*This blog post is a transcript of my journal notes written at the time. It is to make a more permanent record than the dog-eared notebook they’re written in*
Saturday 26th May Flight Liverpool-Madrid
Met Yolanda and Dani at Barajas. They brought us tickets for the coach and some coleman fuel (and sandwiches).
Yolanda is pregnant again.
Coach Madrid-Arenas de San Pedro
The coach arrived in Arenas @21.45 and we discussed the onward trip to Guisando (5km, uphill). We decided a taxi was the way forward. It wasn’t. There weren’t any. We finally made it to the campsite a touch before midnight.
Sunday 27th May Guisando-Victory refuge
After our late night we had a late start. We awoke sometime between 8-8.30 and went to the local bar for coffee and madalenes. Returning to camp we packed and paid up. By this time it was nearly 11am.
By 12 noon we’d reached the road head and we stopped for lunch -a curry. A sign said 3 hours to la Mira, our intended destination. We’ve seen this sort of sign before and they’re usually wrong. We set off, up through the steepening path through the valley leading to Los Galayos. We could just see the victory refuge at the head of the valley, 100’s of metres above us.
As we walked and time passed the hut never seemed any closer. The path changed from a wide tourist path to a steep, sharp zig-zag and increasingly hard to find. The route took us over rocks marked by occasional cairns. Rounding a rock the hut was once again in sight, about 20m away!
We arrived at the hut 3 hours after setting off (about 15.30) and found it open but un-wardened. It had been quite a climb from Guisando so we decided to stop for the night. There was no-one else at the hut save a small group of deer.
Monday 28th May
After a cold and noisy night in the hut we awoke with the daylight, about 7am and hurried to get porridge and coffee on the go. During the night there was a strong wind which rattled the outer door like metal dustbins being kicked!
The temperature had dropped so much overnight that the water in the sink outside the hut had frozen.
After breakfast and chores we departed the hut (9am) and set off up the last of the Galayos valley. After 30 minutes we reached the top and by now the sun had reached us, at last! We began to warm up.
Crossing the col we descended a little way down the North side. We stopped, dropped the packs while we checked the map. Leaving our kit behind we climbed toward a shoulder hoping to see our route. Gaining the shoulder after 25 minutes climbing over boulders and hopping over a semi-frozen stream we saw the ruined refuge we were aiming for.
We returned to collect our packs in order to repeat the ascent. Our packs were very hard to see against the rocks and I was surprised and worried at how easily we could have lost them.
The small stream lead to a beautiful alpine meadow in a series of pools and small cascades. We left our packs at the refuge and walked to the summit of La Mira.
Returning from La Mira we collected water bottles and refilled them from the stream. The additional water adding to the weight of our packs.. We set off West along the ridge. After a few hours of walking and a lunch stop we arrived at the chozo de prao puerto hut where we rested and drank coffee.
After checking the map and discussing our options we decided to wild camp on the plateau a kilometre or so from the hut.
Tuesday 29th May
We got up at 8.30 after a mild and peaceful night in the tent. The sun was shining and the tent was hot. Insanity took hold and we decided to take a dip in the stream. Freezing cold water really wakes you up! We returned to camp for breakfast.
Striking camp at 10am we scrambled up the rocks above us to join the path to the Cirque de Gredos. 2 and a bit hours later we arrived at the Elola hut on the shore of Laguna Grande and at the foot of Almanzor.
The hut was closed for 2 more days but there were 3 Spaniards sat on the patio eating lunch having just come down from Almanzor. We sat and ate a lamb keema biryani and enjoyed the fine views. We once again discussed our options and chose to head back to La Mira to spend the night before heading back to Guisando and on to Arenas.
Packing up we climbed back out of the cirque pausing for photos and a rest at the top. A couple arrived carrying Karrimor packs (a dead give away for a Brit!). They were day-trippers with their car parked at the nearest road head. A group of four more Brits arrived just as we were leaving.
We crossed back into the valley where we had spent the previous night and walked to its head to climb back onto the ridge, At first we couldn’t find the path but with a combination of GPS and searching we got back on track. Two and a half hours later we arrived, exhausted at La Mira’s ruined refuge. The journey ending at 19.30. We cooked, pitched and climbed into the tent to await nightfall and welcome sleep.
Wednesday 30th May
I awoke cold and tired before the sunrise. There was just a streak of red in the sky which showed dawn was not far off. Eventually the sun cleared the mountain tops and warmed the tent. After a quick wash in the stream it was time for the usual breakfast (porridge). I took the opportunity to record some video and we packed and set off back over the col towards Guisando. Scrambling up to the col was a lot of fun, quite a long drop for a misplaced step!
Over the col and down what appeared to be a near vertical boulder and scree field. An hour after setting off we reached the victory hut. A brief rest and off again, down the zig-zags and onto the tourist path down to the end of the road.
After 2.5 hours from the hut we arrived back at the campsite. 2 beers and 2 lomo y queso baguettes was the order then pitch, shower and wash clothes. The evening was spent recuperating in the bar enjoying some excellent value tapas and raciones.
Thursday 31st May Return to Arenas de San Pedro
We made the dull trudge back down the road we came up days earlier, this time in daylight. We enquired about buses back to Arenas but were told there were none. A night in a hostal rural in Arenas was our last night before returning to Madrid by coach the next day.