninsula. I have started to get used to the altitude and my steady pace feels good. As my body focuses on what I am doing, my emotions go wild as I reach the top. I approach 3482m, the roof of the Sierra Nevada with tears rolling down my cheeks.
I wasn’t sure I would make it, I didn’t know if I could do it but I did…. What an achievement! This is such a fantastic feeling. I am a 53-year old woman, who travels by herself, pushes boundaries and conquers new challenges.
We slowly descend to 3200m, some go for a last climb but I will not. I have reached my goal, made new friends, enjoyed the natural surroundings, the stunning scenery and the amazing views and perhaps most importantly I have gained a better understanding of who I am. I feel great!
Someday I will return to the wonderful Alpujarras at the south side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. But first I will allow my body to recuperate. And then the training for Kilimanjaro will start again! I can’t wait to embark on my next adventure.
Sietske Meerloo runs VakanShe – offering active group travel for adventurous women – just one of the fabulous women’s tour companies you can find on Women Travel the World – more Links here:
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