We're back from a 3 day walk in the mountains...2 nights sleeping out in the wilds...minimal rations, lightweight kit, about 40km of wandering and an altitude differential of 1700 m. Temperature range of +25 down to +7, with gusting southerly winds once we got above 2,500m. But we had a great time of it and I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of bivvying, not least because of the full moon that came up over the mountains at about 01.00 hrs each night and because I was WARM and COMFORTABLE!!
We spent the first night beside a fast-flowing river, on a little 'island' of grass that seemed to be both cowpat and fox free. We had walked for about 3 hrs, just to get ourselves beyond civilisation and into more remote areas. Steve got his stove going and we dined on hot tea, instant soup, 1 home-made pate sandwich each and a handful of mixed nuts. As dusk fell, we made up our beds on the most level ground we could find, for which I recommend the following: a cheap insulating mat, followed by a silver (thermal) car sunscreen visor, overlaid with the best and lightest Thermarest airmat you can afford, then (from outer to inner), a waterproof bivi-bag, a good quality down sleeping bag (thank you Cumulus) and a silk sleeping bag liner (much easier to wash than a sleeping bag). I wore merino wool leggings and long-sleeved top, a fleece top as well, socks and beanie. Plenty cosy enough at 1700m.
Our first full day we set off at about 08.00 hrs and climbed, wandered, scrambled and detoured until we reached a high level laguna which still had its own little glacier floating round the edge. We had seen one other person, a local man on his horse, checking the fast-flowing streams for blockages...and many cows and calves, all greatly interested in these passing bipeds. We found gentians and orchids, long-bodied beetles and clusters of butterflies. Eventually we began to climb even higher and somehow arrived at the top of one of the 3000m+ picos (over 10,000 ft). That was when the full force of the wind attacked us. I could hardly keep my balance and was glad of my beanie, walking pole and Montane jacket...at this altitude the sun yields to the wind and summer clothing is totally inadequate. We found a stone-built 'huddling' spot and put on all the necessary layers, admiring the views north as we did so: we were looking out over the Granada-Guadix valley and far, far beyond. Much nearer of course, was Mulhacen, La Alcazaba and Atalaya, still with patches of snow on them and looking magnificent in their isolation.
Our second bivi was a bit more primitive and less magnificent: huge, sheltering rocks, the dusty ground littered with goat poo and the strong wind sounding like a train as it roared up the valley. The head chef did well to boil enough water for noodles, followed by a muesli bar and more nuts. He buried the food bags under stones so that any passing fox would not get at them and we turned in as darkness fell. All we could see below us were the twinkling lights of distant pueblos...and a dawn sun several hours later to gladden our hearts!
Day 3 was a long, hard slog...about 9 hrs of ridge-walking and steep, downhill travelling, which is almost worse than going up! My knees were protesting by the end and I was tempted to hi-jack a passing cowman on his beautiful grey horse, just to give them a rest. Unfortunately he was going in the wrong direction and had many cows to herd, so we exchanged pleasantries and moved on. By now we had very limited water supplies (despite water filtration and carrying almost 2 litres each) but we managed to reach our final destination with 1/4 litre left and the happy prospect of some beer in the nearest bar!
This type of walking and camping may not be everyone's choice (I nearly said cup of tea, one of the essentials for me!), but with the right gear, good maps and compasses, some sensible decision-making and NO WHINGEING, it's great fun. Tomorrow we shall probably start planning the next foray...tonight I fancy a bivi in my own bed!