Night on a bare mountain in the Sierras
Sometimes it takes a great effort to leave the comfort of one’s home and head for the cold, icy peaks. Some hardship though, is always rewarded by the mountains. Although we have passed it several times we had never thought to spend a night at the ruins of the relatively unknown Cebollar Refugio, located at 2500m in the heart of the Sierra Nevada. Until a few weeks ago that is.
High in the Rio Chico valley above Orgiva in the Alpujarras lies the ruins of the Refugio Cebollar. Access is normally via either the forest area at Puente Palo (1700m) or via the high track to La Pluca above the western side of Capileira. The hut is sited on a small plateau at 2500m just west of the summit rocks of Las Alegas (2700m). From the hut there is a magnificent view west across the deep valley of the Rio Chico to the ridge line running from Tajos de los Machos to the more southerly Cerrillo Redondo.
The hut walls and roof are quite solid and secure. Much better than similar huts at the Caballo and Elorietta. The hut is largely unknown apart from a few local “aficionados” who have done their best to re-equip it with make-shift windows and doors. There is a delightful pure mountain spring just 25m NW of the hut door that easily provides all water requirements.
We made our approach from the south taking to the open forest south of La Pluca forestal. In a little over an hour we were on the south ridge of Las Alegas. Another hour more and we had reached the summit, backtracked and broken through a small series of crags, before dropping down to the hut.
It is set in a beautiful location. It’s also incredibly, quiet as most trekkers and mountaineers head for the more popular or equipped huts. The floor of the hut is surprisingly dry (unlike the Refugio de Caballo, for instance, which is covered in a foot or two of snow!). James, our chief firemaker, quickly began making a fire with the abundant dry wood surrounding the hut. There is a problem with this however as the fire and chimney have evidently not been installed to strict EU standards. Within 5 minutes we had to abandon the hut in favour of the clear outside air and remain there for another hour in the biting wind coming down off Tajos de los Machos. Such is life?
A couple of eagles soared above us. Bonellis or Golden, not sure which. Wish I knew my raptors better!
We spent another hour soaking up the winter sunshine in the lee of the wind, watching the clouds form below in the towns and villages of the Alpujarras. We cooked our evening meals in glorious sunshine. As the sun began to set the clouds reflected the setting rays and provided amazing photo opportunities.
We headed indoors and wedged the metal door tightly shut with a large plank. Overnight the wind increased to howling pitch and the air grew steadily colder. Deep in our sleeping bags we spent a warm, cosy night.
On leaving the hut next morning we contoured northwards to the col between Las Alegas and Tajos de los Machos. there we met perfect neve snow which in crampons made a delightful stairway to the heights. As we reached the east ridge of Cerrillo Redondo the wind increased to 60-70 km per hour and we had difficulty keeping balance.
We took shelter behind the summit pinnacle trying to keep out of the biting wind. Then it was out into the gale to traverse south along the ridge. We encountered transparent ice west of the ridge lines but by traversing east of the ridge we kept to the good snow.
At the final peak of the day we dropped down to the forest edge above Puente Palo and made the rendezvous with our waiting transport. In Lanjaron it seemed like springtime in another world.