Sunday, 28 February 2010

27 Feb 2010 - Carrascal de Parcent

The Carrascal de Parcent dominates the village of Parcent, and is directly opposite our house. The ridge walk consists of a long, steep climb to the summit followed by a quite difficult walk along the ridge. It is the most difficult walk we have attempted here in Spain.

We met David, Rosemary and Pat at the Parcent Piscina car park. The walk starts at the piscina and is well marked for most of the way. Just after starting we met this friendly dog who looked like he would quite fancy coming with us.

The almond blossoms are late this year so it was a bonus that they are still in bloom and added colour to our views of the valley below

The first part of the walk is a gradual climb on good paths to the font. By the time we arrived we were glad of an excuse to stop for a short break.

From the font the path becomes more steep and not such a good surface. However it is easy to follow and only at one junction is the path not well signposted.

The forecast was correct that it would be cloudy skies. This was good for walking, as it was also cool and comfortable. But it was not the best conditions for photographs.

Jan and Rosemary have a thing about these yellow flowers, which are called jonquils. They are the first spring flowers to appear in this area as we seem to spend a lot of time admiring them, or at least some of us do.

We kept us a good steady pace, but had frequent stops to regroup and admire the views.

In the distance the clouds became much thicker, and at times we had difficulty seeing Montgo. The clouds moved around, but seemed to remain along the coast.

After about two hours climbing we arrived at our “banana stop”. This is a rocky ledge with spectacular views of the Jalon, Orba and Castell valleys, and also of the coast.

There are particularly good views of Parcent, and our house, from the ledge. We have often tried to recognize this spot from the house, but always failed. A pity, for if we could identify this ledge we would be better able to follow the climb. From our naya it is not possible to see any sign of the path, and we are not even sure of the exact spot where we reached the top.

We had planned to have a 15 minute stop here, to admire the views and have a well earned rest. But the ledge is very exposed, and the winds quite cold.

We did have a short break, but had to wrap up well against the wind. And after about five minutes we were all ready to continue the climb

The next section starts off gently, but it soon starts to climb and becomes very steep. This is the most difficult part of the whole climb and our legs were soon tired and aching.

We finally reached the top. The first part of the ridge is along a very rocky section which reminded us of a moon scape. At the start it is well signposted, but the signs soon become few and far between and the track becomes very difficult to find.

It was very exposed on the ridge, and the wind quite cold. So we were relieved to find a sheltered spot to have our lunch break. It was slightly below the ridge, and though we had this excellent view towards Parcent we were sheltered from the wind coming from the west.
As we settled down to eat the sun made an appearance
Jan choose a spot with a view, but the rocks were very sharp, so we moved to find a more comfortable seat.
Pat suggested that we should carry on a little longer as it was too early for lunch. However I preferred to stop here as it was well sheltered from the wind. And I think we were all ready for a break after our three hour trek.
From here the going was much easier. We left the “moon scape” behind and were walking on good well signed paths. The going was quite rocky, but the path easy to follow.
After half an hour we reached the first of the aerials. There is a collection of them on the ridge. None give any indication who they belong to, and these were rusty and seemed to be abandoned.
From here there were wonderful views to Parcent and the coast on one side, and to Benidorm on the other. The path ran slightly below the ridge, and ran from one side to the other. So we had many and varied views. In the distance we could still see the clouds, but it was now sunny and very pleasant on our ridge.
When we last did this walk, three years ago, we were impressed to find a fine wooden building very similar to a beach hut. We were even more impressed to find it replaced with this attractive structure. The rest of the buildings were very functional affairs made of concrete or breeze blocks, but this one looked more like a holiday villa.
As we got closer we could see that there was even a covered car port. The wide glass windows and the metal fenced viewing platform reminded me of a coast guard building we had seen on the south coast in the UK. Despite the car in the car port we did not see anyone in the building itself. And unfortunately there were no signs to indicate what the purpose of such an impressive building might be.
We were now at the end of the ridge, and this seemed a good spot for a final group photo
From here there was a well made road down to the col de rates. The road is obviously to service the aerials and we guessed that the road markings were to help drivers when visibility was poor due to low clouds. The road was too narrow to allow two cars to pass, and we did not see any passing bays.
It made a nice change to have a good road surface to walk on, and we were soon striding down towards the col de rates
Thanks to David for taking this photo which would be our reminder of a lovely walk.

