For my first excursion out of Córdoba, I joined a local hiking group for a hike to the top of Pico La Capilla, down near Málaga. Tonya isn´t a big mountain climber, so she elected to go shopping with Lola (that´s a different story, and I´ll let her tell that one). You can see the pictures of the hike at this link:
The hiking group is called “Llega Como Pueda” (which translates best as “Get There However You Can”). Lola´s husband Eduardo is a member, and he´s the one who told me about it. We set out in a charter bus in the pre-dawn darkness. (That´s not as early as it seems, because the sun doesn´t rise until nearly 8:00.) It was about a 1 ½ hour drive to Valle de Abdalajís. We began with breakfast at a local inn (it´s inconceivable that we would start such a walk without proper nutrition).
I´d call it a fairly tough hike. The distance wasn´t that much (10.5km, or just under 7 miles), and the ascent was respectable but not terrible (800m, or about 2500 feet). What made it difficult was the trail conditions and the weather. The trail varied from “poorly-marked” to “imaginary,” often deteriorating to “non-existent.” We slogged up rocky slopes or through spiny bushes. My poor jeans may never be the same. There were some magnificent views of the valley as we continued up the trail.
The weather was cool and relatively clear when we set out, but the peak was up in the clouds. At the point where we were to begin the final ascent to the peak, it was so foggy that the head guide (Fernando…there were three guides for a group of about 20 hikers) couldn´t find the access point. You know, it´s not much fun to be on a foggy mountainside listening to the guides arguing about which way was the right route. We sat and munched on our trail food while Fernando smoked a cigarette and waited for the mist to clear a little bit so that he could get his bearings. There was finally enough of a break in the fog to figure out where we were, and we got to the access point. It was so socked in that Fernando recommended against trying to get to the peak. A number of the hikers had GPS locators, and argued strongly that we should give it a go. (I must confess that I was not one of those arguing to start scaling the rocks in the dense fog!). I wasn´t inclined to turn back on my own at this point, but even if I had been, I´m not sure that I could have found my way back down to the pueblo. So on we went. By this point, jackets were necessary ( we haven´t needed jackets up to now in Córdoba, but I figured I´d be wise to have one for this hike and for next week´s trip to Santiago de Compostela). I was happy for the jacket, because the wind got pretty fierce as we approached the peak. For the last haul, it got so steep and constricted that I had to leave my daypack. I didn´t take any pictures at the top, because we couldn´t see anything but fog. It´s a shame; I´m told that in clear weather, you can see the Mediterranean from the peak.
We started down filled with that euphoria you get after finishing a tough walk. The descent was both easier and more difficult. Easier because we weren´t climbing, but more difficult because going downhill is harder on the knees. (For me, at any rate.) As we went, it began to rain, so I put on my poncho. (I had thought that I was being over-conservative by bringing a jacket and a poncho. Hah!) I think every member of the party managed at least one fall in the mud. We descended by a different route, a very steep road which went down to the village in switchbacks. It was so steep and rocky that I think it would be difficult for a mule, let alone a truck!
When we got back to the inn, we all ate our brown-bag dinners. I hadn´t expected to be on the trail as long as we were, so I hadn´t come prepared to eat dinner; all I had was my gorp (normally raisins and peanuts and M&M´s, but mine had cashews and macadamia nuts). Everyone else was pulling out loaves of bread and wedges of cheese and egg tortillas and salamis and cans of olives. These people know how to eat, even on the trail! Everyone shared with everyone.
Despite the difficulties of the trail, I had a wonderful time. We´ll see what other hikes there are in the future.