Ascent of Mulhacén on 2017-04-27

Climber: Robert Garneau

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Thursday, April 27, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:11414 ft / 3478 m

Ascent Trip Report

Brought climbing food from home so I could hit the trail fast. Flew in to Granada, picked up the rental car, dropped my bags at my hacienda in Monachil, packed my kit, and headed for the Rio Genil TH. 6:30pm to 10pm for 10km hike to Cueva Secreta where I bivouaced 1st night. Broke camp and began hiking @ 5:30am in the pre-dawn hours. Unfortunately, or fortunately in retrospect, headed up the wrong valley in the dark and ended up at Laguna Larga instead of Laguna de la Mosca. Since it was only 9:30am, I decided to explore the possibility of a traverse over to "la Mosca" from around 2600m where I had left some gear to lighten my load. Did a beautiful rising traverse mostly on snow up to the NW Ridge of Juego de Bolos below the point where it rises abruptly (there's a distinct notch). Decided to attempt the ridge and it turned out to be mostly fun 3rd class climbing which took me to its beatiful open summit with great views of Alcazaba and Mulhacen. From there it was an easy descent to Laguna de la Mosca where I arrived around 5pm.
I took a nice nap in the sun for a few hours, had some beef jerky and dried fruit for dinner, then went to bed under a starry sky. Fitful sleep because a fox kept interrupting my night. I had a cup maybe 12" from my head with a package of oatmeal and a spoon in it. Another ziplock contained stuff I planned to leave under some rocks while I climbed including my purifier, extra camera batteries, and empty litter packages I'd collected along my way up. First time I heard rustling I grabbed my headlamp and didn't see a thing, 2nd time I noticed my oatmeal packet gone and saw the critter running away. Aaarrrrrr! Then I realized the ziplock was gone!!! Did a search in the dark but couldn't find anything. With nothing left to steal, I finally got some sleep, until around 5 am when it started snowing on my sleeping bag.
The internal debate started then. Should I go or should I descend? I knew a full on blizzard was forecast for tonight, and I knew I wouldn't make the long trek back in from the north and wasn't so interested in the hike from the south. Besides I'd carried ice axes and crampons!
After doing one more thorough search for my lost items, I ate a Clif Bar and started up to the base of the big fan where the climb begins (circa 9am). The winds were blowing pretty good and it was snowing lightly; visibility was quite limited so the picture I had studied was of limited use. I went over some ice bulges before I realized I had stayed too far right and had missed the leftward traverse to the "Canuto Central" route. So I went straight up to the beautiful icefall where there is a narrow neve ramp up and left (hidden in most pictures). It fortunately "went" and I intercepted the regular route about midway up. From there the route seemed familiar until I got to the 2nd crux where lots of ice existed because of the time of year and lack of snow. I decided to veer left up another ramp, then tried to go straight up the upper face (which seemed big and disorienting in the wind and blowing snow). I hit rime-covered overhanging rock and had to down-climb from my dead-end. Moving left I finally found a weakness that went at about 5.4 though all the ice made it seem spicier than its grade. Several fun moves later and I was elated to be up on the summit ridge!!! It was a fun stroll over to the top where not surprisingly I had the place all to myself.
Enjoyed the remains of a "ProBar" and the last of my liter of water at around 12:30pm. Couldn't see crap on my descent so accidentally began down the south slope instead of the west ridge for a 150 meters or so before I realized my error and traversed back to the right to intercept the W ridge. Easy shmeesy to the col and back to the Laguna de la Mosca where I did one more search and also picked up my microspikes. The snow had melted but still all I found was the empty litter packets, no purifier or batteries. Oh well!!!
The descent from the tarn into the "correct" valley this time, Vallecastillas, was delicate and involved tricky route finding. Lots of dead-end gullies with waterfalls pouring over them. I picked my way down, sometimes down climbing on slushy ice, other times on 3rd and 4th class rock. This stuff took me by surprise. Lower down I hit the treacherous snowfields where the streams from above cut underwater passages. Had to be super careful not to take the wrong route and bust through to an ice water death. Finally made it to the end of the snow and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I could now follow the lower streambed where a trail on the west side of the river took me the rest of the way back to the Secret Cave. (6pm) It had begun raining and so I changed into my rain gear from head to toe to prevent hypothermia in the cold temps. 10 km back through the beautiful greenery along the Rio Genil and I arrived at my car just as the sky turned pitch black. (9:30) 45 minutes later I was back in Monachil enjoying some instant mashed potatoes, then a hot shower.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
The north face of Mulhacen as viewed from Juega de Bolos. My route started up the prominent gully right of the cairn, traversed left midway up at the upside down snow triangle, and finished up the "Canuto Central" to summit. 3.5 hours from my bivouac site at Laguna de la Mosca. (2017-04-26). Photo by Robert Garneau.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1932 ft / 588 m
    Total Elevation Loss:7477 ft / 2278 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb, Ice Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Bivouac
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Windy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1932 ft / 588 m
    Route:North Face
    Start Trailhead:Laguna de la Mosca  9482 ft / 2890 m
    Time:3 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:7477 ft / 2278 m
    Distance:14 mi / 22.5 km
    Route:Rio Valdecasillas to Vereda de la Estrella
    End Trailhead:Barranco de San Juan  3937 ft / 1199 m
    Time:9 Hours 30 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Mulhacen (2 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Pico Juego de Bolos2017-04-266630 ft / 2021 m
2Mulhacén2017-04-271932 ft / 589 m
Total Trip Gain: 8562 ft / 2610 m    Total Trip Loss: 8562 ft / 2610 m

Other Photos

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Icefall midway up the North Face (2017-04-26). Photo by Robert Garneau.
Click here for larger-size photo.

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