University Hiking Club Trip to Sierra Nevada: Fri, Apr 11, 2003

This group are the ones that I took up Ben Nevis last November. There were 15 members of the party that day, mostly from Taiwan, Hong Kong and India. We summited very late in the day and I remember giving them a stern talking to before setting off down the mountain. I reminded them that the sun was setting and we needed to act with the utmost urgency as night was falling. Five minutes later, on the way downhill, I turned round and found myself all alone! Going back uphill I found them sat on a bend in the track taking pictures of each other and eating sandwiches! Getting pretty anoyed I told them, extremely sarcastically, that in this country (Scotland) when the sun sets it signals the onset of darkness. I asked them to confirm that they had indeed all brought torches as agreed. Guess what …. we ended up with 4 torches between 16 of us. When darkness fell (as it does when the sun goes down) I asked them to keep close together so that the torches would shine the way. They all agreed with much nodding of oriental heads. Well ……. 3 minutes later they were all scattered over the hillside wandering round in the darkness. Some were still intent on eating sandwiches. Some even tried to take pictures in the dark! Nightmare. God only knows how we all ended back at the bottom safely.

Samir, the leader of their party that November day, had been to Mont Blanc with us the previous summer. On that trip he came out with a piece of mountaineering history. Standing at the edge of the Mer De Glace glacier he said “Is the ice slippy?”. That about sums up this group. Nice but not all there!

Anyway, back to the plot. Samir and 3 members of his club are with us in the Sierra Nevada. Today, due to poor weather high up, I set their group an orienteering exercise. I have just dropped them off about 10 miles away. Instructions are to follow a path via 2 villages and make their way back to my villa in Lanjarón. I left them about 2 hrs ago. Before leaving them I spent about half an hour showing them how to use a GPS satellite receiver to plot their position on a map. I showed them how to navigate using a compass. I told them of how to use the sun as a reference. How to use the terrain to get a position fix. I told them which villages they had to pass through to get home.

They nodded their complete understanding so I set off for home by car. However something, maybe a sixth sense, held me back. Sure enough they set off along the track. Yes…..youve guessed it…….they were heading east not west. I made the fatal mistake of not telling them which way up the map had to be !!!!!!!!!!!!! As of this moment I’ve probably got rid of 2 Indian, 1 Serb and 1 Taiwanese nationals who are wandering aimlessly around Spain.

Written by:
Richard Hartley

Richard is an avid blogger and the founder of Spanish Highs Sierra Nevada. He is author of the Cicerone Guidebook Walking and Trekking in the Sierra Nevada