Spain - Day 14 : Climbing Pico Veleta, Part 2
After a cold night we were rewarded with a nice view.
View from my tent
Bram is still lying in his bivy bag
We were headed in this direction
Panorama to the east, the direction we were going
Panorama to the west, where we were coming from
View towards the south
A mountain goat in the distance.
It was a Sunday and we started with a nutritious breakfast of bread with some honey and water. Then we warmed up our legs on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada. After a few kilometers, we saw the hikers we had seen last night disappearing behind a rock. They waved at us and must have camped somewhere as well. A bus with half-sleeping schoolchildren passed us as well. They looked like, 'did I get up for this so early'. A bit farther, they were let out. When we passed them they all started to cheer and clap.
From the moment we had left the sea the roads had gotten worse and worse. From a two-lane asphalt road to a bad gravel road. Now we reached a point where it became even worse. From then on, the road was closed to cars by two big rocks. This was about 10 km past the barriers we had encountered yesterday. We couldn't cycle fast anymore but instead needed to carefully balance ourselves to avoid hitting the larger rocks that composed the road. Before we continued with that, I first needed to lay a brick somewhere myself. Now we were at an elevation with little vegetation.
Among the rocks
The bad road
Meanwhile, it had become clear that the climb was way longer than 50 km from the sea. There were quite a few hikers. We noticed they were all going downhill. Only the people we had seen yesterday were going uphill. The rest had been dropped off at the top and only needed to walk down, perhaps only until the point where cars were allowed. It looked like that computer game Lemmings.
Cycling became difficult. If we went fast, we would tear our tires on the sharp rocks. If we went too slow, we would lose our balance. Some sections were so steep that we would hardly move even if we put all our weight on our pedals in the lowest gear. Other, arguably even more annoying parts, went downhill. This was a completely different climb than the mountains in the Pyrenees or Alps. Simultaneously we needed to push as hard as possible, maintain our balance, don't cycle into large or sharp rocks, and look ahead to see which path to follow through the boulders. Although not easy, it was definitely a fun climb. The views were also beautiful. Half an hour after our previous photos, we took some more.
On the far right you can see where we took the previous pictures.
This photo was made a little further to the right
We were going in this direction, up over the rocks
After some more going down and climbing up again, we arrived at something that looked like a summit. That was the last point where we had a nice view toward the south.
View toward the north, with some hikers
We had climbed up over this road
A combination of the last two photos, we clearly messed up the panorama shoot
More mountain goats, or Capricorns?
According to the GPS we still needed to climb 600 meters. Though first we went down again. This way it would turn into a really long climb. After the descent, there was a massive pile of snow on the road. A group of mountain bikers was coming downhill, we waited while they walked down. We climbed over the snow and reached a 'road' that even we couldn't cycle. It was just a pile of big rocks with melt water running through, it was a few hundred meters long section that we walked. Then we reached even more snow, it was rock solid, tilted, and super slippery, so we would never be able to carry our bikes over. After scouting the area we found a way to reach the bottom of the snow pile. From there, we might be able to climb straight up.
Bram first brought his luggage up and then carried his bike
The snow was very slippery
Bram had some difficulty getting it up
Shall I take that picture now?
It was hard work to carry our bikes up
After all that work we sat down to eat. Yesterday we thought we had bought an enormous amount of food. We hadn't expected the climb to take this long, so we started our last bit of baguette with a few drops of honey while we weren't even at the top yet.
The view from where we were eating.
When we finished eating three remarkable 'hikers' passed by. They were two women wearing the same clothes. Each wore a tropical hat, a blouse in camo print, and khaki pants and shoes. The third hiker was a man with a camera. He was constantly filming the two ladies while giving directions. They were told to walk down the mountain hand in hand and never stop smiling. I think he was filming the introduction to 'In der glatte schnee, part 3'.
We still had 300 altimeters left to climb. The end of the climb was getting close, and so was the end of the gravel road. We took more photos at the highest point of the gravel road, including a close-up of a mountain goat.
The mountain goat
And even closer..
You could see pretty far
A mountain hut
After leaving the gravel road we got on an asphalted road for the last 100 altimeters. After a kilometer uphill over a road that again got increasingly worse, we were almost at the top. For the last 100 meters, we needed to carry our bikes from boulder to boulder. Starting from the sea, we cycled around 90 km. The climb had really begun in Orgiva, from which we first cycled 20 km over a decent road. Then it took another 10 km over a broad gravel road until the barrier. We then followed another 20 km over a poorer gravel road and another 10 km over loose rocks. Now we were at 3396 meters, on top of the Pico Veleta. Including lunch breaks, it had taken about 12 hours of cycling to get here from sea level. It was definitely the most fun climb we had ever done. There was a plaque to indicate the summit.
The summit of the Pico Veleta at 3396 meters!
View from the top
We stayed at the top for a while to enjoy the view. The Mulhacen was visible from here, the highest peak in Spain. That mountain was 100 meters higher, but there was no road. We met a Polish guy at the start of the descent. He had started in Granada, from where the climb had been completely paved. He had cycled from Poland to Spain and carried a lot of luggage. After reaching the top, he would turn around and return to Granada. Descending on the unpaved side with so much gear didn't seem a good idea to us either. The descent was easy, after half an hour we were still at 2500 meters. There we saw this old observatory.
After the observatory we reached a parking lot with some stalls. You could buy all sorts of souvenirs and food. I got a saucer depicting the Sierra Nevada. We continued going downhill, in total more than an hour, until we were almost in Granada. Then we crossed a river. In the city we arrived at all stores were closed on Sunday. We hadn't eaten anything since carrying our bikes through the snow. That was a few hours ago. We were out of food and nearly out of water. We continued along the route, hoping we would find a gas station. Bram was sure we would find one. He was right. Along the road stood a sign 'nearest gas station 28 kilometers'. Fortunately, we had gotten used to long distances. In a village 10 km further we found a fountain. Bram was sure it was drinkable, but I saw no sign. We still drank it because it was better than no water at all. The road we were on kept going uphill. That way the 28 km would take a while. After 14 km we were suddenly on top of a mountain. Nice, then the next 14 km would likely be downhill.
Puerto de los Blancares.
After starving for 28 km we finally reached the gas station. We bought yogurts, soda, and a few donuts. Because we had learned the word for bread (pan), we could ask for that as well. However, they didn't sell any. After a short break we continued. We were still in the Sierra Nevada. The road had been cut out in red rocks. We took some photos near a reservoir.
Soon we would have to cross the highway, there would likely be more gas stations. More than an hour after the last petrol station we reached the highway. There was only one. It was an 'Elf', which is the most expensive and doesn't sell real food. If we wanted to get a real meal, we would need to buy 30 euros worth of Snickers. We bought some water and some candy so we would last another hour.
We left the Sierra Nevada behind and the roads suddenly got flat. We discussed why the Sierra Nevada, with its high mountains, could lie so close to the Mediterranean Sea while it was flat again directly north of it. Another 10 km of cycling later we reached the next gas station. This one turned out to be our savior. It had a mini-market. They only had two loaves of bread left, but that would be enough to keep us going until tomorrow morning.
While eating, we realized this was the first time in the vacation that we were really tired. We had passed the point where a good night of sleep would fully recharge us. That was mostly because we had cycled so much in the past three days and hadn't eaten well during the last two. When it started getting dark we were still on a large road. Alternately we rode passed grain fields or olive trees. We took a side road to find a place to camp. We pitched our tent behind a hill, on top of a pile of hay. That made for a nice bed.
View from the camping spot towards the road
Camping in the grain field
The route of day 14
Distance cycled : 142.55 km.