We felt that the walk was almost over when we reached the col de rates, which is one of our regular walks. But in fact it would take another hour and a half to get back to the cars. The whole walk would take six and a half hours. This final photo was taken just after we left the col de rates looking back at the ridge we had crossed.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

25 Feb 2010 - Jalon Valley Almond Blossom

The Jalon Valley is well known locally for the annual Almond Blossom display

Each year in February the valley is transformed by the almond blossoms which last for a week or so. The normally drab and unattractive almond trees are covered in white or pink blossoms, which turn the whole valley into a blaze of colour

We had arranged to meet Les and Jen at Alcalali to walk to Jalon for lunch. The walk into Jalon was cloudy, but dry. Not ideal conditions for the blossoms, but still very impressive.

It’s a nice easy walk between Alcalali and Jalon, and on a good path all the way. So it’s a very relaxed walk. At any time of year its an attractive walk, but at this time of year it is particularly popular because of the almond blossoms.

The blossom are very late this year. Normally they would bloom in early February, and indeed the annual walk was arranged two weeks ago. Its been unusually cold and grey since January, and this may well be the cause of the delay this year. Only a few days ago there were only scattered trees in bloom. So we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was so impressive today.

We first met Les and Jen about four years ago when they were looking for a property in the area. They spent a week in a house a few doors from us whilst house hunting, and we met them one evening. They found a lovely villa overlooking Alcalali, and moved here permanently three years ago. We have remained good friends since.

After a light lunch in Jalon we were pleased to find that the sun came out for the return walk to Alcalali.

This is normally a very quiet walk. The road is well used, but we do not usually encounter many other walkers. Today was different, and we passed a lot of other walkers out to see the almond blossoms.

Its about 4 miles from Alcalali to Jalon, so it was a short walk of less than an hour, even at our slow pace. Plenty of time to catch up on what’s been happening since we last met up.

We were soon back in Alcalali, where we had left our cars. It had been a very pleasant walk in good company, and we ended it with a nice cup of coffee on their naya overlooking the same Jalon valley and the mountains behind.

Monday, 22 February 2010

22 Feb 2010 - El Cau

The weather forecast promised a cloudy day with rain possible at 4pm. As we arrived at the car park it was cloudy and cold enough to wear our jackets. Most of us had not done this walk before and were excited to be tackling a new walk.

Pat and David had done a recce some time previously. Pat was to lead the walk today and started by explaining that “……it was quite a long walk, not really difficult – a little challenging perhaps”. There would be a climb over five summits, each one higher than the one before.

The walk started with a level walk through the undergrowth to the start of the climb. The direction was away from the one we would take once the climbing started!

Before long everyone was warming up, and the first stop was to take off the first layer. For most there were still a few layers left.

We soon met the first challenge of the day. We came to this cairn, but unfortunately there was no obvious path leading from it. Peter had gone ahead to check the route, and Pat now went in search of him to confirm we were going the right way.

It was not long before we had found the correct and well defined track which led up…..

-----and up and up

Not sure if this is one of the summits, but it is a good spot to stop and remove another layer…

….and admire the view down the Jalon valley

Then it was up once more. As the going got steeper the gaps in the group became longer. We always walk at our own pace when tackling a climb, but have regular stops to allow all to catch up.

This was the second summit. Wendy’s face says it all! Everyone looks pretty well shattered, but had soon recovered after just a very short stop.

Then it was off again, with fantastic views when we could take our eyes off the path.

And so to the third summit. Everyone seems to have got their second breath and seem quite happy to carry on.

And so it’s up once more, the path getting steeper now

This looks like it should be the final summit, but its only number four. The wind is getting stronger now, and quite cold. So layers have been put on again. Just a short stop to allow everyone to catch up, and to have a “banana stop”.

And up the final climb to the fifth summit.

Pat and Peter at the trig point on El Cau. Peter is by far the fittest member of the group and we usually only see his back as he leaps ahead. So this seemed an appropriate place to finally get a full frontal photo.

A short while later the whole group has arrived, and time for the formal group photo at the top. We all took our own photos, and as I am in this one it must be courtesy of David – who is not in it!

It was too windy and cold to have lunch at the trig point, so we were soon starting down again. On the sort of path you usually find here, going down is always more difficult than going up. Fortunately there is always a “helping hand” available.

We finally had lunch at a most uninspiring decrepit finca. By then it was quite overcast, and we have had enough photographs of the Monday Club eating their picnic lunch. I though this would be a more appropriate one on which to finish this week’s report.

Another excellent walk. Despite some reservations that it might prove too difficult everyone managed it without any real problem. Its good to have a little challenge now and again, and El Cau is one that we will all look forward to tackling again in the future.