Sierra Nevada offers guided night ascents to the Mulhacen to enjoy the sunrise at the highest mountain of the peninsula. Mulhacén Peak, the roof of Sierra Nevada, was the Mons Solarius of the Romans, or the emblematic Sulayr of the Arabs who, legend has it, holds the remains of the Moorish king Muley Hacen and hidden treasures.
Monte del Sol (Sun Mountain), not in vain, is the summit that gathers the first rays of sunlight from its 3.482 meters of altitude. This is can be confirmed by mountaineers who feel inspired to attend dawn at the top of the Iberian Peninsula in the early morning hours.
It’s an adventure, no doubt, and a challenge of 27 km and more than 10 hours of walking, with its starting point at the Hoya de la Mora, at 2.500 meters altitude. Ahead lies the unmistakable sharp silhouette of the Pico del Veleta on the dark horizon.
Night and mystery, magic and silence lighted by an enormous moon, nearly full, visible on the cliffs. Below the city of Granada, enlightened and asleep while the party goes up; up in the vastness of the Sierra, a light breeze accompanies a handful of ‘mad guys’ overcoming tiredness and enjoying a unique experience.
About two o’clock in the morning the group is arriving at the Carigüela, at 3.200 meters of altitude. First stop, time to bundle up a bit and recuperate while glimpsing for the first time, so close yet so far, the spectacle of the high mountain ranges: Veleta, Los Machos, Mulhacén, Alcazaba …
Delicate crossing of a track blocked at various points by perennial snowfields, pristine spots in summer. Security -first commandment of the mountain – to prevent falls and proceed, crossing snowfields and jets of water that put music to a solemn, almost ritual night.
The group is making good progress, without headlights, accompanied by a silver moon reflected in the snow and on the calm mirror of the lagoon of Rio Seco.
It is the route of approach with long kilometers to the lagoon of la Caldera, the second milestone of the night journey.
It´s more than five in the morning and it’s time for truth, the real test, the ultimate tribute to be paid to attend a unique spectacle. “Slowly, step by step”, somebody says wisely in the row facing the steep mountain path. Just two kilometres away, but 450 meters of elevation, zigzagging at every turn.
Everyone goes at their own pace, some easy, others suffering with effort. But everyone, from first to last, arrives on the summit at the appointed hour. It is 7.24 am in the morning and the sun rises in the east, beyond the Sierra Gador, flooding everything in indescribable orange tones.
Applause, hugs, excitement, occasional bottles uncorked to celebrate a unique moment, the culmination of a challenge. Gone is the tiredness and sleep on the faces somewhat numbed by the cold, just 7 degrees.
But the night journey is not over yet and ahead lays the long descent to the town of Trevelez. More than 2000 meters descent with exceptional views and privileged places like Seven Lakes, the ibex, the green meadows, crystal clear waters precipitated at the spectacular Black Chorreras …
And then descending among pines, through hills and ravines and marching on sidewalks, we reach the village after four hours of walking.
But hey, at two in the afternoon, sitting at the table in the restaurant González, the brave mountaineers who have completed the journey are having a toast on their achievements. And meanwhile they enjoy a rich and invigorating dish of the Alpujarra, more than one rubs his eyes to realize that it hasn´t been a dream; that they actually have gone up and returned from the Sun Mountain, at the top of Sierra Nevada.
I am aware that probably relatively few tourists will be attracted by this type of excursion. For information for the less adventurous who also want to enjoy this unique sight, it is possible drive up to the Sierra Nevada in car, since it is the highest paved road in Europe, with 3.392 meters of altitude. However, since 1999 their last 13 kilometers from 2.500 metres height onwards are closed to unauthorized traffic.
The Sierra Nevada National Park offers during the summer months micro buses and guides up to 3,100 meters.Those who prefer to go during the day and enjoy a stroll and stunning views on clear days over the Mediterranean Sea and the Rif mountains of Morocco, can also use the cable cars which remain open throughout the year. In any case you should take a good coat, also in summer, as temperatures at this height are very low.
In the resort of Sierra Nevada, for example, in the summer season were sold 17.200 tickets in the two open lifts.