The next morning horses’ hooves reverberated on the cobbles – cowboys still live and work in the highest valleys of Las Alpujarras; with herds on both hillsides they need all the help they can get. This final day’s walking was going to be the longest by far. The intention was to walk up Alcazaba, the third highest peak in the Sierra Nevada a gain of around 1,800 metres from Trevelez. Setting off just after dawn the path initially went alongside a stream with foliage hanging overhead. Cowbells sounded from the other side of the valley. Bees were gathering nectar from the blackberry bushes, the sky was cloudless and the sun was still behind the eastern mountains. The trail was heading for the seven glacial lakes that nestle in the cirque just below Mulhacen and Alcazaba. After about an hour, as the sun eventually appeared, the path went through a patch of planted conifers.

At this point, the path split into two and the only signpost indicated the path back to Trevelez. Following the path that was heading towards Alcazaba turned out to be the wrong option. Having crossed a barbed wire fence the path finished beneath a 3-tiered waterfall with the water rushing over the multi-coloured rocks. Walking up steep grassy slopes and then scree led to a well-worn path. There were two options; follow this trail, which hopefully went towards the Seven Lakes or head up another grassy slope, through the grazing cattle, to a ridge, which looked as though it might give a view of Alcazaba. Heading to the ridge meant passing through the herd of cattle, and as they parted slightly their bells rang a few times, a noise that was quite welcome in the stillness. Reaching the ridge just gave a view of another ridge, so it was time to head to what seemed like the familiarity of the Lakes.

The opportunity to walk on the level for a few hundred metres was most welcome. Scrambling over large slabs of rock and following patches of greenery by streams eventually led to the head wall of rock that connects Mulhacen and Alcazaba. Of the seven lakes at the height of 3,000 metres, the one nearest this rock wall was the smallest consisting of three puddles that could be jumped over. There was no snow around not even in the most sheltered crevices. It was quite cold even though the sky above was pure blue. The wind meant that clouds in the Trevelez valley were being whipped up high into the atmosphere though they never approached Mulhacen and Alcazaba, which would have meant me making a rapid withdrawal from the area. Other hikers were preparing to make their ascent to the summit of Mulhacen. Some were taking the ridge route, which would take around 2 hours from the lakes, while others were attempting to climb the steep slopes by the head wall.

To be continued…